Understanding of Release
ALL good players can feel the club approaching impact and the progress of the clubhead through and after striking the ball. This “release” must match your grip and swing. Once you build your grip and swing, the payoff is control of the face and path that produces a dependable shot pattern. Many players chase intricate release patterns that involve a lot of wrist movement and clubface rotation. I ask my players to focus on accuracy above all else, because I know distance will come, as a result of solid impact and square path.
The term “release” is used constantly in golf. I know it means different things to many golfers. I hear players explaining, to their friends, what they picture happening through impact, as the club strikes the ball. Most of the time they are mistaken or giving advice that is counterproductive.
Belief makes release- Most golfers see release as the closing of the clubface as it moves through the ball. They picture the toe of the club moving over the ball as their right-hand crosses over their left hand (or right arm over the left arm.)
Where does this belief come from? What causes your release to form?
Aim makes release- After years of watching golfer’s practice, I know most players aim right of their target. That fact, in itself, guarantees the players will have to close the face to find the target. I mean their downswing will be dominated with a rush of the toe past the heel. They MUST do it, or every time they release a square face through the ball the shot will finish right of the target. Swing flaws like “coming over the top” or “early extension” of the right arm are the product, normally, of poor aim.
Lee Trevino, on the other hand, aimed well left of the target so he NEVER came over the top of a golf shot in his life. He worked the club through the ball and protected the clubface, allowing very little face rotation.
The orientation of your body, to the target, will shape your belief in your release.
Swing makes release- The way you swing the club will determine how you MUST move the club through the ball. This can be determined by your shoulder turn (flat or upright) or the path of your arms around your body.
That is where the genius lies in the highest level of players. They all have found a reliable shot pattern through THEIR swing.
Grip makes release- The way you hold the club influences the clubface, and therefore your release, more than any aspect of your mechanics. Teaching yourself a hand movement through impact, that matches the action of your swing, will allow you to find a path of improvement. Trying to maintain a poor grip will stagnate your progress.
Many times, a goofy swing needs a goofy grip. It is like “the chicken and the egg.” Which caused the other.
It is interesting that the players on tour with the strongest grips (hands rotated well to the right on the club) typically play a fade and move the ball from left to right. How? Do you believe that the stronger the grip the more the clubface rotates? Not necessarily so. These players have learned to eliminate hand and forearm rotation and just use body turn to move the club through the ball. Their body swings (turns) but their arms do not.
They know that there is no way to play professional golf by allowing a great deal of clubface rotation. There are too many misses that are possible.
I believe that the top of our backswing: what our hands, arms and the club look like, should be our impact position. That is the purpose of our backswing, to position the club to be swung through the ball without fear or compensation.
Our downswing is our swinging body presenting the club to the ball and MAINTAINING that path after impact. I believe a good swing gets the club in position early and keeps it there throughout the swing.
While at the US Open, I had the opportunity to watch many players as they practiced. It was quickly obvious that the pros move the club through, or around, the ball in a manner different than most amateurs.
Instead of hanging back behind the golf ball and flipping the clubhead at the back of the ball, these experts moved their weight and body to the left of the ball. They establish an angle in the shaft and clubface and MAINTAIN that angle through impact. The ENTIRE GOLF CLUB is past the ball, except the clubhead, at impact.
The shaft is leaning toward the target and the handle ALWAYS LEADS THE CLUBHEAD. The path of the handle matches the path of the clubhead. They are both the same circle, just the hand path is smaller than the clubhead path.
Amateurs tend to stop the handle at the back of the ball and push the clubhead toward the back of the ball and out to the target. In this example, the handle is doing something different than the clubhead. This is a formula for inconsistency.
The pros get so much distance because the loft stays the same at impact and the level of compression is the highest. This “smash factor” creates the highest ball speeds possible.
True “release” means allowing a consistent clubface to collect the ball, rather than throwing a rolling clubface at the back of the ball.
THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP- This weekend we have the final major of the year. In no tournament is it more important to control your golf ball. The wind and rain present around these links courses will make it necessary to hit balls low and curve shots in both directions.
The players who are adept at creating a release pattern, that creates the desired shot, will move to the top of the leader board. Those who cannot control the clubface will have to accept results that take them out of contention.
Also, attitude will be very important. This is a tournament of bad bounces and breaks. If a player gets his feelings hurt easily, he will struggle.
A player must be able to render a shot that disarms the hole and the conditions. Preparation for this tournament is different than any other. This will include shots along the ground and how best to advance a ball from horrific rough or gorse.
The fans are knowledgeable and supportive of good play, so the opportunity is there to embrace the charm and requirements of the tournament.
Videos-I recently posted some videos to the DGA that I originally made for Instagram. These videos all have a perspective on release or the things that most influence the club’s movement before, at and after impact. I will explain each video in the days to come.
Enjoy your journey and keep up the hard work,
Michael Wolf, Certified Master Teaching Professional, has been playing golf for 46 years and teaching professionally for over 34 years. He has given over 30,000 golf lessons. Author of The Driven Golfer: Building Your Method For Scratch Golf. Harvey Penick Award Winner- 2016 (Top Instructor U.S./World Golf Teachers Federation)