What, when, and how? “Release” is the coined phrase in golf jargon that refers to the presentation of the club to the ball through impact. I believe it implies “allowing” something to happen much more than making it happen. By this, I mean, that our golf swing is judged by the entirety of the motion and not by an individual hitting movement at impact that is separate from the swing before that point.
If we have set the stage correctly at address and performed a disciplined backswing, then the stage is set for a release that does NOT need an outward attempt to strike at the ball.
After teaching professionally for over 35 years, I have noticed many things about impact.
- Practice swings seem to be of better quality than swings with a ball involved.
- On the straightest shots I witness, I cannot tell there is a ball involved
- Players don’t chunk practice swings
- Swings with a continual body movement control the path the best.
- Players who can touch the ground lightly, from the same direction and in the same place, tend to trust their swing and allow it to function naturally, instead of trying to control the hit.
When is release? For most it refers to impact or just before. Many picture a rolling of the hands that strikes and propels the ball toward the target.
I believe the POSITION AT THE TOP OF OUR BACKSWING IS OUR DESIRED IMPACT POSITION. So, release is staged far before impact. Again, I have said many times that the straightest ball strikers get the club in position early and then just swing freely.
If it helps, I can tell you WHEN RELEASE IS NOT.
You never use your right arm to push the club the opposite direction you are sending the golf ball. If you are hitting the ball toward a target (left), don’t push or throw the club the opposite direction (to the right, for a righthanded golfer.) This would happen at the top of our backswing, when starting our downswing.
Don’t push the club toward the ground during the downswing, in an attempt to “hit down on the ball.” You are FAR better off attempting to keep your right arm bent, rather than to try to straighten it early. This only dissipates power or clubhead speed.
If your right arm straightens, it is after impact when the centrifugal force pulls the club to full extension.
When you hear of the “plane of your swing,” see that as the good use of gravity and its ability to bring relaxation, trust and patience to our release. If your swing shows no repeatable path, then your release will be intricate and unreliable.
So, your release is built through the plane of your backswing. I mentioned relaxation above. I have found that, many times, its not always HOW you do it but how RELAXED YOU DO IT. This can be especially true for touch shots. Good swing plane means gravity is present. Gravity allows us to feel the fall of the club and the weight of the club is the source of power. This power is RELEASED.
HOW is the club released? Well, that is an age-old debate that still rages. I base my opinions on an interest, in my players, to be successful with EVERY CLUB IN THEIR BAG, instead of just a small number.
Many years of lessons keep me guarded in my beliefs. Things we do subconsciously carry weight and should be built around. We then incorporate those things stored in our human nature and combine them with things that create high-quality golf shots.
I believe that the handle should point at us and stay the same distance from us, through impact. I don’t want my players to give one ounce of thought to closing the clubface, while swinging. We swing back, swing down and then SWING WITH THE CLUB TO OUR FINISH.
The “promised land” of release is something I recently posted videos about. The positions we adopt at address and then swing to the top of our backswing, are then moved AROUND THE BALL. NOT A STRIKE AT, BUT A CONTINUAL MOTION LOW AND LEFT WITH OUR HANDS. This idea was illustrated with the diagram that showed hand path in relation to clubhead path.
We want both ends of the club doing the same thing. Two circles, one just smaller than the other. Our hands lead, slightly, the clubhead but everything our hands do show up on the clubface.
I want us to attempt to swing and think of holding a position around the ball, rather than us seeing change within our swing as a good thing. Good things happen to good paths. Clubhead speed is good, clubface speed (rotation) is bad.
Your good grip builds a wonderful tendency for a square clubface, if you allow it. If you don’t feel your hands other than to maintain a steady grip pressure, then you will strike solid, accurate golf shots. When you can swing very hard and still feel quiet in the handle, you have some straight driving in your near future.
Now, there are some things, mechanical things, that help to keep the club tracking the way we hope.
Side bend, or the way the right side of your body stays leaned toward the ball through impact, is critical to a solid, repeatable path. If you adopt a posture at address, it has to be reflected throughout our swing.
If your left shoulder goes down and under our chin during the act of swinging back, then our right shoulder will replace it through impact.
Since our right hand is lower than our left hand on the grip, then our right collarbone is ALWAYS lower than our left collarbone moving through the ball. You will never “come over the top” of a shot again if you understand this body movement. I like to hit drivers thinking of breaking the tee with my right collarbone. This is a solid release image that works on any swing.
Our mechanics, the positions we adopt at address, are there for a reason. Are they to be believed or discounted?
What happens if we just look at the ball and swing? Wouldn’t that be nice? That is trust. That is how you use your mechanics. From that frame of mind, we learn to release. Your swing strikes the shot. It is a whole-body movement, from start to finish, with no part having any greater significance than another. Easier said than done, but it certainly can be done.
But many swings I watch show a lack of belief. They stand over the ball beautifully but then completely disregard the purpose of fundamentals and allow an anxious, intricate striking action to take over.
What does release mean? Maybe it means a state of mind we adopt before we set up to the ball.
I have said to many students: I love your swing, when you choose to use it!
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)