My 3 Releases For Power
Power comes in different packages, from the seemingly effortless speed of an Ernie Els to the explosive force of a J.B. Holmes. But whether you're a swinger or a basher, here are three moves that will pump up your tee shots. I call them the three releases: (1) the right knee (for right-handers), (2) the hips and shoulders and (3) the head. If you efficiently use these parts of the body as you swing through the ball, you'll deliver all your speed at impact and max out your distance. You'll not only bomb it off the tee; you'll hit your irons longer, too.
On the flip side, the more you understand where you're inhibiting these releases, the more you'll be able to start letting them go. Think of a pitcher trying to throw 95 miles per hour without using his hips or shoulders. A restricted move like that wouldn't be very powerful, and neither is a golf swing without the three releases. Read below, and start boosting your power.
1. RELEASE YOUR RIGHT KNEE
Sam Snead was one of the purest ball-strikers in history, and when he wanted to really unleash a drive, he'd think about firing his right knee at impact more forcefully. He said that helped him release his entire right side. It worked for Snead, and it will work for you. Releasing the knee also provides leverage by putting the right instep in a position where it can push off the ground (top, left).
The actual move is the knee kicking forward and outward -- in other words, toward the target. It creates a powerful transfer of energy to the front side. The idea that the right knee simply slides toward the left knee is a common misconception. Such a slide actually retards hip action, which limits power. And if the right knee doesn't move at all and the player stays flat-footed, the lower body becomes static (middle). That's like a baseball pitcher making a delivery to the plate without pushing off the rubber.
Stick a shaft in the ground between your feet so the grip is a few inches inside your right knee at address (far left). Hit tee shots, and practice driving your knee into the club (left). Your knee should point just in front of the ball as you move through. Feel pressure in your right instep -- if you do, you're leveraging off the ground.
2. RELEASE YOUR HIPS AND SHOULDERS
Ryan Moore, whom I worked with in 2008, is a pretty small guy, but man, he can hit it a mile. He's worked hard on his body action through impact, specifically keeping his hips and shoulders turning all the way through to the finish. When I study video of pros like Ryan, I see they not only turn through to face the target, but the left hip and shoulder actually start to turn behind them, or away from the target (top, right). That's a full release.
Amateurs tend to swing down and rotate back to where they started, but they often don't continue turning through (middle). The hips and shoulders should turn at the same rate through impact, meaning the hips lead and are always turned more to the left than the shoulders. Strive for that feeling of turning your left hip and shoulder behind you as you swing to the finish.
Place your left hand on your chest, and make practice swings with only your right arm on the club (bottom). By feeling your upper center (or chest) synching up the arm swing, hips and shoulders, you get a sense for those elements staying in step with each other. Conversely, slow any of them down, and you'll impede centrifugal force -- and sap your swing of power.
3. RELEASE YOUR HEAD TO THE TARGET
Annika Sorenstam might be retired, but I still cite her in my teaching all the time. She had such a great body release through the shot that she actually turned her head to the target before she hit the ball. Releasing the head, allowing it to swivel forward with the torso, frees you up to keep turning and send speed down to the clubhead (top, left).
Keeping your head down (middle) is old-school stuffthat restricts your power. It slows the shoulders, allowing the hands and arms to take over. That can lead to pulls and slices for the average golfer and big hooks for the player with fast hands. I'm not advocating looking at the target before you make contact, but release your head so your eyes quickly pick up the ball.
Take your address, then look 10 or 20 yards down the fairway and swing away, never looking down. At first just try to hit a tee, then a ball on a tee, then a ball on the ground. You'll be amazed how quickly you get comfortable looking out in front. And you'll feel a freer, fuller turn through the ball for more power.
Jim McLean is ranked No. 4 by his peers on Golf Digest's list of America's 50 Best Teachers.
He's based at Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami.