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The Need for Speed3 min read

Jack WellsAuthor: Jack Wells


Posted on: 13th May 2016

The ability to generate clubhead speed is often overlooked- however, from elite players to amateurs, it can significantly improve performance. Jack Wells explains.

If a client came to you for a lesson, I would think they’d normally say, ‘I’d like to reduce the amount of curvature and increase the distance I hit the ball.’ Clearly, driving distance becomes a common variable your clients are looking to develop. But why is it so important, and how will it improve your client’s game?

Firstly, I shall signpost you to Jorgensen’s (1999) physics of golf book, which outlines the benefits of increasing drive distance. Of note, Jorgensen presents a table indicating the number of shots lost to par over 18 holes – my chart (below) gives an adapted version of this.

Driving 160 170 180 190 200
Shots lost to par 15 12 9 7 5
The number of shots lost to par over 78 holes with the respective drive distances

So, by only being able to drive the ball 160 yards, your clients will lose 15 shots to par purely because of a lack of distance. This is a very interesting concept and certainly one that I feel is important.

When considering maximal drive distance of the golf ball, the golfer needs to ensure that they create maximal speed at the clubhead (CHS). To increase their CHS, it is important for golfers to have the appropriate technique, the capacity to produce a large amount of force and sequential coordination, which is often termed the kinematic sequence. Golfers who are able to produce greater CHS should be able to increase the drive distance of their ball, provided there are no changes to the other impact factors (Betzler et al, 2012).

In support of this, I analysed the CHS of players competing on the PGA Tour since 2007. I looked at the top 10 players with the highest CHS and worked out their ranking for that year, and compared them to 10 golfers who were ranked as having the lowest CHS (141-1 50 lowest). See the chart below:

Jack Wells - Need For Speed

What you notice is that for every single year, the players with the highest CHS always finish the season with a higher (better) ranking than their low CHS counterparts – in fact, on average 44 places higher. Not only does this increase the chance of winning tournaments, there are also financial gains and sponsorship gain. Although I appreciate that this is representative of elite players, alongside the work of Jorgensen (1999), it does highlight that on every level CHS and ultimately drive distance are important components for successful performance.

So, what strategies do you as a golf coach have in your armoury that can help to increase your golfers’ CHS? Firstly, I would see how – and if – your golfers warm up. If they do, look at whether they incorporate strategies that improve performance, not reduce it.

There seems to be a bit of a taboo at a driving range, where it is seen as ‘silly’ or ‘odd’ to perform a warm-up, and those that do generally perform a warm-up that involves static stretching and/or air swings with a golf club. It is now widely accepted through research that static stretches will in fact reduce power output, whereas dynamic stretching will increase it (Haddad et al, 2014). Not only will l dynamic stretching help increase a golfer’s capacity to drive the ball further, it can also help to accelerate their athletic competency.

Secondly, are your golfers performing exercises that will improve their ability to generate greater values of CHS?

Understandably, there is not always time to perform exercises during a golf lesson, however golfers should spend time training if they want to increase their CHS. We know from research that golfers who take part in physical interventions, such as strength and power training, significantly (p<0.05) increase their CHS (Fletcher and Hartwell, 2004) and their wrist speed (Bull and Bridge, 2012).

Hopefully this review has provided you with sufficient information as to why there is a need for speed. Whether elite or amateur, the ability to generate CHS can significantly increase your client ‘s performance.

This article appears courtesy of Jack Wells & Pro Shop Europe

Jack WellsAuthor: Jack Wells
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Jack Wells is Education Officer (Golf Coaching & Sports Science) for the PGA of Great Britain & Ireland. You can follow Jack on Twitter at @Jackwells009.