DISTANCE

Almost every golfer wants to hit the ball further. Providing the extra distance doesn’t come at the expense of accuracy, they know that, it will leave them with a shorter approach shot into the green and using less club should give them greater control and mean more birdie chances.

In my time, I have counselled many a young golfer, who, in their desire to hit the ball further, were mistakenly swinging harder to swing faster. Swinging harder introduces tension, which can disrupt sequencing and timing and often result in less club head speed. It can also inhibit the quality of ball striking, because of the stability and balance issues that ensue. Any golfer needs to understand that extra club head speed is only one of several factors that will help improve distance and it shouldn’t be their first port of call. Solid contact beats a fast swing almost every time. It not only provides greater accuracy and distance, but, even more importantly, it also provides greater distance CONTROL.

Distance - Only Fools Rush InFast club head speed will only optimise distance when energy is efficiently transferred into the ball. That’s why I have always started any mission to increase distance by improving the quality of the player’s ball striking. Assessing the quality (and consistency) of a player’s ball striking prowess yields important data relating to a range of key factors such as arc height and low point control for the perfect ball-turf contact, control of swing-path and club face alignment, angle of attack, sweet spot strike, smash factor, launch angle and spin rate. For most golfers, the most immediate aim should be to improve their strike quality and get their smash factor up around the 1.45 mark. Another key factor is launch angle. In my experience, most amateurs need to launch the ball higher with the driver and lower with their irons.

Understanding how each of these factors can influence outcomes (which can be quite dramatic when two or more combine) is extremely important per se, but in respect of distance, being able to control all these factors allows golfers to take full advantage of the elements, such as wind direction and the condition of the fairways, that can have a major influence how the golfer should approach their quest for distance on any given hole.

Since power output results from a combination of strength and speed, efficient force generation is the order of the day: in other words, you will need sound biomechanics, efficient use of GRF and transference of energy up through the kinetic chain. It is important to remember that, for this transference to happen efficiently, proper sequencing is vital and that it is the deceleration of a unit that accelerates the next unit in the chain, therefore it is the deceleration of the arms that will ultimately accelerate the club head! Striving for maximum distance is often counter-productive, because sequencing suffers with a consequent loss of speed.

MetronomeThe key to effective club head speed has more to do with tempo and timing at impact than anything else. In the downswing, the aim should be to build speed that peaks fractionally after impact. Professionals often appear to swing more slowly than amateurs, yet their club head speed is 10-20 mph faster. It’s because they know how to generate optimal club head speed through impact. Far too often, golfers try to speed up their entire downswing, wasting a lot of energy in the process.  Around two-thirds of club head speed is generated via a well-timed release of lag, so, at the risk of repeating myself, when it comes to club head speed, timing is a key factor.

Driver SetupI often see issues with fundamentals that are restricting the distances achieved. Adjusting a novice golfer’s grip can often free up the wrists and afford a significant increase in distance. When using a driver, slight adjustments to an average golfer’s ball position and axis tilt can help optimise launch angle and yield an extra 15-20 yards or more off the tee. Better players, by making contact slightly above the club’s sweet spot, can launch the ball a little bit higher and with less spin, which can add 10-15 yards more distance without any significant changes to their swing.

In my opinion, it is only once this very necessary groundwork has been done, that a golfer should consider embarking on a physical conditioning regime expressly designed to develop more club head speed. And even then, the first requirement would be to ensure that he/she has the requisite balance and stability to maintain control of the extra speed generated – so a lot of work on lower extremity and core strength. Optimising flexibility and fast twitch muscle contraction speed should be the final piece in ‘the swing speed jigsaw’.

A word of caution. Research data might suggest that the lower the handicap, the higher the swing speed tends to be, but that is because the lower the handicap, the better the technique, creation of torque and lag, transference of energy from the ground up through the kinetic chain, timing of the release and quality of strike tends to be. It does not mean that swinging faster is the way to go about reducing your handicap!

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that most golf courses are between 5800–6500 yards long and do not demand excessive length to score well. Rather than working on distance, most amateurs would benefit far more from working on their short game and putting.

 

 

 

Make 2017 Memorable

If you’re the type of person who likes to make New Year resolutions to improve your life, but all too often find it impossible to back up your good intentions with the discipline and perseverance required to seem them through, then here are 10 really simple things you can do to look better, feel better and, yes, play better golf!

walkWalk 7-10,000 steps a day: Prolonged sitting leads to back and hip problems that can potentially cause havoc with your swing. So, get up on your feet and walk, whenever you can. If you have a smartphone or fitness tracker, monitor and keep a record of your steps.

PostureImprove your posture: Posture is the most neglected and least understood aspect of health and fitness. Correcting your posture is the single best thing you can do to improve how you look and feel. Good postural alignment improves blood flow to the muscles, which improves their functionality and helps to reduce pain. [Here are 2 great videos to be had from www.fittergolfers.com that will help you optimize your posture: ‘Achieving Good Posture’ and ‘Maintaining Good Posture’]

glutesStrengthen your glutes: The gluteal muscles are key to good back health, but also to a balanced and powerful swing. Strong glutes help to prevent swaying, sliding and early extension. They also provide energy via GRF that you can transfer into the club in the downswing. So, when you’re sitting down, squeeze your buttock muscles together at regular intervals throughout the day. [If you can isolate them, it’s a good idea to alternate cheeks.] Take the stairs rather than the lift or escalator and target your glutes in your lower body programme with exercises like Bulgarian squats and Romanian deadlifts.

Strengthen your trunk muscles: When strengthening your trunk muscles, develop ‘core’ stability first, before moving on to building core strength. Work the deeper stabilizing muscles first and your functional fitness will improve, making you less prone to injury. Most movements start at the centre and ‘translate’ outwards and a stable centre will help ensure that your movement is efficient and pain-free.

rolling-bridgeBack pain is commonly caused by a weak or imbalanced core. Building core strength will rebalance the muscles at the front and back of your body and should be linked to work on good posture. Complement posture workouts by practicing good posture when you’re sitting at work, at home or in the car, and when out walking etc. Once you’ve developed your core stability, you can start working on the more superficial core muscles to build strength that will be visible to all. ‘Plank’ and ‘bridge’ exercises provide a good starting point. Remember you can have strong limbs, but have relatively weak trunk muscles and that is a dangerous combination!  Core strength is something everyone should work on.

Exercise in all 3 planes of motion: The golf swing demands that you simultaneously move in more than one plane, so conditioning should include multi-plane movements with exercises like lateral and rotational jumps, medicine ball rotational throws, rolling bridges, reverse chops and lunges with trunk rotations etc.

BalanceDo some balance exercises at least twice a week: This can be done very easily indeed. When performing everyday tasks like brushing your teeth, combing your hair, buttoning your shirt etc. simply stand on one leg. This simple act will improve your balance and make the muscles around your ankle work really hard to maintain your equilibrium and thus will strengthen them significantly. As we get older, our balance deteriorates and we get weaker due to age-related muscle wastage called sarcopenia. [It’s why old people become susceptible to falls.] Everyone over the age of 40 should work to maintain their levels of balance and leg strength.

Get your heart rate up in three 20-45 minute relatively vigorous sessions a week: A combination of even-rate cardio and interval training will work wonders for how you feel out on the course. It will burn calories, improve your endurance, and your ability to focus under stress, helping you to hole that vital final putt. Your goal here should be increase your heart rate from its resting rate (between 60-100 beats per minute is normal) to a rate slightly below your maximum rate, which is dependent upon your age and can easily be ascertained by simply deducting your age from 220. [So, for example the maximum heart rate for a 55 year old person is 220-55=165 beats per minute.] Note: It is always advisable to consult your doctor before you start any vigorous exercise programme.

half-foam-rollerSelf-massage twice a week: Just 15 minutes with a foam roller (or other self-massage tool) will free up your muscles, increase their elasticity and lengthen your swing. You’ll be able to swing harder and faster while reducing the risk of injuries. Focus on the lower back, the hips, the upper back and calves.

waterDrink a minimum of 2 litres of water (preferably filtered) a day: The benefits are numerous. Drinking this amount of water tends to curb your appetite and can help you lose weight. It will also improve muscle function for a smoother, more powerful swing, and give you an endurance boost. So, you will wave goodbye to those slumps in performance over the closing holes!  

image1Keep track of your calorie intake: Smartphone apps are freely available to help you log what you eat and drink each day. Regardless of whether or not you should be shedding a few pounds post-Christmas, monitoring what you eat and drink will raise awareness of your nutritional needs. Less stress on your bones, better mobility, and increased energy will benefit your game enormously.

And there you have it. You don't have to do all 10 at once if you find the prospect too daunting, just select a manageable number and gradually work your way through them if you can.

strike-while-the-iron-is-hotOn the other hand, if you think you can 'go the extra mile' and have what it takes not only to transform your general health, but to go on to achieve a body that is totally golf fit then why not take our two FREE self-assessment screening tests for both the lower and upper body? They will pinpoint the areas you need to work on and enable you to select those modules that perfectly meet your needs from our comprehensive conditioning programme. Strike while the iron is hot. Do it NOW! Good luck and here’s to a hugely successful season in 2017...