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Low Net

How I’ve added real distance this winter

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This story first appeared in Low Net, a weekly newsletter dedicated to golf through the eyes of average players. The newsletter will be for Golf Digest+ members. To receive yours weekly, sign up for Golf Digest+.

I used to be a bit of a bunter. I won’t bore you with the reasons, but trust me, it was apparent. I knew it. My friends knew it. Wiseass Internet commenters certainly knew it, and they were not afraid to tell me they knew it, either.

When I started the Stack System, a speed-training program that Matthew Fitzpatrick credits with bolstering his distance enough to win the 2022 U.S. Open, I had two primary goals: The first was to increase my body’s ability to swing hard. The second was to increase my willingness to swing hard . I’d argue the latter was the bigger hurdle, yet what’s apparent from devoting my winter to speed training is how I’ve made headway with both.

You can read in greater detail about my progress with the Stack, gaining more than 10 mph of clubhead speed to date, but one important element I’d highlight here is the extent to which the process benefits from instant feedback. You make a swing with a weighted shaft, you see your swing speed on a small radar, and you make adjustments—loading more to your right side, opening your hips as you begin the transition, etc.—to get a faster speedwith the next one. Maybe it’s the inner 13-year-old boy in me, but it feels like a game in which I’m trying to unlock the next level.

The other significant breakthrough was after hitting balls in the simulator, I learned that swinging harder didn’t need to come at the expense of control. That used to be a hangup of mine, but I now know better. It’s by engaging more of my lower body that I’m able sequence the swing better than before. If you’re impressed, don’t be: I still have a long way to go. But if you’re looking to add some pop off the tee, a speed-training program like this one can help.

(Listen: Luke Kerr-Dineen and I recently discussed speed training on his Golf IQ podcast.)

Questions from fellow Low Netters

I was excited to receive a number of emails from readers after my first newsletter, so I plan to devote some space here to a few questions. While far from an expert, I usually have a decent sense of where to look for answers, so that’s what we’ll do. If you have a question, send me an email at Samuel.Weinman@wbd.com.

I have full swing yips pretty badly and need help. I love golf but my frustration with this just may make me quit golf and I do not want to do that.—Bob

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Don’t quit, Bob! The yips can be scary, and are fairly complicated, but my colleague Alex Myers had them and came out the other side better than ever. Two big things Alex learned after working with a sports psychologist was working on his breathing, and learning to connect with his target before and during the swing. By the way, Alex discusses this and a few other worthwhile takeaways from his own dramatic game transformation, which you can read all about here.

For a 22-25 handicapper, do golf shafts in the driver, irons, even the wedges make a material difference?—David

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This is a common misconception among mid- or low-level players, that they’re not “good” enough to care about equipment. It’d be like saying you’re not in good enough shape to exercise. In other words, we’re the ones who need proper equipment the most. While I do have plenty of knowledge gaps in this area, I have been beaten down by our equipment editors Mike Johnson and Mike Stachura to understand that proper-fitting shafts are essential. They call them the “engine of the swing,” and one interesting point Johnson raised in a story recently is that we shouldn’t assume slower swings need the lightest shaft. Sometimes, Johnson explains, they might require the opposite.

Thank you for recognizing the millions of us in the middle. Find an expert to discuss running out of energy (poor scoring) on the last 4 holes.—Dennis

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Been there, Dennis. Enough, in fact, that I’ve written about this very dynamic, particularly when it comes to bad decisions. The simplest way to frame it is to think of your mental energy as you would a gas tank. Over the course of a round you’re invariably going to burn through some, and if it ends up being a particularly taxing round, you burn through enough that your tank is empty right at crunch time, and you do something stupid. Or at least I do. The solution, according to experts, is to preserve your energy as best you can by not piling on undue stress. It helps keeps you fresh for when you need it most.