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More Distance Off the Tee (Part 2 of 3): Lower Body Training

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The lower body in the golf swing is the engine that makes everything run. Swinging without it is like attempting to drive a car without an engine. Catch a downhill and sure… it may roll for awhile. But as soon as you encounter a hill, you stop moving. It’s kind of like most amateur’s golf swings. They compensate OK for awhile and think they’re making progress with their totally upper body driven golf swing. Then they lose it.

Related: More distance off the tee Part 1 (Upper Body Training) 

Losing your swing is not as unthinkable or shocking as many people in the golf industry would like you to think. It’s certainly not as dramatic or difficult to fix, either. As long as you are neglecting to use your lower body in creating the rotation necessary to swing the club and the rotary power to make sure the ball goes somewhere consistently, you are doomed. You will live on the roller coaster of good and bad rounds, found and lost swing thoughts and many lost golf balls. But hey, at least you’ll get a lot of strokes in your next club championship, right?

If you haven’t already read about the four major areas necessary for rotation in the golf swing and taken the tests to see how you do on them, that is what you need to do right now before reading any further. If you have looked at your rotational abilities and you are doing OK, then let’s continue on.

When it comes to creating power from the ground via the lower body, it’s all in the legs. The test that’s easiest to use when figuring out how much “pop” you may have is the vertical jump test. Average PGA Tour players jump between 18-22 inches, while LPGA players are between 16-20 inches. Long drive competitors often jump over 30 inches!

It’s simple to make an assumption that vertical leap has something to do with how much power a player can generate. In fact, the R-value that we have found with this relationship is above 0.85… for all you statistics buffs out there. The reason this occurs is because vertical leap is the simplest forms of assessing a person’s ability to generate ground reaction force, which propels them upward.  If you look at the force plate data in golfers, it is very clear that one of the critical components in generating club head speed is also the ability to create larger ground reaction forces.

So if you look at your vertical and you can only jump 13 inches, you probably have some power to gain. Conversely, if you jump 30 inches and only swing 95 mph, there are probably some other issues that you need to address (technique, upper body power, sequencing, equipment etc). But if you are that golfer with a less than impressive vertical leap, check out a couple of the exercises below to start working on your lower body’s ability to generate power. As with all power training, increasing your base level of strength will also help with exercises such as squatting, deadlifting and all other variations of lower body strength training.

For the sake of this article, I am going to assume you’re already doing all that and give you three of my favorite drills that we use with our golfers to improve their ability to generate better lower body power in the golf swing. Remember, no more than six in a set. Try to go all out on every rep.

180-Degree Jumps

The key here is to load into the inside of your loading foot and try to explode up as high as you can. When you land, control the deceleration and then explode back up into the air as high as you can.

Caveman Throws

This is a great option for those of you who would like to avoid high impact exercises like jumps. Triple extension is the single most powerful move we have as athletes. When we extend at the ankles, hips and knees in a coordinated and powerful movement, the force and speed that can be unleashed is quite impressive. Have fun with this one and just make sure you get out of the way of the ball.

90-Degree Box Jumps with Slam 

This one is for all you higher-level athletes out there who want to really get after it. Slam the ball on the outside of your foot to increase your load into the ground and then explode up onto the box as high as you can.

If you have knee issues, I would recommend avoiding the jumping exercises above and sticking to lower-impact exercises. There are, of course, lots of other options to increase your lower body power, but these are some of the most effective and simple to integrate. Enjoy!

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Chris Finn is the founder of Par4Success and a Licensed Physical Therapist, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Titleist Performance Institute Certified Medical Professional and trained to perform Trigger Point Dry Needling in North Carolina. He is regarded as the premier Golf Fitness, Performance & Medical Expert in North Carolina. Since starting Par4Success in 2011, Chris has and continues to work with Touring Professionals, elite level juniors & amateurs as well as weekend warriors. He has contributed to numerous media outlets, is a published author, a consultant and presents all over the world on topics related to golf performance and the golf fitness business.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Kit Lefroy

    Feb 9, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    A word of caution – 180 degree jumps and box jumping are potentially dangerous for seniors or anyone with knee problems. Great power exercises, but be careful.

    • the dude

      Feb 9, 2018 at 1:00 pm

      yeah…not to mention if you “catch” your foot on the box while going up and across….you could fall right on your head….and break ……your pride.

  2. Randy Bernard

    Feb 9, 2018 at 11:29 am

    Good stuff, Chris! One question: In the slam before the box jump, why doesn’t the slam begin with a squat, to fully engage the glutes and the quads? (Just to be clear, I don’t mean that the starting position is a squat but that the first motion is to squat, then explode up into full extension, then slam the ball.)

    • Chris Finn

      Feb 10, 2018 at 1:54 pm

      Thanks Randy. The slam starts extended as much as possible to increase the force that is applied through the outside leg as much as possible before the jump takes place. Because of stretch shortening principles, the more force you can apply through the tendons and soft tissue into the ground prior to the concentric explosion phase the more energy the athlete will have available to exert into the ground as they push up into the jump. By starting with more of a rotation into the hip as you squat instead of just a standard sagittal plane squat, it is more multi-planar and pre-loading the rotary sling that is necessary to complete a rotational jump. Let me know if this makes sense. If not we can chat further. Great question! – Chris

      • Randy Bernard

        Feb 17, 2018 at 7:57 pm

        Thanks, Chris. That all makes sense, now that I see the rotational part of the slam. I think I was probably moving (i.e., looking) too fast the first time and missed that. I’ll give it a try next time at the gym here in Asheville.

  3. The dude

    Feb 8, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    Why do people give this a shank???

    • CB

      Feb 9, 2018 at 1:37 am

      Because you never saw and, never will see, guys like Colin Montgomerie do it, and he’s still playing great, so why does anybody ever need to do any of these at all

      • The dude

        Feb 9, 2018 at 3:51 am

        Haha!…..fail

        So …. Mrs Doubtfire is your standard huh?,,,,it’s obvious you have never trained your body to perform better…you’d be pleasantly surprised if you did.

        • CB

          Feb 9, 2018 at 9:32 pm

          No thanks, I don’t to end up breaking my knees or my back or ribs or whatever like all them super athletes. I’d rather have a bit of a belly, feel relaxed, play fairly OK, make decent money, win a major or two and chill like Jason Dufner. And then have a career in the Senior circuit like Colin. I’d be OK with that. I don’t want to be fake like Eldrick and try to hump all them fake ladies and have no back or legs left and be left lonely. No thanks

        • Ross

          Feb 10, 2018 at 10:07 am

          Monty is one the best ball strikers about and always has been

          Monty is another name for God

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Opinion & Analysis

A road trip to St. Andrews

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In 2017, my son Brian and his wife Lauren, proposed a family trip to Scotland. Both of them have traveled a surprising amount for a couple barely 30 years old, but for us it would be a huge trip. We couldn’t get it scheduled for 2018 but everything lined up for October, 2019, a trip that might even include playing the Old Course in St. Andrews, if we got lucky. The amazing Lauren made all the arrangements, beginning with multiple email exchanges with the staff at the Old Course, who were extremely gracious and encouraging in their communications.

Unlike most other courses, in order to play the Old Course, you have three options: One is to book a very expensive trip through a travel broker who will guarantee a tee time. This is the only way to make your arrangements in advance, but you’re paying thousands for the package, which would include at least three other days of golf. Sounds great but above our budget. Secondly, you can take a real gamble and just show up at the starter’s window the day you are hoping to play, and get in line as early as 3 a.m., put your name on the list and then wait, maybe all day, maybe hopelessly. It’s no way to budget an entire day on your vacation. The third way is to use what is called the “ballot system,” submitting your request for a tee time via email to standrews.com, 48 hours ahead and hopefully getting a spot.

Now, it’s not as grim a prospect as it may sound for planning to play golf in St. Andrews. The above only applies to getting onto the Old Course. We were able to make a tee time for the Jubilee Course, one of six other courses (Jubilee, Castle, New Course, Eden, Strathtyrum, and Balgove), all part of the St. Andrews Links complex, “The Home of Golf” as their brochure proclaims. Since we were scheduling our trip for the tail-end of the golf season, the gentleman from St. Andrews wrote that he was cautiously optimistic we would be successful using the ballot system.

This wasn’t just a golfing vacation, the five us had an outstanding time touring the west coast of Scotland, including the Oban Whisky distillery, the Harry Potter train in Glencoe, Ben Nevis—the highest peak in the UK, Fort William, and the spectacular Highlands, the town of St. Andrews, and finally the marvelous city of Edinburgh. We ended up spending one night in St. Andrews, at The Saint, a lovely four-room hotel, a 10-minute walk from the Old Course. That evening, walking down cobblestone streets, with the R&A clubhouse coming into view, was like walking in a dream.

Our day started out by driving directly to the new Links Clubhouse, which has wonderful views of the courses from the restaurant. We had lunch, and I must admit to being a bit nervous over my chicken bacon mayo sandwich. We’d parked our bags in the locker room down below, it’s just what you’d expect in terms of world-class accommodations and feel. I could just imagine the pros suiting up there as they prepare to play in The Open.

Our day of golf at the Jubilee Course was spectacular, although it got off to a rainy start, but the weather cleared by the fourth hole. Mary, Jill, and Lauren formed our gallery as we teed off, then they went for a walk around the lovely town. I parred the first hole and told Brian that made my entire trip to Scotland. I was on fire, shooting 42 on the front nine but hitting only three fairways and two greens in regulation. Brian shot 45. We’d decided on match play, and I was up by three on the 11th hole. Brian then said the fateful words, “You haven’t hit into a pot bunker all day!” Which I promptly did. My game immediately tanked while he proceeded to make a total of nine pars, shooting 42 on the back, and won the match 2 & 1. Our gallery re-appeared on the 17th hole, the sun was shining, and we were in golf heaven! We ended the day with a pint at the famous Dunvegan Pub by the R&A clubhouse.

Earlier in the day, Brian had received an email from St. Andrews, unfortunately stating that we had not been selected for the ballot to play on the Old Course the next day. He resubmitted our request for the following day with fingers crossed. We headed to our next stop, Edinburgh, looking forward to exploring this ancient yet cosmopolitan city. During our walking tour, Brian received the email notification that we’d scored an 11 a.m. tee time on the Old Course for Friday. He and I would be making a road trip back north while the ladies spent the day in Edinburgh.

It was about an hour ride back to St. Andrews but traffic was quite manageable and we arrived at 9:30, plenty of time for breakfast at the Links Clubhouse. I felt that anticipatory excitement I always have right before marshaling at a big event, like a U.S. Open, where the atmosphere of the place is nearly overwhelming. Not really nervousness, but we were about to play the Old Course! Isn’t that every golfer’s dream? To say Brian was wound up tight would be an understatement, he could barely choke down half a scone. The walk over toward the starters shack, where we would meet our caddies, with the R&A clubhouse right there at the first tee was unreal.

The clerk was so gracious, taking our 130 Scottish pounds green fee (about $160), and handing us a very nice valuables pouch complete with an amazingly detailed yardage book, tees, pencils, divot tool, and scorecard. We were then approached by our two caddies, who between them had nearly 30 years of caddying experience. I got John, whose personality was perfect for me, quiet, calm, not too chatty, yet personable. Brian’s guy, Steve was just right for him as well, right from central casting with a thick Scottish brogue. He instantly bonded with Brian to become his playing partner/coach, which was just what he needed to get over the first tee jitters.

The starter, Richard, approached us as we made our way over to the first tee, greeting us much like you see them do at the start of the Open Championship. He made our presence there seem extra special, despite the fact he’d probably done the same routine 10 thousand times. He even took our picture. We were then introduced to our two other playing partners, both former members of the course, so they didn’t need caddies to show them the way. These guys were hilarious, self-deprecating, with brogues so thick I could understand maybe one word in three, not the best golfers by any stretch, which was somehow quite reassuring and certainly less intimidating. Brian proved to be the best golfer in our foursome by far although he had a rough start, hitting his drive into the Swilcan Burn.

I was really calm on the tee, it helped that there were very few spectators as it was drizzling and maybe 50 degrees. John told me where to aim, (“at that gorse bush off in the distance”) and I was able to do exactly that. As we walked off the first tee Steve said “now you can all breathe again!” I found having a caddy to be such a wonderful added dimension to this whole experience—not just as a guide to point out where in the world I should be aiming on this alien golf layout, but also to set an expectation for me on each shot which I then tried my best to fulfill. The greens weren’t too scary as I felt used to the speeds having played Jubilee, but having John read the subtle breaks and provide aiming points was terrific.

I played bogey golf through the first 12 holes but the rain only intensified and despite John’s best effort to keep things dry, the final 6 holes were a mess. Brian was one up on our match at the turn, then went on to win decisively at 5 up, with a total for the day of 5 pars and a birdie, including par on 17, the famous Road Hole. As the day went on, we found ourselves saying over and over to each other, what a wonderful experience this was despite the conditions. Steve took the traditional picture of us on the Swilcan Bridge, on our way to finishing on 18, which Brian almost parred. He later said he had such a tremendous feeling of accomplishment, having conquered the Old Course.

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Podcasts

TG2: Brooks and Peter Kostis rip Patrick Reed

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Brooks Koepka and Peter Kostis both talk about Patrick Reed and his cheating allegations. Brooks was on SiriusXM and Kostis on No Laying Up don’t hold back their feelings on cheating. Kostis also has some PGA Tour beef, saying that they don’t care about the television broadcast.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

Watch for players lofting up at altitude at the WGC-Mexico Championship

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This week, at the PGA Tour’s WGC-Mexico Championship, we are going to watch some of the best and longest players on the planet play what will effectively be one of the shortest courses on tour.

Now, 7,341 yards is by no means a cakewalk, and there are shorter courses from a pure yardage perspective played on tour—Harbour Town, as an example, only plays at 7,099 yards from the very back. The difference is Harbour Town is played at sea level while Club de Golf Chapultepec is at over 7,500 feet of elevation, and when you factor in the altitude difference between the two courses, they play very differently—more on the math in a moment.

The altitude will also factor in how some players will be setting up their equipment and we could see some adjustments. The most obvious is lofting up the driver or fairways woods to increase carry, which is something Tiger Woods specifically mentioned last year.

The biggest misconception when talking about playing golf at altitude is that the ball doesn’t spin the same in thinner air and players “loft up” to maintain spin. Let’s get into the physics to bust this “spinning less” myth and simplify the science behind playing at altitude,

The golf ball is an inanimate object, and it has no idea it’s at altitude; the air will not have an impact on how much the ball will actually spin. Yes, increasing loft should, by almost every imaginable measure, increase spin but the air it travels through will not change the spin rate.

However, playing at altitude has an effect, Let’s break down what happens

  • Thinner air exerts less drag force (resistance/friction) on the ball. The ball moves more easily through this less dense air and won’t decelerate as quickly as it flies. But note that the faster an object moves the more drag force will occur
  • Less resistance also means that it is harder to shape shots. So you when you see Shot Tracer, the pros are going to be hitting it even straighter (this makes Tiger’s fairway bunker shot last year even more unbelievable)
  • Less force = less lift, the ball will fly lower and on a flatter trajectory

Time for some math from Steve Aoyama, a Principal Scientist at Titleist Golf Ball R&D (full piece here: The Effect of Altitude on Golf Ball Performance)

“You can calculate the distance gain you will experience (compared to sea level) by multiplying the elevation (in feet) by .00116. For example, if you’re playing in Reno, at 1 mile elevation (5,280 ft.) the increase is about 6% (5,280 x .00116 = 6.1248). If you normally drive the ball 250 yards at sea level, you will likely drive it 265 yards in Reno.”

Not every player will be making changes to their bag, and some will instead focus on the types of shots they are hitting instead. When speaking to Adam Scott earlier this week, I was able to ask if he planned on making any changes heading into Mexico the week after his win at the Genesis Invitational.

“It’s very rare for me to make club changes week-to-week beyond playing in the Open Championship and adding a longer iron. The one thing I focus on when playing at altitude is avoiding partial shots where I’m trying to reduce the spin because as spin goes down the ball doesn’t want to stay in the air. I’ve experienced partial shots with longer clubs that end up 25 yards short, and because of that I want to hit as many full shots as possible”

With Club de Golf Chapultepec sitting just over 7,800 feet above sea level, we’re looking at 9.048 or an increase of just over 9 percent. That makes this 7,341-yard course play 6,677 yards (+/- where the tees are placed).

 

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