I love Ottawa this time of year. Every spring I reconnect with so many golf friends and clients and many of them find their way to my lesson tee. It’s these early lessons that remind me of what’s really important for the average player to work on. Golfers universally need to work on speed…but not in the way they think they do.
As I walk up and down my lesson and practice tee-line I see golfer after golfer trying to swing the club faster. Their logic is that a faster swing leads to a longer, stronger shot. That sounds obvious but most golfers just can’t swing the club much faster than they already do. When I’m working with a client on my FlightScope launch monitor I often ask them to swing the club as fast as they can. The results are always surprising to the player. We can usually see an increase of 2 mph or so which translates into only about 5 extra yards. And, as a matter of fact, many golfers lose distance when they try to swing harder because they tense up or lose balance and mishit their shots.
Speed is obviously important in hitting the ball a long way but the secret isn’t how fast you swing but where you swing fast. Most golfers underestimate the concept of rhythm and tempo in golf. Once higher handicappers get to the top of their swing it’s all systems go as they try to generate speed too early in their downswing. Pro golfers, on the other hand, allow the club to change direction smoothly and then try to create speed in the bottom part of their downswing and into the ball. Think of it this way, if you were driving a sports car into a curve you wouldn’t want to step on the gas too soon because that would send you racing through the turn and into the ditch on the other side of the road. Instead, you wait until you are nearing the apex of the turn to step on the gas and sling yourself out of the corner, picking up speed as you exit the turn. I love that analogy for explaining the downswing in golf. You need to step on the gas to hit the ball a long way but you also need to step on the gas at the right time and that time is not at the top of your swing.
My childhood idol, Ben Hogan, used to say that if he could get the golf club into the right position at waist high during his downswing he could hit the ball as hard as he wanted to without fear. Think about that the next time you are practicing. Allow your club to change direction with rhythm at the top of your swing and then try to create speed through the ball to a full finish. You’ll be amazed at what a little patience will do for your golf swing.
/ Kevin Haime, @KevinHaime 2000 PGA of Canada Teacher Of The Year