Who doesn’t want to know how to smash their drive?
“What things help get a golfer to get to a really good level?”
If you asked a number of elite level golfers this question then of course you are going to get some variations in the answer but I would guess that nearly all would say short game and following that a large number would comment on hitting the ball far enough. You may even get a few saying that hitting the ball a long way is the most crucial element these days to be able to play at the best level. It is common enough for us to see some of the top men hit drives 300 yards in tournaments but there is a group of golfers who hit the ball even further than this, and compete in the long drive championships.
I thought I would point out some of the things they work on in their swings to gain club head speeds of 150 mph.
I think most of you will appreciate they have extensive physical programmes that will maximize strength, speed and range of motion. But I think it is important to point out that before every competition round these golfers will have a warm up routine. It has been shown a good number of times now that golfers who warm up will hit the ball from 5 -10 yards further, this may not seem a lot but it can be the difference between winning and losing – for us it represents one club less into the green.
As you can imagine their drivers have been modified with very stiff and perhaps slightly longer shafts and some of these long hitters use clubs with only 2 or 3 degrees of loft on the face, a bit extreme but for us but it backs up the point of getting the right equipment in our hands to suit our needs. They will often tee the ball up high. There is a limit on the height of a tee, it cannot be more than 4 inches long but they will often try to use as much of this height as possible. Along with this they will have the ball well forward in the stance and they will tilt the spine angle away from the target. These elements at set up are to encourage hitting up through the ball at impact – a very important aspect to hitting the ball a long way off the tee.
Grips appear to have a nice soft, relaxed grip pressure and the move away from the ball is wide. You will see a very full shoulder/back rotation and the club will go well beyond parallel almost wrapping itself behind the body, this is also associated with quite an upright swinging angle. The point we learn from here is activate wrists and work on shoulder turn.
The main feature of the illustration below is the head, chest and shoulder movement just after impact and how they are responding to the club head coming on this upward angle through the ball as opposed to a more downward angle we would tend to have when hitting irons off fairways. (I would also point out the hip area movement and how it is turning/clearing but at an angle that is flatter to the ground). These are not just common movements you see in tour golfers swings but you can see similarities in other sports like baseball and cricket.
Obviously these types of swings push the swing to the limits of speed and power and if playing golf was just about these elements then these methods would be more common among club golfers. In our full game we are trying to find the right balance between force and control and this is going to be very individual, however it may help you to look at your swing in comparison to the method these long hitters use and try to integrate one or two small points to get a bit more distance off the tee.