This is one of those phrases that gets amateur golfers into all sorts of trouble. They think that if they can delay the hit, whatever that means to them, and it’s almost always the wrong thing, they can hit the ball a real long way.
And more often than not, they try to achieve the late hit by hanging back their right hand as long as they can and then snapping it, and the clubhead, into the ball at the last second. Boy, does that feel good, and yes, you can hit the ball an awful long way the one out of ten times you get it right. That’s not what the late hit is, though.
The clubhead is attached to a lever that has two hinges. One hinge is the left shoulder. The other hinge is the left wrist. (The left elbow is not a hinge in the golf swing.)
If both hinges were allowed to move freely on the downswing, the energy generated by the swinging of the arm would be transferred after a point to the clubshaft, through the wrist. Like a flail, an image you read about from time to time, the energy is multiplied to the tip of the lever, the clubhead, moving it at its maximum speed.
Now here’s the thing. The flail, the threshing object, moves in a natural way that can be predicted by conservation of angular momentum.
The person swinging the flail can’t hit too soon, or the tips will reach the target after maximum speed was built up, and the tips will be slowing down. If the person tries to delay the hit too much, and the only way that can be done is to hold back the swing, maximum speed is never attained.
There is only one way of swinging the flail so that maximum angular momentum builds up and is delivered at the right time, and if you were to swing one, it wouldn’t take too many tries to find it.
When a golfer tries to hit the ball starting at the beginning of the downswing, that’s hitting too early. Power will have peaked before impact. The solution, it seems, is to hold back the right wrist as described earlier, which is just going to the other extreme. Extreme solutions have no place in golf.
The middle way is to let the momentum of the swing build up naturally without forcing it or saving it up for the right moment.
Do you ever swing the club back and forth a few times without stopping, completely relaxed, just to get loose, and let the clubhead freewheel through the bottom of the swing?
That’s what I’m talking about. That’s the swing in which the lever-as-flail is operating and in which you are getting maximum clubhead speed through the ball.
Feeling clubhead speed is tricky. You want to feel something moving fast, so you concentrate on what you easily feel, your body and your arms, but they will never move at anywhere near the speed you want the clubhead to be moving.
If you want to have a 100-mph swing speed, you don’t get it by turning your body at 100 mph (good luck with that, though I play with a few guys who look like they’re trying to do that) or by swinging your arms at 100 mph, or by flicking your right wrist at the last moment.
You get that clubhead speed by staying relaxed and letting the hinged lever work naturally. The first few times you get it right it’s scary, because the clubhead has never gone that fast before. You might think you did something wrong. Au contraire. You finally did it right.
The only reason anyone ever talks about a late hit is that so many golfers hit too early. The hit that I have described is the on-time hit, and that is the one you need.
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