I love hitting it far. What’s more fun than walking 20 yards past your opponent’s drive to reach yours? This year–my second full season on Tour–I’ve become one of golf’s biggest hitters, ranking 10th in driving distance through midsummer. I hit almost 60 percent of my fairways and about 70 percent of my greens. Trust me, it’s easier to knock the ball on with a 9-iron than it is with a middle iron. That kind of advantage helped me grab my first Tour win, at this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Sure, I’m 25 and in pretty good shape, but most of my distance comes from good mechanics that you can copy. So I’ll let you in on a few secrets, with help from my coach Claude Harmon III. We’re going to teach you to tap the muscles that create serious swing speed. Soon, you too will be able to crush drives that inspire awe in your playing partners and set you up for short approach shots. And there’s no pumping iron required. You already have the physique required for long, straight drives—you just need to know how to use it. Your power lesson starts now.
1. FLEX YOUR FEET: Drive them into the ground to form a power-packed base.
There’s a lot to worry about at address: your grip, aim, distance from the ball, etc. But nothing’s more important than what you do with your feet. The reason you take a stance is to create a swing foundation, so as you make those last few waggles, be sure to physically drive both feet into the ground. You want to feel rooted to the turf. It helps if you balance your weight over the balls of your feet and then use your glutes and quads to pressure the ground under each shoe.
The more you connect to the ground, the faster you can turn. Think of the opposite extreme: If you swung while standing on ice, sure, you could rotate, but you wouldn’t be able to coil because your lower body would have to turn along with your upper. Coil is key, and it all starts with your feet.
2. FLEX YOUR GLUTES: The tighter they are going back, the faster you’ll be coming down.
A lot of people teased Tiger Woods for pulling out of the Farmers Insurance Open last February because he couldn’t “activate his glutes.” Well, he was dead on. Butt power is swing power. If you can’t effectively “load” your glutes as you swing to the top, you’re basically swinging on fumes.
Your backswing creates potential energy, and your downswing spends it. All your potential energy gets stored in your right glute when you correctly swing back. The trick is to rotate while keeping your knees flexed and your feet pressuring the ground. Avoid swaying and you’ll feel your right glute become tense as you near the top. I like it to feel so tense that a tackler coming from my right side couldn’t take me down. While gym work isn’t mandatory, any exercise that builds rear-end strength will pay off. Even simple squats in your home or hotel room will do your swing some good—no butts about it.
3. FLEX YOUR BACK: Turn the area between your shoulders for a Tour pro-worthy windup.
The bigger your turn, the faster you’ll swing. It’s simple physics. There have been a lot of theories on how to make the biggest windup. What works? Turning my upper body as far to the right as my flexibility allows while keeping my feet dug firmly into the ground and my lower body stable. The secret is to turn your back, the hub of your upper body. Rotate it and everything—shoulders, chest and core—rotates with it. Picture a flashlight between your shoulder blades, and try to turn your back so far that the light shines on the target when you reach the top. This visual reminds you to use your big muscles, not your small ones.
4. FLEX YOUR KNEES: Stabilize the left and drive the right.
As you transition from backswing to downswing, drive your right knee toward the target while keeping your left knee flexed and stable. Major League Baseball stars like Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Trout do the exact same thing when they hit home runs. This knee action shifts your energy toward the target (good for any hitting activity) and helps put the club on the ideal path. It also stops the club from getting trapped behind you (leading to a push) or moving too far out in front of your body (a slice or a pull) as you approach impact. In order to drive your right knee effectively, your feet must keep pressuring the ground. (I told you that was important!) Without a grounded stance, you won’t be able to drive forward off your right foot, and your left foot won’t be stable enough to accept the weight shift.
5. FLEX YOUR CORE Now the fun part. Turn your midsection as fast as you can through impact. Massive yards!
Technically, your core is active as soon as you start your takeaway, but it’s moving like crazy in those few critical feet before and after impact. Through the hitting zone, your primary focus is to rotate your core as fast as possible. Picture a laser beam shooting out of your belly button: You want the beam to bisect the ball along its equator as you turn through the shot—and fast! When I really want to crank a drive, I imagine I’m hitting the ball with just my abdomen. Stronger abs mean a faster turn and longer drives. Sneak in a few sit-ups or crunches. Do it. Besides core power, it will help you maintain your posture through impact for squarer strikes and take pressure off your lower back.