The word release sometimes causes confusion among high-handicappers. They know they have to release the club, but they're not sure how or when to do it. Here's the skinny: A proper release happens naturally when the golfer allows the clubface to square through impact as a result of the proper path and clubhead speed. It's not a position that you can just put yourself into at impact–you have to arrive at it via the proper sequence.
I'm sure you've all experienced the ecstasy of hitting a good shot that sailed through the air and felt completely effortless. In those instances, you executed a proper release, allowing the momentum of the club to work its magic instead of trying to manipulate it.
Ideally, you want to square the clubface through impact by rotating your right forearm (if you're right-handed) over the left one.
The result is a flat left wrist and a square clubface at the moment of contact. After impact, your arms should extend fully as your lower body rotates to the left while the club remains on the target line. Because your arms pass your body through the impact zone, your head should remain behind the ball. If you wear a glove, your glove hand should be underneath your right hand. Once again, this isn't a position that you just put yourself into; you have to let it happen automatically.
High-handicappers, on the other hand, try to hold the clubface square through impact, not allowing the release, so they end up with the glove hand on top of the right hand. This combination causes a slew of mis-hits, including high, weak shots to the right. Some high-handicappers, in an attempt to square the clubface at impact, end up flipping the right hand underneath the left one. The result is a breakdown in the left wrist, which keeps the clubface open. The swing looks forced and jerky instead of smooth and flowing.
Allowing For The Release
In a proper release, you want to square the clubface through impact by rotating your right forearm over your left. If you start with your arms relaxed and maintain that relaxed feeling throughout the swing, this rotation becomes much easier. One of the biggest problems I see that prevents golfers from letting the club release is that they grip too tightly. If you have tight grip pressure, you won't be able to rotate your forearms during the swing because you'll have too much tension built up in your forearms. Furthermore, the tighter you grip the club, the more likely you'll slice the ball. Here's a simple way to check your grip pressure. Grip the club lightly and hover the clubhead above the ground. The clubhead should feel heavy as you waggle the club. Now grip the club tight and you'll feel that the clubhead gets light. Adjust your grip pressure before each swing so that the clubhead feels heavy.
You can practice the proper forearm rotation without even thinking about it. Notice how many good players, especially Tour pros, get into the habit of rotating the club with the left forearm as they wait to tee off. Watch for it the next time a tournament airs on TV. They'll swing the club back smoothly, hinging the wrist on the backswing and releasing it on the followthrough.
Here's a drill to help you learn the proper release. Without a club, hold your left thumb with your right hand as if you were gripping a club. Swing back so that your hands are shoulder-high. At this point, your thumbs should be pointing at a slight angle to the sky. Now, slowly swing down and feel the rotation of your forearms through impact and stop when your hands reach shoulder-high. At this point, your glove hand should be underneath your right hand, and your thumbs should be pointing at a slight angle to the sky again. If you finish at this point with your glove hand on top of your right hand, you'd have sliced the ball with a real swing. Perform this drill often so you can do it at normal speed and not have to think about making the proper release. Again, the release isn't something you do, but it's something every good golf swing needs.
Class A LPGA teaching professional Karen Palacios-Jansen is the director of Swing Blade Golf Enterprises (www.swingbladegolf.com), the developer of the Cardio-golf exercise program (www.cardiogolf.com) and a member of the GT Teaching Professional Network.