[Editor's Note: The following article was written by Todd Casabella, Director of Instruction at Grey Hawk Golf Club in Lagrange. Todd is a member of the Professional Golfers' Association of America and a TPI Certified Golf Fitness Instructor.]
One of the differences in the golf swings of long and short hitters is the amount of clubhead lag that is created and maintained in their golf swing. Clubhead lag refers to the angle formed by the left arm (for right handed golfers) and golf club. This angle is created by the wrists during the backswing. The difference between the long and short hitters is how this angle is maintained during the downswing and released into the golf ball. Long hitters create maximum clubhead speed using energy created by the lower body, passing through the torso and into the arms. Maximum clubhead speed occurs when the arms begin to slow down and the wrists begin to unhinge. If the movement is timed properly, energy is then passed into the clubhead and transferred to the golf ball resulting in optimal power. In my experience, short hitters generally lose clubhead lag too soon due to two primary reasons.
The first reason is they are decelerating as they approach the golf ball. Most amateurs start their downswing way too quickly. The acceleration of the arms around the torso is what maintains the wrist hinge. If the arms are decelerating too quickly the wrists will unhinge to soon resulting in fat shots. If the golfer continues to decelerate to hold the wrist hinge will require tension in the muscles of the wrist and forearms. Tension reduces speed and makes timing difficult. In order to be sure your downswing pace is correct, swing the club holding the clubhead and pretend to hit the ball with the grip end of the club. Listen for the swoosh sound over top of the golf ball and your left foot.
The second reason wrist hinge is lost, most short hitters try to get back into the same position at impact they are at address and attempt to square the clubface to the target with their right hand. The downswing begins from the ground up. The legs are turning the pelvis towards the target prior to impact to support the rotation of the upper body after impact. It’s the rotation of the torso, the path of the swinging of the arms and the release of the wrists that squares the clubface, not the hands. To get the proper feel for this release practice hitting balls letting go of the club with your right hand just PRIOR to impact. Be sure to get to a balanced follow through position with you hips and shoulders facing the target with the club across the back of your neck.
Work on these two drills and you will begin to hit longer, straighter golf shots.