In Part 3, the final part of my “More Distance for Golf” series, we’re going to talk about what you can do to get longer from a golf fitness standpoint.
Catch Up: In Part 1 of the series, I wrote about some of the technical aspects of the swing you can employ for more distance in your golf game that were based on cues from professional long drivers, In Part 2, I shared some things that could help you get more distance from an equipment standpoint.
Long Drive Golf Fitness
In all of the interviews I’ve done with my professional long drive colleagues and friends via Swing Man Golf, just one of them said they swing as fast as they do naturally. The lone exception, who said his distance was natural, told me in the interview that he’s in the gym 5-6 days/week. So whether they realize it or not, every single long-drive guy is doing or has done something from a golf fitness standpoint to be able to swing faster to generate more ball speed. So what are some things they do… and that you can do?
Practice Swinging Faster
First, simply practice swinging faster. This may sound obvious, but virtually none of the golf world does it outside of professional long drivers. It makes perfect sense, too.
If you think about wanting to get better at something, you practice it. If you want to get better at playing the piano, you sit your butt down at the piano and start clacking away. The same goes for building club head speed. If you want to get faster, you need to spend some time trying to swing faster. A few tips I’d point out when doing this are:
1. Track Your Speed. In general, results are better when you have some sort of measuring device to track your speed. In this way, you also make sure you are pushing yourself on your training swings. It also feels good over time as you see the speeds go up. Although Flightscope has a function on it where you can measure the speed of what you are swinging without needing to hit balls, I typically recommend the Sports Sensors Swing Speed Radar. It’s lightweight, travels and packs up well, is accurate enough, and it’s much easier on your wallet than buying a full out launch monitor.
2. Remember, accuracy matters. Swing as fast as you can while still retaining good fundamentals and control. If you’re going to build speed, it’s important that it be “keep-your-ball-on-the-golf course” speed.
3. One way is fine. You can swing opposite-handed if you want for the sake of body balance or “being able to stop the speed you are trying to build on your dominant swinging side,” but it’s not necessary. Some aspects of training are important for training both sides, but practicing swinging fast is not one of them. If you focus on good clean balanced finished positions, that can suffice for training to “stop what you start”.
4. Take Your Time. Don’t rapid fire the swings or rush to look at the radar. Make a swing, check your balance at the end, take in what you did, then look at the radar if you want and re-set for the next swing. This also gives your body a little break between swings to make sure you are going at peak speed for each swing. Do too many in a row, and the speed starts dropping off. The same rhythm you would use for hitting balls on the range is a decent guideline.
5. Range balls are optional. You can hit balls if you want, but if you do, don’t worry as much about what the ball does or where it goes. Remember, this is an exercise for more speed.
6. Training clubs can help. From a swing speed training standpoint, there are overspeed-type training aids (for example, Super Speed Golf or the Speed Whoosh). Then there are those that provide wind resistance (a Swing Fan, section of a pool noodle, etc) and heavy clubs. Heavy clubs are okay provided you swing them fast, but use caution because you want to stay injury-free. Typically, I prefer the other two types. Whether you incorporate training aids is up to you. The important thing is that you are spending time trying to swing faster.
Second, work on getting stronger over time… a lot stronger. Long-drive guys tend to be very strong. They’re not necessarily big, but strong. For example, two-time World Long Drive Champion Jamie Sadlowski weighs just 165-175 pounds, yet he has done hexbar deadlifts (a rack pull is similar and more highly recommended) for reps with over 480 pounds on the bar. That requires a strong everything: hands, forearms, lower back, butt, hamstrings, etc. I’ve swung in the low 140s when I used to compete, and when I was at my strongest I had built up incrementally to 700-pound half squats.
Also, although it helps to be strong in all aspects of the swing, the most important place is in the downswing. Remember, all of us — whether world long-drive champion or senior club player — start at 0 mph at the top of the backswing and get to whatever speed you are at impact.
While there are lots of good way to build golf swing strength, isometrics are a nice easy place for anyone to start. I wrote about that for GolfWRX here.
If building speed is your primary concern, make sure the exercises closely mimic your golf swing for best distance gain results. And keep the reps down. For example, you might do 3-6 sets of two repetitions versus three sets of 10, 8, and 6 reps.
You can also move to relatively heavy, explosive power-type moves rather quickly if your form is good and you’ve spent a few sessions working up to what’s considered heavy for you. Of course, do use good sense and pay attention to your body and what you are doing. There’s no reason to hurt yourself. Working with a qualified pro, coach, or trainer can help. Move up in resistance or weight whenever you can safely do so.
Lengthen Your Backswing
Finally, as was mentioned in Part 1, a longer backswing has a greater potential to hit the ball farther. That being said, a longer back swing may or may not be what’s best for you. It depends a little bit on your goals and what you want to do, so you may want to consider thinking about the pros and cons and/or discussing with your instructor before jumping in.
If a longer backswing is a direction you want to go, I’d recommend a couple things. First, work directly on the range of your backswing length. That’s the most important one because it hits all the areas you need in the precise way you’ll use them. For example, you could go to the top of your backswing in front of a mirror and take a few slow deep breaths. As you breath out, feel the tension seep out of the tight spots in your body and allow yourself to go back slightly farther. There’s no harm in doing this multiple days per week if you want.
You could also use a band and ever so slightly walk yourself out away from the anchor point to help get your body to rotate farther back away from the ball.
Second, beyond working specifically on your backswing, focus on things that will improve the range of your neck rotation (your ability to keep your head on the ball while swinging back). You can also work on the range of your torso rotation and hip rotation.
So there you go! Hopefully, this long-drive series has provided you with some insight in to what you can do add distance at any age or skill level through improvements to your technique, equipment, and body.
Gear Dive: How Tiger Woods used to adjust his clubs based on swing changes
Ben Giunta, a former Nike Tour Rep and now owner of the TheTourVan.com, joins host Johnny Wunder and TXG’s Ian Fraser on this episode of The Gear Dive. Ben discusses working in-depth with Nike Athletes before the company stopped producing hard goods. He has some fantastic intel on TW and the setup of his sticks (around the 14-minute mark). They also discuss Ben’s new endeavor.
Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!
The 2018 NCAA Men’s National Championship: By the Numbers
For the 2018 NCAA Men’s Championship, 156 participants (30 teams of five, and six individuals) will collect at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma on May 25-30 to determine the 2018 NCAA Individual Champion and the NCAA Team champion.
There will be three days of stroke play on Friday through Sunday (54 holes). From there, 15 teams and nine individuals advance to a final day of stroke play on Monday. That will determine the eight teams who will advance to match play, and the individual 72-hole stroke play champion. Match play format on Tuesday and Wednesday will then determine the national team champion.
Who will win? Well, let’s look at the numbers from the NCAA Men’s Championships in the past 9 years (when they began playing match play as part of the national title).
Average winning score for individual stroke play
- For 3 rounds of stroke play — 832 strokes (avg. 69.3 per golfer)
- For 4 rounds of stroke play — 1137 strokes (avg. 71.06 per golfer)
Number of No. 1 seeds to win championship: 0
Average match play seed of eventual winner: 4.5
Where the winners have come from
- 44 percent of winners (4 out of 9) are from the SEC: Texas AM (2009), Alabama (2013, 2014) and LSU (2015)
- 22 percent of winners (2 out of 9) are from the Big 12: Texas (2012), Oklahoma (2017)
- 22 percent of winners (2 out of 9) are from Augusta, GA: August State (2010, 2011)
- 11 percent of winners (1 out of 9) are from the PAC 12: Oregon (2016)
- 11 percent of the match play field has historically come from mid-major teams
Mid-Majors that have Qualified for Match Play
- August State (2010, 2011)
- Kent State (2012)
- San Diego State (2012)
- New Mexico University (2013)
- SMU (2014)
- UNLV (2017)
Mid Majors with 4+ Appearances in the NCAA National Championship
- UCF (2009, 2012, 2013, 2017, 2018)
- Kent State (2010, 201, 2013, 2017, 2018)
- North Florida (2010, 2012, 2013, 2018)
So with facts in hand, let’s hear your opinion GolfWRX readers… who’s going to be your team champion for 2018?
Fantasy Preview: 2018 Fort Worth Invitational
Under a new name, but a very familiar setting, the Fort Worth Championship gets underway this week. Colonial Country Club will host, and it’s an event that has attracted some big names to compete in the final stop of the Texas swing. The top two ranked Europeans, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose are in the field, as are Americans Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.
Colonial is a tricky course with narrow tree-lined fairways that are imperative to hit. Distance off the tee holds no real advantage this week with approach play being pivotal. Approach shots will be made more difficult this week than usual by the greens at Colonial, which are some of the smallest on the PGA Tour. Last year, Kevin Kisner held off Spieth, Rahm, and O’Hair to post 10-under par and take the title by a one-stroke margin.
Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)
- Jordan Spieth 9/1
- Jon Rahm 14/1
- Justin Rose 18/1
- Webb Simpson 18/1
- Rickie Fowler 20/1
- Jimmy Walker 28/1
- Adam Scott 28/1
Last week, Jordan Spieth (9/1, DK Price $11,700) went off at the Byron Nelson as the prohibitive 5/1 favorite. Every man and his dog seemed to be on him, and after Spieth spoke to the media about how he felt he had a distinct advantage at a course where he is a member, it was really no surprise. Comments like this from Spieth at the Byron Nelson are not new. When the event was held at TPC Four Seasons, Spieth often made similar comments. The result? He flopped, just as he did last week at Trinity Forest. Spieth’s best finish at the Byron Nelson in his career is T-16. The reason for this, I believe, is the expectations he has put on himself at this event for years.
Switch to Colonial, and the difference is considerable. Spieth’s worst finish here is T-14. In his last three visits, he has finished second, first and second. While Spieth may believe that he should win the Byron Nelson whenever he tees it up there, the evidence suggests that his love affair is with Colonial. The statistic that truly emphasizes his prowess at Colonial, though, is his Strokes Gained-Total at the course. Since 2013, Spieth has a ridiculous Strokes Gained-Total of more than +55 on the course, almost double that of Kisner in second place.
Spieth’s long game all year has been consistently good. Over his previous 24 rounds, he ranks first in this field for Strokes Gained-Tee to Green, second for Ball Striking, and first for Strokes Gained-Total. On the other hand, his putting is awful at the moment. He had yet another dreadful performance on the greens at Trinity Forest, but he was also putting nowhere near his best coming into Colonial last year. In 2017, he had dropped strokes on the greens in his previous two events, missing the cut on both occasions, yet he finished seventh in Strokes Gained-Putting at Colonial on his way to a runner-up finish. His record is too good at this course for Spieth to be 9/1, and he can ignite his 2018 season in his home state this week.
Emiliano Grillo’s (50/1, DK Price $8,600) only missed cut in 2018 came at the team event in New Orleans, and he arrives this week at a course ideally suited to the Argentine’s game. Grillo performed well here in 2017, recording a top-25 finish. His form in 2018 leads me to believe he can improve on that this year.
As a second-shot golf course, Colonial sets up beautifully for the strengths of Grillo’s game. Over his previous 12 rounds, Grillo ranks first in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, second in Ball Striking, third in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green and eighth in Strokes Gained-Total. The Argentine also plays short golf courses excellently. Over his last 50 rounds, Grillo is ranked ninth for Strokes Gained-Total on courses measuring 7,200 yards or less. Colonial is right on that number, and Grillo looks undervalued to continue his consistent season on a course that suits him very well.
Another man enjoying a consistent 2018 is Adam Hadwin (66/1, DK Price $7,600), who has yet to miss a cut this season. The Canadian is enjoying an excellent run of form with five top-25 finishes from his last six stroke-play events. Hadwin is another man whose game is tailor made for Colonial. His accurate iron play and solid putting is a recipe for success here, and he has proven that by making the cut in all three of his starts at Colonial, finishing in the top-25 twice.
Hadwin is coming off his worst performance of 2018 at The Players Championship, but it was an anomaly you can chalk up to a rare poor week around the greens (he was seventh-to-last in Strokes Gained-Around the Green for the week). In his previous seven starts, Hadwin had a positive strokes gained total in this category each time. Over his last 24 rounds, Hadwin ranks seventh in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, 15th in Ball Striking, and ninth in Strokes Gained-Putting. He looks to have an excellent opportunity to improve on his solid record at Colonial this week.
Finally, as far as outsiders go, I like the look of Sean O’Hair (175/1, DK Price $7,100) at what is a juicy price. One of last year’s runners-up, his number is far too big this week. He has had some excellent performances so far in 2018. In fact, in his previous six starts, O’Hair has made five cuts and has notched three top-15 finishes, including his runner-up finish at the Valero Texas Open. The Texan has made three of his last four cuts at Colonial, and he looks to be an excellent pick on DraftKings at a low price.
- Jordan Spieth 9/1, DK Price $11,700
- Emiliano Grillo 50/1, DK Price $8.600
- Adam Hadwin 66/1, DK Price $7,600
- Sean O’Hair 175/1, DK Price $7,100
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