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More Distance for Golf (Part 3): Long Drive Fitness

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Professional Long Drivers Tend to Be Very Strong

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.

Get Stronger

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.

IsometricsGolfFitnessSecond, 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.

For more information, visit Swing Man Golf and/or start working with a qualified long drive expert near you.

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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

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Nick W

    Sep 19, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    What’s a 700 lb Half Squat?

  2. asugrad1988

    Sep 18, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    Could you just put some of those weighted donuts on the end of an old club and still get the same effect as the devices you talk about in your story?

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Sep 18, 2017 at 3:42 pm

      Yeah, that would fall under the category of practicing swinging fast. Be careful with the heavier type stuff though. Be safe. Don’t spend too much time swinging slow…your power could actually go down if you add/convert strength but it’s slow twitch type muscle. Use the radar for speed feedback to track your progress as well.

    • RonMcD

      Sep 19, 2017 at 2:18 pm

      Weighted training clubheads are the worst thing you can do to your swing. Just because you can swing a weighted club does not mean you can swing a light club properly. This is stupid logic by ignorant people on how to train and strengthen.
      Swinging a weighted club will injure your hands and wrists and even your shoulders if overdone with higher speed ballistic swinging. If you want to swing a weight put the weight on your forearm wrist…. one of those strap-on or flexible donut rings specifically made for wrist weighting.
      Swinging a weighted clubhead is outright stupid, biomechanically.

  3. Nick

    Sep 18, 2017 at 2:02 am

    Come on Jaaco…. tell the truth about ‘strong’. You don’t need excessively strong arms and hands because they mostly flail around the body.
    It’s shoulder strength that is important because your shoulders must transmit all the energy from your body — feet, legs, hips, torso, in order to torque your shoulder span. And shoulder torque is what flings the arms, hands and lastly the club at high speed. Speed is all about rotation, not ‘hitting’ the ball with the club, arms and hands.
    Okay, you gotta have stronger arms, wrists, and hands to stabilize the swing at the joints, but certainly not massive body building arms. In fact, it can be argued that massive arm mass will slow down your clubhead swing speed. Think of that!

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Sep 18, 2017 at 11:31 am

      I am telling the truth. Strength matters. 🙂

      We are sometimes taught to have supple arms and just let them go along for the ride. But rather I think that is just a signpost pointing to not over swinging. In my testing, this is around 92-95% of your current max. If you were to truly let the arms and hands go along for the ride and, at most, only stabilize the swing, speed drops off tremendously. The arms and hands do much more than simply flail around the body. Yes, shoulder strength is important, but so are the strength of your arms, wrists, and hands. There is much more hit with those parts of the body than you might think.

      As you move between the various groups of golfers, for example, senior ladies -> senior men -> average amateurs -> tour players -> long drivers…there’s an overall correlation in their strength. There are other factors involved but I would definitely take the strength of a professional long driver over Mr. and Mrs. Havercamp.

      I also never said you need massive body building arms. In fact, I even said “They’re not necessarily big, but strong.” You can get a lot stronger without getting bigger. Muscle takes up less space than fat, so you could even get significantly stronger and get smaller. And even if you are bigger, you can still be incredibly flexible and mobile while still being big if you make sure to train to retain or enhance those things.

  4. Markallister

    Sep 17, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    this is very good advice. the most important thing is to be strong. glad you see the truth.

    • RonMcD

      Sep 19, 2017 at 2:21 pm

      But at least half of all golfers worldwide are fat, decrepit and inflexible… and should not be attempting to play golf. Shuffleboard and holdem poker only.

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A different perspective

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A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to play a round with two of the greens keepers at a local golf course and it was a fascinating experience. It gave me a chance to get a behind-the-scenes view of what it takes to make a golf course great.

Many of us play at public courses, and sometimes its luck of the draw if the course we are at is in good condition. In my case, if I find a course that is well maintained and taken care of, I make it a regular stop. In this case, I was at Ridgeview Ranch in Plano Texas and it is a great public course and I play here at least once a month.

The two guys I played with were Tony Arellano and Jose Marguez. Both were great guys to share a round with. Tony shared what it’s like to make sure that all the greens are maintained properly and watered correctly. He showed me where there were some issues with one of the greens that I would never have noticed. We talked about how the invasion of Poa annua grass forces his guys to pull it out by hand with a tool that is smaller than a divot repair tool. It became clear to me that as a golf community, we need to lift up the people that do this labor-intensive work and thank them for all they do. Ridgeview Ranch is without a doubt one of the better public courses in my area, and it is because of the hard work these men do that keeps it this way.

As we watched the Masters tournament a few weeks ago we were awestruck by the awesome beauty of Augusta National and in my case I believe that is what heaven looks like. I think we take that kind of beauty for granted and forget the massive amount of time and hard work that go into making a golf course look good. These people have to deal with all of the different factors that Mother Nature throws at them and be prepared for anything. In addition to that, they also have to make sure the watering system is maintained as well as all of their equipment.

I have played at other courses in the DFW area that have a terrible staff and a superintendent that either don’t care about the course or don’t know how to stop it from falling apart. The course won’t spend the money to go get the right people that will take pride in their work. Some of these places will charge you more than $80 per round, and when you get to the first green that has dry spots that are without any grass you feel like you have been ripped off.

We all love this game not because it’s easy but because it’s a challenge and being good at it takes a ton of effort. We also love it because it gives us a chance to hang out with friends and family and enjoy time outside in the sun– hopefully without cell phone interruptions and other distractions of our modern day. We spend a ton of money on green fees, equipment and sometimes travel. We want to get what we pay for and we want to have a great course to spend the day at.

I wanted to write this article to thank all of those men and women that start work in the early hours of the day and work through the hottest stretches of the summer to keep our golf courses in great shape. They are people that never get the credit they deserve and we should always thank them whenever possible. Tony and Jose are just two examples of the people who work so hard for all of us. Ridgeview Ranch is lucky to have these two men who not only work hard but were fantastic representatives of their course. So next time you are out there and you see these people working hard, maybe stop and say thank you let them know what they do really makes a difference.

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5 most common golf injuries (and how to deal with them)

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You might not think about golf as a physically intensive game, but that doesn’t change the fact it is still a sport. And as with every sport, there’s a possibility you’ll sustain an injury while playing golf. Here’s a list of the five most common injuries you might sustain when playing the game, along with tips on how to deal with them in the best way possible so you heal quickly.

Sunburn

While not directly an injury, it’s paramount to talk about sunburns when talking about golf. A typical golf game is played outside in the open field, and it lasts for around four hours. This makes it extremely likely you’ll get sunburnt, especially if your skin is susceptible to it.

That’s why you should be quite careful when you play golf

Apply sunscreen every hour – since you’re moving around quite a lot on a golf course, sunscreen won’t last as long as it normally does.

Wear a golf hat – aside from making you look like a professional, the hat will provide additional protection for your face.

If you’re extra sensitive to the sun, you should check the weather and plan games when the weather is overcast.

Rotator Cuff Injury

A rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that surround the shoulder joint. This group are the main muscles responsible for swing movements in your arms. It’s no surprise then that in golf, where the main activity consists of swinging your arms, there’s a real chance this muscle group might sustain an injury.

To avoid injuries to this group, it’s imperative you practice the correct form of swinging the club. Before playing, you should also consider some stretching.

If you get an injury, however, you can recover faster by following RICE:

Rest: resting is extremely important for recovery. After an injury, the muscles are extremely vulnerable to further injury, and that’s why you should immediately stop playing and try to get some rest.

Ice: applying ice to the injured area during the first day or two can help. It reduces inflammation and relaxes the muscles.

Compress: bandage the rotator cuff group muscle and compress the muscles. This speeds up the muscle healing process.

Elevate: elevate the muscles above your heart to help achieve better circulation of blood and minimize fluids from gathering.

Wrist Injuries

Wrist tendons can sustain injuries when playing golf. Especially if you enjoy playing with a heavy club, it can put some strain on the wrist and cause wrist tendonitis, which is characterized by inflammation and irritation.

You should start by putting your wrist in a splint or a cast – it is necessary to immobilize your wrist to facilitate healing.

Anti-inflammatory medicine can relieve some of the pain and swelling you’ll have to deal with during the healing process. While it might not help your wrist heal much quicker, it’ll increase your comfort.

A professional hand therapist knows about the complexities of the wrist and the hand and can help you heal quicker by inspecting and treating your hands.

Back Pain

A golf game is long, sometimes taking up to 6 hours. This long a period of standing upright, walking, swinging clubs, etc. can put stress on your back, especially in people who aren’t used to a lot of physical activities:

If you feel like you’re not up for it, you should take a break mid-game and then continue after a decent rest. A golf game doesn’t have any particular time constraints, so it should be simple to agree to a short break.

If you don’t, consider renting a golf cart, it makes movement much easier. If that’s not possible, you can always buy a pushcart, which you can easily store all the equipment in. Take a look at golf push cart reviews to know which of them best suits your needs.

Better posture – a good posture distributes physical strain throughout your body and not only on your back, which means a good posture will prevent back pain and help you deal with it better during a game.

Golfer’s Elbow

Medically known as medial epicondylitis, golfer’s elbow occurs due to strain on the tendons connecting the elbow and forearm. It can also occur if you overuse and over-exhaust the muscles in your forearm that allow you to grip and rotate your arm:

A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug is the way to go to alleviate the most severe symptoms of the injury at the beginning.

Lift the club properly, and if you think there’s a mismatch between your wrist and the weight of the club, you should get a lighter one.

Learn when you’ve reached your limit. Don’t overexert yourself – when you know your elbow is starting to cause you problems, take a short break!

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TG2: Our PGA picks were spot on…and Rob hit a school bus with a golf ball

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Rob picked Brooks to win the PGA and hit the nail on the head, while Knudson’s DJ pick was pretty close. Rob hit a school bus with a golf ball and we talk about some new clubs that are going to be tested in the next couple days.

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

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