Driving is such an important part of the game. The research into statistics show that it is even more important than we first thought – and the old adage of “drive for show, putt for dough” was false.
Who doesn’t want to drive the ball longer AND straighter? How about more being more consistent with the big stick?
While achieving all of the above may sound like a pipe dream, there is actually one simple way that will get you closer. Improving your face strike.
While most amateurs believe that going to the gym to improve their swing speed is the only way to increase distance (it can help, for sure), it would take a hell of a lot of work (plus responsive genetics) to pick up 10mph or more of clubhead speed.
Luckily, I see that the vast majority of amateurs are leaving a boatload of ball speed on the table simply by having a poor strike efficiency. We measure this by a parameter called “Smash Factor” (Ball speed / clubhead speed).
Many amateurs I measure have smash factors of around 1.35-1.4. Compare this to a fully efficient strike of 1.5 and we can see that an amateur might be leaking 15 points – equivalent of around 23 yards!!!
Also, many amateurs hit out of the heel of the club (due to a concept called diagonal strike). The heel of the club is not only moving slower than the rest of the clubhead (due to the fact the clubhead is rotating through impact), but it also tends to increase spin rate, as well as launching it lower and with more slice-action.
This is a recipe for much shorter drives – easily rectified by an improvement in strike quality.
During a lesson, when an amateur hits a wildly offline shot with their big-dog, they often report that they “came over the top”, or some phrase that signifies they made a completely different swing.
However, when I show them the video of their swing, we often see an almost identical movement between the good drive and the offline shot.
In a lot of cases, a player has simply struck a different part of the clubface. Due to the modern clubs being so big, something called “gear effect” is maximized, and the ball can toe-hook, or heel-slice.
While a lot of amateurs may try to fix their offline shot by changing their gross movement pattern, the answer may simply have been in the quality of strike – something less apparent on a video, but something we can certainly improve via skill drills, better conceptual understanding, and better awareness.
When we are constantly hitting different parts of the face, results can get inconsistent – even if what WE are doing is consistent (or consistently poor).
For example, I have seen players with a consistent heel/toe biased face strike pattern who can create every shot conceivable, depending on how far offline their strike bias creeps.
Once again, the answer to consistency is often via improvements in strike quality – but there is more to it than that. The type of thoughts we have as we are performing the golf swing will have a dramatic effect on our ability to strike the face consistently. This is known as Locus of Attention, and I describe it in-depth in The Practice Manual.
Much of the science shows (and thousands of hours of coaching experience informs me that) external focuses improve our coordination and consistency more than internal focuses. For example, focusing more on where you strike on the face can improve consistency more than focusing on your shoulder turn, for example.
This is not always the case – there are many examples of players who perform better with a technical cue. I describe in The Practice Manual how to determine the best focus for your game based on a simple testing procedure.
How far can you hit it?
I wasn’t blessed with genetics for speed – I was always slow in races, and 14-year-old girls can throw a golf ball farther than me. Through years of training, my swing speed is around 100-106 mph, which is very low for a professional golfer (they average 115mph on tour).
However, due to improvements in strike quality, and a highly efficient launch and spin rate (which is also affected by strike location), I am able to keep up with them. In fact, with a measly 102mph average, I can still fly the driver over 270 yards, topping out over 290 (and sometimes 300).
I say this to give you all hope. Not everyone will have the clubhead speed of a tour pro, but almost everyone can improve their distances.
Driving is certainly the best part of my game, and I have made it this way by a dedicated focus on strike quality. I know that Mark is also an advocate of players placing more attention on improving this single variable – and rightly so.
Find out more
Adam is the author of the international best-selling golf book “The Practice Manual”, and creator of The Strike Plan. To find out more about how to improve your strike quality, visit www.AdamYoungGolf.com/The-strike-plan