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Three ways to hit longer drives

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Those of you who have read my article “How Far Should You Hit Your Golf Clubs” may remember this success story:

“With a 2-degree change in driver loft and some minor adjustments made to his swing path, angle of attack, etc., one of my amateur students went from being an already above-average efficient driver at 2.61 yards/mph to an extremely efficient one at 2.75 yards/mph. So with no change to his 102 mph swing speed, he increased his driving distance average from 266 to 280. Then after some swing speed training, he got up to 112 mph and can now hit drives around 307 yards with that same efficiency of 2.75 yards/mph. That’s 41 more yards!”

Let’s talk about the three reasons this student was able to achieve the extra 41 yards, because they can help every golfer add distance to their drives.

No. 1: Solid Contact

Hitting the ball in the center of the clubface is an important component to hitting the ball farther (and straighter, too). In his article “Impact Location by Handicap,” fellow GolfWRX Featured Writer Tom Stickney II included some great photos of typical impact dispersions broken down by a range of handicaps.

30
30 Handicap

25
25 Handicap

20
20 Handicap

15
15 Handicap

10
10 Handicap

7
7 Handicap

5
5 Handicap

0
0 Handicap

According to research data from Trackman, the typical 14-to-15 handicapper has an average club head speed of 93.4 mph and hits drives that go about 214 yards. A typical PGA Tour player swings at about 113 mph and hit his drives about 290 yards. That means the average driving distance efficiency for an amateur is 2.29 yards/mph and a tour player gets about 2.57 yards/mph.

Interestingly, PGA Tour players aren’t even the most efficient players. Although they are good ball strikers, they tend to hit the ball too low and with too much spin for maximum driving distance efficiency. LPGA players, on the other hand, get about 2.64 yards/mph. That means that the average golfer gives up in the neighborhood of 35 yards to an LPGA player, despite both of them swinging the driver at approximately the same speed of 93-to-94 mph. Part of this comes down to making better contact as already mentioned, so definitely work on your ball striking.

A cheap and easy way to check your impact location is with Dr. Scholl’s X Foot Powder Spray. Spray it on the face of your clubs so you can quickly see your impact pattern. It wipes off easily and causes no damage to your clubs.

No. 2: Optimal Launch Conditions

In the example above, my student was already a very efficient driver at 2.61 yards/mph. He has aspirations of playing on the Senior Tour in a few years, though, so he flew me to Texas to see if we could eek a few more yards out of him.

We went over to his local range and started hitting balls on the local pro’s Trackman. After a few drives, we determined that he was averaging 102 mph of club head speed, had an 8.9-degree launch angle and was generating 3382 rpm of spin using his 9-degree driver. I felt that we could get more distance out of him without even increasing his club head speed. Ideally, I wanted to increase his launch angle to about 13.8 degrees and decrease his spin rate to around 2508 rpm.

The easiest way to change spin rate if you make consistent contact is to change head loft. Using a bit of algebra, I estimated that we could bring his spin down and accomplish the first goal if we went from his 9-degree driver down to a 6.7-degree driver. We went over to Sellinger’s Power Golf, which carries low-lofted drivers, and we asked for a driver that measured 6.7-degrees (it was actually stamped 6). The nice thing about Sellinger’s is that they carry a good selection of low-lofted drivers and they can often get you a specific head loft. Some top-tier custom club fitters such as Tom Wishon can do this as well.

With the lower-lofted driver, the student and I went back over to the range and started measuring his drives with the new head. His average spin came down to the desired range, so our first goal was complete. Next, we faced the second part of the challenge. He was already hitting the ball low with the 9-degree driver, but now with the 6.7-degree driver he was hitting it even lower. To get him to launch it higher, we had him tee the ball higher and position it slightly more forward in his stance. Due to the D-Plane, we also had him swing slightly more in-to-out. After some practice, we arrived at the precise teeing location and swing direction that we needed for him to swing freely and achieve our desired launch angle of close to 14 degrees.

From a simple 2.3-degree change in driver loft and some slight technical adjustments, we got him up from 266 yards per drive to 280 yards per drive, which is about the maximum amount of distance he could expect under normal average conditions from a club head speed of 103 mph.

Here are 5 steps for how to apply this to your own game.

  1. Find a Doppler Radar launch monitor such as FlightScope or Trackman in your area and get some basic averages for yourself for club head speed, launch angle and spin rate.
  2. Visit a club fitter who can find out the exact loft of your driver (remember, it’s not always what’s stamped on the head).
  3. Use the table below and some algebra to estimate the precise head loft you need to achieve your ideal spin rate. All else being equal, going up in loft will add spin. Going down in loft will take off spin.
  4. Get the precise driver loft that you need.
  5. Using a Trackman or other launch monitor, play with your tee height, ball position and swing direction until you achieve your goal launch angle from the next table below.

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 12.40.42 PM

Teeing the ball higher, farther forward in your stance and swinging a bit more in-to-out can help you hit higher drives. Teeing up lower, farther back in your stance and swinging a little less in-to-out can help you bring the launch down.

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 12.42.42 PM

No. 3: Faster Swing Speed

Once you are hitting the ball solid and have optimized your launch conditions as described above, you can gain additional distance through swing speed training programs such as mine, Swing Man Golf. That’s how my student added another 27 yards to his 280-yard drives, getting him up to an average of 307 yards per drive. With his excellent driving efficiency and now above average clubhead speed, this student won’t be losing anything to the field and he is well on his way to achieving his goal.

Have fun launching the ball farther!

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Jaacob Bowden is a Professional Golfer, PGA of America Class A Member, Top 100 Most Popular Teacher, Swing Speed Trainer, the original founder of Swing Man Golf, the co-creator of "Sterling Irons" single length irons, and has caddied on the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS. Formerly an average-length hitting 14-handicap computer engineer, Jaacob quit his job, took his savings and moved from Kansas to California to pursue a golf career at age 27. He has since won the Pinnacle Distance Challenge with a televised 381-yard drive, won multiple qualifiers for the World Long Drive Championships including a 421-yard grid record drive, made cuts in numerous tournaments around the world with rounds in the 60s and 70s, and finished fifth at the Speed Golf World Championships at Bandon Dunes. Jaacob also holds the championship record for golf score with a 72 in 55 minutes and 42 seconds using only 6 clubs. The Swing Man Golf website has more than 8,000 members and focuses primarily on swing speed training. Typically, Jaacob’s website members and amateur and tour player clients will pick up 12-16 mph of driver swing speed in the first 30 days of basic speed training. You can learn more about Jaacob, Swing Man Golf, and Sterling Irons here: Websites – JaacobBowden.com & SwingManGolf.com & SterlingIrons.com; Twitter - @JaacobBowden & @SwingManGolf & @SterlingIrons; Facebook – Facebook.com/JaacobBowdenGolf & Facebook.com/SwingManGolf & <Facebook.com/SterlingIronsGolf; Instagram - Instagram.com/JaacobBowden YouTube – YouTube.com/SwingManGolf – More than 2.8 million video views

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Pingback: How Much Distance is Lost With Age? - Dan Hansen Golf Instruction

  2. Bob Gom

    Jan 5, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Some great stuff….would love to hear your thoughts on the pic of the two lowest handicaps.

    Notice (mainly on the zero cap) how the marks go from lower on the face (heel) to the center to higher (toe)

    One can pretty much draw a line at 45 degrees (approximate) threw the center of the ball marks from heel to toe.
    This head is a TM SLDR it seems and like many of the past TM offerings, I feel are to up right in lie angle. Does this example not prove this?

    It’s obvious that the person who used this club strikes it very well, but as he misses slightly towards the toe, the shots climb up the face and the opposite when they strike it off the heel. Looks to be two face lines (grooves) different in height or about 1/2″ difference. If the head was flatter, you might see one groove difference between all these shots and on a straighter line horizontally and I bet slightly better numbers.

    I hear and read about Toe Droop, but to me this is a clear case of a lie being to upright…thoughts?

  3. other paul

    Jan 3, 2015 at 11:09 am

    I decided to buy into Jaacob’s swing speed program. And then tried to hard and hurt my left shoulder. Oops. But I gained yards after doing the exercises one time (6yardd past my previous record, measured on the same launch monitor, old record was 280, beat it 4 times up to 286). Going to take a week off golf to let my shoulder repair, then back at it again. I like the program so far.

  4. TR1PTIK

    Dec 29, 2014 at 7:30 am

    No doubt from reading this that ball contact and spin rates are keeping me from hitting the ball farther. The few times that I’ve been able to get in front of a launch monitor I was launching on average between 13-15 degrees with somewhere around 105mph club head speed. My spin rates are usually somewhere in the upper 2000-lower 3000 RPM range which I would expect is largely due to gear effect. According to the Zepp Golf sensor I’ve been toying with I can now swing the club somewhere around 110mph quite comfortably – though I’m not sure I trust that number – and some of my longest drives would indicate that I’m very capable of breaking the 300yrd barrier with some regularity if I can strike it more consistently. My longest drive last season was 324 yards that I tracked using the GolfShot app on my phone. I had at least one other tracked drive over 300 yards and several that were just under, plus a few more that weren’t tracked, but were at least very close to the 300 yard mark. Looks like some Dr. Scholl’s foot spray and range time are in my immediate future.

  5. other paul

    Dec 28, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    I would love to see some more articles on over speed and long drive training. I swing just over 100mph and would love another 10-15mph. I jumped in a hot tub recently and then hit balls. I was hitting it over 300 yards immediately. I got a taste of effortless power and I want more.

  6. alan

    Dec 28, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    i did a couple weeks of overspeed training after reading a thread here and picked up substantial gains. really surprised it isnt talked about more often.

    caution-i wouldnt recommend overspeed training to a high capper, there are other things(center face contact) that imo a higher capper should worry about.

  7. DaveMac

    Dec 28, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    Thanks for the article, I liked the launch conditions vs swing speed tables. I have to say the solution to get your student into his optimum launch window, seemed extreme. It required a dangerously low driver loft ( I can’t see many amateurs hitting a 6.7 degree driver straight, unless straight OB counts). It also required a complete change in driver setup and AoA.
    There must be a more straight forward way of hitting the magic numbers!

  8. The dude

    Dec 28, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Speed training…..most under appreciated technique for hitting the ball longer…period

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Opinion & Analysis

Tiger Woods completes arguably the greatest comeback story in sports history

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Sports have an uncanny way of teaching us about life. And there’s no greater life lesson than the athlete and the man who goes by Tiger Woods.

I first fell in love with golf while watching Tiger play the 1997 Masters with my father. Tiger is the reason that I, like millions of golfers throughout the world, including some of his professional contemporaries today, started playing and loving the game.

For basically his entire life, from the moment he appeared on The Mike Douglas Show at 2-years-old, until his world came infamously crashing down on Thanksgiving 2009, he was “perfect.” He was dominant, impactful, charismatic and invincible — what the world uncovered, however, was that his persona was a carefully crafted facade.

While he continued to play great golf despite injuries and surgeries through 2014, his Superman cape was tarnished, and his respect as a man was all but diminished.

From 2014 until 2017, the world watched Tiger Woods the athlete decay. He’d make minor comebacks after major back surgeries, but the letters “WD” replaced the number “1” next to Tiger’s name on leaderboards for years. And he also developed what was either the chipping yips, or an utter breakdown in his once-superior chipping technique. To all observers, aside from Tiger apologists, it seemed his golf career was likely over.

What was tragic for Tiger the athlete looked as though it’d turn into a tragedy for Tiger the man after his very public DUI in 2017 following his spine fusion surgery earlier that year. Tiger was completely vulnerable, and seemingly, completely broken. He was whatever the opposite is of his former self. Had he faded into oblivion after that, it would have been understandable, if not recommended.

But that’s not what happened. Despite every talking head in sports media saying Tiger was done (not that I didn’t agree at the time), Tiger waited for his back to heal upon doctors orders, then began his comeback to golf. It started with videos on social media of him chipping, then hitting irons, then his patented stinger.

In December of 2017, Tiger finished T9 in the 18-player field at his Hero World Challenge… a respectable finish considering what he had been through. As the season continued, he pieced together 4 consecutive rounds on many occasions, actually giving himself a few chances to win tournaments (the Valspar, Arnold Palmer, Quicken Loans and the Open come to mind). But his late-tournament confidence was clearly shaken; he was struggling to close the deal.

At the 2018 PGA Championship, Tiger had the attention of the entire sporting world when it looked that he had a serious chance to win his 15th major. But ultimately, he finished runner-up to a superior golfer that week in Brooks Koepka. All things considered, the week was a win for Tiger and his confidence… but it wasn’t a win.

The questions changed after the PGA Championship from “Can Tiger win again?” to “When will Tiger win again?”

Well, that question has been answered. Tiger Woods won the 2018 Tour Championship. Is it a major? No, it’s not. Some say the event itself is essentially just a money grab for the best 30 players of the season. But that’s the thing; the tournament hosts the best 30 players of the season all competing for big money. And you can bet it matters to the players on top of the leaderboard.

Tiger’s Tour Championship victory doesn’t mean he’s going to beat Jack’s record. Because he probably won’t. And maybe he won’t even win another major, although he’ll surely be the betting favorite at the 2019 Masters now. But, to me at least, his win marks the completion of the greatest comeback story in all of sports. And not only that, the conclusion to an important life lesson — don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.

No athlete has been written off more than Tiger Woods, especially in the era of social media that gives every critic in the world a microphone. No athlete has reached a higher high, and a relatively lower low than Tiger Woods. He went through it all — a broken marriage, public shaming, legal issues, a deteriorated skill set, surgeries, injuries, and arguably most impactful of all, humanization.

Tiger Woods came back from not just a 28-3 deficit on the scoreboard (Patriots-Falcons reference), and he didn’t score eight points in 9 seconds (Reggie Miller reference, sorry Knicks fans and sorry Dad), and he didn’t get hit by a bus (Ben Hogan), but he got hit hard by the bus of life, and he now stands tall in the winner’s circle.

Maybe that’s why sports teaches us so much about life; because sports is life. Not in the way that nothing else matters except sports, but in the way that sports is played by imperfect humans. When the ball goes in the air, or onto to the tee, or the starting bell rings, nothing is certain and nothing is given. And when things are looking bad, like really really bad, it’s how you respond that truly matters. Isn’t that what life is?

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Courses

Ari’s Course Reviews: Sand Hills Golf Club in Nebraska

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There are so many fantastic golf courses throughout the world, and it’s all of the incredibly varied fields of play that make the game so great to me. The most random places in the world can be home to some of the best golf courses. When deciding which course to write about next, it seemed natural to write about my personal favorite course in the world., which happens to be in a very unexpected place.

If you told me I could go anywhere in the world for a round of golf tomorrow, I would be blazing a trail to the area just south of Mullen, Nebraska and playing Sand Hills Golf Club. Sand Hills opened for play on June 23, 1995 and is one of the most natural golf courses you can find anywhere in the world. There was very little dirt moved and most of the money spent building the course was spent on installing irrigation. The course is built entirely on sand, and was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Bill Coore speaks on the design here.

For a bit more background, here’s an old CBS Sunday Morning segment on Sand Hills…

The course lies in the middle of the Sand Hills region of Nebraska, which makes up about one-third of the state. The area has huge, natural dunes everywhere that are much more reminiscent of Scotland or Ireland than the flat part of Nebraska along I-80 that most people associate with the state. Because of the firm, mostly fescue, sand-based fairways at Sand Hills, and the ever-present wind, the course plays like a links course though the bent grass greens rival any top country club for speed and purity. In fact, the fastest greens I have ever seen in person were at Sand Hills in late September.

The course has a tasteful amount of variety and challenge. The three par 5s are of the best sets in the world and include 1) a fantastic mid-length par 5 starting hole that is one of the best starting holes in golf, 2) a very reachable but exacting hole in the 14th, and 3) in my opinion, the best long par 5 in golf, the 613 yard 16th.

The par 4s vary from the long uphill 485-yard monster 18th, to the 7th, which at less than 300 yards still sees a lot more 5s and 6s than 3s. The par 3s are masterful starting with the 3rd playing a little over 200 yards downhill to a sprawling side hill green where you can hit driver one day and 7 iron the next. The 6th is 185 yards slightly downhill to maybe my favorite green on the course with definitely my favorite hole location in the front left of the green to a semi-blind spot in a little bowl.  The 13th is a 215-yard uphill monster that can be the hardest hole in relation to par on the course. Lastly the 17th is a 150-yard work of art to a little triangle shaped green and is definitely in the discussion for best short par 3 in the world.

Aside from a great variety in distance of the holes, the topography also presents an amazing amount of variety on the ground. Due to the random nature of the bounce of the ball, the undulating and random fairway contours, and the wind that can blow in literally any direction, the course never plays the same twice. There are just so many great holes out there that I really wouldn’t argue with any of the 18 holes being someone’s favorite. Personally, I can’t name a favorite as it seems to change every time I think about it. The routing is fantastic with both 9s returning to Ben’s Porch, which serves as the home base for the course where people eat lunch, have a post-round drink and generally enjoy one of the best views in all of golf. The course has a good amount of elevation change but is a dream to walk with very short green to tee transitions. It simply is as close to perfect as you can get in my mind.

While the focus of my reviews are on the golf course and not the amenities, I would be remiss if I did not mention the down-to-earth, welcoming people that make up the staff at Sand Hills. Any time I’ve been lucky enough to be at the club I have felt more like I was visiting family and friends than a golf club. When you combine the welcoming and friendly atmosphere of the club, some of the best food in the world and my personal favorite golf course to play anywhere in the world, you have an experience so special its hard to put into words.

Enjoy the collection of photos below from Dan Moore, and make sure to check out my other reviews in the links at the bottom of the page!

Hole No. 1

Hole No. 2

Hole No. 4

Hole No. 8

Hole No. 9

Hole No. 13

Hole No. 14

Hole No. 16

Hole No. 18

Ari’s Other Course Reviews

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole (Ep. 51): Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella on why Phil shoots guns to improve his golf game

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Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella joins host Michael Williams to talk about Phil Mickelson using shooting sports to prepare for the Ryder Cup, and the crop of golf destinations that include 5-star golf and outdoor sports facilities. Also featured are Jason Gilbertson of Winchester and Justin Jones of Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds at Reynolds Lake Oconee (GA).

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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19th Hole

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