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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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