In the golf swing, downswing lag is an elusive but necessary element for solid ball striking and effortless distance. To stop casting and create lag in the golf swing like Tiger Woods, we must first understand everything about the grip, wrist and clubface action of great players like Tiger.
Essentially the pro’s are able to hold or delay the uncocking of the wrists in the golf downswing because they know they will be able to square the clubface quickly to strike crisp, straight shots. Most amateur golfers are not prepared to hold these tremendous wrist angles deep into the downswing because faulty grip or wrist positions will cause them to slice the ball. It is often more convenient to cast the club to hit a straighter shot. Casting literally throws the clubhead past the handle and causes the face to square up or rotate the toe closed more quickly during the downswing. However, the resulting power loss, trajectory problems, thin shots, lack of divot and lack of consistency are no fun either.
To begin a golf swing analysis for casting, start by looking at shot patterns. If the normal shot pattern is high and the typical iron shot is picked clean with no divot, casting is likely in such a swing. Often this player exhibits a tendency to stand up or lose his or her posture in the downswing and will also hit a higher than average number of fat and/or thin shots since the bottom of the downswing arc is behind the ball. The ball flight or shot shape can be a hook or a slice depending upon whether the player throws the clubhead in a manner that closes the toe or leaves the face scooped upward in an open position at impact. Either way, it will be obvious from these patterns that the player is throwing or casting the wrists early in the downswing which causes the clubhead to pass the hands before it gets to the ball. The shaft will be leaning backwards away from target at impact.
Now, what makes a player throw or cast the club to begin with? It usually can be traced to one of two problems. Either the clubface is open at the top of the backswing, and the player instinctively throws the clubhead early to help square it before impact, or the player simply lacks the proper coordination for driving the handle first in the downswing.
A poor transition with casting from the top of the backswing can be evidenced by a pulling motion with the left hand and a pushing motion with the right which unhinges the club rapidly on the way down before it ever gets near the ball. This pull/push action will unhinge the wrists rapidly right at the start of the downswing.
A third category of player is one who never hinges the wrists in the first place during the backswing.
So to review thus far we have an “open-faced caster”, the “pull-push caster”, and lastly the “no-hinge caster.” You might argue there is a 4th type of caster who is the “stand-up caster” but it’s hard to figure out if they stand up and throw to reach the ball or if they are standing up because they already threw the club and need to get up away from the ground. A stand-up caster will have a high leading shoulder that launches up quickly – this obviously is the left shoulder for a right-handed golfer.
How to Fix the Casting & Create Downswing Lag
A sound review of the golf grip is the first prerequisite to helping each of these casters. For a right handed golfer a somewhat strong left hand grip but weak right hand grip yeilds the maximum amount of wrist hinge in the backswing while maintaining a square clubface. (Strong left, weak right is ultimately neutral.)
Set the left thumb pad at one o’clock on top of handle, make sure heel pad is across top of handle, and once the fingers are clinched, the “V” should point to right shoulder. The right hand palm crease of the lifeline will cover the left thumb with the right hand positioned such that the forefinger looks like a trigger finger on backside of shaft, the “V” of right hand is centered toward the chin, and the right thumb is resting left of center on the handle. The wrists are now anatomically neutral on the club with each palm facing slightly inward toward the other just like they do when the arms hang at the side of the body.
To create wrist hinge in the backswing it is as simple as feeling like pushing the butt of the club down initially as backswing starts then pushing the butt out away from chest as club gets above the waist. The left arm should be reasonably straight and firm to create the proper hinge at the wrist not the elbow. At the top of the swing the handle should be pointed away from the target to the right of a right-handed golfer. The right wrist should be bent back completely like supporting a tray of pizza. The leading edge of the clubface should be parallel to the left forearm, but this is hard to check without a mirror or video. See “Flat Wrist” article for more info on the position at top of backswing.
Now we have a neutral grip, square clubface and maximum wrist hinge at the top of backswing. What next? This is where downswing lag comes into play. We know the right wrist is bent all the way back holding that imaginary tray of pizza. Our challenge is to slam the pizza into the ground past the golf ball.
To do this the legs start by shifting both knees and ankles targetward. It is true that the head stays behind the ball, but the core of the body shifts and clears past the ball rather dramatically. This assists the hands and arms in making their initial drop to the waist high area while wrists are still fully hinged. At this stage the right wrist should still be bent back fully but the palm is now facing the ground not the sky. With the palm facing down this insures the clubface is also facing down or toward the ball and requires no scooping or manipulation to be squared up in time for the hit.
Simply continue to drive the heel of the right hand through the ball as legs and hips clear or rotate through to the finish. The wrists will not fully unhinge until after contact with the ball as the trailing right arm continues to straighten past impact.
This will yield an impact position with the shaft leaning targetward and slightly delofted compared to the casting, scooping impact position. The proper impact position of a full shot mimics the impact for a chip shot with the shaft leaning toward target. Good drills to achieve this include chipping with an obstacle like a headcover behind the ball to steepen the approach while keeping right wrist bent back; striking an impact bag with the shaft leaning forward; or swinging with a wall located to the right of the player so any casting mistakes would hit the wall. Try any or all of these and you should notice improved compression at impact.
For more help watch the video golf lesson below and “Get Hermanized” as I show you what casting is; list the symptoms such as picking the ball, scooping, thin shots & lack of distance; the “how” “why” and “what” that initially causes casting such as a weak grip and open clubface, and finally 3 specific drills to stop casting, create lag and improve compression at impact with the golf ball. You should start seeing crisp, long golf shots with piercing flight and a divot like the Tour Pros on TV such as Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia or greats from the past like Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan. In addition to the video below here is a link showing slow motion golf video of lag in Tour Swings of Tiger, Sergio and Ben Hogan. Enjoy.