Category Archives: distance

Hitting the Ball Hard

One of the best ways to introduce errors into your golf swing is by trying to hit the ball as hard as you can. In general it is better to ease off and hit it straight than far, unless you can hit it both straight AND far. The two are not exclusive.

Just like there’s nothing wrong with being too rich, there’s nothing wrong with being too long off the tee. Let’s talk about how to get that done. (The second one. I haven’t figured out the first one yet.)

I have seen this idea expressed in different places, and have never seen it contradicted: swing the club as fast as you can while still being able to hit the ball on the center of the clubface. In other words, swing as fast as you can while keeping the club under control.

Two principles of hitting hard must be observed: the one just stated, and this.

You will swing as fast as you can only if you are completely relaxed during the entire swing. Tension always slows you down.

And one hint: speed only counts through the ball. It means nothing in your backswing. Or the beginning of the forward swing.

Now for the lesson, which comes from Jim McLean in the April 10, 2010 edition of Golf Digest magazine.

“The late Gardner Dickinson, a terrific tour player in the 1950s and ’60s who happened to have a slight build, once asked Ben Hogan what he could do to get longer off the tee. Hogan told Dickinson to stop at the range after every round and hit 30 drivers as hard as he could. He told him not to care where the shots went, but to try to hit the ball on the center of the clubface.

“Hogan emphasized to Dickinson the importance of sheer swing speed. Thirty drives might be a lot for you; 15 might do. But a little violence in the swing is healthy and will help you develop more power. You’ll never hit it far without ripping it.”

There you have it.

Practice this with plastic golf balls at first if you can, because they go only so far no matter how hard you hit them and you won’t be seduced into overswinging.

Once you’ve got it down, work on it at the range. Once you’ve got that down, practice saying, “You’re away” in a pleasant tone of voice, so you can say it on the course without upsetting anybody.

The State of My Game

The posts I write are meant to help you play better. Whatever I put up here is something I tried myself and find that it works. I’m not going to tell you something I heard somewhere that sounds like it makes sense. I test it first. But it’s all about you.

Today, though is different. Today is all about me, though maybe even then you might find something in it that helps you as well.

Because of some back surgeries I underwent several years ago, I had to change the way I swing the golf club. I swing it much easier now. I haven’t measured my clubhead speed, though I know it’s slower because I have lost about twenty yards off the tee and one club from the fairway.

Distance, though, is only one part of playing golf. I have become much more accurate, because I have to be accurate. I have designed a swing, therefore, that hits the ball very straight, time after time. That’s certainly not a bad thing.

Through impact, my club hits the ground at the same spot, at the same depth, with a square clubface, consistently. The way I accomplish this is to lose all thought of hitting the ball powerfully, and instead, think of swinging the club gracefully.

To strike the ball accurately, so many things have to be lined up just right, and when this has to be done at speed it’s all more difficult. I swing as fast as I can while still keeping everything in order. If I tried to swing faster, I would only disrupt the impact alignments and start hitting the ball anywhere but where I wanted it to go. In addition, I doubt I would hit the ball that much farther to make the effort worthwhile.

I find my longest shots happen when I take care of swinging the club and let the club take care of the hitting. After all, the hit is built into your clubs. That’s why you paid so much for them. You just swing it and let the manufacturer take care of the rest.

The recreational golfer, who doesn’t have world-class talent, doesn’t have access to world-class coaching, nor hours a day to spend practicing, needs to play golf differently than the players who do. We need a swing that keeps the ball in play, first and last.

In my personal experience, and in what I see in the people I play with, the pursuit of distance, trying to hit each ball as far as possible rather than as straight as possible, is the number one reason why so many golfers play worse than they are capable of. I know it’s fun to really tag one, but if your overall game is designed around doing that, you’re costing yourself handfuls of strokes for the occasional satisfaction.

On the other hand, if you can build a swing that accomplishes the three things I mentioned earlier, you will hit the ball straighter, and you won’t lose distance, because you will be making a more solid impact. I lost distance because of a physical condition, but that’s not you.

Recreational golf is wrapped up in hitting the ball straight. Spend some time at the driving range just watching people and ask yourself, about every one of them, if their problem is that they don’t hit the ball far enough, or that they don’t hit it straight enough.

If you can change your conception of golf from hard and far to graceful and straight, and they act on it, you will be on the way to becoming the best player you can be. Well, as long as you can putt, too.

How Far Do You Hit It, Really?

We all think we hit it farther than we do. You hear that a lot. Actually, I think each of us has a very good idea of how far we hit it. It’s just not as far as we would like.

This chart tells the approximate truth. If you have a swing speed with your driver of 95 mph, which is high for the majority of recreational golfers, you will carry the ball 210 yards. With adequate roll, you can get about 225 yards out of that shot.

550_DistVsSwgSpd122704GIF

Now roll is highly variable. Have you ever seen an aerial shot of a Tour event and there’s a shot of a drive that falls straight out of the sky and maybe gets two yards of roll?

But, it was hit in the air a ton. Recreational golfers don’t hit those kinds of shots. Ours go lower and roll more.

So don’t kid yourself. If you are an average recreational golfer and you hit your driver 200 yards in the air, that’s a good shot. Add on maybe 15-20 yards of roll and you can play with that length.

Want to hit it farther? Assuming you hit the ball on the center of the clubface regularly (and that’s a big assumption) you’ll hit it farther by swinging faster AND maintaining good tempo.

A more lofted driver might help, too, but that’s another post.

Power Leaks in the Golf Swing

Every golfer has a maximum clubhead speed. You get it by eliminating power leaks. Here are a few things you can change that are robbing you of precious MPH at impact.

You swing too hard. Swinging hard actually slows you down. Muscular force doesn’t generate speed. A relaxed swing lets power accumulate and multiply on its own.

You grip too tight. This puts tension in your hands which radiates throughout your body. You end up holding back the club instead of letting it go.

You swing too fast. Remember, you want clubhead speed, not “youspeed.” You don’t have to turn your body at 90 MPH to make the clubhead go that fast.

The club fights against your grip. Especially a the top, you sense this and use up effort hanging on to the club. Grip down so the club feels balanced. Then it will never feel like it is trying to pull itself out of your hands.

You aim your swing. To get the most speed you can deliver to the ball, you have to let the swing happen. If you care too much about where the ball will go, you slow yourself down.

You start your downswing with just your hands. Start your downswing by turning your lower body. Let your arms just drop down and follow. It’s a gravity move with the arms, powered by turning your lower body.

Each one of these things can be changed in a few minutes. The major patch is to hit the ball on the center of the clubface while it is square to the swing path. If you want to get this one down, take lessons.

My new book, The Golfing Self, is now available at www.therecreationalgolfer.com. It will change everything about the way you play.

How to Think About Clubhead Speed

Though several factors are more important than clubhead speed in hitting the ball a long way, we must not neglect it. The problem is that most golfers think to get more speed they have to swing the club harder (harder=faster). Let’s look first at the speed that is built into the club and see if this is really necessary.

Watch a record turning on a record player. Or, if you don’t have a record player handy, remember what that one looked like. Or, if you’ve never seen a record player, just go with me on this.

A 12” long-playing record, turns at 33-1/3 revolutions per minute. Every part of the record, from the outside edge to the part right next to the spindle in the center, turns at that same rate.

The very edge of the record turns at approximately 21” per second. A spot one-half inch from the center only has to move at 1-3/4” per second. Because these two spots have to cover different distances in the same time, they move at different speeds, in order to travel at the same rate.

Over to golf. A 9-iron is generally 35-3/4” long. A driver is 43” long. If you swing these two clubs at the same rate, the clubheads will travel at different speeds.

Think of the driver’s clubhead as reaching to the edge of the record. A point representing the relative length of a 9-iron would travel at 17.3” per second, a bit over eighty percent as fast as a point on the edge.

Trackman data from the PGA Tour shows that the average swing speed for the driver is 112 MPH. For the 9-iron, it’s 85 MPH, seventy-five percent of the speed of the driver. Data from the LPGA Tour yield roughly the same ratio (94 MPH and 72 MPH).

Now the arc traced by a golf swing is not a circle, and there is acceleration in the swing, so the math is a lot more complicated than for a spinning turntable. The numbers work out differently, but the principle is the same:

If you like the way you hit your 9-iron, hit your driver the same way, and you’ll get the clubhead speed you crave.

If you don’t believe the math, believe your eyes. Watch LPGA Tour players especially. They don’t pound their driver. They swing it with the same ease as with any other club, yet they hit the ball farther than you do. Maybe that’s the reason why.

This post is about relative distance, the distance you hit your driver compared to your 9-iron. If you want to increase both of those distances and everything between, your absolute distance, see Two Simple Ways to Get More Distance

Visit www.therecreationalgolfer.com

The Golfer’s Goal: Accuracy or Distance?

They say that 230 in the fairway is better than 260 in the rough. But that assumes if you’re along hitter you always land in the rough. Usually long hitters have a better swing and are straighter.

Besides, I will take 260 and miss four fairways over being 230 in every fairway all the time.

That said, accuracy is the name of the game for recreational golfers. The pros can hit the ball into impossible places and still make par. We can’t.

If you can hit the ball a long way, good for you. But never sacrifice accuracy trying for more distance. Play with the distance you have and hit the ball straight. That’s the winning combination.

Two Simple Ways to Hit a Golf Ball Farther

Everyone wants more distance, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t get it. Here are two simple ways to add a few more yards to every full shot.

1. Get your rhythm right. Last week’s post on the subject tells you how to do that.

2. Lighten up your grip pressure. There’s no need to squeeze the club. How hard do you hold when you shake hands with a child? Or how tightly would you hold a pretty woman?* That’s how hard you should hold the club, and try to keep it that light all the way through the swing. Holding too tightly makes your muscles work against you, slowing down the swing.

*My wife says I hold her like a golf club.

Visit www.therecreationalgolfer.com

Ball First, Ground Second

To hit a decent golf shot, you need to make contact on the center of the clubface with the clubface square to the target, and the clubhead moving toward the target. Do that and you can play decent golf. If you want to play outstanding golf, there’s one more thing. Hit the ball first, the ground second.

If your handicap is in double digits, the chances are great that you hit the ground first, and the ball second most of the time. When that happens, clubhead speed is diminished before the ball is struck, causing you to lose distance. The clubhead can get twisted, affecting accuracy. The most effective strike is to hit the ball before the clubhead reaches the bottom of its arc. This drill teaches you how to do that.

Fold up a bath towel two times, so there are four thicknesses of towel, and place the towel about six to eight inches behind the ball. Now hit 9-irons without brushing the towel on the way down. When you do, the ball leaps off the ground with what seems like no effort on your part. That’s the kind of shot you want to be hitting.

After you get good at this drill, you can try a more challenging one which tests what you think you have learned. Take the towel away and put a tee on the ground so it points to the leading edge of the ball. The divot that you make with your 9-iron should start on the target side of where the tee is pointing. If that doesn’t happen, practice more with the towel to really get that swing pattern into your subconscious mind.

The 9-iron is a good club to start both drills with, but once it gets easy with that club move to an 8-iron. Work your way through your bag one club at a time, not moving to the next one until you have mastered both drills with the club you’re working on at the moment. And I do mean “mastered.” “Pretty good” isn’t good enough. That means old habits are still kicking around. You need to practice until they are entirely gone. Don’t be surprised if it takes several months of steady practice to work through all your irons.

Of all the instructional posts on this blog, this is the one that will have the greatest positive effect on your game. All the other tips will help you to become better. This one will transform you. You’ll be playing a different game. I’m not kidding.

Visit www.therecreationalgolfer.com

Can You Swing Easy and Hit a Golf Ball Far?

[ Nov. 2, 2018 – A less wordy version of this post ]

Someone once asked me, how do you hit the ball as far as you do when you have such an easy swing?

I said, That’s the answer. What’s the question?

When you hit the ball on the center of the clubface, that being the golf swing’s primary distance generator, you get all the distance you deserve. You’ll hit the ball straighter, too.

This doesn’t mean to swing with no power at all, just that if you’re not hitting the ball on the center you are most likely swinging too hard. Ease back until you make centered contact consistently.

It will feel like you’re playing a different game.

How Far Should Novice Golfers Hit Their Clubs?

Distance. That seems to be the reason play golf, to see how far you can hit the ball. There’s the part about getting the ball into the hole, too, but if you asked any golfer if they wanted to hit the ball farther or score lower, the answer would likely be father, every time. We can take care of scoring later.

This is a question that new golfers face, and it’s a mistake to look at the professionals for the answer. Male professional golfers routinely hit their 5-iron 200 yards. Heck, it was reported that Dustin Johnson recently hit his 7-iron 240 yards.

Let’s not concern ourselves with those numbers. What can golfers new to the game expect?

The answer depends on you. Most novices don’t hit the ball very far. Men might hit a 9-iron 120 yards, a driver 200. A woman new to the game might get 90 and 150, respectively. Whoever you are, much of it depends on your athleticism and your prior experience with ball-and-stick sports.

Every golfer has to realize there is a limit to the distance they can hit the ball. Hitting the golf ball a long way is a talent. Some baseball players hit home runs, others don’t, and you can’t tell by looking who can hit them and who can’t.

Similarly, some people can just hit the golf ball a long way.

What is important for the novice is learning how to hit the ball accurately. That means you make contact in the center of the clubface, with a square clubface square to the swing path. When you do that, you will get all the distance you are capable of. What that distance is doesn’t really matter. All you have to do is play from the right set of tees and you can play for fairways and greens all day.

Really now, what distances can a novice attain to? Look at the Trackman data for professional golfers. Go the LPGA Tour Averages chart, second column from the right. Make sure the Select Units button says Yards. For male novices, take 85 percent of these distances, female novices, 75 percent.

Those are the distances you’ll get until you learn how to hit the ball on the center of the clubface, with a square and in-line clubhead, and hitting the ball first, ground second.

And you know what? Even if you never hit the ball farther than that, if it goes straight, you can get a good score.

See also: Leave the Long Clubs Home

My new book, The Golfing Self, is now available at www.therecreationalgolfer.com. It will change everything about the way you play.