Of all golf pleadings, the one that rings most often, and loudest, is increasing clubhead speed. “Just ten more yards. That’s all I ask, dear God, just ten more yards…Oh, and by the way…in the fairway.” After all, what golfer doesn’t want to hit it farther, and, hopefully, straighter. YouTube is saturated with advice on how to do so, ranging from better hip rotation, to coiling the shoulders more, to more efficient weight shift, to increasing lag, to faster leg action, to building core strength, to lifting the left heel, to keeping the left heel flat on the ground, to supinating the right hand, to supinating the left forearm. All of this advice certainly keeps teaching pros in business but does nothing to simplify a daunting game.
I’ve also heard it said that to increase clubhead speed go to the gym and pump some iron. And that is not altogether inaccurate. Having been through, and so far survived, cancer via chemotherapy, I found that I lost about 30-40 yards on my drive and about two clubs for the irons. But going to the gym as part of my recovery doing both aerobic and anaerobic exercises has helped restore some body mass and muscle. So I decided to experiment a bit with that loss of distance in my golf game.
Very simply, to increase clubhead speed, I began to swing harder and faster, concentrating on my arms to do the job. Same basic swing for woods and irons with ball position being the variable. Having played this game since I was a kid, the rest of my body seemed to know its role in the sequence of things. The hips rotated, helping shift the weight forward as they then got out of the way. The legs helped in that weight shift. And the shoulders and large back muscles turned and coiled to the top of the backswing (more limited now with age and infirmity). But the arms actually did the swinging. I tried swinging them as fast as I could while achieving solid contact, dialing back some when the contact was iffy. Sure enough, almost immediately, and to my relief, I began to see a return to the distance I was used to.
On the downside, I tired more easily from expending more energy on each shot. But continued exercise at the gym should eventually alleviate that. Curiously, swinging harder also seemed to facilitate squaring up the clubface at impact, possibly through better timing. I’m not completely sure why this happened but suspect it had something to do with the speed of hip rotation in relation to the arms approaching the impact zone. I’ll return to the drawing board on that one and get back to you.
Anyway, what I liked about all this was how much simpler this made the mechanics of my swing, decreasing swing thoughts while increasing distance and quality of contact. Of course, consistency is key which I expect will increase–I hope–with added confidence through practice and on-course play.
Will this approach work for you? If it’s added distance you’re looking for, give it a try.
This is I think the way golf should be taught in the first place. Swing hard and the body accommodates that. The hard part is swinging hard and not swaying around and all. I believe all good golfers do that, but are so in synch that they don’t really feel the arm effort and truly believe that their arms are just along for the ride.
If it was just a matter of swing the hips 10 year old girls can do this faster than grown men yet cannot drive the ball 300 yards.
Stephen Altschuler says
Your comments are right on the mark, Carlgo. Nicklaus was first taught to swing hard and then work on fundamentals. And look at the arms of all the big hitters on tour today. Not exactly muscle-bound but solid and gym-toughened. Attach an alignment stick to your hips and you’ll see how much swing speed they generate. Not much.
Thanks for commenting.
Stephen substitute releasing, striking with or even throwing for “swinging” the arms and Im with you!
The shoulders arms elbows hands all have to be primed/loaded and put into position on the backswing to be released aggressively through the ball
They are never passive but they hold position they are not “swung” accross the body or up they are working against the club/handle the lowerbody is working against the ground
Take Hogans waggle and feel it activate your elbows arms and shoulders not just the hands or watch a baseball hitter prepare to strike its a Twirl!
Stephen Altschuler says
I like that image of the shoulders, arms, elbows and hands needing to be put in position on the backswing to be primed for action through the ball. More on that preparation to come.
Thanks for the comments, Graham.
For me the lower body does play a very important function in an athletic golf action.It provides stability,strength,forward drive,width,shallowness,plane, timing balance/counter balance ,shaft loading.
In fact just about everything except clubhead speed!
Speed is generated in one of 2 ways
Either by the muscles in the triangle of shoulders, arms,elbows,forearms and hands as in any dynamic athletic sporting action which all the great ball strikers have used at least since the invention of the steel shaft.
Or with a swinging flail action relying on timing and wrist release but only Iron Byron can produce consistently accurate distance with this technique!
Dont mix up the two!
As regards the Gym most of the training advice you will be given will improve strength, stability and injury prevention rather than clubhead speed.Even at my age I do heavy weight low reps for this(Im lucky to be naturally flexible so not noticing lack of range of movement)
But for clubhead speed you will have to do more specialist shoulder arm exercises with lighter weight using the machine/cage with pulleys in the corner of the Gym that most people ignore! That and resistance bands working on the rotator cuff area.
Although getting a gripped shaft from the back of the pros workshop thats lost its head and putting a lump of bluetack on the end and concentrate on making the fastest swish you can through and past the ball is the most effective speed producer, try it 1 handed left and right first then 2 handed.
Stephen Altschuler says
Good stuff here. The gym can definitely be overwhelming with all the machines.
Yes, Grr, swinging fast with just a shaft does work. Our body rarely naturally moves that fast and so you kind of have to show it how. You could say distance is a function of how fast you can swing your hands from up top to past the ball. Do it as fast as you can without anything in your hands and you can just snap through. If you had a club and contacted the ball it would go a very long way if you could maintain that snap!
Phil Russell says
Stephen, great post. very informative on increasing club speed to increase distance. Thanks