The sidewinder release
By T.J. TOMASI
How you release the clubhead to the ball is the key determiner of power and accuracy, yet it is one of the most misunderstood concepts in golf. Ask five teachers what they mean by “release,” and you’ll get 10 different answers — five initial answers and five reloads when they realize their first answer isn’t very good.
The process begins when you build up energy on the backswing through coiling. When you deliver the energy you’ve built up to the ball, it’s called the release.
There are three elements to a good release: what the torso does; what your forearms/elbows do; and what your wrists do. Here I’ll outline the role of the wrists.
At some point during the backswing, you need to set your wrists to create a 90-degree angle between your lead forearm and the shaft. This angle is a lever that will multiply the power at impact when it straightens out.
Your club at address forms an angle to the ground. A 6-iron sits at 60 degrees, while a driver is, say, 48 degrees. Your lead wrist cocks at roughly the angle of this shaft plane. Said another way: Your wrists set sideways vs. directly up and down.
And here is the big point: They release exactly as they set, sideways, as when you skip a stone.
Be careful with the analogy of pounding with a hammer to describe wrist cock because, while the wrist action is the same, the angle of attack is different. You hammer vertically, but hit a golf ball from the side, which is why I call it a “sidewinder” release, after the snake that moves sideways to go straight at its target.
One of the biggest mistakes is forcing the clubhead in a straight line to the ball, a route that works when chopping wood, but not when you swing a golf club. When you release sideways, let momentum be your friend by relaxing, because it is momentum that rotates the forearms, squaring up the clubface. If your forearms are frozen in tension, even momentum can’t help you.