Rusty? Swing faster in practice to help create clubhead speed

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Jordan Spieth's training routine could help you hit the ball farther.
By Mark Aumann
PGA.com

Series: Lesson Learned

Published: Wednesday, April 27, 2016 | 11:52 a.m.

When Jordan Spieth wanted to add more distance to his drives this season, he didn't make any modifications to his swing. Instead, he practiced swinging the club faster, trying to train his muscles to improve his clubhead speed.

It's a lesson from which amateurs can definitely learn, according to PGA Professional Billy Ore, Lead Teaching Professional and Technology Specialist at the PGA Learning Center in Port St. Lucie, Fla. And it's something that can be achieved in short, daily sessions anyone can do at home.

If you've had a long layoff because of the weather, you'll notice it immediately during your first round back. The ball just doesn't seem to go as far. And that's because your muscles aren't used to generating faster clubhead speeds.

So Ore suggests this easy drill: Take five to 10 minutes each day and swing your driver as fast as you can.

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"I like to tell players to get their drivers out and practice moving it as fast as possible, even moving it to the point where you're out of control," Ore said. "And you'd be surprised at how much your speed will go up."

We've all tried swing weights in order to make the driver "feel" lighter. But Ore said even though resistance can help develop more muscle mass or help with stretching, studies have shown it does nothing for clubhead speed. If anything, you'll swing slower.

In order to hit the ball farther using the same swing path, you need to speed up the clubhead and make solid contact at impact.

"It's not just about strength but where you position the club," Ore said. "When you're swinging a golf club, if you can get the clubhead further behind your hands in the downswing, you have more potential to create speed. As you rotate, the clubhead gets thrown around the arc more quickly.

When Ore's working with students on swing speeds, he'll work from a starting point towards a target goal.

"What we work more now is on getting a baseline measurement on how fast their driver or 7-iron's moving, then work on really getting it as fast as possible," he said. "We may have them swinging on their knees, swinging the opposite direction, or swinging something lighter and trying to move it as fast as possible, and then switching back to the driver. We'll see speeds pick up after those drills."

And that's important, Ore said. Studies have shown that your muscles will retain new memories more quickly if you modify the conditions of the practice drill.

"Any time you're working on muscle memory, I like to ask students to change something while they're trying to learn it," Ore said. "Either change the speed, the club or something else. And it'll help you learn it faster."

It's not the repetitive movement that helps create more speed, Ore said. It's more about making the muscles work more quickly while keeping control of the clubhead.

"I don't think getting more reps in is huge," he said. "I like to see it done five minutes really fast -- and then make some really slow swings and feeling the positions to where you get the clubhead behind you in the downswing and come in to a nice, square position at impact. Feel where that position is, so you're working on speed and form at the same time."
 
 
Ore said this drill is great for senior players as well, because one of the biggest concerns seniors have is losing distance as they age.
 
"It doesn't take very long to lose a fair amount of speed," Ore said. "They assume it's lost, but it's really not. You can start to get it back by swinging your golf club a few minutes a day. You don't have to hit balls, but you can swing a club fast."
 
One of the traditional ways of generating more clubhead speed was to try and build "lag" in the swing, by getting the clubhead behind the hands on the downswing. But Ore said the problem with most amateurs is that they already struggle with "over the top" swings and lose rotation as they try to get the clubhead square at impact.
 
In addition, swinging a club fast can help give golfers a feel for the correct weight transfer and tempo as well. It's just a great drill to work on after a long layoff.

"For knocking the rust off, I tell people to get that clubhead behind them and practice rotating fast," Ore said.