What Is Lag in the Golf Swing?
Backswing, power slot, slice, lag—while golf can be a simple and leisurely sport, the more seriously you take it, the more complicated it becomes.
There are endless tricks and strategies to improve your game, but none are so crucial as lag. Mastering the art of lag can mean the difference between mediocre swings and getting the ball an extra hundred feet toward the hole.
All it takes is a bit of practice, and lag will become one of the most valuable tools in your arsenal.
What Creates Lag in a Golf Swing?
Generally, when you bring the club down to the ball during a swing, the club stays parallel with the direction of your arms. Lag refers to the angle between the forearm of your dominant hand and the club. The longer you hold this angle as you bring the club down, the more lag you'll get. If you release it just right, you'll add a powder keg of extra kick to your swing.
The ideal angle between your dominant forearm and the club should be 90 degrees. A hard right angle allows for the perfect amount of what's called “trailing.” As you move through your downswing, the club doesn't follow in lock step with your grip. Instead, there's a momentary delay, or a lag, as the club trails behind. Once it catches up with the ball, you drive your grip back into the lock position and smash that ball into the next century.
The key to achieving lag is to shift the momentum in your swing from your upper body and shoulders to the lower part of your body. Studies have shown that golf is a moderate-intensity physical activity, that is if you forego the cart for walking. If you work on your lag, you'll get a good toning session for your core and obliques.
Why Is Lag Important?
Can you achieve a decent amount of momentum in your swing without lag? Sure. But there's a reason many pros see lag as essential as their club grips or the weather for a game. Achieving a good lag means amplifying the power of your swing, delivering a higher payload of energy to the ball, and learning how to improve your clubhead speed.
Delivering power shots is something many golfers find difficult. While putting is considered a high skill, high concentration aspect of the game, and for sure it is, driving is just as hard.
Lag is also crucial because it helps with accuracy, not just speed. Once you learn how to lag and do it consistently, you'll be hitting the ball perfectly. For this reason, you'll be hitting the ball consistently, meaning your scores will go down.
How to Create Lag Like a Pro
1. Position Your Arms Correctly
Lag is all about arm position. Creating lag requires a counterintuitive repositioning of your arms and a radically different approach to gripping your clubs.
First, grab one of your drivers to practice. These clubs have the most head weight and give you the most to work with to drive the club.
Let your left side, or whatever side opposite your dominant hand, take over. Let your arms go slack as you hold the club to your right, and steel yourself up on the left, concentrating on your lower body. Keep turned 90 degrees away from the ball, as you'll need that full turn radius to generate swinging power.
Don’t feel you're driving the swing through your right shoulder down to your wrist. Instead, allow that pull to come from the left side. You want to feel as though your right side is only holding the club as all the work is happening elsewhere.
2. Modulate the Tension in Your Wrists
If you've ever gone fishing, thrown a boomerang, or cracked a whip, you’ll be familiar with this feeling. You want to simultaneously keep tight control on the object in your hand as you let your wrists sag a bit. It should feel as though you're about to cast it off.
Start with your fingers. Feel them form a solid grip around the club. Trust it. Don't white knuckle, and don't slack off, either.
Now feel the tension in your wrists. The most crucial part of achieving lag is allowing your arms and wrists to feel loose. It’s much harder to loosen the wrists, which we don't consciously modulate as much as our arms.
Let them droop and relax while still holding firm.
3. Let Your Hands Fall as You Swing
As you drive through with your non-dominant side, feel the backswing come down with force. Remember that whipping motion—as you would with a whip, bring it through nice and easy to start.
4. Drive Through the Finish
Once you've almost achieved contact with the ball, drive the swing through. You've generated a good deal of lag. Now you'll feel the “crack” of the club.
How Else Can You Improve Your Golf Game?
It doesn't matter how old you are—there is always room for improvement. The legendary Sam Snead won the U.S. Open in 1973 when he was 61, after all. The lesson is you can always find room for improvement.
One of the ways you can improve your golf game is by practicing your lag. Practice with bean bags instead of balls, which have much more resistance, to train your strength.
Practice with friends, and watch each other from outside vantage points to see where your technique could use tightening up. Experiment with your swing too. Try cranking the club back further in your wind-up. Practice slicing, and add slicing to your lag to see what results you get.
Once you graduate to a level where you're worrying about a technique like lag, you've already gone semi-professional. Be proud of yourself.
See every advancement in your technique from this point on as simply the finishing touches in an already incredible game.Keep working on your technique, and when you’re ready to hit the course, first hit up STITCH Golf, where you can learn to swing like a pro and dress like one, too.