Photo by Dom Furore
The palm beach post called him a “no-name champion” after he won the Honda Classic in early March, but Keith Mitchell and his driver have quickly become known quantities on the PGA Tour. The second-year player from Chattanooga can roast a golf ball and led the tour in swing speed in 2018 (125 miles per hour). Cameron Champ is now the fastest man in pro golf at 129 mph, but Mitchell is still significantly above the tour average of 113 mph.
“He has a huge advantage hitting the golf ball as far as he does,” says his longtime coach, Chan Reeves, director of instruction at the Atlanta Athletic Club. “Now that other parts of his game are coming into form, that length advantage is really going to help him.”
Although Mitchell has always been long off the tee, he says things really started to click when he switched to a power fade, largely controlled by a hard rotation of his torso in the downswing.
“I was worried it wouldn't go as far as a straight ball or a draw,” he says. “I'm not worried anymore.”
“Even though I'm fading it, my tournament ball speed is around 187 miles per hour.”
A GREAT START
Looking at these photos taken the week of Mitchell's win at the Honda Classic, his coach, Chan Reeves, immediately checks the takeaway. “We want the club initially on line with the target and then moving inside,” Reeves says. “If his arms get away from his body, it leads to weaker fades.”
MOVING ON UP
Reeves likes that Mitchell isn't hinging the club up too soon. “Here the club is hinging itself,” Reeves says. “It's the effect of creating so much width in the swing arc going back. That wide takeaway is a big reason he's able to swing so fast. He's giving the club a lot of space to build speed.”
Mitchell isn't afraid to create more coil in his backswing by letting his hips rotate with his trunk. “But he's not swaying off the ball—that's key,” Reeves says. “He's fully rotated, but he's still pretty quiet from the waist down and very stable. All golfers can benefit from a stable move like this.”
START YOUR ENGINES
The transition into the downswing should be powerful, but Reeves likes to see clubhead speed gather and culminate through impact. “I feel like I'm swinging at 97 percent of my max,” Mitchell says. That's fine, Reeves says, “if the 97 percent is at the bottom of the swing—not the top.”
There's very little hand action in Mitchell's swing, Reeves says. “His arms keep pace with his body, but he's not trying to pull the club into the ball.” Mitchell says it feels like his hands are “naturally falling” when he hits a big drive. “I'm counting on my big muscles, not my hands, to deliver speed.”
Unless there's a stiff headwind, Mitchell says he'll take on bunkers 310 yards out. He hits a fade by rotating his torso hard in the downswing while preserving his spine tilt. The fast rotation makes it nearly impossible for the club to out-race the body, leaving it slightly open to his path at impact.
A hallmark of Mitchell's swing is that the club moves around his body equally on plane during the backswing and follow-through, Reeves says. “We're constantly working on this. I also like how much his shoulders have turned as he finishes. If his torso keeps moving, you can bet he crushed it.”
KEITH MITCHELL 27 / 6–1 / 190 pounds St. Simons Island, Ga.
DRIVER Mizuno ST190 (9.5 degrees)
BALL Titleist Pro V1