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Friday, August 14, 2009

Speed vs Power in the Golf Swing

With the Tour playing the PGA Championship at Hazeltine, the newest “longest course in major history,” it’s fitting to talk about how to hit the long ball. Everybody was talking length Thursday, especially about how far Alvaro Quiros was knocking it. In case you didn’t hear, while on the 11th hole―a 606 yard par 5―Quiros knocked his 2nd shot 290 yards onto the green (uphill into the wind!) while Tiger and Company were putting out. Quiros was so far away he couldn’t even see them. Tiger described it as “just stupid long.”

So how does the weekend player get a piece of that action?

The first step is a simple mental adjustment: Think speed, not power. Golf balls are notoriously light; the USGA limits their weight to no more than 1.620 ounces or 45.93 grams. Just how much power do you think it takes to make it go? Not much, I can assure you. When players begin to think about power, they begin to tighten up, and tension is the enemy of speed. Having taken some Tae Kwon Do before, I can tell you that much of the training is an attempt to teach the student to perform the moves while relaxed, only tensing muscles at the moment of impact… and even then, you tighten as few muscles as possible.

The same is true in the golf swing; that’s one of the secrets to Tom Watson’s success at Turnberry a few weeks ago. Watch some footage of his swing; you won’t see any violent thrashing with the club in an effort to hit it farther. He gets his distance by creating relaxed speed. Some teachers have used the term “effortless power” in an attempt to describe this relaxation, but I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t equate power with effort. So you won’t hear me talk about power much, but you’ll hear me talking clubhead speed a lot.

Step one: Think speed, not power.

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