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More Distance Off the Tee (Part 2 of 3): Lower Body Training

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The lower body in the golf swing is the engine that makes everything run. Swinging without it is like attempting to drive a car without an engine. Catch a downhill and sure… it may roll for awhile. But as soon as you encounter a hill, you stop moving. It’s kind of like most amateur’s golf swings. They compensate OK for awhile and think they’re making progress with their totally upper body driven golf swing. Then they lose it.

Related: More distance off the tee Part 1 (Upper Body Training) 

Losing your swing is not as unthinkable or shocking as many people in the golf industry would like you to think. It’s certainly not as dramatic or difficult to fix, either. As long as you are neglecting to use your lower body in creating the rotation necessary to swing the club and the rotary power to make sure the ball goes somewhere consistently, you are doomed. You will live on the roller coaster of good and bad rounds, found and lost swing thoughts and many lost golf balls. But hey, at least you’ll get a lot of strokes in your next club championship, right?

If you haven’t already read about the four major areas necessary for rotation in the golf swing and taken the tests to see how you do on them, that is what you need to do right now before reading any further. If you have looked at your rotational abilities and you are doing OK, then let’s continue on.

When it comes to creating power from the ground via the lower body, it’s all in the legs. The test that’s easiest to use when figuring out how much “pop” you may have is the vertical jump test. Average PGA Tour players jump between 18-22 inches, while LPGA players are between 16-20 inches. Long drive competitors often jump over 30 inches!

It’s simple to make an assumption that vertical leap has something to do with how much power a player can generate. In fact, the R-value that we have found with this relationship is above 0.85… for all you statistics buffs out there. The reason this occurs is because vertical leap is the simplest forms of assessing a person’s ability to generate ground reaction force, which propels them upward.  If you look at the force plate data in golfers, it is very clear that one of the critical components in generating club head speed is also the ability to create larger ground reaction forces.

So if you look at your vertical and you can only jump 13 inches, you probably have some power to gain. Conversely, if you jump 30 inches and only swing 95 mph, there are probably some other issues that you need to address (technique, upper body power, sequencing, equipment etc). But if you are that golfer with a less than impressive vertical leap, check out a couple of the exercises below to start working on your lower body’s ability to generate power. As with all power training, increasing your base level of strength will also help with exercises such as squatting, deadlifting and all other variations of lower body strength training.

For the sake of this article, I am going to assume you’re already doing all that and give you three of my favorite drills that we use with our golfers to improve their ability to generate better lower body power in the golf swing. Remember, no more than six in a set. Try to go all out on every rep.

180-Degree Jumps

The key here is to load into the inside of your loading foot and try to explode up as high as you can. When you land, control the deceleration and then explode back up into the air as high as you can.

Caveman Throws

This is a great option for those of you who would like to avoid high impact exercises like jumps. Triple extension is the single most powerful move we have as athletes. When we extend at the ankles, hips and knees in a coordinated and powerful movement, the force and speed that can be unleashed is quite impressive. Have fun with this one and just make sure you get out of the way of the ball.

90-Degree Box Jumps with Slam 

This one is for all you higher-level athletes out there who want to really get after it. Slam the ball on the outside of your foot to increase your load into the ground and then explode up onto the box as high as you can.

If you have knee issues, I would recommend avoiding the jumping exercises above and sticking to lower-impact exercises. There are, of course, lots of other options to increase your lower body power, but these are some of the most effective and simple to integrate. Enjoy!

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Chris Finn is the founder of Par4Success and a Licensed Physical Therapist, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Titleist Performance Institute Certified Medical Professional and trained to perform Trigger Point Dry Needling in North Carolina. He is regarded as the premier Golf Fitness, Performance & Medical Expert in North Carolina. Since starting Par4Success in 2011, Chris has and continues to work with Touring Professionals, elite level juniors & amateurs as well as weekend warriors. He has contributed to numerous media outlets, is a published author, a consultant and presents all over the world on topics related to golf performance and the golf fitness business.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Kit Lefroy

    Feb 9, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    A word of caution – 180 degree jumps and box jumping are potentially dangerous for seniors or anyone with knee problems. Great power exercises, but be careful.

    • the dude

      Feb 9, 2018 at 1:00 pm

      yeah…not to mention if you “catch” your foot on the box while going up and across….you could fall right on your head….and break ……your pride.

  2. Randy Bernard

    Feb 9, 2018 at 11:29 am

    Good stuff, Chris! One question: In the slam before the box jump, why doesn’t the slam begin with a squat, to fully engage the glutes and the quads? (Just to be clear, I don’t mean that the starting position is a squat but that the first motion is to squat, then explode up into full extension, then slam the ball.)

    • Chris Finn

      Feb 10, 2018 at 1:54 pm

      Thanks Randy. The slam starts extended as much as possible to increase the force that is applied through the outside leg as much as possible before the jump takes place. Because of stretch shortening principles, the more force you can apply through the tendons and soft tissue into the ground prior to the concentric explosion phase the more energy the athlete will have available to exert into the ground as they push up into the jump. By starting with more of a rotation into the hip as you squat instead of just a standard sagittal plane squat, it is more multi-planar and pre-loading the rotary sling that is necessary to complete a rotational jump. Let me know if this makes sense. If not we can chat further. Great question! – Chris

      • Randy Bernard

        Feb 17, 2018 at 7:57 pm

        Thanks, Chris. That all makes sense, now that I see the rotational part of the slam. I think I was probably moving (i.e., looking) too fast the first time and missed that. I’ll give it a try next time at the gym here in Asheville.

  3. The dude

    Feb 8, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    Why do people give this a shank???

    • CB

      Feb 9, 2018 at 1:37 am

      Because you never saw and, never will see, guys like Colin Montgomerie do it, and he’s still playing great, so why does anybody ever need to do any of these at all

      • The dude

        Feb 9, 2018 at 3:51 am

        Haha!…..fail

        So …. Mrs Doubtfire is your standard huh?,,,,it’s obvious you have never trained your body to perform better…you’d be pleasantly surprised if you did.

        • CB

          Feb 9, 2018 at 9:32 pm

          No thanks, I don’t to end up breaking my knees or my back or ribs or whatever like all them super athletes. I’d rather have a bit of a belly, feel relaxed, play fairly OK, make decent money, win a major or two and chill like Jason Dufner. And then have a career in the Senior circuit like Colin. I’d be OK with that. I don’t want to be fake like Eldrick and try to hump all them fake ladies and have no back or legs left and be left lonely. No thanks

        • Ross

          Feb 10, 2018 at 10:07 am

          Monty is one the best ball strikers about and always has been

          Monty is another name for God

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The Gear Dive: Vokey Wedge expert Aaron Dill

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In this episode of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with Titleist Tour Rep Aaron Dill on working under Bob Vokey, How he got the gig and working with names like JT, Jordan and Brooks.

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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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Is your driver the first “scoring club”?

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I was traveling Sunday and didn’t get to watch the end of the PGA Championship, so imagine my shock Monday morning when I read what had happened on that back nine. Like most everyone, I figured Brooks Koepka had his game and his emotions completely under control and Sunday’s finish would be pretty boring and anti-climactic. Man, were we wrong!!?

As I read the shot-by-shot, disaster-by-disaster account of what happened on those few holes, I have to admit my somewhat cynical self became engaged. I realize the conditions were tough, but it still boils down to the fact that Koepka nearly lost this PGA Championship because he couldn’t execute what I call “basic golf” – hitting fairways and greens – when it counted. And Dustin Johnson lost his ability to do the same just as he got within striking distance.

I’ve long been a critic of the way the game has come to be played at the highest levels; what we used to call “bomb and gouge” has become the norm at the professional tour level. These guys are big strong athletes, and they go at it harder than anyone ever did in “the old days”. Watch closely and you’ll see so many of them are on their toes or even off the ground at impact, especially with the driver. Call me old-fashioned, but I just don’t see how that can be the path to consistent shotmaking.

So, my curiosity then drove me to the year-to-date statistics on the PGA Tour website to dive into this a bit deeper. What I found was quite interesting, and I believe can be helpful to all of you readers as you think about how to lower your handicap this season. Follow me here, as I think there are some very helpful numbers from the PGA Tour.
I’ve long contended that golf is a game of ball control . . . let’s call it shotmaking. Your personal strength profile will determine whether you are a long hitter or not, and there’s probably not a lot you can do (or will do) to change that dramatically. But PGA Tour statistics indicate that accuracy, not distance, is the key to better scoring.

The Tour leader in driving accuracy is Jim Furyk, the only guy who is hitting more than 75% of the fairways. The Tour average is under 62%, or not even 2 out of 3. That means the typical round has the tour professional playing at least 4-5 approach shots from the rough. I’m going to come back to that in just a moment and explore the “cost” of those missed fairways.

The Tour leader in greens-in-regulation is Tiger Woods at 74%, almost 3-out-of-4 . . . but the Tour average is less than 66%, or just under 2-out-of-3. I believe enlightenment comes by breaking that GIR statistic down even further.
From the fairway, the Tour leader in GIR is Justin Thomas at 85% and the worst guy at 65%, three points better than the tour average for GIR overall. Hmmmmm. From the rough, however, the best guy on Tour is Taylor Gooch at 63.4%, which is not as good as the very last guy from the fairway.

But let’s dive even a bit deeper to better understand the importance of driving accuracy. Is it true these guys are so good from the rough that hitting fairways doesn’t matter? Not according to the numbers.

From the rough in the range of 125-150 yards – a wedge for most of these guys – the tour’s best hit it 25-27 feet from the hole and only 30 tour pros are averaging inside 30 feet from that distance. But from the fairway, 25 yards further back – 150-175 yards – the tour’s best hit it inside 21-23 feet, and 160 guys are getting closer than 30 feet on average. Even from 175-200 in the fairway, the best on tour hit it closer than the best on tour from the rough 50 yards closer.

So, what do you do with this information? I encourage any serious golfer to really analyze your own rounds to see the difference in your scoring on holes where you find the fairway versus those where you don’t. I feel certain you’ll find throttling back a bit with your driver and focusing more on finding the fairway, rather than trying to squeeze a few more yards of the tee will help you shoot lower scores.

If you have the inclination to see what more fairways can do to your own scores, here’s a little experiment for you. Get a buddy or two for a “research round” and play this game: When you miss a fairway, walk the ball straight over to the fairway, and then 15 yards back. So, you’ll hit every approach from the fairway, albeit somewhat further back – see what you shoot.

Next week I’m going to follow up this “enlightenment” with some tips and techniques that I feel certain will help you hit more fairways so you can take this to the bank this season.

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Opinion & Analysis

Hot & Cold: Where strokes were won and lost at the PGA Championship

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In “Hot & Cold,” we’ll be focusing each week on what specific areas of the game players excelled and disappointed in throughout the previous tournament. On Sunday, Brooks Koepka made it four wins from his last eight appearances at major championships, and here’s a look at where some of the most notable players gained and lost strokes over the four days of action at Bethpage Black.

Hot

While Brooks Koepka’s play off the tee was excellent at last week’s PGA Championship, the American utterly dominated the field with his deadly approach play. The 29-year-old led the field in New York for his approach play gaining 9.5 strokes over his competitors. In case you were wondering, this represents Koepka’s career-best performance with his irons. Check out the clubs Koepka did the damage with at Bethpage Black in our WITB piece here.

Jordan Spieth finished T3 at last week’s event, and the Texan was streets ahead of anyone for the four days with the flat-stick in hand. Spieth gained a mammoth 10.6 strokes over the field on the greens of Bethpage Black, which is over three strokes more than anyone else achieved. It was the best-putting display of the 25-year-old’s career thus far, and Spieth now heads to Colonial CC ranked first in this week’s field for strokes gained: putting over his last 12 rounds.

Dustin Johnson came agonizingly close to capturing his second major title last week, and encouragingly for DJ is that he gained strokes in all of the significant strokes gained categories. Johnson also led the field for strokes gained: off the tee, gaining 7.2 strokes over the field – his best performance in this area this year.

Cold

Bubba Watson endured a wretched two days on the greens at Bethpage Black. In just 36 holes, Watson lost 6.8 strokes to the field with the flat-stick. Even more frustrating for Watson is that he gained 6.5 strokes for the two day’s tee to green. A tale of what could have been for the two-time Masters champion.

Phil Mickelson faded badly at last week’s championship, and it was a poor display with his irons that did the damage. Lefty lost 6.3 strokes to the field for his approach play in New York, which is his worst display in this area for 2019.

It was a quick exit for Tiger Woods at Bethpage Black, and though the 15-time major champion was far from his best off the tee (losing half a stroke), it was Woods’ putting that was his undoing. Woods lost almost a stroke and a half on the greens at Bethpage – his worst display with the putter since last August.

 

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