The American Express

La Quinta, Calif.



Add Distance: Turn & Burn

By Shaun Webb Photos by Dom Furore
July 26, 2015

When you talk about the concept of speed in the golf swing, it's easy to get confused and frustrated. Many players' first instinct--to make their hands and arms go as fast as possible right at the ball--leads to things that actually make the swing slower. It's a common sight on the range and the course: The more effort and brute force players put in, especially with the upper body, the shorter and more off line their shots seem to go.

Real, usable, repeatable speed doesn't come from trying to kill the ball with your hands and arms, and it doesn't come from creating a lot of "X-factor" in your swing, meaning a big shoulder turn against a restricted hip turn.

Biomechanical research on the swing tells us that power comes from actively using the muscles in your upper legs and hips to tilt and rotate your pelvis correctly back and through.

Get it right, and you'll be able to take advantage of the biggest muscles in your body to initiate a chain reaction of forces from the ground all the way to the clubhead. That's what allows tour pros--many of whom are probably smaller than you--to create "easy" power and make it look so routine.

It's time to start thinking about swinging the club smarter, not harder.


To get the most benefit from the lower-body movement you're about to learn, you need to be in the right position to deliver the club. Take your normal stance with a middle iron, but split your hands so that your right hand is holding onto the midpoint of the shaft. Make some backswings using your right arm to pull the club back (above), feeling like the movement is pulling your right hip up and around, which will straighten your right leg. The split grip will also help you feel the wide route your hands need to take to the top of the swing and down to the ball again.

Getting your right hip higher than your left sets you up to deliver maximum energy into the ball, not spin out and wipe across it.


You've probably heard about loading to the right on the backswing, but most players try to make that move with the upper body, which produces a weak, flat hip turn. If you can load by shifting your lower body while your upper body stays more over the ball, you'll increase power and make it easier to hit the ball flush. To feel the right kind of load, take your normal setup, then pull your left foot back until the tip of your shoe is even with your right heel. With your left heel slightly off the ground, make some backswings and feel the pressure build under your right foot without shifting your hips away from the target.


Just as a lean away from the target with your upper body on the backswing is bad news, so is a big lower-body slide toward the target coming down. You want to shift the pressure back to your left foot without sliding too much and giving up the leverage needed to create a slingshot effect through the ball. A great way to feel this move into impact is to practice a baseball-style leg kick. On the backswing, let your left leg come in toward your right leg (below, left). Then replant your left foot before starting the downswing, and feel like you're pushing upward off the ground (below, right). That aggressive lower-body thrust is the essence of power in the swing.