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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

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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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Coming Up: A Big Golf Adventure

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My name is Jacob Sjöman, and I’m a 35-year-old golf photographer who also enjoys the game we all love. I will be sharing some experiences here on a big golf trip that we are doing. With me I’ve got my friend Johan. I will introduce him properly later, but he is quite a funny character. According to Johan, he is the best golf photo assistant in the world, and we will see about that since this is probably his biggest test yet doing this trip. Previously on our trips, Johan almost got us killed in Dubai with a lack of driving skills. He also missed a recent evening photo shoot in Bulgaria while having a few beers to many… and that’s not all.

Anyway, the last couple of days I’ve been packing my bags over and over. I came home from the Canary Islands this Sunday and I’ve been constantly checking and rechecking that we’ve got all the required equipment, batteries, and that the cameras are 100 percent functional and good to go for this golf trip. I’m still not sure, but in a couple of minutes I will be sitting in a taxi to the airport and there will be no turning back.

Where are we going then? We are going to visit some of the very best golf courses in New Zealand and Australia. There will be breathtaking golf on cliffsides, jaw-dropping scenic courses, and some hidden gems. And probably a big amount of lost balls with a lot of material produced in the end.

I couldn’t be more excited for a golf journey like this one. Flying around the globe to these special golf courses I’ve only dreamed about visiting before gives me a big kick and I feel almost feel like a Indiana Jones. The only thing we’ve got in common, though, is that we don’t like snakes. Australia seems to be one of the worst destinations to visit in that purpose, but all the upsides are massive in this.

First, we will take off from a cold Stockholm (it’s raining heavily outside at the moment) and then we will do our first stop at Doha in Quatar. Then after two more hours, we are finally heading off to Auckland on the north island of New Zealand, a mega-flight of 16 hours. I believe that could very well be one of the longest flights available for a ordinary airplane. I need to check that.

Flights for me usually mean work, editing photos from different golf courses I’ve visited, writing some texts, editing some films, and planning for the future. Last time, though, I finally managed to sleep a little, which is a welcome progress for a guy that was deadly scared of flying until 2008.

Now, I am perfectly fine with flying. A few rocky flights over the Atlantic Sea to Detroit helped me a lot, and my motto is now, “If those flights got me down on the ground safely, it takes a lot of failures to bring down a plane.”

Anyway, I hope you will join me on this golf trip. Stay tuned!

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Opinion & Analysis

Be Curious, Not Critical, of Tour Player Swings

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After a foul ball by a tour player, the talking heads on TV are often quick to analyze the “problem” with that swing. Fair enough, I suppose. Even the best players are human and our game has more failure than success. But I’d like to offer a different take on swings of the best players in the world.

First, let’s remember how good these guys and gals really are. If you met up with the lowest ranked player on any professional tour at a public course one day, I’ll bet that golfer would be the best golfer most of you have ever played with. You’d be telling your buddies in the 19th hole about him or her for a very long time. These players have reached a level of ball striking most people only dream about. That’s why I’m more curious than critical when it comes to a tour player’s swing. I’m not thinking about what he/she needs to do better; I’m thinking, “How do they do it so well?” In other words, I want to know how they put their successful move together. What part goes with the other parts? How did their pattern evolve? What are the compatible components of their swing?

Let’s use Jim Furyk as an example. Furyk has what we might call an “unconventional” move. It’s also a swing that has won nearly $70 million and shot 58 one day. But I’ll offer him as an example because his swing illustrates the point I’m making. From a double-overlapping grip, Furyk picks the golf club up to what might be the most vertical position one would ever see from a professional. Then in transition, he flattens the club and drops it well behind him. Now the club is so flat and inside, he has to open his body as quickly as he can to keep the club from getting “stuck.” Let’s call it an “up-and-under loop.”

Let’s take Matt Kuchar as a counter example. Kuchar’s signature hands-in, flat and very deep takeaway is pretty much the total opposite of Furyk. But he comes over that takeaway and gets the club back into a great position into impact. We’ll call that an “in-and-over” loop.

Both are two of the best and most consistent golfers in the world. Is one right and the other wrong? Of course not. They do have one thing in common, however, and it’s that they both balanced their golf swing equation.

What would happen if Kuchar did what Furyk does coming down? Well, he wouldn’t be on TV on the weekend. If he did, he’d be hitting drop kicks several inches behind. That doesn’t win The Players Championship. The point is that the Furyk downswing is incompatible with the Kuchar backswing, and vice versa, but I’m guessing they both know that.

How can this help you? My own personal belief and the basis of my teaching is this: your backswing is an option, but your downswing is a requirement. I had one student today dropping the arms and club well inside and another coming over the top, and they both felt better impact at the end of the lesson. I showed them how to balance their equation.

My job is solving swing puzzles, a new one very hour, and I’m glad it is. It would be mind-numbing boredom if I asked every golfer to do the same thing. It’s the teaching professional’s job to solve your puzzle, and I assure you that with the right guidance you can make your golf swing parts match. Are there universal truths, things that every golfer MUST do?  Yes, they are the following:

  1. Square the club face
  2. Come into the ball at a good angle
  3. Swing in the intended direction
  4. Hit the ball in the center of the face (method be damned!)

But here’s the funny part: Let Kuchar or Furyk get off base and watch every swing critic in the world blame some part of the quirkiness of their move that has led to their greatness. When players at their level get off their game, it’s generally due to poor timing or that they lost the sync/rhythm that connected their individual parts. The same holds true for all of us. We have to find the matching parts and the timing to connect them. You might not need new parts.

After all, weren’t those same parts doing the job when you shot your career low round?

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Opinion & Analysis

The numbers behind “full scholarships” in NCAA men’s college golf

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If you are in the world of junior golf, you’ve probably heard about a young man you know who’s getting that coveted full ride to college, maybe even to a Power-5 school. With all the talk in junior golf about full scholarships, and a lot of rumors about how many are available, we decided to poll coaches and gather some real data about “full scholarships.”

So, what did we find out? In total, we got responses to a voluntary online survey from 61 men’s D1 coaches, 19 men’s D2 coaches and 3 NAIA coaches (83 total). On average, the coaches in the survey had 11.8 years of coaching experience. Of the coaches that responded, 58 of the 83 coaches reported having zero players on full ride. Another 15 coaches surveyed reported having one player on full ride. This means that 69 percent of the coaches surveyed reported zero players on full scholarship and 18 percent reported one player on full scholarship, while another four coaches reported that 20 percent of their team was on full ride and six coaches reported between 2-3 players on full ride.

We then asked coaches, “what percent of golfers in Division 1 do you think have full scholarships based on your best guess?” Here’s what the responses looked like: 25 coaches said 5 percent and 36 coaches said 10 percent. This means that 73 percent of respondents suggested that, in their opinion, in men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA, there are less than 10 percent of players on full ride.

Next, we asked coaches, “what was a fair scholarship percentage to offer a player likely to play in your top 5?” The average of the 83 responses was 62.5 percent scholarship with 38 coaches (46 percent) suggesting they would give 30-50 percent and 43 coaches (52 percent) suggesting 50-75 percent. Only two coaches mentioned full scholarship.

The last question we asked coaches, was “what would you need to do to earn a full scholarship?”

  • Top-100 in NJGS/Top-250 in WAGR – 41 coaches (49 percent)
  • 250-700 in WAGR – 19 coaches (23 percent)
  • Most interesting, 17 coaches (20 percent) noted that they either did not give full rides or did not have the funding to give full rides.

The findings demonstrate that full rides among players at the men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA levels are rare, likely making up less than 10 percent of total players. It also suggests that if you are a junior player looking for a full ride, you need to be exceptional; among the very best in your class.

Please note that the survey has limitations because it does not differentiate between athletic and academic money. The fact is several institutions have a distinct advantage of being able to “stack” academic and athletic aid to create the best financial packages. My intuition suggests that the coaches who responded suggesting they have several players on “full rides” are likely at places where they are easily able to package money. For example, a private institution like Mercer might give a student $12,000 for a certain GPA and SAT. This might amount to approximately 25 percent, but under the NCAA rules it does not count toward the coach’s 4.5 scholarships. Now for 75 percent athletic, the coach can give a player a full ride.

Maybe the most interesting finding of the data collection is the idea that many programs are not funded enough to offer full rides. The NCAA allows fully funded men’s Division 1 programs to have 4.5 scholarships, while Division 2 programs are allowed 3.6. My best guess suggests that a little more than 60 percent of men’s Division 1 programs have this full allotment of scholarship. In Division 2, my guess is that this number is a lot closer to 30 percent.

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