Hint – it’s not how much further you hit it with driver!!
So much (perhaps far too much) has been said about gains in strength and power leading to longer drives and distance off the tee. Outlandish claims such as “Add 30 yards to your tee shots by doing just 3 minutes of exercise per day” are all too common. Not only are they misleading (lies) and unrealistic (impossible), they are missing out on the key relationship between increased strength and scoring. Hint – it’s not how much further you hit it with driver.
It is a given that increased strength and power will lead to more club head speed, but how does that affect your scoring exactly? A recent analysis by the powerful golf statistics software gurus ShotsToHole.com told us that if you hit the ball 10 yards further of the tee you will save on average between 0.7 and 1.1 shots per round.
Whilst being very useful, I am proposing that the main benefit from increasing our strength levels is NOT increasing our distance off the tee. I am suggesting that getting stronger will allow us to hit the ball closer to the hole, which will yield a greater benefit to our score than a few extra yards with the driver. Actually it’s about 3 times more beneficial in some cases!
The stats tell us that with increased strength levels we can dramatically improve our proximity to the hole (how close we hit it) with approach shots. We essentially become more consistent, controlled and accurate whilst hitting less club into the green – more on that later……..
But just chucking weights around in the gym in a random fashion and expecting it to transfer to the golf swing probably will not get you the increased control you are after. Yes, increased strength will yield increased club head speed, which in turn means higher ball speed and distance. However this is only the case provided that the efficiency of the bio mechanics and kinematic chain within the swing are not compromised. Your swing action should actually be improved by your gym work, if it’s an effectively designed program that is…….
A term I like to use is applied strength, in the case of a golfer by maintaining spine angle/position throughout the swing. The 2 photos below demonstrate this quite well; the idea is for the spine angle and pelvis position at impact (right) to closely resemble the address position (left). In the example below I will admit there is some loss of spine position and an anterior move of the pelvis toward the golf ball, but I think you will agree that it’s still pretty solid!
So if we get stronger in the correct way then we can apply more club head speed in a more controlled manner. We no longer have to swing ourselves off our feet to generate high ball speed. This means maintaining our posture and shape better into impact, which in turn leads to more consistent ball striking and accuracy.
More club head speed means we can afford to take one less club for our approach shots (4-5 mph is roughly equivalent to the difference of one club). If we can take one less club and still make a compact and controlled swing, then we are more likely to hit the ball closer to the hole.
Less Side Bend
By hitting say, 8 instead of 7, we add more loft to the club. Adding more loft reduces the amount of side bend (hook and slice) which means hitting straighter approach shots which can dramatically reduce dispersion.
Steeper Land Angle
Taking 1 less club and adding loft will also make our land angle steeper, this means we can stop the ball on the green more aggressively from further away. A steeper land angle is also helped by the increased club head speed generating more spin, leading to a higher ball flight which will again help us stop our ball closer to the hole. A steep land angle and those “towering iron shots” is something that has been a feature of many of the truly great players over the years.
If you couple hitting less club with more speed and add increased distance off the tee, then the likelihood is we can afford to hit 2 less clubs into the green – take those benefits we just mentioned and double them!
Here is what the numbers say about how hitting the ball closer affects your score. The source of the numbers is ShotsToHole.com, an Australian golf statistics system that is taking the world of elite golf by storm and becoming ever more popular with club golfers who are serious about improving their golf.
Using ShotsToHole.com’s “What If” Analysis Tool, predictions can be made based on improved performance in the game. In this case approach shots where analysed from 85 – 270 yards from the hole.
* EPI = Error Percentage Index
So you can clearly see that hitting the ball closer to the hole means we are saving shots. But why does it look like the better players benefit so much more from the increased club head speed and hitting the ball 10ft closer?
Well it comes down to 2 things; 1) Better players are more skilful and have the ability to capitalise on the fact they are hitting the ball closer. 2) The 10ft improvement also means the better players are hitting their ball into their scoring ranges – turning narrowly missed greens into greens hit and 3 putt territory into birdie chances.
The higher handicap players however, with their 10ft improvement are still missing greens or leaving themselves very long birdie putts. Even with a 10 ft dispersion improvement, the 90-99 players averages almost 70ft away from the hole from 130-150 yards out.
So for the higher handicap player, the increased speed is reducing their dispersion as expected but it’s not making a huge amount of difference to their scores. In that case how can 90-99 shooters justify working on developing increased strength in order to improve their golf? In my opinion players in this bracket should see strength training as preparation for when they have the ability to benefit from the increased club head speed. Start working on becoming stronger, seek out good swing mechanics advice and put as much time as you can into you short game.
Effective and well planned strength training has a host of other benefits which are likely to have an indirect improvement on your golf and definite benefit for your quality of life in general:
- Improved muscle strength and tone
- Weight management
- Greater stamina
- Prevention or control of chronic conditions
- Pain management
- Improved posture
- Decreased risk of injury
- Increased bone density and strength and reduced risk of osteoporosis
- Improved sleep
- Increased self-esteem
So how can you ensure you are doing the right stuff in the gym to get solid strength transference to your golf game and tick off all the benefits in the list above? You have a couple of different options:
1 - Seek out a trained professional who understands both the golf swing and strength & conditioning to design you an effective training program.
2 - If sourcing a local facility isn't an option, then check out the following product and services from Nick at Golf Fit Pro:
In discussing these concepts, it is assumed that the player is hitting the ball properly with centred strike, their launch conditions (collective term for all of the club head and ball flight data) are good. It is also assumed that by increasing club head speed the players launch conditions are maintained or improved from the lower speed – or more simply put, their technique has not become worse due to the change to their body.