Have you ever met a golfer who feels like they hit the ball too far? Neither have I. Everyone who has played the game wouldn’t mind adding a few yards to their drive. We are all looking for ways to maximize our distance in golf. The key is to identify the fundamental factor limiting your swing speed. Then apply the proper training to address that bottleneck. We will dive into some of the most common factors limiting swing speed but to help our understanding, let’s consider another type of drive…how about a car trying to break the land speed record?
You would need:
- A lot of horsepower
- Good acceleration
- Components able to handle high speeds
- Open space to get up to speed!
Believe it or not, those same traits apply to maximizing the speed of your golf swing! Besides having a decent swing (we recommend your local golf coach for that), four main training factors affect how fast you can swing your club — and therefore how far you can hit the ball. Each builds on the previous and the combination of all four allows you to push the limits of your clubhead speed and maximize your distance in golf. Let's take them down one by one:
Maximize by mobility: Don’t run out of runway
If you are trying to break the land speed record, you want as much space as possible, like the wide open of the Utah salt flats or a long open road with plenty of time to get up to speed. The golf drive is no different. If you have limited mobility in your spine, shoulders, or legs, you won't have a full swing. It would be like trying to get up to speed on a short runway. The more mobility you have, the longer your runway to build up speed. To fully maximize your distance in golf, you must make sure you have full mobility. Many golfers have stiff hips or tight muscles that limit their mobility and reduce their runway to build up speed. Hitting the gym 5 days a week won't make you hit farther if mobility is holding you back.
Maximize by strength: Use your horsepower
The strength of the car engine is crucial in breaking the land speed record. The more horsepower the engine has, the better! The same goes for the strength of your muscles in your golf swing. Having strong muscles in your legs, core, and upper body will provide you with the stability and power to maximize your distance in golf. A randomized study in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy demonstrated that traditional strength training was just as effective as golf-specific training for improving both driver and 7 iron distance in amateur golfers. The study found that strength training improved golfers' muscular strength and endurance, resulting in increased driving distance and accuracy. This study highlights the importance of off-the-golf-course strength training for golfers. The stronger you are, the farther the ball goes. Classic strength-building exercises tend to be the most effective here — think squats, deadlifts, benchpress or push-ups, lat pull-downs or pull-ups, and weighted lunges.
Maximize distance by power: Accelerate From 0 to 60
People often ask what the difference is between strength and power. Strength is how much weight you can lift or push. Think about how much strength (horsepower) an 18-wheeler has. Meanwhile, power is how fast you can use your strength (power = force ✖ velocity). A Tesla does not have as much horsepower as an 18-wheeler, but goes from 0 to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds. Whew! So you see, power is the combination of strength and speed. Exercises that involve explosive movements work best here. For example, a medicine ball slam or toss. Power exercises help your body use all of its strength QUICKLY. Power is the next step needed to maximize your distance in golf.
Maximize distance by top speed: Firing on all cylinders
So you have a large open space, plenty of horsepower, and a car with great acceleration. But does you car have the components to handle moving at very high speeds? Things like good bearings, tires, fast fuel injection, and streamlined aerodynamics?
Training for speed in your golf swing is about getting your body accustomed to moving at maximum speed. Specifically, a nervous system prepared to fire rapidly and in well-coordinated succession.
One example of speed training involves what some call “overspeed training.” An over-speed training tool consists of different weighted clubs that you swing in a specific sequence to improve your swing speed. Imagine a golf club without a head on it that instead has a small weight designed to be slightly lighter or heavier than your driver, allowing you to train your body to swing faster over time.
Baseball players use this all of the time when they swing two baseball bats at once or add weights to their bats to warm up before hitting. After swinging with two bats at once, one bat will feel really light and fast. Low resistance, high-velocity specific training has been demonstrated in multiple studies to improve reaction times and speed in many different sports, including baseball, track, and golf. Additionally, speed training tends to be more helpful in the older population as reaction times naturally decrease. Speed training is a critical component for any program trying to maximize your distance in golf.
Need Help? Have a good pit crew
Having a team of professionals with you will help the car reach its full potential and keep it running in tip-top shape. Here at Agile, we have a golf program that focuses on performance. We have specialized golf physical therapists who will evaluate and address each of the factors above (and more) to improve your golf swing speed and your drive distance.
At your first session, we measure your average drive distance and clubhead speed before we start working with you. Then we address any limitations and develop a personalized training program to improve your golf game. At the end of the program, we remeasure your drive distance and clubhead speed and compare. We believe that the proof is in the pudding!
Need any repairs or tune-ups? As physical therapists, we are fully prepared to diagnose and treat any injuries to get you into tip-top shape. If necessary, we also can set you up with a consultation with an orthopedic surgeon. Come to Agile and let us be your mechanic and we will help you maximize your distance and break your own speed record on the golf course.
About the Author Ryan Benoit:
Ryan grew up in the Santa Cruz Mountains and graduated from the University of California, Davis with a degree in exercise biology. He moved to Missouri to complete his doctorate of physical therapy at Southwest Baptist University. In his free time, Ryan enjoys jiu-jitsu, golf, surfing, and hiking with his wife and dog. He is an avid audiobook and podcast listener and loves to learn about science, business, and culture. Ryan is also passionate about learning and growing. That is why he loves being part of Agile's orthopedic residency and fellowship to give back to the profession while staying up to date on the latest research to provide the best possible care for his patients.