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Increase your driving distance by becoming more efficient

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The holy grail of driving distance is efficiency. Not how physically strong you are, or your club head speed, and certainly not your effort level! I’ll say it again: distance efficiency is king.

Now I want you to remember the following numbers: 1.49, 2.78, 37 and+5. There will be a quiz later on.

Consider the following chart:

TrackmanOptimals

Trackman has established these numbers as optimal for different angles of attack.

First question: Are your best drives going as far as the maximums on the +5 angle of attack lines in this chart? That means at sea level, without wind or lucky bounces. No cheating!

For example, a perfectly optimal golfer swinging at 90 mph should net 250 yards off the tee. That is around 2.78 yards per mph of club head speed. This is best effort, not average. We will examine that in a minute.

You must have the three magic numbers in place to achieve this level of performance. First, 1.49 smash factor (or higher), which is an indication of square center contact. Second, you must achieve a +5 or greater angle of attack. Third, you must land the ball with about a 37-degree angle of descent. This requires the right combination of launch angle and spin rate.

Most golfers are missing 30 yards or more due to inefficiencies in contact, club head delivery and trajectory. My experience on the lesson tee tells me lost distance can be as high as 80 yards! Don’t believe me? Keep reading!

Of course, no golfer is a robot; we all mishit and have variances in our swings. Then there’s outside variables like wind and ground condition. So most golfers probablt won’t achieve 2.78 yards per mph, but it is still an area where they improve tremendously. Even great golfers can be losing a ton of distance. Let’s take an example from the PGA Tour to prove this point.

At 112 mph (average Tour club head speed), the perfect efficiency quotient moves to 2.82 mph (interpolated from the chart above).

Tim Clark led the Tour in driving distance efficiency in 2013 at 2.64 yards per mph. Studying previous years, it appears the upper boundary for this stat is around 2.70.

Clark averaged 276 yards per drive at only 104.5 mph. Comparatively, Sergio Garcia (who ranked 176th), averaged 292 yards per drive at nearly 121 mph, for a 2.42 yards per mph.

If Garcia was equally as efficient as Clark, he would pick up 26 yards per drive, from 292 yards up to 318 yards! By comparison, Garcia would need to increase his swing speed, given his current efficiency, to a mind-boggling 132 mph to reach a 318 average! See why efficiency can be so helpful?

Why such a large discrepancy? I’ll give you a hint: Clark hits up on the ball at impact, while Garcia hits steeply down. By the way, I’ll take Clark’s accuracy over Sergio’s any day too: 70 percent versus 61 percent in 2013. Who are these people who insist Garcia is one of the best drivers in the world today?

Nick Watney, another prominent star, could gain 25 yards, and Tiger Woods could gain 16 yards. Former Masters Champion Trevor Immelman took the inefficiency award for 2013. He would have been 33 yards longer on average if he was as efficient as Clark. With a better angle of attack, his  driving distance could improve from 278 yards per drive to 311 yards!

Now if a top PGA Tour pro can gain this much distance by becoming more efficient, how much can the average golfer increase his or her drives? I don’t care if you’re a scratch golfer with a great swing. I bet you’re leaving at least 20 yards on the table.

So rather than swinging harder or buying new driver after new driver, make 2014 your year to get a more economical driver swing! You’ll drive your buddies nuts outdriving them with your “smooth, easy” swing!

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Steve Pratt teaches full-time at Lindero Country Club in Southern California using Trackman technology. Steve teaches the Mike Austin method of swinging which, using Kinesiology, unlocks the maximum power and accuracy possible from the human body. Steve's clients include many professional long drivers who routinely hit the ball over 400 yards. You can find Steve on the web at www.hititlonger.com, and @hititlonger on Twitter.com.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Aaron

    Sep 7, 2019 at 12:22 am

    Something nobody ever thinks about is the fact that hitting it straighter just indirectly will increase your distance by 20%

  2. christian

    Jan 24, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    Efficiency is of course important. But without decent swing speed you will NOT hit the ball a long distance, no matter how “efficient” you are.

    • Steve Pratt

      Jan 29, 2014 at 12:43 am

      Most golfers will gain more yards with efficiency than speed. Sergio Garcia is never ever going to average 132 mph for a year, but he will hit the ball that far by being efficient.

  3. dcorun

    Jan 22, 2014 at 9:32 am

    If I play my driver off my left toe wouldn’t I have a tendency to hit a hook or am I missing something. Which could be at my age 🙂

    • Scott Hogan

      Jan 24, 2014 at 1:23 pm

      Actually Chris, moving the ball forward promotes a fade because the club will be swinging left of the target line by then (D-Plane). If you are hooking the ball, you are making a compensation so where in your swing to have that happen and would need the other numbers.

      • Steve Pratt

        Jan 24, 2014 at 9:05 pm

        Yes for every one degree you swing upwards, you should also be swinging one degree rightward (right handed golfer). If your path was already straight, you could easily do this by closing the stance one inch.

  4. Chris

    Jan 21, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    Nice article and info, good work.
    I like to use the factor of 2.4 or 2.5 yds per carry ss mph when fitting the avg swing speeds of 90-100. It takes away the unknown and every changing “ground condition factors” being firm or soft.
    Also, its not as easy for someone to just move the ball up in their stance and easily chance the AOA and ball flight results other swing path problems can occur…see your local professional….results may vary

  5. LiveWire

    Jan 19, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    I’m glad I read this. Great information. Thank You Steve. I have lost yardage in the last couple years, my angle of attack has definitely been a little more aggressive. I purposely did it with my irons and it has probably slowly moved into my tee shot as well.

    Thanks

  6. Brian Cutler

    Jan 18, 2014 at 8:37 am

    Good article, I completely agree. With what I see in fitting I’ve got plenty of guys leaving 20-80 yards on the table without ever changing their club head speed.

    However, making sure the driver is efficient plays a role too. Yesterday I took a guy from an R5 that he hits 250, to an SLDR that he now hits 280. He is still leaving another 40 yards on the table, but the driver helped drop the spin.

  7. Steve Pratt

    Jan 17, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    I recommend playing the ball off the front big toe on a driver to help get you to the +5. Playing the instep will make it very difficult to achieve this. You will also have to release the clubhead on time and achieve some kind of side tilt at impact.

    With the same motion that hits up on the driver, you can also hit down on the irons simply with ball position, relative to the instep, which should be the low point in your swing for every club.

    Notice on the chart how once you achieve a +5 AoA (or close), you have to reduce spin loft. Your drives will be higher launching but flatter, and probably apex a bit lower overall. Through good club fitting, you can get to the 37 degree landing angle.

  8. Cris

    Jan 17, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Makes sense. Suggestions to make our swings more efficient or starting hitting up on the ball? I hit on the ball 1.5 degrees down on average with the driver. Feel that I place the ball inside my left armpit.

    Thanks!

  9. MJ

    Jan 17, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    Okay I fall in the inefficient scratch player category. Probably a Garcia as far as getting the most out of my drives. I have always felt I left a lot on the table even though I can get it out there reasonably well.

    What modifications to my setup and downswing to follow through can be made to start hitting up more on the ball without just ballooning the ball?

    Thanks!

  10. Jerry Crowell

    Jan 17, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    Who said to swing UP on your irons, Bob?
    You hit DOWN on an iron. Ball position, stance variance = a different contact point with an iron vs. a driver. Understanding the math invloved will take you to a HIGHER level! It’s NOT hard either!!
    Great work Professor Pratt!!!

  11. bob

    Jan 17, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    and start topping irons because i’m swinging up errrr

  12. Rich

    Jan 17, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    What happened to the quiz Steve??????? 🙂 Cool article. My driver numbers are no where near those so now I have something I can work towards improving (as well as learning how to chip again!). Thanks.

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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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Walters: Try this practice hack for better bunker shots

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Your ability to hit better bunker shots is dramatically reduced if you have no facility to practice these shots. With so few facilities (especially in the UK) having a practice bunker it’s no wonder I see so many golfers struggle with this skill.

Yet the biggest issue they all seem to have is the inability to get the club to enter the sand (hit the ground) in a consistent spot. So here is a hack to use at the range to improve your bunker shots.

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Golf Blueprint: A plan for productive practice sessions

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Practice range at the Dormie Club. Photo credit: Scott Arden

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

You’ve gotten lessons.  Several of them.  You’ve been custom fitted for everything in your bag.  You even bought another half a dozen driver shafts last year looking for an extra couple of yards.  And yet, you’re still…stuck.  Either your handicap hasn’t moved at all in years or you keep bouncing back and forth between the same two numbers.  You’ve had all the swing fixes and all the technological advances you could realistically hope to achieve, yet no appreciable result has been achieved in lowering your score.  What gives?

Sample Golf Blueprint practice plan for a client.

One could argue that no one scientifically disassembled and then systematically reassembled the game of golf quite like the great Ben Hogan.  His penchant for doing so created a mystique which is still the stuff of legend even today.  A great many people have tried to decipher his secret over the years and the inevitable conclusion is always a somewhat anticlimactic, “The secret’s in the dirt.”  Mr. Hogan’s ball striking prowess was carved one divot at a time from countless hours on the practice range.  In an interview with golf journalist George Peper in 1987, Mr. Hogan once said:

“You hear stories about me beating my brains out practicing, but the truth is, I was enjoying myself. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning so I could hit balls. I’d be at the practice tee at the crack of dawn, hit balls for a few hours, then take a break and get right back to it. And I still thoroughly enjoy it. When I’m hitting the ball where I want, hard and crisply—when anyone is— it’s a joy that very few people experience.”

Let me guess.  You’ve tried that before, right?  You’ve hit buckets and buckets of range rocks trying to groove the perfect 7-iron swing and still to no avail, right?  Read that last sentence again closely and you might discover the problem.  There’s a difference between mindful practice and mindless practice.  Mindful practice, like Mr. Hogan undoubtedly employed, is structured, focused, and intentional.  It has specific targets and goals in mind and progresses in a systematic fashion until those goals are met.

This is exactly what Nico Darras and Kevin Moore had in mind when they started Golf Blueprint.  In truth, though, the journey actually started when Nico was a client of Kevin’s Squares2Circles project.  Nico is actually a former DI baseball player who suffered a career-ending injury and took up golf at 22 years old.  In a short time, he was approaching scratch and then getting into some mini tour events.  Kevin, as mentioned in the Squares2Circles piece, is a mathematics education professor and accomplished golfer who has played in several USGA events.  Their conversations quickly changed from refining course strategy to making targeted improvements in Nico’s game.  By analyzing the greatest weaknesses in Nico’s game and designing specific practice sessions (which they call “blueprints”) around them, Nico started reaching his goals.

The transition from client to partners was equal parts swift and organic, as they quickly realized they were on to something.  Nico and Kevin used their experiences to develop an algorithm which, when combined with the client’s feedback, establishes a player profile within Golf Blueprint’s system.  Clients get a plan with weekly, monthly, and long-term goals including all of the specific blueprints that target the areas of their game where they need it most.  Not to mention, clients get direct access to Nico and Kevin through Golf Blueprint.

Nico Darras, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

While this is approaching shades of Mr. Hogan’s practice method above, there is one key distinction here.  Kevin and Nico aren’t recommending practicing for hours at a time.  Far from it.  In Nico’s words:

“We recommend 3 days a week.  You can do more or less, for sure, but we’ve found that 3 days a week is within the realm of possibility for most of our clients.  Practice sessions are roughly 45-70 minutes each, but again, all of this depends on the client and what resources they have at their disposal.  Each blueprint card is roughly 10 minutes each, so you can choose which cards to do if you only have limited time to practice.  Nothing is worse than cranking 7 irons at the range for hours.  We want to make these engaging and rewarding.”

Kevin Moore, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

So far, Golf Blueprint has been working for a wide range of golfers – from tour pros to the No Laying Up crew to amateurs alike.  Kevin shares some key data in that regard:

“When we went into this, we weren’t really sure what to expect.  Were we going to be an elite player product?  Were we going to be an amateur player product?  We didn’t know, honestly.  So far, what’s exciting is that we’ve had success with a huge range of players.  Probably 20-25% of our players (roughly speaking) are in that 7-11 handicap range.  That’s probably the center of the bell curve, if you will, right around that high-single-digit handicap range.  We have a huge range though, scratch handicap and tour players all the way to 20 handicaps.  It runs the full gamut.  What’s been so rewarding is that the handicap dropping has been significantly more than we anticipated.  The average handicap drop for our clients was about 2.7 in just 3 months’ time.”

Needless to say, that’s a pretty significant drop in a short amount of time from only changing how you practice.  Maybe that Hogan guy was on to something.  I think these guys might be too.  To learn more about Golf Blueprint and get involved, visit their website. @Golf_Blueprint is their handle for both Twitter and Instagram.

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