If you visited the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando last month, it was difficult to ignore the abundance of fitness equipment and swing trainers present that were designed with one goal in mind: getting golfers to swing the club faster. Golf Digest fitness advisor Ben Shear (@ben_shear) took note and wonders if that's a good thing.
"Take the typical amateur -- that middle-aged, 15-to-20 handicapper," Shear says. "Let's say he hits the ball 230 yards and about 10 percent off line. Now, without improving his impact alignments, he hits it 270 yards because he's swinging faster. That guy or girl is going to be significantly more off line because the impact alignments haven't changed. It's triangulation."
Even worse, Shear says, is that with more speed comes more force on the body. A great many golfers can't handle the extra force that comes with swinging harder (see photo of 2008-'09 Re/Max World Long Drive Champ Jamie Sadlowski), and the result will likely be pain and injury to the joints such as the shoulders and elbows.
"If you've got a trainer, a physical therapist and a chiropractor, and you're fit, strong and doing all the right things, then absolutely go for it. Get as fast as you possibly can," Shear says. "Unfortunately, most of us don't have access to that kind of help, and don't keep ourselves conditioned enough to work on increasing speed."
So what's the alternative? Shear suggests working on improving your impact alignments. If your driver swing speed is south of 100 mph, you're better off learning how to hit the ball on the upswing and making center-face contact. It's a safer training goal, certainly more accurate, and will lengthen your shots.
(Photo by J.D. Cuban)