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Opinion & Analysis

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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Opinion & Analysis

What does it really take to play college golf?

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Much has been written and speculated about this question, both in popular media and by junior golfers and their parents and coaches. However, I wanted to get a more definitive answer.

In collaboration with Dr. Laura Upenieks of Baylor University, and with the generous support of Junior Tour of Northern California and Aaron R. Hartesveldt, PGA, we surveyed 51 players who were committed to play college golf for the 2021 year.

Our sample was comprised of 27 junior boys and 24 junior girls. Most of our respondents were either white or Asian. As for some other notable statistics, 67% of boys reported working with a coach once a week, while 100% of girls reported working with a coach at least once a week. In addition, 67% of boys were members at a private club, while 100% of girls were members of a private club. Here are some other interesting findings from the data:

-The average scoring differential for a boy who committed to college golf was -1.48
-The average scoring differential for a girl who committed to college golf was 3.72
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-The average boy was introduced to the game at 7 years old
-The average girl was introduced to golf at 12 years old
-The average boy first broke par at 12
-The average girl first broke par at 17
-67% of boys and girls who responded reported having won at least 10 tournaments

One of the most interesting findings of the survey was the amount of competitive golf being played. The data shows that 67% of players report playing over 100 tournaments, meaning they have close to 1,000 hours of tournament experience. This is an extremely impressive amount given all respondents were teenagers, showing the level of dedication needed to compete at the top level.

Another interesting showing was that 75% of boys surveyed reported receiving “full scholarship”. At first glance, this number seems to be extremely high. In 2016, in a GolfWRX that I did with Steph Acosta, the data we collected estimated this number was between 5-10%. This number is seven times greater, which could be due to a low sample size. However, I would also speculate that the data speaks to the extrinsic motivation of players in the data set, as they feel the need to get a scholarship to measure their athletic success.

Finally, boys in the survey report playing with a mixture of elite players (those with plus handicaps) as well as 5-9 handicaps. On the other hand, no female in the study reported playing with any plus handicaps. It also stood out that 100% of junior girls report that their fathers play golf. In ongoing research, we are examining the reasons why young women choose golf and the impact their environments have on their relationships with golf. The early data is very interesting and we hope that it can be published by the end of this year. Altogether, we suspect that girls hold lower status at golf courses and are less able to establish competitive groups to regularly play with. This could impact how long they stay in the sport of golf as well as their competitive development.

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