From the complete novice to the World’s Number 1, every golfer strives to improve. Whether the objective is to cure a case of the dreaded “shanks” or to reduce a putting average, each of us always feels there’s a way to get better. For the average amateur, one of the most common golfing desires is to be able to hit the golf ball further.
Most of us recognise we’re never going to be able to send it “out there” like Rory McIlroy, but it would be nice to be able to consistently reach the fairway off the back tees and, once in a while, feel a par-5 may just be “on in two.”
We’re all getting older and it would be easy to view diminishing length on the golf course as a fait accompli. But it needn’t necessarily be so. There are some simple ways to find a few extra yards that all golfers could try. Here are five tips that might just help you hit the golf ball further in 2015.
- Slow it down
This might sound counterintuitive, as it’s undeniable that faster clubhead speeds at impact result in greater distance. But those fast clubhead speeds are not best achieved by a wild flailing swing. It’s good timing and acceleration through the ball that will make the golf ball travel further.
It doesn’t matter how fast the clubhead moves away from the ball, or how fast the transition is from backswing to downswing. In fact, speed during this part of the swing is wasted energy and generally has a destabilising effect. Try to take the club away slowly and steadily, complete the backswing then make the transition to downswing as slowly as possible. You should naturally accelerate through the downswing and the clubhead will be moving at maximum velocity upon reaching the ball.
Look at some of the longest hitters in professional golf; their swings seem effortless. Examine more closely though, you’ll see they tend to be relaxed and smooth when it doesn’t matter – on the way back and through transition. But it’s then that the speed kicks in, where it does matter – as the club nears, and reaches, the ball.
- Strengthen the core
Stability through the swing will enable you to accelerate through the ball and maximise clubhead speed. This stability comes from the core – your lower torso in particular. If you have strong abdominal and oblique muscles you will be able to generate more power without losing control, therefore achieving more distance.
Strengthening the core doesn’t have to mean hours spent in the gym. It’s easy to do it at home with simple exercises like the “high plank.” Simply hold yourself in a high press-up position for as long as you can and feel your stomach muscles working. You might not be able to do this for very long at all at first, but keep at it and you’ll soon see improvements. Alternatively, try the “low plank.” It’s just the same but with your elbows on the ground rather than your hands.
Yoga and pilates are great for strengthening the core and many sports centres and health clubs run classes that specifically target golfers. Apart from hitting the golf ball further, you’ll also feel stronger generally and will be less prone to suffer injuries, particularly to your lower back.
- Go for a fitting
This could be the simplest way to hit the golf ball further, especially off the tee. If you have the wrong set up in your driver, it could be that you’re not getting the most out of your shots.
If the shaft isn’t right for your swing, you may be producing too much spin, sending the ball up rather than out. Changing the loft on your driver could optimise ball-flight, giving a better trajectory and greater carry. Changing to a driver with a draw bias may reduce distance-killing cut spin while looking at a club with a different weight distribution could, again, improve ball flight and increase distance.
Go to a local pro who has “The Mizuno Shaft Optimizer and Swing DNA System,” or a similar ball-flight tracking technology, and see how your current kit performs. Then check if the figures can be improved by new or different equipment. It might end up costing a few quid, but perhaps worth it for an extra 10 yards off the tee.
- Check your ball
As with clubs, getting the right ball for your game can increase your distance. Many amateurs simply opt for a “premium” ball believing that, as it’s the choice of the pros, it must be the best you can buy. But many premium balls are designed for players who produce fast clubhead speeds at impact; greater than the speeds generated by the average amateur. Below a certain clubhead speed these premium balls will not be compressed sufficiently at impact to deliver maximum spring and distance.
Most of the major ball manufacturers produce a range of balls to suit players with different clubhead speeds. Get your local pro to measure your clubhead speed and then consider the options available. It won’t necessarily be the most expensive ball that helps you to hit the golf ball further.
Read our previous blog on ‘The importance of getting the right golf ball’ to learn more about how choosing the correct ball is crucial to your performance
- Try to hit a draw
The draw is the Holy Grail for most club players and, for the majority, producing one is a challenging prospect. But in terms of generating extra distance, it’s well worth trying: in flat conditions with the same impact speeds, a ball hit with draw spin will travel further than one hit with cut spin.
When you open the face and cut across the ball you increase the loft of the club and impart more backspin as well as sidespin. This causes the ball to climb; much of the energy you have transplanted goes into upward rather than outward movement.
The more you can reduce the effects of the distance-sapping cut, the further your golf ball will fly. You don’t actually have to hit the ball from right to left to get results, just try to hit a draw, lessen the cut and you’ll see improvements.
So, make sure your grip isn’t too weak – the v created by the thumb and forefingers on both hands should point to your right shoulder. Check your set-up is square to the ball – feet, hips, knees and shoulders should all be pointed straight at the target. If you have a cut, the temptation is to aim left to compensate, but by opening up to the target you just exacerbate the problem, increasing the out-to-in, cut-inducing swing.
Then, as you swing, try to envisage a draw and what the clubface must do to create one – effectively wrapping itself around the right side of the ball. Imagine a topspin forehand in tennis.
Cover all the bases
Generally though, the best way to hit a golf ball further in 2015 is to book a course of lessons with your local pro. Instruct them of your objective and he or she will take you through all the physical and technical points covered above, and any others that might be applicable to your game. Take their advice on board, work on it and you’re sure to gain distance.