How to Build Massive Golf Swing Lag, Step by Step

By Clay Ballard, Certified RST InstructorFULL BIO

Today we're going to discuss one of the biggest myths in creating lag in the golf swing.

Natural position vs. LagNatural alignment (above) vs. Lag (below)

Many golfers believe that creating lag is a matter of holding a wrist angle and really pulling down, keeping the wrist and forearm tight and just praying you can keep the angle through the downswing.

Unfortunately, that's never going to work.

The natural anatomical alignment of the wrist is a slightly forward cocked position, as in the upper photo at right. That's obviously not a position of lag.

To get lag, you need to keep the wrist really lose and soft, and let the club hinge back. If you tense up while trying to hold that angle you'll contract your wrist flexors, losing the angle of lag.

One of the biggest keys to lag is making sure to keep your wrists nice and loose and soft as you swing down. The club head is heavy and naturally wants to lag behind.

Start Slow & Stack

If we know that having the wrist and forearm really tight can cause you to lose lag, then what we need is a step-by-step process and some drills to learn to incorporate that knowledge into your swing and build lag correctly.

As always, we're going to start out with very, very small steps and work up gradually to a full 9 to 3 Drill, which is the biggest key to creating lag in your swing.

Each step will give you one new thing to concentrate on. Once you master it you'll move on and stack the next piece on top. By the end of the lesson you will have accumulated a lot of different checkpoints to keep track of as you perform your swing correctly.

You'll use the Swing Viewer to compare yourself with either Chuck's or Clay's 9 to 3 Drill swings and make sure you're performing the moves correctly.

Step 1 - Mini Swings

We're going to start out with some mini swings. If possible, use a swing donut or a weight ring on your club.

Keep wrist relaxedKeep the wrist very relaxed

You can do the drill without it if you don't have one, but the extra weight will help you get a feel for the inertia created by the weight of the club head, which is the key to creating lag in your golf swing.

Start making some short swings with your right hand only. Swing back about a foot or so, and through a foot. Keep your wrist and forearm extremely loose and relaxed and just let the club flow back and forth through these tiny little swings.

Don't draw your arm back into a big backswing. Don't try to get any power into it. It's not even really a golf swing at this point; you're just keeping your wrists very loose and feeling the weight of the club head pulling back and forth.

After you've done that for a bit and feel pretty comfortable with it, you can go ahead and switch to the left hand. Make those same little swings with the left hand, again with the wrist nice and loose and relaxed.

Step 2 - Weight Transfer

The next step is to start to transfer your weight a bit as you allow the club to swing back and forth.

You want about 60-70%, maybe even 80% of your weight to go to the inside of your right foot.

Hips move toward the ballHips move toward the ball

Don't sway all the way to the outside of the foot. Just go to the inside of your right foot as you would in a full golf swing.

In a real golf swing you would start to transition your weight back to the left a little bit before the club had completed the backswing. In the drill, you also want to transition your weight to the left as your club is about to complete its mini backswing.

Start to transfer the weight to your left side as the club is still moving back. One big key to focus on here is to make sure your weight shifts to the center of your left ankle.

If you let your weight shift onto your left toe, you'll find that your hips move toward the ball and you lose room to swing the club. That's a big mistake we see on a regular basis. Make sure to get that weight onto the center of the left ankle.

You should still be making very small, effortless swings. Go ahead and do this for a minute or two until you really feel that flow, making sure your left wrist is staying nice and soft.

Step 3 - Flat Right Wrist

Wrist flat in the backswingWrist flat in the backswing

Now that you're familiar with the feeling of the weighted club head lagging behind your hands and staying very loose and soft, it's time to do the same thing without the swing donut. Again, start with just the right hand.

Remove the weight and make that tiny swing. Continue to do everything we've worked on so far, and now also focus on keeping your right wrist nice and flat in the backswing.

Many golfers try to create a lot off artificial wrist cock and lag in the backswing, then work to hold onto it in the downswing. That's the habit we're trying to break in this drill.

When you hinge your wrist and get it fully cocked in the backswing, as soon as you start down you start losing that lag.

Losing lagLosing lag in the downswing

Instead, you're going to keep your right wrist nice and flat and loose as you swing back. As you transfer your weight to the left the momentum of the club head will keep going back, so when your hand starts to move forward again the club head will naturally lag behind.

You don't really gain the lag until you change direction. That's when you build lag in the downswing; the club head literally lags behind.

Make about 50-60 of these swings and really concentrate on the feeling of getting lag not in the backswing, but as you start to transition the weight forward and your arm changes direction.

After a few minutes of little right-handed swings, once you feel like you're doing pretty well with them, go back and do the same with the left hand.

Stop and Check

Now is the time to stop and check your form. All these drills are available in the Swing Viewer. Put your swing side-by-side with Clay's and make sure you're performing the moves correctly:

  • Take a look at your hands in the backswing. Is your wrist still nice and straight through the backswing? If you've already got 30-40 degrees of lag in the backswing then you're doing this drill incorrectly.
  • As you're swinging down, if Clay's club is still up in the air and yours is already down near impact, you'll know you need to be much softer with the wrist.

Is everything matching up pretty well? Then you're ready to move on to the next set of drills.

Step 4 - Lengthen the Swing

Waist highSwing to about waist high

The next step is to start to lengthen the swing a bit.

Start with the right arm again, and lengthen the swing to the extent of the actual 9 to 3 Drill. Your right hand should get up to about waist height or just slightly higher in the backswing.

Make a few swings, focusing on all the same pieces we were working on in the earlier drills. Be sure to keep your wrists nice and loose - don't let the wrist tighten up as you lengthen the swing.

This is the point where a lot of students start to try to flip the club to release it at impact, but that's not what we want here.

As you swing down, lag is created as you let the club flow back. The weight of the club head releases itself with centrifugal force.

Club vertical in front of left legThe club is vertical in front of the left leg

You're not actually pushing with the right hand. In fact, you're not taking any physical action to release the club head. You're just letting it release under its own weight.

If you do it properly, the club should be straight up and down as it comes into line with the front of your left thigh.

If it's already vertical by the time it gets to your right thigh, that means you're getting too active with the right wrist, pushing with the right hand and flipping the club.

Your two checkpoints are to make sure you're not swinging your arm too far back and creating artificial lag with a cocked wrist, and make sure you're not flipping with the right hand as you come down to the bottom of the swing.

Now the Left

Club parallel to the groundThe club is still parallel to the ground

Once you're comfortable with the right arm only, do the same thing with the left. Again, use the 9 to 3 Drill backswing position, about waist high. As you swing down, concentrate on all the same things you did with the right arm.

The club should still be parallel to the ground when your left wrist comes down in front of your right thigh. Freeze-frame your video and check; it should look about like the photo at right.

This is also a good checkpoint when you work up to making full swings. Freeze your video when the left wrist is at the right thigh and check for lag.

Common Pitfall

Now that you're working with the left arm only, you need to make sure your chest is not spinning into an open position.

Chest points at ballThe chest still points at the ball

A lot of people who struggle with lag in their golf swing are ripping their chest around into an open position as they swing through. They do it in an effort to get power, and it may feel very powerful, but it will actually cause you to lose lag.

If you haven't watched it yet, look up "The Key to Creating Lag" video. It explains how turning your torso spins your spine, causing everything attached to your body to move out and away. The club head wants to fly away from your body, and you lose lag.

Watch the video if you want a more detailed explanation. The key for this drill is to keep your chest pointing toward the ball as you swing through.

Even as your hand goes all the way through, make sure your chest still points down at the ball, as shown in the photo.

Make a few more of those swings, concentrating on your chest position, and then you'll be ready to get both hands on the club for the 9 to 3 Drill itself.

Finally, the Full 9 to 3 Drill

Wrist positionsLeft wrist is flat (above) not cupped (below)

There are a few final things to concentrate on as you get ready to do the full 9 to 3 Drill:

  • Make sure your left wrist is nice and flat, not cupped, when it gets to your right thigh.
  • Make sure your right arm extends on the downswing, just as it did in the Throw the Ball Drill.

A lot of people try to maintain lag by cupping the left wrist, but you don't need that much lag at this point in the swing.

The problem is, when you cup the left wrist you're adding loft. Sure, you may be able to get a lot of lag that way, but then you're coming down with a wide open club face, and that's obviously not what you want.

Others have developed the habit of keeping the right arm very bent and tilting the upper body, hanging back on the right side because it feels like a lot of lag.

Right arm bentRight arm bent - the wrong way to get lag!

You'll even see instructors on YouTube and places like that who recommend this posture as a way to get lag, but as you can see in the photo at right, it's nowhere near what you're trying to do.

If you hold the right arm back like that, your club will be coming way from the inside, you're hanging on your back foot, and you're going to have to flip to get through impact correctly. It's a mess.

Instead, make sure that right arm extends to get your shoulders much more level (review the "Level Shoulders Drill" video), then let it go down toward the ball just like in the Throw the Ball Drill.

Just keep the right wrist nice and loose. If the right wrist gets tight and you try to do the Throw the Ball movement, you'll cast the club and lose lag, but as long as the wrist is soft you can throw the ball as hard as you want and still build lag in your golf swing.

Put It All Together and Review

At this point, you should be able to go back and check all the pieces we've done so far and make sure that you've incorporated them into your swing: weight shift, free-flowing hands, flat left wrist, etc. Review all the checkpoints as you practice the full 9 to 3 Drill.

Again, check the Swing Viewer to compare your drill to Clay's or Chuck's 9 to 3 Drill. The frame-by-frame option will really help you check key pieces in slow motion.

Checkpoints for Practice

  • Holding wrists and forearms tight does not maintain lag - keep wrists soft to allow the weight of the club head to pull back naturally
  • Drill: Weight your club and make tiny one-handed swings, feeling the flow & staying very loose
  • Add in some weight shift with each swing, keeping weight over the ankles
  • Remove the weight & swing again, keeping the wrist flat in the backswing
  • Make longer (9 to 3) swings, one hand at a time, focusing on keeping the wrist supple
  • With right hand, the club should be vertical when it is in front of the left leg
  • With left hand, the club should still be parallel to the ground when the hand is at the right thigh
  • Don't turn your body - the chest should still point at the ball
  • Use both hands for full 9 to 3 Drill, keeping left wrist flat & extending right arm as in Throw the Ball Drill

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