When Big Effort Leads To Small Drives
Illustration by Chris Gash
We've all been there: You're playing with a couple of really big bombers, and you're trying to keep up. After they blow it way by you on a couple of holes, you start swinging harder to pick up extra yards. But the harder you go after it, the shorter your tee shots go. What gives?
Average golfers don't play enough to control a super-fast swing. They're trying so hard to smash the ball, they have the club moving its fastest in the wrong place—at the start of the downswing instead of the bottom of the arc. They also often lose their balance swinging harder, and that makes centerface contact a challenge. If you want more distance, don't try to kill it. Swing with a smoother tempo and concentrate on hitting the ball in the sweet spot. Here's how:
First, make practice swings varying the amount of effort. Swing at 50 percent of your fastest, then 60 percent, then 70 percent and so on. You'll start noticing that the "swoosh" sound the club makes comes later and later in the swing. You certainly don't want to hear it before the clubhead reaches the ball. I'm constantly telling students to think beyond the ball, with their swing center—and maximum clubhead speed—occurring as much as three feet after impact.
The proper grip also will help you pick up yardage. Be sure to hold the handle so you feel the connection of the top-hand thumb (left thumb for right-handers) to the lifeline of the lower hand. You also want to feel pressure in the last three fingers of the top hand and the middle two fingers of the bottom hand. Holding the club in this manner gives you control, while allowing your wrists to remain flexible, so they can release the club like a whip through the ball.
If you can do that, you won't have to stare at the back of your playing partners' heads all day.
“Get your club moving its fastest after the strike.”
PUT YOUR RIGHT KNEE INTO IT Shifting your weight toward the target allows you to apply your body mass to the strike. A good drill to get that weight moving forward is to make practice swings focusing on the movement of the right knee. It should move outward toward the ball and forward toward the target as you start the downswing. Watch old clips of Sam Snead. Knee action was a hallmark to his powerful swing.
DRILL: TIMING YOUR RELEASE
Without a club, start in a setup position with your arms extended and hands together, palms facing each other. Swing your right arm to the top and then back down as if you were simulating a downswing. When your right hand reaches the left hand, slap it over so that the left palm faces up. That's the feeling of a proper release through impact.
Photo by Dom Furore
Jim McLean, a Golf Digest Teaching Professional, is based at The Biltmore in Coral Gables, Fla.