Say you have a room full of people and you want to find out which ones play golf. All you have to do is say, “Who would like to know an easy way to hit a golf ball farther?” The ones who raise their hands before you’ve even finished the question are the golfers. Hitting a golf ball along way is fun with a capital F, and it’s easier to play golf by hitting 8-irons into greens instead of 5-irons. But how do you hit it farther?
Length in golf is expressed by a simple equation: clubhead speed + square contact = distance. There’s nothing more to it than that. Reduce clubhead speed and you hit the ball shorter. Hit the ball off-center and you hit the ball shorter. It takes both.
I’m only going to talk about hitting your driver farther. Trying to hit your irons farther is inviting trouble. These are accuracy clubs. You want to hit them straight. The only club you need to concern yourself with in your quest for distance is the driver.
The title of the article, then, is a question many recreational golfers ask, and I can give you an unequivocal answer to it: yes and no.
Yes, you do have to hit the ball hard to make it go a long way. Have you seen the hard hitters on the PGA Tour swing their driver? You almost hurt yourself just watching. But then there’s Ernie Els, who everyone thinks makes an easy pass at the ball. Watch him live, up close if you get a chance. Nothing easy about it. He hits the ball hard.
That’s the yes answer to the question, but here’s the no. If your driver sends the ball 250 yards through the air, but your slice means that 40 of those yards are spent taking the ball sideways, you didn’t really hit the ball very far.
Yes, the pros swing hard, but they also nail the ball on the dead center of the clubface almost every time. If you could see a wear mark on the face of their driver, it would be about the size of a dime. That is what gets them their distance, that enormous acceleration together with their precise impact. Clubhead speed without accurate contact won’t do.
So where does that leave the recreational golfer? Work on precise contact first. Even at slower swing speeds, you’ll get surprising distance with clean contact alone. At the range, try swinging your driver at half speed, to work only on hitting the ball off the center of the clubface. Build a swing that leads to that result.
Then, work on hitting the ball hard. Take 10 balls and hit each one as hard as you can on the center of the clubface. If you get some pushes or pulls, don’t concern yourself with that for now. Work on hard, centered contact. You’re building clubhead speed into your swing in a controlled way.
Yes, you do have to hit the ball hard to make it go far, but that works only in the context of centered contact. Never forget that.
My new book, The Golfing Self, is now available at www.therecreationalgolfer.com. It will change everything about the way you play.