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Clark: “Most golfers cannot release the club too soon”



Golfers hear a lot about release, but I honestly believe that most people do not have a good understanding of what it actually means. Here’s a working working definition of the release as I teach it:

The unhinging of the wrists and the rotation of the forearms in the downswing.

Here’s why: At some point during the swing the wrists cock and the forearms rotate away from the ball. Well, it stands to reason that during the downswing you have to unhinge the wrists and reverse the rotation of the forearms. When and how this is done is a matter of individual style and preference, but it MUST be done. More closely, if you look at the left arm and golf club as you stand at address it is more or less a straight line; but at the top of the swing that 180 degree angle changes to, in many cases, 90 degrees.  You cannot get to the bottom of the golf ball unless the 180 degree straight line relationship is returned (generally speaking). Next, if you look at the club face at address it should be square to the target; but at the top of the swing, it is rotated 90 degrees OPEN to the target. For the most part, you cannot hit the golf ball squarely unless the face of the club is returned to a square position.

How and when to do this depends on several factors in your swing. So when exactly do you unhinge the wrists?

  • Swing path: In-to-out swings have to release the club a little later and out-to-in swings have to release the club a little sooner. Why? Because in-to-out swings get to the bottom of the arc earlier than outside in. I always chuckle when I hear “I come over it and I cast.”  My response is, “you better!”
  • Swing plane: Flatter swings typically have to release the club later and upright swings have to release the club a little sooner. Why? Because flatter, wider arcs (into the ball) bottom out sooner than upright swings.
  • Pivot: The more centered your pivots (less movement off the ball), the earlier you have to release the club. Players with bigger moves off the ball in the backswing release the club a little later. Why? Because the centered pivot narrowns the swing arc and moves the bottom more forward; and the move to the right (for right-handed golfers) in the backswing moves the bottom further back.

Every one of us has to unhinge the wrists and rotate the forearms back into the ball. But the sequence of this is a matter of your swing style preference. But the “line up” of the left arm and golf club and the squaring of the face is not a preference, it is a principle of impact. Also the claim that “holding the angle” or ‘lagging” the club creates distance is simply not supported by any scientific evidence. Jason Zuback is one of the longest hitters of a golf ball ever and his release point is much earlier than than Sergio Garcia’s. Jamie Sadlowski has a very late release but not as much for power as it fits his swing style, which has considerable late, increased axis tilt (upper body tilted back) in his downswing. Creating an angle and narrowing the swing arc may be essential for making a descending blow at the right place, but it does not, in and of itself, create speed.

So take a good look at your misses:  late skulls, tops, big slices?  Think of a an earlier release. Big hooks, fats”  Think of delaying it a bit, or think about getting the body through earlier on the downswing.  It is my considered opinion that most golfers cannot release the club too soon as long as they are moving to the left side, and the handle of the club does not stall coming down. I make this claim after 35,000 up-close-and-personal observations called “golf lessons.”  And those of you who are regular followers of my teaching know that I teach EVERONE individually. I do not promote an early or a late release; just the right release FOR YOU.

As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

Click here for more discussion in the “Instruction & Academy” forum. 

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Dennis now teaches at Bobby Clampett's Impact Zone Golf Indoor Performance Center in Naples, FL. .



  1. Greg V

    Dec 30, 2014 at 10:30 am

    Jack Nicklaus once stated that it was impossible to release the club too early if his legs were working correctly.

    Harry Vardon believed that he was throwing the clubhead back through the ball with his right thumb and forefinger.

    Those two guys were pretty good at hitting a golf ball. That would be 9 Open Championships and 5 US Opens among them.

  2. mark

    Dec 2, 2014 at 2:17 am

    Didn’t Mike Austin say that back in about 1950?

  3. Todd

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    You can rotate the clubface around the sweetspot without bending the wrists. And you can bend the wrists without rotating the clubface. So, lining up the shaft with the left arm is not a requirement to square the clubface at impact. Almost all pros exhibit a shaft which is behind the left arm at impact. Besides all this, if the attack angle is less than optimally descending, then the release has occurred too early.

  4. J. Evans

    Jun 25, 2014 at 10:12 am

    Hello Dennis,

    For any given golfer, is the release point the same for all clubs (full shots only, not specialty shots) wedge to driver, OR, is there a different release point for full wedges, vs, irons, vs hybrids, vs woods, thanks.

  5. Dave

    Jul 21, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    Like this but it doesn’t tell you HOW to release the club.

  6. Scott

    Apr 25, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    This has changed my golf game. Fantastic article

  7. Caleb Hoshiyama

    Feb 5, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    How do you measure Spin Loft? I know Trackman measures angle of attack; so if my angle of attack on my driver is 4 degrees (I think ideal?) and my driver is a 9 degree (true measurement, not stamped), my SL would be 5 degrees? I am missing something here?

    • Alex

      Dec 13, 2014 at 1:58 am

      SL is the difference between dynamic loft and AoA. Not your club head’s measured loft.

      You need to know what your dynamic loft is in order to calculate spin loft.

  8. jesse

    Dec 20, 2012 at 1:01 am

    Dennis, your Oct. 24th @ 4:10PM answer was somewhat revealing, but you were very unclear in mentioning the D Plane & the “lower the SL”, dynamic loft (lower the SL). This is very unclear and confusing. Just exactly what are you trying to arrive at when you talk about the “dynamic loft”. I guess you could say the golf swing is dynamic, but what does that have to do with ball flight? Too many moving parts here.

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 26, 2012 at 6:41 pm

      Dynamic loft is the actual impact loft as opposed to the manufacturer loft. SL is SPIN LOFT and when it is lower, the golf is MORE compressed )SL is dyamic loft MINUS attack angle) My top guys get their driver spin loft down to 10-11 degrees, which is REALLY solid. It’s a measure of compression. Thx. DC

  9. ryebread

    Nov 8, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    I like the article and tend to agree. The question that I don’t see answered is the release point trigger — particularly for those fighting the dreaded slice.

  10. Dustin

    Nov 8, 2012 at 11:06 am


    Can’t agree more. Tons of good info coming out of Michael Jacobs/Brian Manzella etc. regarding the release. For so long most of us including myself have tried to emulate the “lag” look and trying to delay the release when in effect, actually sends the clubhead out REDUCING lag. Trying to line that club up as soon as possible is more powerful, and easier to square the club. Trying to take the lag out, actually visually makes it look like there is more lag! Great article, and keep up the good work coming out of science not pictures and video!

  11. joe

    Oct 31, 2012 at 11:40 pm

    Also dennis, while your article is written in simple terms, i think it is beyond the comprehension of those not “in the know” about the golf swing.

    • Blanco

      Nov 7, 2012 at 3:14 am

      I disagree. The fact that he defines release in the beginning of the piece makes this more concise and understandable than most articles. The article is about release, not swing plane; I find it’s easy to get off-topic in an instructional article… where he could have gone into explanation about swing plane and shot shape (open face/in-to-out=draw, etc.), he chose to keep this simple. When learning golf my biggest knock on teachers is that they fail to achieve understanding of key concepts before expanding on them. Great article.

  12. joe

    Oct 31, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    Ok dennis, you won me over with this article. Is it possible to hit a fade with an in to out swing? I cannot hit a fade for the life of me with my release. Hitting right to left and around trees right to left is a breeze. 1 in 20 shots i can hit a fade but it is obviously not consistent in fading. If i have to hit a dogleg or around a tree left to right, im in trouble.

    • Nathan W

      Jan 9, 2013 at 2:49 pm

      I use to play an outside to drop inside swing. You can hit a fade from it, but it can be difficult. I use to drop my head shoulders and everything to prevent being out front. I would then hold my hands off to hit a push fade. I wouldn’t suggest this way by any means. I couldn’t suggest a way to hit a fade w/o truely seeing your swing.

    • Greg V

      Dec 30, 2014 at 10:36 am

      To hit a fade, try aiming to the left, then holding off your release a bit while you rotate hard to your left.

      It really helps if you keep your right side “high” through the shot.

      You still hit from the inside, but because your target line shifts to the left, and you hold off your release, your actual path to your intended target will be left of the intended target with an open face.

      Also, it is very important that your “eye line” is left of your intended target line.

    • christian

      Jan 5, 2015 at 11:21 pm

      If hitting driver from the tee-box, just tee the ball really low. This almost automatically gives me a fade.

  13. dennis

    Oct 24, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    Thx for reply; If you read Paul Wood, Steven Nesbitt, Muira et al, the scientists (physicists, biomechanists etc) who reseach this for a living, my report is based on THEIR findings, It is not an assumption that I related based on lack of detail. When I am in search of knowlegede in a field outside mine, I rely on what the SCIENTIFIC community has to say on the subject, I find it more reliable than internet blogs. That is why I invested in a Trackman so I could do golf pro level experiments on human case studies, i.e. my students over time. And the laggers or handle tuggers have no advantage over the early releasers from the turf or the tee. As for the path, it has very little control on the initial direction of the golf, 25% at the most, so your path observations concerning pull and push would only be the case if the the face (75% of the initial direction) is looking in that direction. And spin loft is the D PLane (the difference in the attack angle and dynamic loft) the lowerthe SL the greater the compression. What you missed is the basic point of the article. That MOST golfers commit their bodies (upper body opening early) before they ever lower their arms or release their club. Again just an empirical observation over many years Thx for the interest. DC

  14. Cliff

    Oct 23, 2012 at 4:30 pm


    You say that an in to out swing path must release later. If I come from the inside and I release on time wouldn’t I push it in the exact direction that my swing path dictates or even further right if I’m late? On the other hand if I come from the outside of the ball and I release normal I hit a straight pull, if I release earlier I hit a hook.

    Your point about how late release does not mean more distance is interesting. Sergio Garcia is not know to be the worlds longest driver, he is known to be pretty long with his irons, specifically long irons. A late release that ends up square may have the same clubhead speed through impact as one with an early release but the spin rate is not the same, and no, it’s not about steepness. The reason a late release person can hit irons so long is because their ball comes out with more spin. Faster acceleration over a shorter distance where you reach the same ultimate speed mean more time spent touching the ball and a greater amount of friction produced on the urethane cover.

    I don’t think your article is bad, in fact it’s quite interesting for most people that don’t care about the granular details of physics. I do think that you have a mistake in your thinking and cannot make an assumption based on a single dimension when the problem involves several dimensions that you haven’t examined in as much detail.

  15. Ryan

    Oct 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    The last two articles by Dennis Clark are the most important things that I have learned from Dennis. I have been playing golf for about 20 years. About 10 years ago I started working with Dennis. My main lesson was “Turn and Release”. It was this concept that helped me get to scratch in just about 2 years. Also helped me gain about 25-35 yards off my driver. He drilled this concept into me every lesson I had. Larger Turn and Earlier Release; helped square the face and increase my club head speed. “Turn and Release” made me “Longer and Straighter”. Thanks a Million Dennis

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The Wedge Guy: My top 5 practice tips



While there are many golfers who barely know where the practice (I don’t like calling it a “driving”) range is located, there are many who find it a place of adventure, discovery and fun. I’m in the latter group, which could be accented by the fact that I make my living in this industry. But then, I’ve always been a “ball beater,” since I was a kid, but now I approach my practice sessions with more purpose and excitement. There’s no question that practice is the key to improvement in anything, so today’s topic is on making practice as much fun as playing.

As long as I can remember, I’ve loved the range, and always embrace the challenge of learning new ways to make a golf ball do what I would like it to do. So, today I’m sharing my “top 5” tips for making practice fun and productive.

  1. Have a mission/goal/objective. Whether it is a practice range session or practice time on the course, make sure you have a clearly defined objective…how else will you know how you’re doing? It might be to work on iron trajectory, or finding out why you’ve developed a push with your driver. Could be to learn how to hit a little softer lob shot or a knockdown pitch. But practice with a purpose …always.
  2. Don’t just “do”…observe.  There are two elements of learning something new.  The first is to figure out what it is you need to change. Then you work toward that solution. If your practice session is to address that push with the driver, hit a few shots to start out, and rather than try to fix it, make those first few your “lab rats”. Focus on what your swing is doing. Do you feel anything different? Check your alignment carefully, and your ball position. After each shot, step away and process what you think you felt during the swing.
  3. Make it real. To just rake ball after ball in front of you and pound away is marginally valuable at best. To make practice productive, step away from your hitting station after each shot, rake another ball to the hitting area, then approach the shot as if it was a real one on the course. Pick a target line from behind the ball, meticulously step into your set-up position, take your grip, process your one swing thought and hit it. Then evaluate how you did, based on the shot result and how it felt.
  4. Challenge yourself. One of my favorite on-course practice games is to spend a few minutes around each green after I’ve played the hole, tossing three balls into various positions in an area off the green. I don’t let myself go to the next tee until I put all three within three feet of the hole. If I don’t, I toss them to another area and do it again. You can do the same thing on the range. Define a challenge and a limited number of shots to achieve it.
  5. Don’t get in a groove. I was privileged enough to watch Harvey Penick give Tom Kite a golf lesson one day, and was struck by the fact that he would not let Tom hit more than five to six shots in a row with the same club. Tom would hit a few 5-irons, and Mr. Penick would say, “hit the 8”, then “hit the driver.” He changed it up so that Tom would not just find a groove. That paved the way for real learning, Mr. Penick told me.

My “bonus” tip addresses the difference between practicing on the course and keeping a real score. Don’t do both. A practice session is just that. On-course practice is hugely beneficial, and it’s best done by yourself, and at a casual pace. Playing three or four holes in an hour or so, taking time to hit real shots into and around the greens, will do more for your scoring skills than the same amount of range time.

So there you have my five practice tips. I’m sure I could come up with more, but then we always have more time, right?

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The Wedge Guy: Anyone can be a better wedge player by doing these simple things



As someone who has observed rank-and-file recreational golfers for most of my life – over 50 years of it, anyway – I have always been baffled by why so many mid- to high-handicap golfers throw away so many strokes in prime scoring range.

For this purpose, let’s define “prime scoring range” as the distance when you have something less than a full-swing wedge shot ahead of you. Depending on your strength profile, that could be as far as 70 to 80 yards or as close as 30 to 40 yards. But regardless of whether you are trying to break par or 100, your ability to get the ball on the green and close enough to the hole for a one-putt at least some of the time will likely be one of the biggest factors in determining your score for the day.

All too often, I observe golfers hit two or even three wedge shots from prime scoring range before they are on the green — and all too often I see short-range pitch shots leave the golfer with little to no chance of making the putt.

This makes no sense, as attaining a level of reasonable proficiency from short range is not a matter of strength profile at all. But it does take a commitment to learning how to make a repeating and reliable half-swing and doing that repeatedly and consistently absolutely requires you to learn the basic fundamentals of how the body has to move the club back and through the impact zone.

So, let’s get down to the basics to see if I can shed some light on these ultra-important scoring shots.

  • Your grip has to be correct. For the club to move back and through correctly, your grip on the club simply must be fundamentally sound. The club is held primarily in the last three fingers of the upper hand, and the middle two fingers of the lower hand. Period. The lower hand has to be “passive” to the upper hand, or the mini-swing will become a quick jab at the ball. For any shot, but particularly these short ones, that sound grip is essential for the club to move through impact properly and repeatedly.
  • Your posture has to be correct. This means your body is open to the target, feet closer together than even a three-quarter swing, and the ball positioned slightly back of center.
  • Your weight should be distributed about 70 percent on your lead foot and stay there through the mini-swing.
  • Your hands should be “low” in that your lead arm is hanging naturally from your shoulder, not extended out toward the ball and not too close to the body to allow a smooth turn away and through. Gripping down on the club is helpful, as it gets you “closer to your work.
  • This shot is hit with a good rotation of the body, not a “flip” or “jab” with the hands. Controlling these shots with your body core rotation and leading the swing with your body core and lead side will almost ensure proper contact. To hit crisp pitch shots, the hands have to lead the clubhead through impact.
  • A great drill for this is to grip your wedge with an alignment rod next to the grip and extending up past your torso. With this in place, you simply have to rotate your body core through the shot, as the rod will hit your lead side and prevent you from flipping the clubhead at the ball. It doesn’t take but a few practice swings with this drill to give you an “ah ha” moment about how wedge shots are played.
  • And finally, understand that YOU CANNOT HIT UP ON A GOLF BALL. The ball is sitting on the ground so the clubhead has to be moving down and through impact. I think one of the best ways to think of this is to remember this club is “a wedge.” So, your simple objective is to wedge the club between the ball and the ground. The loft of the wedge WILL make the ball go up, and the bounce of the sole of the wedge will prevent the club from digging.

So, why is mastering the simple pitch shot so important? Because my bet is that if you count up the strokes in your last round of golf, you’ll likely see that you left several shots out there by…

  • Either hitting another wedge shot or chip after having one of these mid-range pitch shots, or
  • You did not get the mid-range shot close enough to even have a chance at a makeable putt.

If you will spend even an hour on the range or course with that alignment rod and follow these tips, your scoring average will improve a ton, and getting better with these pitch shots will improve your overall ball striking as well.

More from the Wedge Guy

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Clement: Don’t overlook this if you want to find the center of the face




It is just crazy how golfers are literally beside themselves when they are placed in a properly aligned set up! They feel they can’t swing or function! We take a dive into why this is and it has to do with how the eyes are set up in the human skull!

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