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Speed Traps

5 distance-chasing mistakes that can wreck your swing and ruin your score


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Welcome to GOLF IQ, a game improvement column and podcast by Golf Digest's Play Editor, Luke Kerr-Dineen. Every Tuesday and Thursday, Kerr-Dineen uncovers nerdy nuggets of information we can use to improve our games.

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You've probably heard by now that driving distance is an important part of your game that you could always use more of. According to Arccos' data about distance, every extra 10 yards you gain roughly correlates to about a stroke shaved off your scoring average.

So yes, chasing more distance is something all of us should be doing, basically all the time. But while the benefits are clear, there are also a few ways it can backfire if you approach the task incorrectly.

Those mistakes are what me and my co-host Reed Howard discussed on the most recent episode of the Golf IQ podcast, which you can listen to below. Each episode is only 10 minutes, and you can subscribe to the pod right here.

Mistake #1: Too much too soon

Perhaps the biggest, and most damaging, mistake golfers make when they want more distance is to dial things up way too fast. Undergoing a 120 ball swing-as-hard-as-you-can speed training session may stem from good intentions, but it's a threshold that amateur golfers need to work slowly up to. Start with 10 hard swings at the end of your range session, for instance, and build up from there. Or better yet, subscribe to a program that will help you along. Think of it as a journey; dive into the deep end too fast, and you'll end up injured.

Mistake #2: Not consistent

Swinging the club faster, and hitting the ball longer, doesn't happen overnight. Just as doing too much, too fast risks injury, so does sporadic speed training. And worse yet, it won't even help. Your body needs to break through barriers in order to add speed. To do that you need a consistent, relentless routine.

"It's not about going absolutely ballistic for two weeks, then taking a couple of weeks off…those golfers often see their speed gains backslide," says Biomechanist Dr. Sasho Mackenzie, co-founder of The Stack Training aid. "The golfers who maintain their speed gains are the people who stick with it, and chip away for 12 weeks."

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Mistake #3: The overturning 'trap'

This is something I struggle with, as I say on the pod: Often when golfers set about speed training the wrong way, their swing will move around in unintended ways. They'll fall into the overturning trap, for instance, or get stuck and hit big draws. You can cheat your way to more speed in a way that's bad for your consistency, which is why continuing to work on your swing technique while you speed train is so important.

Mistake #4: Work on your mobility

Part of the reason strange swing glitches arrive when you go chasing speed is because you're only chasing speed. A rounded approach is the best one, which means working on things like your hip mobility, and shoulder flexibility. Pros work on their mobility and stability because it’s what actually allows them to accomplish their golf swing goals.

Mistake #5: Swing too hard

Every golfer can swing for the fences, but that's not the point of adding speed. All that'll accomplish is a lack of control. As Dr. Sasho Mackenzie says, the goal of speed training is to raise your ceiling overall, which means you can make a swing that feels softer and more controlled, but ends up being faster than you think.

"You're practicing swinging faster than you would away from the golf course when you make a nice full swing on the course with a balanced finish, it doesn't feel like a 95 or 100 percent swing," Sasho says. "It feels like an easy 85 or 90 percent, but goes the same distance."

You can listen to the full Golf IQ episode, along with previous episodes, below: