My swing can top 120 mph. While you probably can’t reach that number, you can always grab a bit more speed. Sure, simply swinging harder is one way to go, but I think the secret to longer, straighter shots is swinging smarter. Here are five small improvements, each of which will add 1 mph of clubhead speed. That’s 5 mph faster! The result? You’ll get the extra distance of your dreams.
1. Tee the Ball in the Center of the Clubface
It’s a no-brainer, but even I can misalign the club at address, soling my driver with the ball off either the toe or the heel. If you don’t play the ball off the exact center, you make it more difficult to hit the sweet spot at impact. And that’ll cost you. Missing either a quarter inch toward the toe or the heel is the same as swinging 1 mph slower through impact, even if the strike is made on the center groove. My coach, Colin Swatton, is constantly checking to make sure I’m lining up with the ball in the center of the clubface, and with the equator of the ball even with the top of the clubhead. It’s hard to see for yourself, so ask a friend to help. Don’t lose yards by overlooking a small detail that’s easy to get right.
2. Stop the Sway
Like all Tour pros, I constantly try to improve my swing. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve eliminated from my motion is swaying off the ball in my back-swing, especially when hitting driver. When you sway, you create a “reverse C” at the top, with your lower body angled to the right of the ball and your upper body bent significantly toward the target. This creates a lot of inconsistency at impact and takes away leverage. The way I fixed it was to set an alignment rod against my right hip. The rod reminded me to turn instead of sway, and also to get behind the ball without a ton of lateral lower-body movement. Replacing the “reverse C” with more of an “I” shape lets you fire your body to the left through impact with ease, fueling better contact, speed and power. Stability is the first key every weekend player should work on if they want to hit it longer.
3. Carry a Light Stick
Not many players can swing slow and hit it long—you need to increase speed if you want to increase distance. I see a lot of middle- to high-handicaps get loose before a round by swinging two irons simultaneously, or by using a heavy training aid. All this does is train your body to move slower. When world-class sprinters work on speed and explosive movement, they do it by running downhill. Apply the same theory to your warm-up. Practice swinging fast, not slow. A great way to do it is to grab an alignment stick or an old driver shaft and swing it as fast as you possibly can 10 or 12 times just before you tee off. Your driver will feel heavier than normal when you first pick it up, but your body will have retained the speed from the drill. Swing a light stick or shaft to warm up and you’ll pick up a mile or two in swing speed pretty quickly.
4. Swing Wide to Narrow
Wide swings are powerful swings, but simply tracing a wide arc won’t help you add speed. The trick is to take the club back with your left arm extended and keep the grip as far away from your head as possible, then snap the grip down close to your body at the start of the downswing. Moving from a wide position at the top to a narrow one in your downswing sends your swing speed off the charts. But don’t overdo the “wide” part and keep your right arm straight in your backswing. Let it fold normally. Think “high hands” at the top.
5. Add Some Lag
Ready for an advanced tip? This one can be challenging to get down because it alters your attack angle and timing. But boy, does it work—adding lag makes you long. Most amateurs don’t have much lag in their swing, because they mostly use their upper body in their motion. You have to swing in the proper sequence during your downswing: lower body first, then shoulders, arms, hands and ultimately the clubhead. You’ve been told it’s like cracking a whip, and it is—except you also have to deliver the clubhead squarely to the ball. The weekend players I know who’ve learned to lag the club don’t always hit the ball farther. Some of them even slice. That’s only because they haven’t timed the lag consistently. This will help: Grip the club with your left pinkie and ring finger dangling off the handle (photo, above). When you swing using this grip, you’ll easily feel where the lag happens in your downswing, because your grip is soft. Not only will this drill improve your feel for lag, it will increase your lag, too. Keep swinging, and look for the right moment to release the lag and begin squaring the clubface. It should happen at about thigh height. You’ve got it right when your drives fly straight—and about 15 yards farther than before.