What is the Release in Golf? Decelerate and Accelerate Your Release

The release in golf is one of the most underestimated concepts that exist. People often seek power through pressure work, through gym work etc but you hardly hear anyone talking about the release.

In my opinion, it’s the most potent power source in the golf swing. And this is what this article is about = creating a knowledge foundation for this awesome power source.

By the way, my name is Petter Tärbe and I have a history as a decent scratch player, a golf instructor for some years, but first and foremost I’m a huge golf development nerd that loves to pass on what I know.

Some parts of this article will get technical so scroll down to the bottom terminology list if you get stuck.

Releasing the Golf Club - A Short Note

In the article I will dig into topics that are related to how most players can release the golf club. It would be how e.g. Ben Hogan does it. It’s not in tune with how e.g. Dustin Johnson (or other slingshot players).

How it works - The Short Answer

The backswing and downswing loads the shaft with power that is now to be released.

At impact and in the follow through you will put the brakes on your lead hand and decelerate it and use your trail hand to assist the forces that are now released in acceleration. The club head now overtakes your hands from a face on perspective.

Get good at this and you get good at creating speed in golf. That’s a very short explanation. 

How it works - The Long Answer

Metaphor Explanation 1 - The Vertical Catapult / The Trebuchet - Displaying the sling and power

The old school medieval catapult utilizes a loading arm that is e.g. 1 meter long. This arm is weighed down with a counter weight. Then the throwing arm is 4 times longer than the loading arm and has a sling attached to it. Long story short, you load the counterweight basket with loads of weights and lift it up. When fired the counterweight moves down rapidly and sets the throwing arm in motion and the sling attached to the firing arm eventually releases all the power into the projectile.

How does it translate into golf? Well, for starters the catapult is vertical and the golf swing is on an inclined plane. With that said:

The counterweight and loading arm = your body fundament (core, legs etc)

The throwing arm = your arms and hands

The sling = your golf club

We can learn that everything in the trebuchet is set up to release the energy into the sling = your golf club. You can also see clear indications of a vertical braking mechanism that will propel energy into the throwing arm and eventually the golf club. If you watch this video at 3-4 minutes there is also talk about centripetal acceleration which definitely has meaning in the golf world as well.

Metaphor Explanation 2 - The Car & Trailer - Displaying a horizontal braking mechanism

Another example. You drive with an attached trailer and an unattached lawn mower on top of the trailer. Drive at 50 mph and make a very quick 90 degrees left turn. The trailer follows the car with quite a slide (likely) and the lawn mower is likely thrown out in the initial direction of the car.

The car = your body

The trailer = your arms and hands

The lawn mower = your club

What can we learn from this? The braking mechanism in golf is much more horizontal than a vertical action. When you change the direction massively with your hands you will trigger a braking mechanism and a potential for the release of the club. Swing to the top and then “swing left” hard with lead hand at impact. What happens? You release decelerate the left hand path and now release out the centrifugal forces in the club shaft.

Centrifugal and Centripetal forces - Two forces dictating the release

An example of centrifugal force how the hammer in a hammer throw works. The rotating center puts rotational force on the hammer and once you release this energy it can fly a mile if you have proper technique.

The centripetal force is how the hammer thrower acts deliberately towards the center of the rotational motion. He/she accelerates the centrifugal force with deliberate actions towards the center of the motion.

This relates to golf since the golf swing, simply put, is rotation on an inclined plane.

The Lead and Trail - Different roles for maximum power

The lead hand is the dominant “club face closer” in the downswing and will start decelerating somewhere in the downswing (this due to the blade closing and the altering of the hand path). This lead deceleration/brake mechanism paves the way for the trail hand.

The trail hand is often described as the power hand and there is a good reason for this. It “takes care of” the potential that the lead hand has generated. Once the lead starts decelerating the trail hand steps in and assists the centrifugal force release of the club shaft. In other words, the trail hand is what makes the shaft forces continue down the swing arc without any mechanical breakdowns.

A symptom of not using the trail hand properly is that your wrists collapse after impact (meaning that they hinge with trail hand bowing/flexion too early). If you use the trail hand properly this collapse will happen later and not as chaotically.

How it Works - Summary

You use your body, arms and hands to create centrifugal force in the club in the back- and downswing and then you stimulate / guide this l force with a deliberate centripetal move to propel the power explosion of the club outracing the hands. Indeed, the centripetal move is a deceleration of the lead arm and a trail arm then assists the club shaft acceleration to create a power move without mechanical hiccups.

The lead hand/arm is the club face closing dominator and the trail hand becomes your power distributor.

Closing down the Face Properly

Most golfers close down their face too late = they now need to respond with compensation. More often than not this leads to early extension and closing the blade through a chaotic wrist hinge action. The result? Massive power loss and inconsistent strikes.

The ultimate goal is this: Effective early club face closure and a slightly bent trail arm at impact. (if you can perform both of these there is no reason for you to have more than scratch in hcp.)

Closing the face with your lead arm is an acquired skill that you actively need to train. Click here for a great video about it.

Why the slightly bent trail arm at impact? Well, once the trail arm extends the club face closing chaos starts and you are no longer providing consistency. How to get the slightly bent arm? This is the fruit of fully understanding how the release works and how your body works in correspondence with it. Simply understanding that the trail hand is picking up the speed/force can actually achieve this “holy grail of golf skillset”.

(For the deeper golf nerd (like me) I suggest that you read up on different golf technique frameworks and pick one that fits you. Go to the SNÖLEO Golf Academy overview page here, scroll down to the technique frameworks and educate yourself.)

How to Train this?

It’s actually not hard. An hour to learn the sensations and a lifetime to master them. 

Start by swinging a golf club with each arm individually. Try to achieve some power. How do you actually move then? 

The lead arm swing will give you a sensation that it needs to go hard to the left together with the body opening to assist this motion. The trail arm is more potent in power and you will feel that it is very easy to generate “effortless speed” here.

Once you have done the above, go over to the car tire drill so you learn to get the right closing mechanism into the lead arm and also stimulate its deceleration.

Then go to a normal golf swing and translate these sensations into something tangible for you. I spent 30 minutes total on each arm to generate sensations that became very potent in my actual play golf swing thoughts.

This training sounds easy but it's very rewarding. Thank you for reading my attempt to explain the release. Best of luck with your efforts out there. Play well!

Wish to Read More? 

Snöleo Golf Academy Overview Page - Here I write deeply researched articles about anything golf. Some examples below.

Early Extension in Golf? A Non-Band-Aid Solution

How the Transition in Golf Works? Different Swings, Different Transitions

Consistency in Golf? The Perception of Control

The Slingshot Golf Swing - The Modern Power Swing

The Hogan Golf Swing - Ben Hogan’s Foundation Explained

The Old School Swinger Golf Swing - Nicklaus then and Scheffler now

The MORAD 86 Golf Swing - Mac O’Grady’s Legendary Swing

Article Terminology List

Cupping & Bowing = Bowing is Dustin Johnson's left hand on top of the backswing. Cupping is the opposite. Hold your right arm straight out in front of you with your thumb pointing straight up. Hinge to the right = cupping (or extension). Hinge to the left = bowing (or flexion)

Inclined Plane = If you swing around yourself like a baseball player this would be a horizontal plane. If you swing an axe straight up and down this would happen on a vertical plane. In golf, we swing in between, which means an inclined plane.

Early Extension = This is the body’s compensation for you doing something that is out of sync with how the forces would work naturally. Example: You swing too steep in the downswing and the blade is way too open, now you need to stand up to not “fat the shot” and you need to break down your wrist angles to present a square blade. All compensations and Early Extension is just a reflection of something not happening naturally or out of sequence.