I found this great little piece by Sean Illes of Calabasas Country Club. Sean does a great job of explaining the creation of lag in your golf swing. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to drop him an email.

This seems to be impossible to do given the direction of golf instruction for the past couple of years but before reading on do this try to do the following….


No swing plane, no shaft angles, no late load, no late release. Just stop thinking as mechanically as possible for a little bit and use intuitive analytical thinking when you read through this.

Here is something I think most will find extremely disappointing. The better the ball striker you will meet, the less they give a conscious damn about anything like backswing plane, where/how they set the club on the backswing, or how they do not allow their hands to uncock. They are on auto-pilot, and even when they’re not, they’re too busy hitting pure after pure that they don’t even care about all this crap that bad golfers and worse instructors are obsessed with.

The best ball strikers who create that mega lag that seems to launch the ball far and straight are simply turning back, transitioning, and turning through. ALL OF THEM ALSO DO THIS USING DIFFERENT MECHANICS. Some swing the club upright an drop it flat, some set the club so that it’s cocked early, some late, face shut at the top, open etc. Every great ball striker swings differently Trevino, Moe Norman, Snead, Hogan, their swings are nothing alike mechanically but they have dynamics that make them hit the ball so well.

Specifically what is the dynamic that creates lag? What can you focus on right now to create the coveted delayed hit?

The Answer: Sequencing

Now, for the sake of keeping this post somewhat short I cannot talk about all the sequencing that occurs in the golf swing. There is important sequencing even before you hit the shot that tremendously influences your swing–like the overlooked swing trigger. But the specific element in the golf swing that is responsible for that lag is the sequencing between backswing to downwing, the TRANSITION.

If someone asks me “Sean what is one thing I need to work on?” And they are pretty good golfers (meaning they are making a pretty athletic move back and through with good setup, grip, etc.) I say work on your transition.

The club swings back, it eventually has to swing through – SIMPLE. The transition is where all of the magic happens and if you are struggling, look there first. You can make great golf swings taking the club outside of the plane line, you can make great golf swings swinging to the inside. The same goes for clubface position at the top, left arm plane, shoulder plane, WHATEVER. But you CANNOT make a good golf swing that applies the club to the ball with authority unless the downswing is properly sequence. This is why Harvey Penick called it the “Magic Move.”

Weight is constantly shifting in the golf swing, from even before the club is taken back at all. To create lag the secret is to make sure that the weight is being properly shifted FORWARD just before the club reaches its position at the top of the backswing. As this occurs a recentering of the center of the body will occur and the hands will automatically LAG behind the body.

THIS IS LAG! The hips shift the hips rotate, the hands FOLLOW or LAG behind. The DOG wags the TAIL. In a great golf swing the hands follow the movements of the body and have no choice but to delay their hit.

CONSCIOUSLY thinking about holding the release, delaying the hands, WHEN MAKING A GOLF SWING is the quickest way to destroy your swing. When you practice, sure, focus on where your hands need to be in the slot on the way back down using a pump drill or some variant of it. But when you are making an actual downswing it has to be a complete abandonment of positions, it is giving up control to get control, it is swinging the club from the body, it is creating lag.

The imagery I like to use with people who don’t get this is the following: Imagine that you have a teatherball pole sticking up and down the center of your body at setup with the ball dangling. As you rotate back the pole shifts to the right and momentum slings the ball around the poll. Before the ball reaches the apex the pole shifts forward and spins with the tether and ball lagging behind the pole. Your body is the pole, the tether is your arms, and the ball is the clubhead. The clubhead lags behind the most since in the chain of events it is the final link of the swing to clear though, thus automatically creating lag.

SO all of this was to get to the following conclusion: TO create lag sequence your downswing so that you achieve the following:

  1. Weight begins shifting forward just before club reaches top of back swing.
  2. The weight shift forward is a RECENTERING of your swing center that SHIFTS the hips FORWARD.
  3. The hips rotate and clear, the legs fire through, the upper body follows, the hands follow, the clubhead follows last.

Think about a major league pitcher throwing using a full windup for a moment, especially a powerful one like Nolan Ryan. The pitcher shifts all their weight back–the backswing, then the pitcher takes that big step forward–weight shift that sets the weight forward, rotates their trunk–the turn through, finally releasing the ball–impact. The pitcher is doing the same thing as a golf swing, creating lag and power by using the momentum of the body, the centrifugal force of rotation, and then finally letting the ball go.

In fact, I think that most golfers would be better off not completing their backswing at the expense of poor weight shift. I know this sounds like blasphemy or whatever, but there is a lot more power had from that weightshift back and through before the club reaches its apex than there is created by the actual length of the swing. Don’t believe me? Try hitting balls making a backswing from about hip high with your 7 irons just focusing on shifting back and shifting and firing through–you will get so much power and accuracy you might wonder why you take the club all the way to the top.

When someone who has never made a good move startings hitting crisp long shots with that mini swing they invariably ask me why they do not play golf on the course like that since they hit it farther and straighter than their normal swings even though it is only half as long as their normal swing. I tell them that they probably ought to play like that until they are capable of coordinating that move with a big shoulder turn. Of course they don’t have the discipline to do this since apparently there is an unwritten rule that on the golf course you have to make full swings. Oh well.

So I guess the conclusion is if you want to start lagging, stop thinking with your hands, stop thinking with your brain, and start feeling with that weight transfer and transition. All this said, transition might be the most important element of a golf swing, but you still have to remember to shift that weight back and load the club up–doesn’t so much matter when, but it just has to get done. From there just make that powerful move through and man you will be cooking on the front burner.

Harvey Specter
Posted at 6:07 am January 10, 2008
Sandy Clark

Finally i think i understand weight shift and when to do so. Always thought it happened during downswing.
But can see that you will get through doing it this way. (Hope , will attempt tomorrow) But i not sure what you mean about clearing hips.?? I am being taught to just swing my arms down , but don’t think this is the correct thing to do.? Seems , when i watch the pros they use there shoulder turn to swing the club. (Am i wrong ?), but do you need to get hips turn more out of way or should your hands be in fornt of belt buckle at impact.

Harvey Specter
Posted at 2:48 pm July 18, 2008

I discovered lag two nights ago, after now playing for over 50 years! I’ve been a 4-7 hcp’r for the past decade. Recent instruction showed that I was trying to turn back too far which caused me to “come up” on the backswing and change my swing plane.

So, I’ve been trying to start my downswing as soon as I “felt” I’d turned as far as I could go. This was such a change that I had to go back very slowly to do it right.
Too slowly sometimes, so I tried a backswing speed a bit faster and Voila! It gave me a more rhythmic backswing and I began to start my downswing (I guess it’s the arms) JUST BEFORE I completed the backswing. I could feel that lag and I”d never felt that before. Now, if I can just continue to do it…

Harvey Specter
Posted at 10:22 pm January 14, 2009

Lag is something 90% of all amateurs (including me) don’t ever get on a consistent basis. It is SO critical to a higher clubhead speed and maximum distance. Maintaining your right wrist cock for as long as you can is one simple way for a right-handed golfer to hold that lag as long as possible.

Great post!

Harvey Specter
Posted at 9:16 pm September 7, 2009
Golf Guy

I really like the content and the teachings i hope i can apply it!

Harvey Specter
Posted at 3:23 pm May 31, 2010
nick cercone

I, for some unexplainable reason have alway’s started my weight forward BEFORE completing my back swing..and it works[for the most part] like golf’s magic move. It also, in addition to weight shift, creates centrifugal force which in turn creates clubhead lag, which creates a happy camper[for the most part]. Amost forgot,,it also creates, at least for me, rythmn/tempo. At age 80, I can still about half the time shoot in the high 70′s..My “bad” rounds are mid 80′s. You are so absolutely on re: the lagging of the clubhead.
Nick Cercone

Harvey Specter
Posted at 7:17 am May 19, 2011

I discovered the pure lag shot by fluke a couple of weeks ago. I noticed that I always played a pure shot when the ball was above my feet. I was wondering why I cant do this when on a flat lie. So I decide to try putting slightly more weight on my heels and I know the teachers say this is not correct. However it enables me to naturally create lag without thinking about it. I find it easier to shift my weight to the left before the end of my back swing with the weight more on my heels. This might be due to my stocky build I don’t know but I am drilling the ball with a purity I never had before every time.

Harvey Specter
Posted at 11:40 am May 20, 2011
Terry F

Have been hitting the golf ball in the heel of the club forever! Knew I was coming over the top but just couldn’t figure out how to fix. This made perfect since! With the proper transition it sets the club back in the slot on plane! I am now striking the ball in the center of the club on most shots and striking the ball with authority! My golf swing is more fluid and relaxed!

Harvey Specter
Posted at 4:09 pm August 6, 2012
Dr. Alan Smith

Hi Sean
Worked your instruction this weekend on the course from Secret in the dirt forum. I was shocked at how well it worked. For me, the simplest thought for transition was borrowed from George Knudsen, and just walk onto the left foot, (I’m right handed)

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