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The technique of delaying the release of the hands to generate swing power has been well documented and written about for years. What is not well understood by many golfers, is the extent this technique has on their "swing speed" performance.
In this article I am going to explain the "mechanics" and "physics" behind this technique to demonstrate just how effective it is at generating tremendous swing speed.
Many of the smaller golfers on tour use this technique very effectively for generating high swing speed. One player in particular who stands out is Sergio Garcia.
Pound for pound Sergio Garcia has one of the most effective swings in golf. Weighing in at only 160 lbs he packs a mighty punch off the tees, consistently exceeding driving distances of over 320 yards.
Much of the success of his swing comes down to how he lags his hands on the downswing. Interestingly enough, his technique is very similar to another successful ball striker who also was not a big man, Ben Hogan.
The Physics Behind the Delayed Hand Release
I must apologize to you first. I am going to dive straight into the raw "physics of the swing" without giving you much of a lead in due to the limitation of space for the article.
The equation for "power" is given as the rate at which energy is released on an object:
Power = Energy/time
To increase the power of a golf swing and therefore the "swing speed" that you can generate in the swing, you have two options:
-Increase the energy stored during the swing.
-Decrease the time it takes to release this energy on the down swing.
The easy way to understand the "power" equation is to look at walking up a flight of stairs.
The potential energy you need to get your body to the top stair depends on your weight and the height you are climbing. The power you can generate depends on how fast you can release this energy to get to the top stair. The faster you can climb the stairs, the more power you have.
The physics behind this article on the "delayed hand release" is focused on the same thing, the time to release the energy of the swing on the downswing. The less time it takes, the greater the swing power.
Newton 's 2nd Law can be applied to two types of motion:
-Linear Motion, which is for objects moving in a straight line governed by the following equation:
Force = Mass x Acceleration
-Circular or Angular Motion governed again by the same law but with a different equivalent equation:
Torque = Moment of Inertia x Angular Acceleration
Torque is the rotational equivalent of force, and Moment of Inertia is the rotational equivalent of "Mass" in Newton 's 2nd Law both of which and are governed by the "radius of rotation" of the object in question.
Since the golf swing is a circular motion, this is the equation that governs the motion of the swing.
Swing Speed and Angular Acceleration
I want to make sure you fully understand the term "swing speed" before we go further. We hear the term being used a lot on the TV coverage on the tour events.
In a nut shell that term refers to the speed at which the club head is traveling as it strikes the ball. Now, I am sure that you are aware that the faster the club head is traveling, or the faster the "swing speed" the further you are able to hit the ball.
The swing speed of the club head at impact depends on how quickly you are able to "accelerate your downswing turn" from the top of your backswing where the swing speed is ZERO, to the point of impact with the ball.
Just as the speed reached over a quarter mile by a drag racer depends on the acceleration capabilities of the car from the zero stand still position.
That being the case, take a closer look at our equation and try to figure out how you can increase the rate of acceleration of the down swing turn....
Torque = Moment of Inertia x Angular Acceleration
You essentially have two options:
-Increase the torque generated in the swing
-Reduce the Moment of Inertia of the swing
Looking at ways to increase the torque in the swing is a whole chapter in itself. In my book, I have identified multiple techniques for increasing swing torque.
In this article though, I am going to focus only on reducing the "Moment of Inertia" or MOI of the swing to increase angular acceleration.
Reducing the Moment of Inertia
Moment of Inertia (MOI) is governed by the mass and radius of rotation of the moving object by the following equation:
MOI = Mass x Radius²
The total mass of the object in the case of a golf swing, is the mass of the club head, the shaft and your arms that are all rotating about the radius of the swing.
The swing radius being the distance from the tip of the club head to the center of your spine in your shoulder area, around which the swing is turning.
If you study the equation for MOI you will discover that it depends on the SQUARE of the radius of rotation...
MOI = Mass x Radius²
Since we are looking for ways to reduce the MOI of the swing, it can only be done by reducing the radius of rotation of the swing. This is because the mass of the swing is fixed by the weight of the club head, the weight of the shaft and the weight of your arms.
Here is the important fact....
For every unit of reduced radius, the MOI of the swing is reduced by the "square" of the radius reduction which translates into increasing the angular acceleration of the downswing turn by the same proportion.
This fact is huge!
Impact of the Delayed Hand Release
When you delay the hand release, essentially what you are doing is keeping the "radius of rotation" of your swing as "compact" and as small as possible. Think about that for a moment and remember the radius of rotation extends from the spine around your shoulders to the tip of the club head.
By keeping the swing compact you are also reducing the MOI of the swing.
If we go back and look at our equation again:
Torque = MOI x Angular Acceleration
Torque is the power that you have created and stored during the backswing.
Once you are ready to start the down turn and release that torque, your focus is on keeping the swing as compact and tight as possible by delaying the release of the hands to keep the MOI as low as possible. That way you are able to generate as high a rate of acceleration as possible with your body turn for the down swing.
Another way of visualizing this effect is to imagine an ice skater doing a pirouette. The skater initiates the spin with a given torque (rotating force). To speed up the spin rate, the skater draws in their arms to reduce the radius of rotation and therefore the MOI of the spin. To slow down the spin, the skater increases the radius of rotation to increase their MOI.
Sergio Garcia has perfected this technique and stands apart from many other players. He is able to compact his swing from the start of the downswing and keep it that way longer than most players to generate very high rates of acceleration. This explains how at only 160lbs he is able to pound drives well beyond 320 yards.
High handicap golfers on the other hand tend to release the hands very early in the swing. This means that for every unit of increased radius of rotation, they will actual "slow down" the rate of acceleration of their downswing turn by the SQUARE of the radius increase.
That translates into much lower swing speeds at impact.
The delayed hand release is how the smaller golfers achieve great swing speeds and compete with the big guys.
Their technique is not so much about generating high swing torque which indeed they do, it is more about controlling their MOI on their downswings by delaying the release of the hands to keep the radius of rotation to a minimum.
Remember. For every unit of reduced radius of rotation they achieve, they increase the acceleration of their downswing by the square of the radius. That is a lot more efficient than trying to increase the torque build up in their swing which is the other end of the equation..
So ladies, if you are reading this, you do not need to beef up your golf muscles to add torque to your swing.
Focus on cocking the hands and keeping them that way on the downswing as long as possible to reduce your swing MOI. This will make efficient use of the energy you "e;already"e; have stored and will have more impact on your distance than working out in the gym.
This is one of the major techniques used by Lorena Ochoa who weighs no more than a feather, to generate her great swing distance that averages over 270 yards per drive.
Word of Caution: If you plan to rush out to the range and put this technique into practice beware. It will change the whole "tempo" of your swing.
You have to reset your tempo to your changed down swing.
Practical Physics to Improve Your Swing
This is a great example of how to put the "Physics of Golf" to practical use. Yes, we hear about the swing techniques described, but until you can actually place some numbers or gauge the extent these techniques have on performance, you tend to overlook their importance.
By understanding the equations behind each source of swing power, you are guided towards developing swing techniques for taking full advantage of the power that can be released, each of which will help increase your overall swing speed at impact.
Until then, keep the hands "quiet" for greater swing speed.