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As a golf teacher and coach, I understand how important driving distance is. I have yet to have a student ask me if I can help them hit it shorter. As statistical analysis has continued to improve, the importance of distance and how advantageous it is has come to the forefront.

There are two primary ways to increase distance, especially with the driver. The first is to increase clubhead speed. This is what I see most golfers trying to do when they want more distance. They reason that the harder you swing the farther the ball will go. That’s sound reasoning, but it doesn’t always work. The second way, and arguably easier way to increase distance, is to increase your efficiency, because a more efficient swing creates more ball speed and better launch conditions, thus increasing carry and total yardage even with the same clubhead speed.

I find it much easier to improve distance among my students by attacking efficiency rather than speed. This is not to say that you cannot and should not try to increase speed, but speed without efficiency will have minimal impact on your overall yardage.

So what makes a driver swing efficient? Center contact and the proper launch conditions. If you struggle with both, don’t worry. I have a drill to help at the bottom of this story.

Center Contact

Ball speed off the center of the club face will always be higher than the ball speed from a mis-hit shot with the same clubhead speed. Also, off-center hits — especially with the driver — greatly influence the flight of the ball, and can cause a good swing to produce off-line shots.

  • Worst place to hit the ball for ball speed: Low, heel.
  • Best places to hit the ball for ball speed: Center, slightly high toe.

Launch Conditions

High launch, low spin is what you always hear is the secret to more distance — and it’s not so secret anymore to distance. While the statement is generally true, golfers need to match their launch angle and spin rate to their swing speed, as well as their angle of attack to get the absolute most distance off the tee.

As you can see from the Trackman tables below, every clubhead speed has an ideal launch angle and spin rate for maximum distance. A swing speed of 80 mph will not create optimal distance if it is matched with the optimal launch angle and spin rate of someone swinging 120 mph, and vice versa. Across the board, however, what’s apparent is how much more driver distance golfers can create when they hit up on their driver rather than down.

Optimal Launch Conditions for 75-95 mph Swing Speeds

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Optimal Launch Conditions for 100-120 mph Swing Speeds

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I’m routinely asked if the driver swing is the same as the iron swing, which requires a downward angle of attack because the majority of iron shots are hit off the ground. Although I do not always say this the answer is no, the swings are not the same. Trackman data, as well as video studies and pressure traces prove it.

The driver has the shallowest average attack angle of any club in the bag. We also see the most rearward head movement with the driver of all the clubs, particularly halfway down into impact. Ideally the head is staying back, allowing the driver to move in an upward fashion sooner. That’s what enables some golfers to optimize their launch conditions, contact and overall distance with the driver.

For some golfers this is an unconscious act, something they have developed over time through feel and adaptation. For those of you who struggle with distance and have poor launch conditions, however, the drill below is an excellent way to quickly get the correct feel for how the driver should move through impact for optimal launch conditions and total yardage.

The Drill

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Tee a ball up so that it is about 3/4 of an inch above the crown of the driver. Then place an alignment stick in the ground about 6 inches behind the ball and six inches above the ground. Lay another alignment stick on the ground 6 inches front of the ball to promote an upward move through impact. The swing back and through under the stick, trying not to hit it, while smashing a big drive.

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This station will create an environment where you can only hit the ball solid by missing the sticks. Such feedback is critical to making this change.

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Originally from Portland Oregon, Devan played collegiate golf at College of the Desert in Palm Desert before transferring to San Diego State. In 2007, he started working for Jim McLean at PGA West. There Devan was able to spend significant time with Jim McLean and was subsequently asked by Jim to move to the TPC Doral location in Miami, Florida, to be his Personal Teaching Assistant. At Doral, Devan was able to teach with Jim in every golf lesson, clinic and school that he taught. Some of the notable players he worked with while Jim’s assistant were Greg Norman, Keegan Bradley, Lexi Thompson, Eric Compton and Vaughn Taylor. Devan also aided Jim in the writing of his Death Moves book in 2009. In 2011 Devan was offered a Master Instructor position at The Jim McLean Junior Academy in Dallas/Fort Worth. He spent the next five years helping develop some of the best Junior golfers in the country. In addition to Jim McLean, Devan has had the opportunity to spend significant time with Mike Bender, Jim Hardy, Hank Haney, Chuck Cook and Jim Flick. The culmination of this time has helped shape the way Devan teaches golf. Devan enjoys working with players of all abilities from the High Performance Junior to the Weekend Golfer.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Duncan Marc

    Oct 23, 2016 at 11:01 am

    When I try to get the positive AoA, I either: Hit a high weak fade or a roping mid height hook.
    And I have a tendency to have my weight shift backwards.
    Roughly 92-95 mph with driver….

    • Devan Bonebrake

      Oct 25, 2016 at 12:56 pm

      Most likely another part of your swing is too steep such as your hand path club path or both and therefore you must stay excessively back with your weight through impact in order to not hit down on the driver. My suggestion is to shallow out your downswing and perhaps downswing feeling more rounded and that should help both your angle of attack and weight shift.

  2. KK

    Oct 23, 2016 at 9:35 am

    Hitting driver with a positive AoA is difficult but can be a game-changer because of the distance and ability to cut corners with the high ball flight. I believe it should be part of instruction from day 1 for every golfer. Sadly, reality is far different.

    • Devan Bonebrake

      Oct 25, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      Yes it does not mean you have to hit up to be a good driver. However for most of students who needs more distance this is much easier than changing club head speed and also a faster process. I agree with your idea!

  3. Joergensen

    Oct 23, 2016 at 8:27 am

    I’ve seen the Trackman charts many times, and I still don’t get them. As far as I can see, all they say is that hitting 5 degrees up is better than 0 degrees or 5 degrees down, regardless of your swingspeed and driver loft. Says nothing about the optimal launch angle or spin rate.

    • gearhead

      Oct 24, 2016 at 7:10 pm

      Here you go…Ideal Numbers:
      Ball Speed–Launch Angle–Back Spin (rpm’s)

      Carry Distance
      170 mph 11.5-15.5+* 2000-2400 289 yards
      160 mph 12-16+* 2200-2650 271 yards
      150 mph 13-16.5+* 2300-2800 252 yards
      140 mph 14-17+* 2350-2950 233 yards
      130 mph 14.5-17* 2400-3100 215 yards
      120 mph 15-17* 2500-3300 196 yards

    • Devan Bonebrake

      Oct 25, 2016 at 1:00 pm

      The charts down the right side show ideal launch and spin. This can be created from a combination of club fitting and swing and does not necessarily need to be created from attack angle alone.

  4. Pingback: How to create an upward angle of attack for more driver distance | Swing Update

  5. Matt

    Oct 22, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    I get what you are saying and agree. I hit down on the driver. On Trackman its been as much as -9.5. My issue in trying to correct it is – the more I try to hit up on the ball, the more I end up hanging back my weight shift. I tend to hit off right foot and have a horribly high climbing slice that rarely stays any where near the fairway. What can i do to help get beyond that flaw?

    Thank you

    • Devan Bonebrake

      Oct 22, 2016 at 11:55 pm

      So in your case, you may be getting your steep angle from the arms or club or both. Also make sure that you play the ball far enough forward otherwise you will have to hang back to create a upward blow. Use the classic image of Hogan swinging under a plane of glass and try to see if that helps shallow your a of a.

    • Chris Keena

      Oct 24, 2016 at 11:21 pm

      Drop your right foot back 4 inches and concentrate on swinging in to out. In other words, poke it down the right field foul line. Maybe you need to chop an inch off your driver shaft. Try to hit a draw, maybe it will go straight.

  6. Bug

    Oct 22, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    It all depends on the players golf swing dynamics as well as the club characteristics. Not all players (amateur or professional) require an upward angle of attack. To say it does is absolutely incorrect.

    • Dill Pickleson

      Oct 24, 2016 at 1:28 am

      for max distance you do. care to offer any bro science for us, bug?

    • Devan Bonebrake

      Oct 25, 2016 at 1:19 pm

      I totally agree. I fact as the Inventor of trackman will admit the lower the spin loft the less control of the direction you have. Therefore there is always a risk reward with improving certain aspects of your swing. However for many people who need distance improving the launch conditions can quickly give them the added yardage they need.

  7. Larry

    Oct 22, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    There have been more amateur swings messed up by trying to hit their driver with an upward attack angle. The best thing amateurs should do is swing level with the driver.

    • Nathan

      Oct 23, 2016 at 5:45 am

      To this point…is it actually important to ‘hit up’ on the ball? If I can reproduce the ‘ideal’ launch angle (say with a level strike and a higher lofted club) won’t my distances be identical?

    • Leftienige

      Oct 24, 2016 at 2:45 pm

      Hi Larry. I agree, ever since this”you MUST hit up with your driver” appeared in mags and on-line teaching my game has plummeted . At worst I’ve hit the turf 6″ before the ball and bounced the driver right over the top of it! Now I’m trying a flat to very slightly downward strike my game is getting back to where it was 2 years ago. This theory almost made me give up this great game. Cheers all , Nige .

    • Devan Bonebrake

      Oct 25, 2016 at 1:24 pm

      Hi Larry, I do think hitting level or up can greatly benefit most amatuers from a distance perspective. However as you eluded to, doing so the wrong way or hurting contact and directional control is not worth the attempt.

  8. Tom

    Oct 22, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    PXG in the house.

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Instruction

The Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training

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If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”

Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.

In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.

The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.

[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]

Baseball/Softball Hitters

Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.

Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.

So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!

Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers

There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.

If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.


Dance

My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).

Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.

Hockey

Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.

If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.

Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.

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Clement: Effortless power for senior golfers

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Are you struggling with range of motion? Want more EFFORTLESS POWER? We are truly the experts at this having taught these methods for 25 plus years, while others were teaching resistance, breaking everyone’s backs and screwing up their minds with endless positions to hit and defects to fix. Welcome home to Wisdom in Golf!

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Clement: How to turbo charge your swing

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The shift in golf instruction continues and Wisdom in Golf and GolfWRX are right out there blazing a trail of fantastic content and techniques to get you to feel the most blissful, rhythmic golf shots you can strike! This here is the humdinger that keeps on giving and is now used by a plethora of tour players who are benefitting greatly and moving up the world rankings because of it.

The new trend (ours is about 25 years young) is the antithesis of the “be careful, don’t move too much, don’t make a mistake” approach we have endured for the last 30 years plus. Time to break free of the shackles that hold you back and experience the greatness that is already right there inside that gorgeous human machine you have that is so far from being defective! Enjoy!

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