I was asked a question recently in relation to the distance some players hit the ball off the tee and their strength as people. The query pointed out that most of the top players in the game today appear to spend a good bit of time in the gym and this is mentioned by the commentators when they hit these big drives. So how is it possible that a reasonably small 15 year old can hit the ball past clearly stronger adults?
In simplistic terms what determines how far the ball goes off the tee is:-
The speed the ball is traveling.
The angle it launches at.
The spin rate that the ball has.
In the most basic example it is possible to have two golfers who have the same ball speed but one has a better launch angle and spin rate to optimise distance, and therefore go further.
The question above was really about speed and human strength and how these two components relate to the golf swing. It is not the only factor to take into account but one of the main elements that determines ball speed is the club head speed at impact. Just because you are stronger does not mean you will be faster.
Perhaps a good example is a motorised buggy (cart). When you drive one of these you will notice that buggy will not take off when going down a steep hill. Its speed is controlled by restrictor or what is sometimes referred to as a “governor”. If you put a bigger engine in the buggy it will not make it go any faster unless you alter the governor. Just going off to the gym and making yourself stronger will not necessarily make the ball go faster – you have to be able to turn it into club head speed. So in the case above the 15 year old can move the club faster even though they would be categorised as not as strong as the adult. (Basic definition – strength is the physical energy that you have, which gives you the ability to perform various actions, such as lifting or moving things).
The governor in human terms can be described as a safety mechanism that will often restrict our golf swing speed to the point where our brain feel it will not damage our body. So we have to show it that we will be still safe to swing it faster. I want to point out here that in the buggies case turning off the governor will not make it a formula one car in the same way that our swings will also have other limitations as well. However for a number of golfers I think it is worth asking yourself the question if you are attaining the maximum speed your body and swing will allow and can I make this extra speed turn into distance. The bottom line here is hitting the ball longer is not just about physical training the governance of our mental programming as well.
Here is a simple little drill you can try on a regular basis although I would suggest you try it on the range first. Take your driver and turn it upside down so you are gripping at the head end. Make sure you do not hit the ground – swing the club a number of times (at least 5 or 6 times) as fast as you possibly can, then turn the club around the normal way and hit a ball. If you do this regularly there is a chance you can convince your governor (motor programming) that you can swing the club faster.
Paul Thompson has been the Fellow PGA Professional at Powerscourt Golf Club in Wicklow since 1995. In addition to providing coaching on-site he also is a coach with The Golfing Union of Ireland. Appointments with Paul can be booked via Powerscourt Golf Club Reception: Tel (01) 204 6033 or the Golf Shop Tel (01) 204 6031. Read more about lessons from Paul Thompson by visiting the Powerscourt Golf Club Website.