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Opinion & Analysis

Three ways to hit longer drives

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Those of you who have read my article “How Far Should You Hit Your Golf Clubs” may remember this success story:

“With a 2-degree change in driver loft and some minor adjustments made to his swing path, angle of attack, etc., one of my amateur students went from being an already above-average efficient driver at 2.61 yards/mph to an extremely efficient one at 2.75 yards/mph. So with no change to his 102 mph swing speed, he increased his driving distance average from 266 to 280. Then after some swing speed training, he got up to 112 mph and can now hit drives around 307 yards with that same efficiency of 2.75 yards/mph. That’s 41 more yards!”

Let’s talk about the three reasons this student was able to achieve the extra 41 yards, because they can help every golfer add distance to their drives.

No. 1: Solid Contact

Hitting the ball in the center of the clubface is an important component to hitting the ball farther (and straighter, too). In his article “Impact Location by Handicap,” fellow GolfWRX Featured Writer Tom Stickney II included some great photos of typical impact dispersions broken down by a range of handicaps.

30
30 Handicap

25
25 Handicap

20
20 Handicap

15
15 Handicap

10
10 Handicap

7
7 Handicap

5
5 Handicap

0
0 Handicap

According to research data from Trackman, the typical 14-to-15 handicapper has an average club head speed of 93.4 mph and hits drives that go about 214 yards. A typical PGA Tour player swings at about 113 mph and hit his drives about 290 yards. That means the average driving distance efficiency for an amateur is 2.29 yards/mph and a tour player gets about 2.57 yards/mph.

Interestingly, PGA Tour players aren’t even the most efficient players. Although they are good ball strikers, they tend to hit the ball too low and with too much spin for maximum driving distance efficiency. LPGA players, on the other hand, get about 2.64 yards/mph. That means that the average golfer gives up in the neighborhood of 35 yards to an LPGA player, despite both of them swinging the driver at approximately the same speed of 93-to-94 mph. Part of this comes down to making better contact as already mentioned, so definitely work on your ball striking.

A cheap and easy way to check your impact location is with Dr. Scholl’s X Foot Powder Spray. Spray it on the face of your clubs so you can quickly see your impact pattern. It wipes off easily and causes no damage to your clubs.

No. 2: Optimal Launch Conditions

In the example above, my student was already a very efficient driver at 2.61 yards/mph. He has aspirations of playing on the Senior Tour in a few years, though, so he flew me to Texas to see if we could eek a few more yards out of him.

We went over to his local range and started hitting balls on the local pro’s Trackman. After a few drives, we determined that he was averaging 102 mph of club head speed, had an 8.9-degree launch angle and was generating 3382 rpm of spin using his 9-degree driver. I felt that we could get more distance out of him without even increasing his club head speed. Ideally, I wanted to increase his launch angle to about 13.8 degrees and decrease his spin rate to around 2508 rpm.

The easiest way to change spin rate if you make consistent contact is to change head loft. Using a bit of algebra, I estimated that we could bring his spin down and accomplish the first goal if we went from his 9-degree driver down to a 6.7-degree driver. We went over to Sellinger’s Power Golf, which carries low-lofted drivers, and we asked for a driver that measured 6.7-degrees (it was actually stamped 6). The nice thing about Sellinger’s is that they carry a good selection of low-lofted drivers and they can often get you a specific head loft. Some top-tier custom club fitters such as Tom Wishon can do this as well.

With the lower-lofted driver, the student and I went back over to the range and started measuring his drives with the new head. His average spin came down to the desired range, so our first goal was complete. Next, we faced the second part of the challenge. He was already hitting the ball low with the 9-degree driver, but now with the 6.7-degree driver he was hitting it even lower. To get him to launch it higher, we had him tee the ball higher and position it slightly more forward in his stance. Due to the D-Plane, we also had him swing slightly more in-to-out. After some practice, we arrived at the precise teeing location and swing direction that we needed for him to swing freely and achieve our desired launch angle of close to 14 degrees.

From a simple 2.3-degree change in driver loft and some slight technical adjustments, we got him up from 266 yards per drive to 280 yards per drive, which is about the maximum amount of distance he could expect under normal average conditions from a club head speed of 103 mph.

Here are 5 steps for how to apply this to your own game.

  1. Find a Doppler Radar launch monitor such as FlightScope or Trackman in your area and get some basic averages for yourself for club head speed, launch angle and spin rate.
  2. Visit a club fitter who can find out the exact loft of your driver (remember, it’s not always what’s stamped on the head).
  3. Use the table below and some algebra to estimate the precise head loft you need to achieve your ideal spin rate. All else being equal, going up in loft will add spin. Going down in loft will take off spin.
  4. Get the precise driver loft that you need.
  5. Using a Trackman or other launch monitor, play with your tee height, ball position and swing direction until you achieve your goal launch angle from the next table below.

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 12.40.42 PM

Teeing the ball higher, farther forward in your stance and swinging a bit more in-to-out can help you hit higher drives. Teeing up lower, farther back in your stance and swinging a little less in-to-out can help you bring the launch down.

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 12.42.42 PM

No. 3: Faster Swing Speed

Once you are hitting the ball solid and have optimized your launch conditions as described above, you can gain additional distance through swing speed training programs such as mine, Swing Man Golf. That’s how my student added another 27 yards to his 280-yard drives, getting him up to an average of 307 yards per drive. With his excellent driving efficiency and now above average clubhead speed, this student won’t be losing anything to the field and he is well on his way to achieving his goal.

Have fun launching the ball farther!

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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 creator of Sterling Irons® single length irons, and has caddied on the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS. Two of his articles for GolfWRX are the two most viewed of all time. 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 shot 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 helped millions of golfers and focuses primarily on swing speed training. Typically, Jaacob’s amateur golfers and tour players 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 – Millions of views!!!

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Pingback: How Much Distance is Lost With Age? - Dan Hansen Golf Instruction

  2. Bob Gom

    Jan 5, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Some great stuff….would love to hear your thoughts on the pic of the two lowest handicaps.

    Notice (mainly on the zero cap) how the marks go from lower on the face (heel) to the center to higher (toe)

    One can pretty much draw a line at 45 degrees (approximate) threw the center of the ball marks from heel to toe.
    This head is a TM SLDR it seems and like many of the past TM offerings, I feel are to up right in lie angle. Does this example not prove this?

    It’s obvious that the person who used this club strikes it very well, but as he misses slightly towards the toe, the shots climb up the face and the opposite when they strike it off the heel. Looks to be two face lines (grooves) different in height or about 1/2″ difference. If the head was flatter, you might see one groove difference between all these shots and on a straighter line horizontally and I bet slightly better numbers.

    I hear and read about Toe Droop, but to me this is a clear case of a lie being to upright…thoughts?

  3. other paul

    Jan 3, 2015 at 11:09 am

    I decided to buy into Jaacob’s swing speed program. And then tried to hard and hurt my left shoulder. Oops. But I gained yards after doing the exercises one time (6yardd past my previous record, measured on the same launch monitor, old record was 280, beat it 4 times up to 286). Going to take a week off golf to let my shoulder repair, then back at it again. I like the program so far.

  4. TR1PTIK

    Dec 29, 2014 at 7:30 am

    No doubt from reading this that ball contact and spin rates are keeping me from hitting the ball farther. The few times that I’ve been able to get in front of a launch monitor I was launching on average between 13-15 degrees with somewhere around 105mph club head speed. My spin rates are usually somewhere in the upper 2000-lower 3000 RPM range which I would expect is largely due to gear effect. According to the Zepp Golf sensor I’ve been toying with I can now swing the club somewhere around 110mph quite comfortably – though I’m not sure I trust that number – and some of my longest drives would indicate that I’m very capable of breaking the 300yrd barrier with some regularity if I can strike it more consistently. My longest drive last season was 324 yards that I tracked using the GolfShot app on my phone. I had at least one other tracked drive over 300 yards and several that were just under, plus a few more that weren’t tracked, but were at least very close to the 300 yard mark. Looks like some Dr. Scholl’s foot spray and range time are in my immediate future.

  5. other paul

    Dec 28, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    I would love to see some more articles on over speed and long drive training. I swing just over 100mph and would love another 10-15mph. I jumped in a hot tub recently and then hit balls. I was hitting it over 300 yards immediately. I got a taste of effortless power and I want more.

  6. alan

    Dec 28, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    i did a couple weeks of overspeed training after reading a thread here and picked up substantial gains. really surprised it isnt talked about more often.

    caution-i wouldnt recommend overspeed training to a high capper, there are other things(center face contact) that imo a higher capper should worry about.

  7. DaveMac

    Dec 28, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    Thanks for the article, I liked the launch conditions vs swing speed tables. I have to say the solution to get your student into his optimum launch window, seemed extreme. It required a dangerously low driver loft ( I can’t see many amateurs hitting a 6.7 degree driver straight, unless straight OB counts). It also required a complete change in driver setup and AoA.
    There must be a more straight forward way of hitting the magic numbers!

  8. The dude

    Dec 28, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Speed training…..most under appreciated technique for hitting the ball longer…period

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: A Tale of Two Misses

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It seems like I somewhat “touched a nerve” with last week’s post ‘A Defense of Blades’, based on the scoring you all gave my take on that controversial topic.

I do appreciate it when you take the time to score your reaction to my work, as it keeps me tuned in to what you really want me to pontificate about. Before I get into today’s topic, I request that any of you who have a subject you’d like me to address please drop me an email at [email protected], OK?

So, in somewhat of a follow-up to last week, let’s talk today about misses. Those too frequent shots that move your scores in the wrong direction.

Early in my life, I was always part of “the group” of low-handicap players who had various kinds of “money games”, but that put me in touch only with other low-handicap players who were highly competitive. Just as I was getting fully engaged in the golf equipment industry in the early 1980s, I was blessed to be a part of a group at my club called “The Grinders”. We had standing tee times every day…so if you could get away, you played. There were about 35-40 of us who might show up, with as many as 6-7 groups going off on Fridays and Saturdays.

These guys sported handicaps from scratch to 20, and we threw up balls to see how we were paired, so for twenty years, I had up close and personal observation of a variety of “lab rats.”

This let me observe and study how many different ways there were to approach the game and how many different kinds of mishits could happen in a round of golf. As a golf industry marketer and club designer, I couldn’t have planned it any better.

So back to a continuation of the topic of last week, the type of irons you choose to play should reflect the kinds of misses you are hoping to help. And the cold, hard truth is this:

We as golf club designers, engineers and fitters, can only do so much to help the outcome of any given shot.

Generally, mishits will fall into two categories – the “swing miss” and the “impact miss”.

Let’s start with the former, as it is a vast category of possibilities.

The “swing miss” occurs when the swing you made never had a chance of producing the golf shot you had hoped to see. The clubhead was not on a good path through impact, and/or the clubface was not at all square to the target line. This can produce any number of outcomes that are wildly wrong, such as a cold skull of the ball, laying the sod over it, hard block to the right (for a right-hand player), smother hook…I think you get the point.

The smaller swing misses might be a draw that turns over a bit too much because you rotated through impact a bit aggressively or a planned draw that doesn’t turn over at all because you didn’t. Or it could be the shot that flies a bit too high because you released the club a bit early…or much too low because you had your hands excessively ahead of the clubhead through impact.

The swing miss could be simply that you made a pretty darn good swing, but your alignment was not good, or the ball position was a bit too far forward in your swing…or too far back. Basically, the possible variations of a “swing miss” are practically endless and affect tour pros and recreational golfers alike.

The cruel fact is that most recreational golfers do not have solid enough swing mechanics or playing disciplines to deliver the clubhead to the ball in a consistent manner. It starts with a fundamentally sound hold on the club. From there, the only solution is to make a commitment to learn more about the golf swing and your golf swing and embark on a journey to become a more consistent striker of the golf ball. I would suggest that this is one of the most fascinating aspects of the game and encourage anyone who loves golf to go down this path.

But today’s post is about “mishits”, so let’s move on the other and much smaller category of misses…the “impact miss”. As a 40-year golf club designer, this is the world in which I function and, unfortunately, to which I am limited.

The “impact miss” is when most of the elements of the swing pretty much fall into place, so that the club is delivered pretty accurately to the ball…on the right path…face square to the target line at impact…but you miss the sweet spot of the club by just a bit.

Finding ways of getting better results out of those mishits is the singular goal of the entire golf club industry.

Big drivers of today are so much more forgiving of a 1/8 to ½ inch miss than even drivers of a decade ago, it’s crazy. Center strikes are better, of course, with our fast faces and Star Wars technology, but the biggest value of these big drivers is that your mishits fly much more like a perfect hit than ever before. In my own launch monitor testing of my current model driver to an old Reid Lockhart persimmon driver of the mid-1990s, I see that dead center hits are 20-25 yards different, but mishits can be as far as 75-80 yards apart, the advantage obviously going to the modern driver.

The difference is not nearly as striking with game improvement irons versus a pure forged one-piece blade. If the lofts and other specs are the same, the distance a pure strike travels is only a few yards more with the game improvement design, but a slight mishit can see that differential increase to 12-15 yards. But, as I noted in last week’s article, this difference tends to reduce as the lofts increase. Blades and GI irons are much less different in the 8- and 9-irons than in the lower lofts.

This has gotten a bit longer than usual, so how about I wrap up this topic next week with “A Tale of Two Misses – Part 2”? I promise to share some robotic testing insights that might surprise you.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: World Long Drive! Go Mu!

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In this week’s podcast we discuss Wisdom In Golf Premium, new ways to help and fun talk about rules and etiquette.

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Opinion & Analysis

Vincenzi: How the 2022 Presidents Cup actually grew the game

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As fall approached, the world of professional golf was drowning in a sea of continuous division and animosity.

The Presidents Cup, which should have been a silver lining in the most tumultuous time in the history of the sport, had suddenly become a pasquinade.

The Internationals had always been an underdog and had just one win in fourteen tries against the Americans.

In 2019, the scrappy Internationals led by Ernie Els gave the United States team led by Tiger Woods all that they could handle at Royal Melbourne. The United States retained the cup, winning the competition 16–14, but the Els’ team fought to the end. The future was bright for professional golf on the world stage.

In 2022, things were different. The Internationals had just lost arguably their two best players in Cameron Smith and Joaquin Niemann, plus a handful of other Presidents Cup shoe-ins including Louis Oosthuizen and Abraham Ancer.

The International players who had joined the controversial LIV Golf series were deemed ineligible to participate in the competition, which resulted in the decimation of what should have been a deep and competitive team of Internationals. By the time the event started, the United States had ballooned to a -900 favorite.

One phrase that’s been repeated ad nauseum over the past few months has been “grow the game”.

After a bleak opening few days at the Presidents Cup, we caught a glimpse of what “growing the game” looked like over the weekend.

There are plenty of ways to potentially grow the game of golf. One of those ways unfolded in real time at Quail Hollow thanks in part to a spirited group of Asian golfers who refused to let their team go quietly into the night.

First, there was the budding superstar, Tom Kim.

Kim scored two points for the Internationals, but the impact he had on the event dwarfed his point total. The South Korean hijacked the event with his charisma, energy and determination to help his team succeed. Golf fans were treated to memorable moment after memorable moment whenever the 20-year-old was on their television screen.

Kim had already had a handful of moments that will live in our memories for many Presidents Cups to come, but the most memorable came on the 18th hole of Saturday’s afternoon foursomes. Facing a seemingly invincible duo of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, Kim put a 2-iron to less than six feet of the hole. He then sunk the clutch putt to knock off the fourth and fifth ranked players in the world.

Tom wasn’t the only “Kim” to leave a lasting impact at the 2022 Presidents Cup. Fellow South Korean Si Woo Kim had his share of memorable moments as well.

Going into Sunday singles, the Internationals were trailing 11-7 and in need of a historic day. Typically, the trailing team will “frontload” their best players to attempt a comeback. When United States captain Davis Love III called the name of Justin Thomas to lead off in the first match of the day, many expected the international team captain Trevor Immelmann to call the name of Hideki Matsuyama or Adam Scott. Instead, he called the name of Si Woo Kim.

Si Woo did not disappoint. Kim took out the de-facto leader of the United States team 1-up. The 27-year-old didn’t shy away from the spotlight, and matched Thomas both in his ability to sink clutch putts and to bring energy with his animated style of play.

Tom Kim and Si Woo Kim provided some of the most memorable moments of the Presidents Cup, but it’s Sungjae Im who’s been the best player for the Internationals in both 2019 and 2022.

Back in 2019, Sungjae tied with Abraham Ancer for the leading points scorer (3.5) for the Internationals during their narrow defeat in Australia. He was a rookie then, but this year he was depended upon to go against some on the United States best teams and delivered, scoring 2.5 points and knocking off young American star Cameron Young in their singles match.

As influential as the performances by the trio of South Koreans were, the overall impact of Asian golfers cannot be discussed without mentioning Hideki Matsuyama.

The 2021 Masters Champion has long been rumored to be interested in joining LIV Golf, but he was at Quail Hollow competing alongside his International teammates.

Stars were born at the 2022 Presidents Cup, but Matsuyama has been “growing the game” for what feels like a lifetime. Labeled from an early age as the savior for Japanese golf, Hideki has delivered time and time again. The former young prodigy has slowly but surely turned into a pillar of global golf and leader of the Internationals.

After a slow start, Hideki was able to grind out a win and a tie to help the Internationals remain competitive throughout the weekend.

While the Internationals were eventually defeated 17.5-12.5, a more important mission that cannot be measured by wins and losses was undoubtedly accomplished.

Amongst all of the turmoil and strife in the world golf, it’s easy to forget how much the game means to so many people.

Countless young golfers across the world went to bed on Sunday night and dreamt of being the next Tom Kim, Si Woo Kim or Hideki Matsuyama.

That sounds like an excellent way to “grow the game”.

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