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Phil Mickelson’s 6 mph clubhead speed gain just scratches the surface of what pros can achieve

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The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is always one of my favorite tournaments, in part because I lived there most of 2004-2006, and it brings up such nice memories.

At the top of the list of memories, of course, is meeting my future wife. I also remember jumping off my couch in 2004 when Phil Mickelson notched his first major at the Masters. I sprung off the couch in Carmel when he made that putt, similar to how he jumped in the air at Augusta National’s 18th green.

Anyway, I wanted to write today to talk about Phil Mickelson. As a long-time Phil fan, I was happy to see him pick up his 44th PGA Tour win and fifth victory at Pebble Beach.

As has been widely reported, at 48 years old, Phil’s club head speed had recently jumped up 6 mph. He led the field in driving distance at the Desert Classic, was leading in driving distance in Phoenix through that Friday’s cut, and his club head speed this year is averaging 120.92 mph, up from 116.48 mph in the 2017/2018 season.

As is becoming more well known, driving distance and clubhead speed are key factors in scoring potential, so the increase bodes well in Phil’s quest to reach 50 career PGA Tour wins and possibly pick up that missing U.S. Open trophy when he goes back to Pebble Beach in June.

While 6 mph in nine months is almost unheard of by overall golf and golf fitness industry standards, especially considering the average distance losses with age, I can say confidently: Quite frankly, he’s really just scratched the surface.

I’ve covered this in some of my other articles, so I’ll just refer you there for the details, but Phil’s win and swing speed gains are a good time for me to remind you that achieving 12-16 mph in 30-45 days is highly achievable with the right training. More is even there for the taking if you’re willing to put in a little elbow grease. I’ve even had some golfers go from the 90s all the way up in to the 130s and 140s.

Here are some starter keys.

Practice swinging faster

This may sound overly simple, and I suppose it is, but largely no one outside of professional long drivers do it. Gaining speed is similar to improving at other skills in that you’ll get better just by practicing.

Phil and a number of other tour players are starting to tap in to part of the speed equation here.

Part of the whole basis of Phil’s training has been practicing swinging faster with SuperSpeed sticks. The fact that he’s doing this type of training is good, although it doesn’t really matter so much whether you swing a heavy club, a light club, something with air resistance, etc.

The main thing is just that you are practicing swinging faster, and putting some time in to it as with any other component of your game like full swing, chipping, putting, etc.

Strengthen your downswing muscles

Based on his results and without knowing the full details of his training, a big key that he appears to be missing is doing something to strengthen his downswing muscles.

Every golfer, whether you are long drive champion or low swing speed amateur, starts at zero mph at the top of the backswing and gets to whatever speed they achieve at impact.

Long drivers tend to be very strong, but not necessarily big. Two-time World Long Drive Champion, Jamie Sadlowski, is a good example of this. He can do 480-pound hexbar deadlifts for reps. That takes tremendous strength in his hands, forearms, lower back, glutes, and hamstrings.

At my fastest, I could swing in the low 140s, and it’s no coincidence that I could also do over 700-lb half squats.

Were Phil to supplement his swing speed reps with doing more to specifically target gradually increasing the strength of his downswing muscles over time, there’s no reason why he couldn’t be swinging at Cameron Champ’s 130 mph level, or higher, even at 48 years old. Look no further than Senior World Long Drive Champion “Fast” Eddie Fernandes to find a guy who in his mid/late 40s and that can regularly swing in the 140s.

For that matter, Phil aside, there’s no reason why ANY tour player couldn’t be swinging at those speeds with proper training. Tour pros are definitely more fit that they used to be. That’s good, but the golf fitness industry is still very young and fit doesn’t necessarily mean fast.

To learn more about how to train to be fast, check out my other articles, visit Swing Man Golf, and/or work with an instructor or fitness trainer who is swing speed training certified.

Now is as good as time as any to get going on some swing speed training. By the time the Masters rolls around in April, you could easily be 30-40 yards longer and get your season started off with a boom.

 

 

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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!!!

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Pingback: The 5 Best Golf Training Aids of 2021

  2. Patricknorm

    Feb 14, 2019 at 8:01 am

    Going on the Titleist Performance Institute webpage , there are a few things that stand out with players who swing above 130 mph. First is lower body strength, hence the half squats, dead lifts. The other metric is your vertical jump., which is a measure of lower body power. The other metric is your ability to throw a ball or a javelin. Similar motion to hitting a baseball, tennis ball or golf ball.
    The common factor to hitting a golf ball a long way , is ones lower body strength. Mickelson mentioned he was working on this aspect years ago and it’s no surprise along with his over speed training, he’s increased his clubhead speed. Tiger Woods clearly has been hitting the gym hard post lower back surgery and the results on the course speak for themselves.

  3. JJ

    Feb 13, 2019 at 11:10 pm

    Half squats..? Who does half squats?

    • Alec

      Feb 14, 2019 at 1:32 am

      Not to mention, that based on the pin position in the rack in the picture he posted, he was doing quarter squats at best.

  4. X

    Feb 13, 2019 at 10:54 pm

    Scratches the surface? What on Earth are you blathering about?
    They’re athletes. This is their job. They had better try every bit of everything they can to stay in shape and to gain more to win more. Otherwise, why bother?
    This is what we would expect from the top guys. Looking at it from our amateur fan perspective, if they’re not doing this to improve and winning, then we all can see that they just fall off the map and that’s how obvious it is. We don’t need any of this explained.

  5. undercover

    Feb 13, 2019 at 10:04 pm

    This article is spot on. I was a college athlete and I’ve been a sub-scratch handicap player for nearly 30 years. I turn 50 later this year and I started worrying about losing speed and distance as I get older. I still play competitive tournament golf and often times against young college players. So, I been weight training and speed training a few years ago and find that I’m now swinging on average 121 MPH. I work on muscles that deal with the golf swing. I’ve gained muscle mass, speed and endurance. I would have to say core and lower body training has been key (box jumps are a must). For the skeptics, the majority of touring pros and college players are doing speed training to supplement their strength training. Jump in and give it a try, it works.

  6. Simms

    Feb 13, 2019 at 5:04 pm

    Nice article…no doubt we see the younger players men/women in better shape and hitting the long drives…our 4 some followed a girl the other day that played the black tees and was over 270 on every driver hole..when we talked she was from South Korea 26 and been golfing sense she was 14..what was scary…her boyfriend was hitting over 300 yards every hole…thank goodness he could not putt.

  7. Aaron Roth

    Feb 13, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    Well… what are the “downswing muscles”?

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Feb 13, 2019 at 3:33 pm

      We all swing the club differently, so, it depends…but, for example, some for me personally are:

      – Trail Chest, trail triceps, and trail forearm (mostly palmar flexion – think slapping) – throwing motion
      – Lead lat and lead forearm (mostly ulnar deviation – think chopping) – pulling motion
      – General core, lower back, and butt
      – Lead leg – internal hip rotation, quad, adductor
      – Trail leg – external hip rotator, hamstring, abductor, and calve

      Click on my author page and peruse some of my older articles. I get in to some other details there.

  8. Nathan Andersen

    Feb 13, 2019 at 2:39 pm

    Agree wholeheartedly with everything you say (especially given your qualifications).

    However, I think with all of this, do you think it would be desirable for Phil to pick up that speed? A 2-degree open face at impact is much more harmful at 140 mph SS compared to 122 SS, so although you hit it further, you miss more fairways.

    I think an amateur going from 100 to 115 definitely wants that, but, at 122 (or 128, wherever he currently is), adding that distance may be more penal than for an amateur given the course differences.

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Feb 13, 2019 at 3:23 pm

      I get where you are coming from but having more speed at your disposal never hurts.

      At that point, it comes down to a course management decision and understanding your shot dispersion.

      If the area where you are hitting is big enough to safely contain your shot dispersion, it becomes a big advantage. You may be able to carry trouble and take more aggressive lines that others cannot which leads to shorter clubs in to greens and strokes gained over the season.

      This won’t be the case in every situation, but sometimes the opportunity will be there to take advantage of the extra length.

      In other cases where it would be too penal as you mentioned, the person with the extra speed can just take less club and hit to a strategically more safe area. Jamie, for example, will often hit irons off the tee to put the ball in play. You can see this is his Arccos stats. Cameron Champ will do the same. I was watching some highlights the other day of Cameron and he was simply hitting 3-wood where others were hitting driver. In other spots where it was safe for him, he would bomb driver way past everyone.

      • Jaacob Bowden, PGA

        Feb 13, 2019 at 3:41 pm

        Interestingly, I often find people hit more accurate too with training. All the swing-specific focus has various side benefits with balance, coordination, mental image of the swing, etc.

    • Ryan K

      Feb 13, 2019 at 10:01 pm

      You also have to remember that nearly all stats indicate you’re better off being closer to the hole than in the fairway, comparatively. Then it gets down to approach and short yardage of which it’s been established that Phil is pretty darn good at! This coming from not an ardent Phil fan mind you.

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TG2: Max Homa talks about his club changes, JT’s new putter, Jason Day’s WITB

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This week we have a great interview with Max Homa on some recent club changes. Max seems to love gear and is one of the nicest guys in golf. Justin Thomas has a new putter in the bag and we go through Jason Day’s interesting WITB. A few other equipment news stories from the AT&T this week.

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Club Junkie: Reviewing Cobra’s Forged Tec irons and Callaway’s new Fairway golf bags!

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Cobra took one Forged Tec iron and split it into two options this year. The Forged Tec X is the larger iron that is pure speed and forgiveness. Almost a full club longer and with tight dispersion. The Forged Tec is for players looking for distance and feel in a smaller package.

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2022 AT&T Byron Nelson: Outright Betting Picks

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As anticipation mounts for the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills, we make one final pit stop at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas, to play the 2022 AT&T Byron Nelson.

Last year was the first time the tournament was held at TPC Craig Ranch. The prior two editions of the AT&T Byron Nelson were played at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas.

TPC Craig Ranch is a 7,468-yard par 72 and features bentgrass greens.  The event historically plays relatively easy, and that certainly didn’t change last year with the new course. K.H. Lee won the event by shooting -25.

The course structure may provide some additional intrigue with the par-3 17th set up like the stadium hole at TPC Scottsdale. The course also has both long and difficult par-4s mixed with driveable par-4s, which should create some exciting moments.

There are 156 golfers in the field this week, and it’s a very strong collection of players. Some notable golfers in the field include Dustin Johnson, Sam Burns, Justin Thomas, Will Zalatoris, Adam Scott, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Scottie Scheffler Xander Schauffele, and Hideki Matsuyama.

2022 AT&T Byron Nelson Best Bets

Jordan Spieth (+2200) (DraftKings):

When I took my first glance at the odds this week, I thought there may have been a mistake. Coming off of a win and a stretch where he’s played great golf, I fully anticipated Jordan Spieth’s betting odds this week to have a “1” in front of them.

Spieth’s win at the RBC Heritage was impressive, but I was more impressed with the way he got it done. In the past, we’ve seen Jordan contend by gaining strokes putting and making improbable birdies throughout the week. That wasn’t the case at Harbour Town. The 28-year-old gained 13.3 strokes from tee to green which led the field by a whopping 3.0 stroke margin. He’s gained strokes on approach in his past six measured events and has gained strokes off the tee in five of his past six measured events. Shockingly, Spieth has had a difficult time putting this season. If he can regain form with the putter he will be incredibly difficult to beat.

Throughout the past few seasons, the former Texas Longhorn has been incredible in the state of Texas. Three of his past four starts in the state have resulted in a top-ten finish, including a win at last year’s Valero Texas Open.

I typically don’t like betting on golfers to win in back-to-back starts, but if there is anyone who can do it, it’s Spieth. He’s won in consecutive starts twice already in his career and tends to get scorching hot once he starts rounding into form.

Will Zalatoris (+2200)(Bet365):

Will Zalatoris is overdue for his first PGA Tour victory and there’s plenty of reason to believe that TPC Craig Ranch is the perfect spot for him to finally get over the hump.

In Zal’s past five starts, he’s gaining an average of 4.3 strokes on approach and 6.9 strokes for tee to green. His ball striking has been nothing short of exquisite and returning to a course that he is incredibly familiar with should do nothing to deter that this week. In his press conference prior to the event last year, Zalatoris said in regard to the course:

“So I played TPC Craig Ranch a bunch going back, I think, to when I was actually 12 years old. I played in the Ewing Junior Tour regular season championship, played in a foursome with Scottie Scheffler, and I’ve got a lot of great memories here. So I guess I’ve been competing here basically half my life, so really looking forward to, obviously, competing in front of some friends and family this week.”

Last year at the Byron Nelson, Zalatoris led the field in Strokes Gained: Approach by gaining 9.5 strokes on the field. His Achilles heel (putting) was his undoing that week, as it typically is. He lost a paltry 4.3 strokes putting and was the only top-20 finisher to lose strokes putting. If he can manage to putt to field average this week, look out!

Marc Leishman (+6500)(DraftKings):

In the past, I’ve written about golfers who offer some tremendous value on the betting board due to what I call a “missed cut discount”. Marc Leishman fits that description perfectly this week. Although he missed the cut at last week’s Wells Fargo Championship, I didn’t see any major cause for concern. Despite missing the cut, Leishman gained 3.1 strokes on approach in two rounds. He bladed a bunker shot into the water which is most definitely an anomaly but cost him three strokes and ultimately, the cut. 

Leishman now heads to a course that should be a much better fit for him than TPC Potomac was. When the 38-year-old gets into trouble, it usually is due to an errant driver. Missing the fairway at TPC Potomac was incredibly penal, and that won’t be the case at TPC Craig Ranch. It also will be much harder to miss the fairways considering they are one of the widest on Tour. 

Throughout his career, the Aussie has played some of his best golf in the state of Texas. He was the runner up at this event (AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest) back in 2018, and finished 21st at this course last season. Additionally, back in 2008, Leishman won a Nationwide Tour event (WNB Golf Classic) by 11 strokes which took place in Midland, Texas. Something about Texas golf undoubtedly resonates with him. 

Leishman is a golfer I love going to on outright bets because of the win equity he offers. He has six PGA Tour wins, so I am confident he will be able to convert a good performance into a win if given the opportunity. I expect the winning score to eclipse -20 this week, and three of Leishman’s six Tour victories have come at -20 or better. 

Matthew Wolff (+11000)(Bet365):

After a nightmare start to his 2022 campaign, Matthew Wolff finally showed some signs of life last week at TPC Potomac. The 23-year-old gained 4.0 strokes from tee to green and finished in 25th, which was his best finish since November. He finished 11th that week at the Houston Open, so returning to Texas may bring some positive vibes to go along with the confidence he gained last week. 

I’ve always viewed Wolff as a player who was capable of having extreme “spike weeks” where he can find himself in contention. It’s unclear whether Wolff is truly trending back towards the lofty expectations he once had or if it was an outlier. At triple digit odds, it’s worth the price to find out. 

Dylan Frittelli (+12500) (Bet365):

I was high on Frittelli the last time the PGA Tour made a stop in Texas, and he had a great week, finishing in 8th place at the Valero Texas Open. 

The former Texas Longhorn seems to find his groove in the state of Texas and also finished 19th at last year’s Houston Open. A low-scoring tournament should be a good fit for him as he is typically a prolific birdie maker. 

The 31-year-old finished 46th last week at the Wells Fargo Championship but he played better statistically than his result shows. He gained 5.1 strokes from tee to green but really struggled with the putter, losing 4.0 strokes to the field. Returning to Texas should be a positive change for his prospects with the flat stick as he gained 3.9 strokes putting in his showing at the Valero Texas Open.

Brandon Wu (+20000)(DraftKings):

Brandon Wu is a young player that I think is going to break on the PGA Tour scene in a big way in the coming years. The 25-year-old won the Korn Ferry Tour Championship in 2020 beating an impressive mix of current Tour players. He’s come on strong lately with finishes of 3rd, 33rd, 28th, and 2nd before a missed cut last week at Wells Fargo. The missed cut doesn’t bother me much considering I didn’t love the course fit for him. 

Wu cashed a top ten bet for us in Mexico and I think similar to Vidanta Vallarta, TPC Craig Ranch is a course that has a much more favorable setup for the Stanford product. Since he’s started playing on Tour, the tournaments he’s played best at are all course setups that are on the easier side. He showed us that he is more than capable of keeping up in a “birdie fest” in his Sunday round in Mexico where he fired a scorching hot 63 to grab a share of second place. 

This is a talent play on Brandon Wu. A win will come for him at some point in the next few seasons so starting to invest in him consistently at triple digit odds should pay off.

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