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The three things that need to correlate for more driving distance

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By now, each of you has heard that if you want to drive the ball farther you must increase your driver’s loft to increase carry distance. And I know what happened to most of you when you went out to the range the next time and tried it. You added loft, teed the ball higher, put the ball more forward in your stance and smacked that ball WAY up into the air expecting 50 more yards!

But what happened from this point forward is something you didn’t expect — the ball did indeed fly higher and it did carry a touch farther than before, but it landed dead with absolutely no roll. So even though you hit the ball higher, your overall distance output was lower than before. What gives?

What people tend to forget is that there are three things you must correlate in order to hit the ball farther:

  1. Impact point on the club face
  2. Dynamic loft at impact
  3. Descent angle upon landing

Impact Point

If you hit the ball on the incorrect portion of the face, you can decrease launch and increase spin. That causes the ball to continue to land with little forward momentum. For the best launch conditions, you MUST hit the ball above the center of the club. If you hit the ball low in the face, regardless if it’s a centered hit or not, you will decrease your launch angle and increase your spin rate.

Use Dr. Scholl’s Odor X spray to audit your impact point with your driver. This will help you to increase your launch without increasing your spin rate.

Photo 01
Low impact equals low launch and high spin

Photo 02
For increased launch with LOWER spin, you must hit the ball above the center-line of the driver. I know these hits are on the toe, but they were my first and second swings of the day!

Dynamic Loft

Most golfers have also heard that they must have “club-head lag” so they can hit the ball farther. If a golfer’s club head lags behind them and the shaft is forward leaning to the extreme, then they will turn a 10-degree driver into a 6-degree driver adding distance, they think. This is 100 percent untrue!

While golfers must have solid impact alignments and control of the club’s actual loft at impact, too much lag or too little lag is a bad thing. I would strive to create an impact when your left arm (for a right-handed golfer) and club shaft are in-line with one another the instant the ball leaves the club head for best results as it pertains to your dynamic loft at impact.

Photo 03
In efforts to create the proper dynamic loft at impact, control the “in-line” relationship between the club shaft and the left arm instantly after impact!

Descent Angle

Pay attention as this is the key to more roll upon landing. Yes, golfers must hit the ball higher into the air for more carry distance, but in order for the ball to roll out when it hits the ground golfers should have the ball landing at about a 40-to-45 degree angle so it has the ability to run along the ground when it lands. Sadly, when most people hit the ball higher they also increase their descent angle as well, and this causes the ball to land dead with no roll.

Photo 04
Flat shots with no height rely on ROLL for increased distance!

Photo 05
The key is to hit the ball higher coupled WITH a descent angle below 45 degrees for additional roll when the ball lands!

So what’s the solution?

I would highly recommend you find a club-fitter or teacher in your area with a Trackman or FlightScope who can correlate these three factors so you can hit the ball farther than ever before. It’s just hard to manage dynamic loft and descent angle without a launch monitor. Believe me, if you do this, you will thank me.

Read More Tom Stickney II : What Flightscope and Trackman can tell you (and me)

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: [email protected]

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. GolferX

    Feb 6, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Tom, do your numbers work for sweepers? Because I tend to hit under the ball when I tee it high. I hit a 20 year old Big Bertha 10 degree, tried the newer 460’s larger head, don’t like them.

    • Tom Stickney

      Feb 7, 2014 at 1:41 am

      Hitting “under” the ball when it’s higher indicates a plane issue…tee it high and come in more shallow and you’ll be set!

  2. Jim Benjamin

    Feb 5, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    What can a player do to learn to hit higher on the clubface to achieve the optimum strike? Is it just focus or is there a reliable method?

  3. Chris Burke

    Feb 5, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    The big thing that affects distance is angle of attack. see BubbaWatson who has a different angle of attack then Charles Howell 3rd Bubba Watson can use a seven and a half degree driver .Where Charles Howell uses a 10 and a half 11

  4. bryan

    Feb 3, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    I don’t get the descent angle comment. The angle of descent is an effect, not a cause. The cause is a combination of spin and speed.

    No one can optimize their descent angle. The descent angle is optimized when people optimize their spin, launch angle, for their speed.

    Am I crazy?

    • Tom Stickney

      Feb 3, 2014 at 7:28 pm

      You are mostly correct but impact point can alter your angle of descent as can the ball you play.

  5. Ponjo

    Feb 3, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Hi Tom. I recently seen a teacher for a lesson using my Nike Covert 10.5 degree driver. These are my figures based on your screen shots above from trackman.

    Thoughts would be appreciated please

    DL. H. C. T. LA
    14.8. 49. 187. 228. 24.6
    13.1. 46. 193. 235. 23.1
    16.8. 64. 201. 234. 30.2
    18.7. 78. 207. 234. 34.6
    17.6. 65. 198. 233. 30.o
    14.0. 52. 199. 237. 25.5

    • Tom Stickney

      Feb 3, 2014 at 7:29 pm

      Looks like the 18.7 one is best. What’s the spin rate on that shot?

  6. mark

    Feb 3, 2014 at 8:46 am

    Two different clubs?

  7. DK

    Feb 2, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    Tom,
    For clarification: high launch isn’t the enemy, spin is. You can launch it high with spin at or below 2000 rpm and descent angle will be decently shallow…

    Find yourself a very low spinning driver head and you’ve found a winner!

    • Xreb

      Feb 3, 2014 at 7:50 am

      Too low spin will result in the ball falling out of the sky reducing carry if you do not have sufficient club head speed. Blanket statements such as these tend to confuse people….

      • Tom Stickney

        Feb 3, 2014 at 10:04 am

        Agree, but we can’t discuss every nuance in a quick tip article.

    • Tom Stickney

      Feb 3, 2014 at 10:07 am

      How is high launch bad? Don’t understand your statement. There isn’t a low spinning head that can recover from a low hit in the face due to vertical gear effect. Sure these heads can help but vertical impact point is the key.

  8. Sean

    Feb 2, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    I am just really impressed with your ability with your first 2 swings of the day to hit the ball on the face of the club to show 2 different shot shaps for the example’s that you did.
    Golf Clap ))(( awsome

    • Tom Stickney

      Feb 3, 2014 at 10:02 am

      Thx. Slow motion swings do wonders. 🙂

  9. Martin Chuck

    Feb 2, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    Tom, great job! Keep up good work.

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Instruction

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 2)

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Golf is very much a monkey-see-monkey-do sport. If you ever go to the local range, you are sure to see golfers trying to copy the moves of their favorite player. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not. While I understand the logic of trying to mimic the “secret move” of the most recent winner on tour, I always balk when the person trying to create their best impression fails to realize the physical differences between them and the best golfing athletes in the world.

Read part 1 here. 

In addition to most golfers not being at the same fitness levels as the best players in the world, they also do not have bodies that are identical to their favorite player. This single statement proves why there is not one golf swing; we all are different sizes and are going to swing the club differently due to these physical differences.

You have to understand your swing

The biggest reason I believe that golfers are better than they think is most golfers I meet do not understand what their swings should look like. Armed with video after video of their golf swing, I will always hear about the one thing that the golfer wishes they could change. However, that one thing is generally the “glue” or athleticism of the athlete on display and is also the thing that allows them to make decent contact with the ball.

We are just coming out of the “video age” of golf instruction, and while I think that recording your golf swing can be extremely helpful, I think that it is important to understand what you are looking for in your swing. As a young coach, I fell victim to trying to create “pretty swings”, but quickly learned that there is not a trophy for prettiest swing.

It comes down to form or function, and I choose function

The greatest gift I have ever received as an instructor was the recommendation to investigate Mike Adams and BioSwing Dynamics. Mike, E.A. Tischler, and Terry Rowles have done extensive research both with tour-level players as well as club golfers and have developed a way to test or screen each athlete to determine not only how their golf swing will look, but also how they will use the ground to create their maximum speed. This screen can be completed with a tape measure and takes about five minutes, and I have never seen results like I have since I began measuring.

For example, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a golf swing that tracks more to the outside during the backswing and intersects the body more towards the trail shoulder plane during the backswing. A golfer with a shorter wingspan than height will have a swing that tracks more to the inside and intersects the body closer to the trail hip plane. Also, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a more upright dynamic posture than a golfer with a shorter wingspan than height who will be more “bent over” at the address position.

Sport coats and golf swings

Have you ever bought a sport coat or suit for a special occasion? If so, pay attention to whether it is a short, regular, or long. If you buy a long, then it means that your arms are longer than your torso and you can now understand why you produce a “steeper” backswing. Also, if you stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your middle-finger tips touching the top of your kneecaps, you will have perfect dynamic posture that matches your anatomy. If it appears that you are in a taller posture, then you have your second clue that your wingspan is greater than your height.

Translation to improvement

Using this and five other screens, we can help the athletes understand a complete blueprint of their golf swing based off their anatomy. It is due to the work of Mike, E.A., and Terry that we can now matchup the player to their swing and help them play their best. The reason that I believe that most golfers are better than they think is that most golfers have most of the correct puzzle pieces already. By screening each athlete, we can make the one or two adjustments to get the player back to trusting their swing and feeling in control. More importantly, the athlete can revisit their screen sheet when things misfire and focus on what they need to do, instead of what not to do.

We are all different and all have different swings. There is no one way to swing a golf club because there is no one kind of golfer. I encourage every golfer to make their swing because it is the only one that fits.

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How golf should be learned

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With the COVID-19 pandemic, golf is more popular than ever. Beginners being introduced to the game often find that golf is very hard, much harder than other sports they have played. To simplify the golf swing and make the game easier, it needs to start with a concept.

Golf should first be learned from a horizontal position. If the ball was placed four feet above the ground on a large tee, players would naturally turn in an efficient direction with the proper sequence to strike the ball on the tee.

Take for example, a person throwing a ball towards a target. With their eyes out in front of them? having an awareness to the target, their body would naturally turn in a direction to go forward and around towards the target. In golf, we are bent over from the hips, and we are playing from the side of the golf ball, so players tend to tilt their body or over-rotate, causing an inefficient backswing.

This is why the golf swing should be looked at as a throwing motion. The trail arm folds up as the body coils around. To throw a ball further, the motion doesn’t require more body turn or a tilt of the body.

To get the feeling of this horizontal hitting position or throwing motion, start by taking your golf posture. Make sure your trail elbow is bent and tucked with your trail shoulder below your lead shoulder.

From here, simply lift your arms in front of you while you maintain the bend from your hips. Look over your lead shoulder looking at the target. Get the clubhead traveling first and swing your arms around you. Note how your body coils. Return the club back to its original position.

After a few repetitions, simply lower your arms back to the ball position, swing your arms around you like you did from the horizontal position. Allow your shoulders, chest and hips to be slightly pulled around. This is now your “throwing position” in the golf swing. From here, you are ready to make a downswing with less movement needed to make a proper strike.

Note: Another great drill to get the feel for this motion is practicing Hitting driver off your knees.

Twitter: @KKelley_golf

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Instruction

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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