How to relax your swing and pick up 15 more yards

August 5, 2008

Grip it and Rip it! … Don’t be afraid to swing hard … Speed equals distance Most players believe that the more clubhead speed they generate, the farther they will hit the ball. This belief may produce some — ahem –– interesting swings in many amateurs, but it’s only partly true.
Ten years ago I was on the Callaway Research and Development staff. I was an instructor for the Callaway Executive staff and visiting VIPs. I spent a good bit of time in the Callaway swing-analysis and club-fitting lab at their test center. In those days, the average Tour player’s swing speed was 105 to 110 mph (today it is 116 to 120 mph.) I would go in the lab, make a few swings and get my swing speed up to 105 to 107 mph, but my distance was always shorter than I thought it should be with my swing speed. So I would swing harder. But the harder I would swing, the shorter I would hit it (with the exception of an occasional rocket that just happened to catch the center of the clubface). The harder I swung, the more I diminished my swing efficiency or "smash factor." 
I began to work on getting as relaxed as I possibly could, slowing my tempo and lightening my grip pressure. I would work on feeling a very light grip pressure at address and attempting to hold that same pressure through the swing. Then the Callaway computer would report more distance but less swing speed. Have you ever noticed when you "back off" the driver you hit some of your best drives? The newest launch monitors tell us why.
Launch monitors used to be isolated in the labs of large club companies, accessible only to Tour players and VIPs. Now you can have your swing checked on a launch monitor at a local fitting center. What does a launch monitor do? When paired with the Swing Mate Speed Meter, the launch monitor gives you feedback on the launch angle of the ball and the ball speed off the clubface, the ball’s spin rate, push or pull sidespin, and clubhead speed. There is an ideal ratio of ball speed to spin rate to get the maximum efficiency out of your swing: the "smash factor." The better news is that these launch monitors are used to determine what shaft, head and loft creates the best efficiency ratio for you. The better your efficiency ratio, the more distance you’ll create.
You may not have the swing speed of a PGA Tour player, but if you have the right equipment, solid contact and your maximum ball-speed-to-spin ratio, your distance will improve and you will be more likely to keep it in the short grass (especially if you work on your alignment). I watched several pros and amateurs last week on the range with clubhead speed as high as 119 mph. But the 119 mph swing speed produced a carry of just 207 yards because it was not a solid hit and the spin ratio to ball speed was extremely low.
Jack Nicklaus once said that when he wanted to hit it long, all he focused on as he walked off the green until he got to the next tee was getting as relaxed as he possibly could. That tip alone will produce some very long drives if you work on it. During my golf schools we teach students to breathe and swing. The last time you look at your target, take a deep breath. As you return your eyes to the ball, exhale and relax your shoulders. As you relax your shoulders you will notice that your grip pressure lightens. Hold that same grip pressure through the swing. You will feel your solid contact improve. Notice the increased distance you experience. Less effort means more. This drill will take the "hit" out of your swing and help you gain the extra yards you need. Dr. David F. Wright teaches at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, Calif. You can read more of his tips at