BY PAUL BUNTRAGE
How can you improve the power of your golf swing? This is a question that all of us want an answer to. Most golfers go to great lengths to get that extra yard off the tee. But how many people actually know that golf swing power is the result of these three specific factors?
The first and probably most evident of the three is ‘swing mechanics’. Everybody is aware of how important the mechanics of a swing are when it comes to driving the ball. If you are over the top with your swing or come inside too much, you’ll see that dreaded slice or snap hook. Your drives will inevitably be too short, too low, too high, left, right, or a combination of these if you are putting bad swings on the ball.
To improve your game, it is essential for a golfer to work on the mechanics of the swing at every possible opportunity. The golf swing is a highly complex, mechanical movement that requires constant work to keep it highly efficient and in check. Professionals realize its importance and have swing coaches that work with them on a consistent basis.
Amateurs throughout the world pack driving ranges, week in and week out, pounding balls without any improvement. This, I feel, is a result of one of two things: a lack of instruction, or low levels of golf strength. A lack of instruction leads to the development and ingraining of improper swing mechanics. This only results in slices, hooks, topping the ball, and hitting it fat on the course. And we all know that those types of swings lead to frustration and bad rounds of golf. I would suggest to almost anyone: Find a good instructor and take lessons on a consistent basis. This can only help your game in the long run. But if private lessons sound too expensive for ‘just a pass-time’ then consider video tutorials and at the very least. Swing mechanics are a fundamental in improving your power.
The second of the three factors is what we term golf strength. It is probably the least recognized of the three, but for many is the ‘key’ to longer drives; yet the category is given the least amount of attention, especially by amateurs. Golf strength is defined as how well your body is conditioned to swing a golf club with maximum power (i.e., it is a measure of fitness). Although probably the least understood of the three, golf strength may be the most needed by golfers in general.
Strength, in terms of golf, is not about how much you can bench press or how much your biceps bulge! Golf strength and weight room strength are very different. If you do not quite understand the difference, ask yourself one question: How many bodybuilders do you see on Tour?
It comes down to this idea: The mechanics of a golf swing require specific levels of flexibility, balance, stability, strength, endurance, and power to perform it efficiently. If your body does not have these required capacities, then the result will be obvious — a less than optimal swing.
Essentially, your body supports your swing. I am sure that all of us would choose to build a house on a stone foundation rather than sand, wouldn’t we? Yet I will say that many amateurs make a different choice when it comes to their golf swing.
Regardless of how much time you work on your swing mechanics, if your body does not have the ‘golf strength’ to support the swing, you are limiting your potential. I have seen it numerous times, people practicing at the range who struggle, not because of trying to get better, but because their bodies are limiting what they can do with their swing. Quite often I see people with limited flexibility, poor balance capabilities, and low levels of strength and power. The bottom line is that your mechanics will not get better until you fix the body that swings the club!
Up to this point we have discussed the two most important ideas when it comes to power on the golf course — optimal swing mechanics and the proper levels of ‘golf strength.’ One without the other is going to leave you short when it comes to potential in your game.
The third most important factor to improve the power of your golf swing is: equipment. Yes, equipment. It does make a real difference to how far you drive the ball. The equipment manufacturers have let this fact be known to everyone, and I bet we all have gone to the pro shop probably more than twice to pick up a new driver that claims to give us that elusive 20 yards. It should be remembered however that, that extra distance might not be down the middle of the fairway; it will give you an extra 20 yards alright… but it could be left, could be right, or it could be down the center of the fairway. That all depends on points one and two of this article. Equipment and technological advances have definitely lengthened the distance of our drives. But without better swing mechanics and your body in better golf shape, new technology will not help your game. A bad swing will produce a bad result, regardless of what type of ‘new’ driver you may have just purchased.
I think the majority of golfers are aware of the advances that have occurred in golf equipment over the last 20 years. I mean, in the glorious 80s, we were still playing with woods that actually had wooden club heads! Imagine that for a moment. Now we are using drivers with space age faces that shoot the ball off at warp speed. In addition, we have to mention the advances in golf balls. How manufacturers design golf balls today makes a difference in how far they travel. What a lot of people do not realize is that the USGA has set standards on how ‘hot’ driver faces can be and how ‘fast’ balls can come off the face of drivers. Most clubs are reaching this limit, and anything past these USGA rules becomes illegal to play (in the professional and USGA-sanctioned games only of course!).
There’s no doubt that custom made golf clubs can make a significant improvement to your swing power. But before you go off and spend a fortune, remember the saying: “A bad workman always blames his tools.” In other words, first improve the fundamentals of your swing mechanics and golfing fitness before you make any purchase.
Best of luck with your game.
Paul Buntrage is a Birmingham, England dentist and golf fanatic.