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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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Club Junkie: Reviewing Callaway’s NEW Apex UW and Graphite Design’s Tour AD UB shaft

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Callaway’s new Apex UW wood blends a fairway wood and hybrid together for wild distance and accuracy. The UW is easy to hit and crazy long but also lets skilled players work the ball however they would like. Graphite Design’s new Tour AD UB shaft is a new stout mid-launch and mid/low-spin shaft. Smooth and tight, this shaft takes a little more of the left side out of shots.

 

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The Wedge Guy: Your game vs. The pros

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I know most of us like to watch golf on TV. Seeing these marvelous (mostly) young athletes do these amazing things with a golf ball makes for great theater. But the reality is that they play a very different game than we do, and they play it differently as well.

I’ve long contended that most rank-and-file recreational golfers cannot really learn a whole lot by watching men’s professional golf on TV. It would be like watching NASCAR or Formula One racing and looking for tips on how to be a better driver.

The game is different. The athletes are different. And the means to an end are entirely different. Let me offer you some things to ponder in support of this hypothesis.

First, these tour professionals ARE highly skilled and trained athletes. They spend time in the gym every day working on flexibility, strength, and agility. Then they work on putting and short game for a few hours, before going to the range and very methodically and deliberately hit hundreds of balls.

Now, consider that the “typical” recreational golfer is over 45 years old, likely carrying a few extra pounds, and has a job, family or other life requirements that severely limit practice time. Regular stretching and time at the gym are not common. The most ardent will get in maybe one short range session a week, and a few balls to warm up before a round of golf.

The tour professionals also have a complete entourage to help them optimize their skills and talents. It starts with an experienced caddie who is by their side for every shot. Then there are the swing coaches, conditioning coaches, mental coaches, and agents to handle any “side-shows” that could distract them. You, on the other hand, have to be all of those to your game.

Also, realize they play on near-perfect course conditions week to week. Smooth greens, flawless fairways cut short to promote better ball-striking — even bunkers that are maintained to PGA Tour standards and raked to perfection by the caddies after each shot.

Watch how perfectly putts roll; almost never wavering because of a spike mark or imperfection, and the holes are almost always positioned on a relatively flat part of the green. You rarely see a putt gaining speed as it goes by the hole, and grain is a non-factor.

So, given all that, is it fair for to you compare your weekly round (or rounds) to what you see on television?

The answer, of course, is NO. But there ARE a lot of things you can learn by watching professional golf on TV, and that applies to all the major tours.

THINK. As you size up any shot, from your drive to the last putt, engage your mind and experience. What side of the fairway is best for my approach? Where is the safe side of the flag as I play that approach? What is the best realistic outcome of this chip or pitch? What do I recall about the slope of this green and its speed? Use your brain to give yourself the best chance on every shot.

FOCUS. These athletes take a few minutes to drown out the “noise” and put their full attention to every shot. But we all can work to learn how to block out the “noise” and prepare ourselves for your best effort on every shot. It only takes a few additional seconds to get “in the zone” so your best has a chance to happen.

PAY ATTENTION TO DETAILS. You have complete control over your set-up, ball position and alignment, so grind a bit to make sure those basics are right before you begin your swing. It’s amazing to me how little attention rank-and-file golfers pay to these basics. And I’m firmly convinced that the vast majority of bad shots are “pre-ordained” because these basics are not quite right.

SHAKE IT OFF. The game is one shot at a time – the next one. That has been preached over and over, and something most pros do exceedingly well. Very often you see them make a birdie right after a bogey or worse, because the professional bears down on these three basics more after he had just slacked on them and made a bogey or worse.

MEDIOCRE SHOTS ARE THE NORM. And those will be interspersed with real bad ones and real good ones. Those guys are just like us, in that “mediocre” is the norm (relatively speaking, that is). So go with that. Shake off the bad ones and bask in the glory of the good ones – they are the shots that keep us coming back.

Let me dive into that last point a bit deeper, because some of you might find it strange that I claim that “mediocre shots are the norm,” even for tour professionals. First, let’s agree that a “mediocre” shot for a 20-handicap player looks quite different that what a tour pro would consider “mediocre.” Same goes for a “poor shot.” But a great shot looks pretty much the same to all of us – a well-struck drive that splits the fairway, an approach that leaves a reasonable birdie putt, a chip or pitch for an up-and-down, and any putt that goes in the hole.

Finally, I will encourage all of you – once again – to make sure you are playing from a set of tees that tests your skills in proportion to how their courses test theirs. This past weekend, for example, the winner shot 25 under par “on the card” . . . but consider that Summit had four reachable par-fives (most with iron shots) and a drivable par-four, so I contend it was really a “par 68” golf course at best. Based on that “adjusted par”, then only 20 players beat that benchmark by more than 5 shots for the week. So, obviously, the rest pretty much played “mediocre” golf (for them).

So, did your last round have at least one or two par-fives you can reach with two shots? And did you hit at least 10-12 other approach shots with a short iron or wedge in your hands? More likely, you played a “monster” course (for you) that had zero two-shot par fives and several par-fours that you could not reach with two of your best wood shots. And your typical approach shot was hit with a mid-iron or hybrid.

The game is supposed to be fun – and playing the right tees can make sure it has a chance to be just that. Paying attention to these basics for every shot can help you get the most out of whatever skills you brought to the links on any given day.

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Opinion & Analysis

The ghost of Allan Robertson: A few thoughts on the distance debate

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It’s that time of year in certain parts of the world. Ghosts, ghouls, and ghoblins roam the lawns. Departed ancestors return to these fields to visit with living descendants. It’s also a time (is it ever not?) when curmudgeons and ancients decry the advances of technology in the world of golf equipment.

Pretty big narrative leap, I’ll admit, but I have your attention, aye? An October 16th tweet from noted teacher Jim McClean suggested that it would be fun to see PGA Tour players tee it up for one week with wooden heads and a balata ball.

Others beg for a rolling-back of technological potency, raising property acreage as a critical determinant. Fact is, 90 percent of golfers have no experience with hitting the ball too far, nor with outgrowing a golf course. And yet, the cries persist.

Recently, I was awakened from a satisfying slumber by the ghost of Allan Robertson. The long-dead Scot was in a lather, equal parts pissed at Old Tom Morris for playing a guttie, and at three social-media channels, all of which had put him on temporary suspension for engaging violently with unsupportive followers. He also mentioned the inaccuracies of his Wikipedia page, which credits him for a 100-year old business, despite having only spent the better part of 44 years on this terrestrial sphere. Who knew that the afterlife offered such drip internet access?

I’m not certain if Old Tom cared (or was even alive) that his beloved gutta percha ball was replaced by the Haskell. I believe him to have been preoccupied with the warming of the North Sea (where he took his morning constitutional swims) and the impending arrival of metal shafts and laminated-wood heads. Should that also long-dead Scot pay me a nighttime visit, I’ll be certain to ask him. I do know that Ben Hogan gave no sheets about technology’s advances; he was in the business of making clubs by then, and took advantage of those advances. Sam Snead was still kicking the tops of doors, and Byron Nelson was pondering the technological onslaught of farriers, in the shoeing of horses on his ranch.

And how about the women? Well, the ladies of golfing greatness have better things to do than piss and moan about technology. They concern themselves with what really matters in golf and in life. Sorry, fellas, it’s an us-problem. Records are broken thanks to all means of advancement. Want to have some fun? Watch this video or this video or this video. If you need much more, have a reassessment of what matters.

Solutions

Either forget the classic courses or hide the holes. Classic golf courses cannot stand up in length alone to today’s professional golfers. Bringing in the rough takes driver out of their hands, and isn’t a course supposed to provide a viable challenge to every club in the bag? Instead, identify four nearly-impossible locations on every putting surface, and cut the hole in one of them, each day. Let the fellows take swings at every par-4 green with driver, at every par-five green with driver and plus-one. Two things will happen: the frustration from waiting waiting waiting will eliminate the mentally-weak contestants, and the nigh-impossible putting will eliminate even more of them. What will happen with scoring? I don’t know. Neither did Old Tom Morris, Robert Tyre Jones, Jr., Lady Heathcoat Amory, or Mildred Didrickson, when new technology arrived on the scene. They shrugged their shoulders, stayed away from Twitter and the Tok, and went about their business.

Add the tournament courses. Build courses that can reach 8,500 yards in length, and hold events on those layouts. Two examples from other sports: the NFL made extra points longer. Has it impacted game results? Maybe. The NBA kept the rim at ten feet. Has it impacted game results? Maybe. We don’t play MLB or MLS on ancient diamonds and pitches. We play their matches and games on technologically-advanced surfaces. Build/Retrofit a series of nondescript courses as tournament venues. Take the par-5 holes to 700 yards, then advance the par-4 fairways to 550 yards. Drive and pitch holes check-in at 400 yards, at least until Bryson DeChambeau and Kyle Berkshire figure a few more things out.

Note to the young guys and the old guys from this 55-year old guy: live your era, then let it go. I know things.

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