When people talk about adding more club speed and distance to their golf game, the ‘L’ word will almost certainly be thrown into the conversation.
Yes, I’m talking about the so-called secret to unlocking mind-blowing length off the tee. Yes, I’m talking about lag.
Lag, according to many golf instructors (if you haven’t had a lesson yet, read this), is what separates us mere mortals from the PGA superstars who bomb the ball 350+ yards with what seems like relative ease.
But what actually is lag? Why does it help you hit every club farther? And why do many amateurs struggle to create it in their golf swing?
I’ve done some extensive research on the topic – including watching many, many videos from some of the best golf instructors from around the world – to compile this article and explain exactly how you can generate more lag in your swing.
Table of contents
What is lag in the golf swing?
Lag, in golfing terms, is the angle that is generated between your lead arm and your club shaft as you begin your downswing. The longer you can maintain this angle before releasing your clubhead through the ball, the more power, speed and distance you will generate.
One of the best proponents for creating ‘textbook’ lag in their swing is Spaniard Sergio Garcia.
Considered one of the best drivers on the PGA and European Tours for years, the 2017 Masters champion – despite standing just 5’10” tall – still bombs the ball over 300 yards regularly (in fact, he averaged 309 yards off the tee in 2021 at 41 years old).
The key secret to Garcia’s length, in spite of his smaller stature when compared to hulking hitters Bryson DeChambeau or Dustin Johnson, is the enormous lag he creates in his swing.
As is perfectly demonstrated in this video, at the top of his backswing, Garcia has 88 degrees of lag between his lead arm and club shaft.
But what is remarkable – and the opposite of what you’ll see most amateurs do – is that as he begins his downswing, he actually narrows that gap to 55 degrees by allowing his hands and club to shallow behind him.
This movement stores a tremendous amount of energy, before Garcia begins releasing those angles as his forearm reaches parallel with the ground – creating a ‘slingshot’ motion that fires the club through the golf ball with serious speed.
In contrast, most beginner or high-handicappers will increase, rather than decrease, their lag angle as a result of throwing their hands at the ball from the top of their backswing – a swing flaw commonly known as ‘casting’.
By doing this, the player releases much of their stored energy before the club even reaches the ball, costing them power, speed and distance.
If this sounds like you, I’d definitely recommend reading my guides on covering the golf ball and also controlling the clubface at impact by improving your shaft lean.
How does lag generate speed in the golf swing?
Lag creates speed in the golf swing due to centrifugal and centripetal forces being imparted on the club. By keeping the handle of the golf club moving inwards and close to your body (in a centripetal action), centrifugal forces are subsequently placed onto the clubhead to generate energy and speed.
The best way to envisage the physics that are occurring during this motion is to picture yourself holding a bucket on a string, and then spinning it around in a circle.
The harder you apply an inward force on the string (centripetal force), the faster the bucket travels in a circular motion (centrifugal force).
These same laws of physics apply when swinging the golf club correctly, with an adequate amount of lag.
By maintaining lag in the early parts of your downswing, you are imparting inward, centripetal forces at the correct time, with the centrifugal forces then propelling the club through the ball with speed once you begin releasing those lag angles.
It makes sense then that when golfers ‘cast’ the club from the top of their downswing – throwing the handle outwards away from them, rather than moving it down and inwards towards them – they are not applying centripetal forces efficiently and, therefore, less centrifugal forces are translated into the clubhead.
As a result, natural speed and squaring of the clubface is sacrificed.
Why can’t I create lag in my golf swing?
Loss of lag is most commonly caused by an early ‘casting’ of the club in the downswing. Rather than maintaining lag angles, many amateurs will throw their hands from the top of their backswing position and lose most of their lag – and hence clubhead speed – before reaching the golf ball.
The reason we call this casting (well, at least I like to think so) is because the motion mimics how you would cast a fishing rod into the ocean.
First, you load up the rod on the way back, before extending your wrists with a flick out towards your target.
While this movement is great if you’re trying to snag some Bluefin Tuna, it’s not so great when applied to the golf swing.
Instead of releasing the angle early like you would with a fishing rod, the goal is to hold – or even decrease, like Sergio Garcia – the angle between your lead arm and the golf club for as long as possible, before then letting everything fling towards the ball.
A great way to practice this is by using the SKLZ Gold Flex Swing Trainer, which is a great training aid that will help you feel what it’s like to let the club lag properly, and load the shaft at the right time.
Similarly, the revolutionary Lag Shot golf clubs have been designed from a similar concept but, unlike the SKLZ trainer, actually have a proper clubhead attached that allows you to hit balls on the range while practicing (keep reading, as I’ll explain more about Lag Shot later in this article.
How do I create more lag in my golf swing?
To create more lag in your golf swing, you must do three key things: remove tension from your arms and wrists; hinge your wrists correctly during your backswing; and reach your maximum hand speed earlier in the downswing. Combining these elements will help generate more lag.
Below, I’ve gone into more detail to break down why these steps are vital when it comes to creating lag in your swing.
Remove tension from your arms and wrists
A great way to visualise how your wrists and arms should work in the golf swing to create lag is imagining yourself cracking a whip.
You need your wrists loose, flexible and without tension when using a whip as this will allow you to ‘flick’ it and generate the ‘crack’ sound – if you have too much tension in your limbs, it will be much harder to do.
The same principle can be applied to the golf swing: ridding tension from your body will allow your wrists to hinge properly at the top of the backswing, shallow correctly in transition and allow you to create the whipping motion in the downswing with your club (which, in turn, will generate effortless lag).
Hinge your wrists correctly
Whether or not you hinge your wrists early in that takeaway or later matters little – what is most important is that there is enough hinge when you reach the top of your backswing.
Hinging your wrists properly creates an extra lever during your downswing and allows you to store more energy and lag in your swing, which you then let uncoil through the impact zone to produce maximum speed and power.
For a full guide on how to hinge your wrists correctly in the golf swing, check out another article I wrote on the topic.
Reach maximum hand speed earlier in downswing
Now, you’ve probably heard that to create lag in your golf swing, you should let your hands fall passively behind you as you begin your downswing and movement into impact – however, studies by golf science gurus Athletic Golf Motion have disproven this notion.
They compared the swings of an amateur single-handicap player and a tour professional, both who were roughly the same height and weight, and each maxed out at 21mph hand speed in their downswing – yet, the pro was able to generate an extra 5mph of clubhead speed.
How did he do this? Simply by reaching his maximum hand speed earlier.
From the top of the backswing to the time their hands reached their trail thigh in the downswing, the amateur expended 31 degrees of lag angle to reach 21mph of hand speed; by comparison, the pro gave up just 14 degrees to achieve the same result.
Below is a visual image of what this difference looks like:
As you can see, the pro has maintained far more lag (the angle between the club shaft and lead arm), demonstrated by the clubhead still being pointed skyward.
The amateur, in contrast, has released more of his lag angles, causing the clubhead to be pointed parallel to the ground (if you want to know the truth behind keeping your lead aim straight, read this).
Interestingly, when the team from Athletic Golf Motion asked the amateur to explain his swing thoughts, he said he was trying to:
- Leave his hands up
- Have passive arms
- Rotate hard
As the video explains, this causes a big problem; when the hands and arms are left up at the top of the backswing while the body rotates, the player will run out of space to swing the club.
This results in them steepening the shaft, stalling their hips and releasing all their lag angles early in order to make contact with the ball.
By the end of the lesson, the amateur was able to pick up an extra 6mph of clubhead speed (increasing from 82mph to 88mph) purely by changing his swing thoughts to focusing on getting the handle of the club moving faster into the slot earlier in the downswing.
However, when doing this, it’s important not to yank down on the grip and steepen the shaft, nor should you try and hang onto your lag angles (for the reasons I explained earlier) – instead, you still have to get the club moving in the correct shallowing motion.
If you want to read more about shallowing the club, check out this article. You can also view another video on lag from Athletic Golf Motion here that focuses on how your lead arm should work, which I would definitely recommend watching.
Best drills/training aids for getting more lag in your golf swing
Now that you know how to generate more lag in your golf swing, it’s time to start making it become second nature through practice.
Here are three of the best ways you can groove more lag in your swing.
Parallel to parallel drill
This drill from Me and My Golf is a great way to train the correct wrist angles in your swing that will produce more lag.
To perform the drill, simply:
- Take a 7-iron and set-up normally over the golf ball
- Make a backswing, stopping when your club shaft is slightly above being parallel with the ground
- Practice turning into the golf ball without hitting it, while maintaining your wrist angles (do not let them flip at the ball). This should create adequate forward shaft lean
- After practicing this motion a few times, try hitting the ball, but without letting the club swing higher than parallel on either the backswing or follow through (creating a punch shot, with a low flight)
Training your wrists and body to work in this correct manner will help generate more lag in your swing.
Power lag drill (with Total Golf Trainer)
This drill is excellent if you’re someone (like me) who has a tendency to release their lag angles early in their downswing.
To perform it, you will need to grab yourself the Total Golf Trainer from Amazon. This relatively inexpensive aid simply slips onto your lead wrist, with the idea being to maintain contact between your wrist and the Trainer’s round in-built ball as you transition into the downswing.
Practicing hitting balls while wearing the Total Golf Trainer will teach your brain to stop casting the club and release your lag angles early from the top of the backswing, and instead help you maintain it for longer.
Check out this handy review on the Total Golf Trainer to learn more about how it can help you.
Ball-striking repetitions using Lag Shot
Another brilliant way to train your body to generate more lag in the golf swing is by using Lag Shot golf clubs, which you can learn more about by clicking play on the video above.
These innovative training clubs – which come in driver, 7-iron and wedge – are designed with a super flexible shaft that forces you to load the club at the correct moment, but also use your wrists correctly to control the clubface (buying all three as a package deal will save you money).
If you release your lag angles too early by flipping your hands at the ball – rather than having your hands lead the clubhead to create forward shaft lean – then the shaft will bend at the wrong point in the downswing and cause you to hit it fat.
Similarly, if you don’t use your wrists to close the clubface as you transition into impact, the clubface will stay wide open when you strike the ball – causing blocks or slices, rather than a nice, tight fade.
If you are someone who really struggles with casting the club, and can afford to spend the money (or have someone buy it for you as a birthday or Christmas gift), then the Lag Shot clubs can really help you fix the problem quickly.
And if you don’t believe me, check out this review by YouTuber Mr Short Game, who tested the clubs on the range and was very impressed by the results.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Is lag good in the golf swing?
Lag is more than good in the golf swing – it is essential. This is especially true if you wish to generate high clubhead speed; improve the quality of your ball-striking; and maximise your distance off the tee. Every great golfer creates lag in their swing.
The opposite motion to lag in the golf swing is casting the club which, as I explained earlier, has a negative effect on performance.
Casting of the club reduces clubhead speed; can cause your hips to stall their rotation; and promotes ‘flipping’ of your hands at impact, which can lead to fat or thin strikes.
Lag, by comparison, encourages proper rotation through the ball; forward shaft lean at impact for better clubface control; and uses natural physics to generate effortless power (meaning you can hit the ball farther, no matter your size).
Can I have too much lag in my golf swing?
Yes, holding lag for too long can have a negative effect on your golf swing. If you don’t release your lag angles at the low point of your swing, you will sacrifice power, speed and accuracy – and will likely block or slice the ball.
The idea of storing lag is that you release it at the moment your pent-up energy reaches its maximum capacity (which is usually when your forearm nears parallel to the ground in the downswing).
Many amateurs have the misconception that lag is something that you need to hold forever in order to generate club speed and effortless power, and in trying to do so they cling to it for far too long.
Instead of letting the club slingshot through the impact zone at the low-point of their swing arc – collecting the ball on the way through – they often drive the handle way in front of the ball and don’t allow the clubface to naturally square itself.
The result is usually a clubface that is wide open by the time it strikes the ball, causing a shot that veers violently left-to-right (for a right-handed player).
So, while it may not be completely accurate to say ‘too much lag is a bad thing’, what is certain is that trying to hold your lag angles for too long is an inefficient and incorrect concept that will hinder, rather than help, your swing.
If you want to swing the club faster, hit the ball farther and straighter more consistently – yet use less energy while doing so – then you need to focus on improving your lag.
If you can follow the advice above, which I’ve sourced from some of the top golf teachers across the world, it will go a long way to making you a better golfer and have you hitting longer bombs off the tee in no time.