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A Great Drill to Learn the Proper Release

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In my 20+ years of teaching, I have found that the average golfer suffers primarily from two faults relating to the strike:

  1. Failure to return the clubface back to square.
  2. Failure to deliver the clubhead with a sufficiently downward attack angle.

The effects are a slice and hitting behind the ball, respectively. Neither is an issue with a proper release, which involves the swing of the clubhead around an axis at the hands and whatever bio-mechanics are associated with that. Ask five teaching pros what “the release” is all about, however, and you’re likely to get five different opinions. But the correct release can be verified visually, though not easily with the naked eye, by examining the action of the right arm, which must be straightening at impact.

Check out high-speed video on YouTube of any pro, on any swing, full or short, in which the trail arm has become bent to any degree in the backswing. You will then see the trail arm straightening into the strike. Since the release of the clubhead around the hands happens in-step with this straightening, if the trail arm stops straightening before impact, or has already fully straightened, the clubhead is released around the hands prematurely. This destroys any realistic chance of hitting down on the ball with the proper attack angle, and in the case of failing to completely straighten, prevents the left wrist from rolling back to its starting alignment to square the club face for impact.

A great drill to learn the proper release focuses on training the right arm by making short swings with the right arm only. Use a 56-degree wedge or similar. The action of the right arm often comes as a bit of a surprise to folks when learning this drill. You may be inclined initially to keep the right arm fairly straight as you swing it back. But this won’t work for very long when the left arm is attached. It will also cause the clubhead to bottom-out in-line with the right shoulder, surely behind any traditional ball position.

Position the ball inline with your center for this drill. In order to strike the ball with a descending attack angle, and thus to make any kind of “solid” contact at all from closely mown turf, the right arm must bend back and straighten into and through the strike point. This keeps the handle in the lead and thus the clubhead swinging downward into the strike.

The action of the right arm in the backswing is primarily a turning out (or external rotation) and a bending up of the forearm at the elbow. Ben Hogan identified the half side-arm, half under-hand baseball throw as the athletic movement most similar. This action alone will automatically cock the club back at the wrist. The right elbow is set in the lead to begin the forward swing. Keep the elbow leading by first turning the right shoulder around toward the ball, saving the reciprocal turning in (internal rotation) and bending down at the elbow for the strike. Remember, your main intention here is to straighten/push/thrust your right arm through the ball. If you start straightening the right arm too soon, you may not have anything left to straighten by the time you reach impact. But once you start straightening, for the love of God, don’t stop! The uncocking of the wrist and thus the release of the club is governed entirely by the straightening of the arm.

Admittedly, this is a difficult drill to execute. But when you do it, you will have mastered the most essential element of the correct swing, lacking among so many recreational golfers. When you return to using both arms, you will instantly appreciate the added stability. But more than that, use the left now to help you achieve what it is that you are trying to do with your right. Specifically, the lead arm should pull to help the trail arm push.

Check out the trail-arm action of Phil Mickelson, seen here covering a carry of less than 10 yards. It’s no coincidence that perhaps the greatest short-game player of all time features a prominent straightening of the trail arm for even the shortest swings.

The late great Seve Ballesteros clearly displays the pushing action of the right arm through the strike on this short chip from behind the 18th green at Augusta National. This stroke was holed-out to close the 1983 Masters Tournament.

The action of the right arm back is essentially a bend “up” at the elbow and a turn “out” (external rotation).

A strong mental and physical intention is often required to keep the trail arm straightening into the strike, without which proper contact from a descending clubhead delivery is virtually impossible. 240 frames per second video, seen here, confirms this most important biomechanical action of the golf swing.

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As an independent contractor based in Scottsdale, Arizona, Todd Dugan provides video swing analysis as a player gift to groups hosting golf tournaments and also is available for private instruction. * PGA Certified Instructor * Teaching professionally since 1993 CONTACT: ToddDugan@PGA.com vimeo.com/channels/todddugangolf

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. baba booey

    Oct 18, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    I learned this from slice fixer, can hit up to 7 iron. Could use a bit more core turn as you go back IMHO> body swings the club.

    • Todd Dugan

      Oct 18, 2017 at 5:33 pm

      Swinging with just the trail arm as a drill has been around forever, baba booey. In a normal full swing, the shoulders will turn in-step with the arm swing. But since the focus of this drill is on the correct action of the trail arm, you could execute it with as little as no shoulder turn.

  2. Todd Dugan

    Oct 18, 2017 at 10:55 am

    Good work, Greg. As you have found, when you can hit down properly on the ball using just the right arm, you should have no trouble using both!

  3. Greg V

    Oct 18, 2017 at 9:11 am

    I tried the drill last night; it is not easy, but I started to hit my wedge pretty well after awhile. When I went back to both hands, I was killing it (relatively speaking).

  4. wilson

    Oct 18, 2017 at 2:18 am

    2 great short game players, not so much fairway finders. But that may be due to other factors?

    • Todd Dugan

      Oct 18, 2017 at 10:58 am

      That’s right, Wilson, as ALL great players straighten the trail arm into the strike, not just these legends.

  5. surewin73

    Oct 17, 2017 at 10:46 am

    I will give this a LIKE just because he has Cinderella playing in the background of one of the videos. ROCK ON!

    • Terry

      Oct 17, 2017 at 3:40 pm

      Somebody Save Me off the LP Night Songs. ROCK ON!

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Instruction

Trackman Tuesday (Episode 2): Driver Loft

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Welcome to Episode 2 of Trackman Tuesday. In this weekly series, I will be using Trackman data to help you understand the game of golf in a little more detail and help you hit better shots and play better golf.

In this week’s episode, I look at driver loft. What effect does driver loft have on your shots and how important is it, really?

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How Far Away from the Ball Should You Be at Address?

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How far away from the ball should you be at address? This video is in response to a question from Tom McCord on Facebook.

In this video, I look at the setup position. I offer a simple way to check your distance from the ball at address with your driver, irons and wedges.

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Tour Pros Revealed: 3 Tests to See How You Stack Up

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You want to be better at golf, more consistent and longer off the tee. I am sure a lot of you would love to stop hurting. You would like these things with minimal work, if possible. You also want them yesterday. That about sum it up?

In the next 5 minutes, you’ll learn about the one thing that solves these problems for good. Before we dive in, though, I want to tee up three stats for you from my research.

  1. PGA Tour players can jump between 18-22 inches off the ground while LPGA Tour players can jump between 16-20 inches off the ground. Long drive competitors can often leap 30+ inches off the ground!
  2. Elite-level golfers who drive the ball 300+ yards can shot put a 6-pound ball more than 30 feet with less than a 5-percent difference in right-handed to left-handed throws.
  3. Elite golfers in the world can hurl a medicine ball with a seated chest pass just as far in feet as they can jump in inches (ie. a 20-inch vertical leap and a 20-foot seated chest pass).

What do these numbers have to do with you and your game? More importantly, what do these stats have to do with solving your problems? Let’s start by telling you what the solution is.   

Objective Assessment and Intelligent Exercise Prescription

Say that three times fast. It’s a mouth full… But seriously, read it two more times and think about what that means.

It means that before you act on anything to improve your health or your game, you need to objectively assess what the problem is and get to the root cause. You should use quality objective data to arrive at intelligent health and golf improvement decisions based on the long-term likelihood that they will be successful. We can’t just select exercises, swing changes or training aids based on what is hot in the market today or what the latest celebrity was paid big bucks to sell to us.

There is a reason why the infomercials you see today on Golf Channel will be different in 2 months. The same gimmicks run out of steam when enough people realize that is what they are… gimmicks. When looking to achieve your goals of playing better golf and/or having less pain, don’t just grab for the quick fix as so many golfers today do. 

We are in the information age. Information from quality data is power. Using this data intelligently, you can fix problems in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost. Hopefully, I am giving you the power to make a meaningful and lasting change in your game. I’m sorry to say that most amateurs will not be hitting 300+ yard drives despite what the latest marketing ploy will have you believe. But, if you know what tests you can do to measure the areas that affect your distance off the tee, you can at least gain insight into where your biggest return on your time investment will be. 

This is where working with a golf fitness expert can be so valuable to you. Not only can they help you interpret your results from the tests, but they will also be able to prescribe you the most effective means to move closer to 300 yards from where you are right now.  

If you have a problem with your car not accelerating as fast as you would like or not being able to reach top end speed on the highway, I hope you take it to the mechanic and don’t just look up quick fixes on YouTube to see what you can do on your own. The reason you pay the mechanic to fix your car is because that is what they do all day. They will get it done as quickly as possible. More importantly, they’ll get correctly so that the problem doesn’t pop up again in 2 weeks.

A golf fitness expert is no different. Use them for their expertise and knowledge. Once you have a diagnosis of what is holding you back and a plan to correct it, you are on your way and won’t have to waste any more time or money trying silly quick fixes that never stick.

The three statistics mentioned earlier represent numbers measured across the globe by industry leaders and at our facility 3-4 times per year on hundreds of golfers each time. Our facility has thousands of data points. With this much data comes the ability to draw conclusions from objective assessments. These conclusions drive the intelligent implementation of successful solutions directed at the root causes of problems for thousands of golfers around the globe.

The first three statistics have an R-value of over 0.85 in correlation to clubhead speed. Translation: if you perform well in the first three tests with high numbers, you are very likely to have a high club speed. Further, if you improve in any of those three tests relative to where you started, you are almost assured to have a higher club speed than when you began (assuming swing technique and equipment is relatively unchanged).  

Keep in mind that in statistics, correlation is not the same as cause and effect. But when the R-value is that close to 1 and anecdotally you have seen the results and changes we have, you put some weight behind these three tests. So:

  • See how high you can jump
  • See how far you can shot put a 6-pound medicine ball
  • See how far you can chest pass a 6-pound medicine ball from a seated position

Doing so will give you an idea of how much power you have in your lower body, total rotary system and upper body respectively. Train whichever one is the worst, or train them all if you want. Rest assured that if you improve one of them, you will more than likely increase your swing speed.  

By doing these assessments and addressing the one or two weak areas, you will improve with the least work possible. Sounds about what you were looking for, right? If you are able to identify where you need to improve BEFORE you buy whatever is claiming to fix your problems, you will save lots of money and time. You will actually start to improve with the least amount of work possible and in the least amount of time possible.  

What’s next? After completing the assessment tests, start working to improve them.

  • Coming Soon: Lower Body Power for Golf
  • Coming Soon: Upper Body Power for Golf
  • Coming Soon: Rotary Power for Golf
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