The Sidewinder Release

The Sidewinder Release
By Dr. T. J. Tomasi
Keiser University College of Golf Senior Faculty and Director of Research

The Sidewinder Release

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 ten different answers; five initial answers and five reloads when they realize their first answer isn’t very good.

What is the release? The process begins when you build up energy on the backswing through coiling. When you deliver the energy to the ball that you’ve built up, 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. In this segment, I’m going to 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; for example, a 6-iron sits at 60 degrees, so your wrists cock or set sideways vs. directly up and down. And here is the big point – they release exactly as they set, sideways (side-arm), as when you skip a stone.

Be careful with the analogy of pounding with a hammer that is often used to describe wrist cock/release, while the wrist action is similar, the angle of attack is different – you hammer up and down but hit a ball from the side, which is why I call it a ‘sidewinder’ release after the snake that moves sideways to reach its target.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is forcing the clubhead in what feels like a direct route to the ball, a route that works when chopping wood but not when you swing a golf club.

Hint: When you side-release, let momentum be your friend by relaxing because it is Mo that rotates the forearms, thereby squaring up the clubface.

TJ Article # 122 photo 1

Our model is in the perfect position for the sidewinder release. Had this player taken the straight route to the ball, his clubhead would be over his hands and much too steep. Here his clubhead is behind the hands and shallow, in the perfect position to take the roundabout but much more powerful route to the ball.

TJ Article # 122 photo 2

The 90-degree angle comes straight, and the power that was housed in the lever dumps to the ball – POW. Some of the shaft bending is due to camera artifact, but not all of it, as all shafts have this catapult effect due to the kinematic sequence.

Takeaway: Players who over-use their wrists and arms should think ‘body rotation drives the release,’ but those who over-use their body should think ‘the release drives the body rotation.’ The mechanics described above are the same for both, but the way you think about it differs depending on your over-do.

If you’d like to study with Dr. Tomasi and other PGA Master Professionals, contact The College of Golf today.

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