For well over a decade, I golfed with a “75% swing” and stayed in “safe mode” off of the tee. I also applied an extreme “direction over distance” approach to my iron swings.
This slow swinging habit enabled me to bring my score below 90, I’ll give it that much, but the mentality that you must “swing slow and hit fairways to score well” is a thought that actually caused a frustrating plateau in my average scores.
Sure, everyone knows or has heard of (generally older) golfers with epic short games who drive the ball 180 yards and straight every hole and shoot around 78 week after week. But unless you are uncommonly excellent at scrambling, this approach to the game will only get you so far.
At least that was true for me.
My pitching and putting skills were decent, but these non-committed swing speeds kept my game stagnant for years and years – regardless of how many lessons I took or how often I practiced.
I had my reasons for not abandoning my slow swing for so long. I’m a lefty who plays righty – and I would keep telling myself that I would never have the coordination to consistently square the club face at faster swing speeds. I thought that I would never be able to control the ball and trying to swing fast would only result in higher scores.
My professional teachers would just serve to galvanize this thought in me, as they would love to hear that I would golf in “accuracy mode” and work harder on my short game. “Finally a responsible-thinking student”, they thought, and they were ecstatic to accommodate me.
It turns out we were all VERY wrong about this.
It has now been proven, at least in my own case, that how far a golfer can hit the ball is a very accurate tell to compute a one’s scoring potential.
Do a search for “Hank Haney swing faster” and listen to him for a bit.
He will tell you that “a crappy swing slowed down is just a slow, crappy swing”, or something like that.
I now very much agree – as this turned out to be one of the KEY elements of my success in scoring below 80. Also, since the information technology revolution, golf statistic analysis research emerged, and the stats will back me up that “longer is better” and “club head speed will tell you how low a golfer can score”.
Swing faster, not harder
One thing I want to note is that while I would swing faster, I did NOT try to swing “harder”. Besides swinging faster, an additional change to my game that helped to break my 15-year plateau was to be more relaxed, loose, and passive in the wrists as I swing the golf club. On a scale of one to ten, I started gripping the golf club at a 1, and active wrist manipulation went to a zero.
As a disclaimer – there were other changes I made before my scores finally started dropping. Swinging faster was only part of the picture. I’ll blog about all of these changes, and you can check out my directory of how I finally broke 80 here.
So anyway, being beyond frustrated with my years of lack of improvement, I decided one day that I was going to take Haney’s advice for a year and see if that would help me improve. It worked form the VERY FIRST ROUND and I scored an 82.
I’ll never forget that day.
In the two rounds prior I shot two 92s. I knew right away after all of these years that I was finally on to something. Swinging faster was most definitely a big part of my sudden ability to go below 80, I now have no doubt of that.
Swing faster and don’t hold back
On that day I went from a 3/4 swing with a 3 wood to a fully “loaded and lagged” driver off of every tee. I refused to hold back, and though I hit a couple of wild shots, for the most part I was laughing my way back to the golf card after every tee shot.
My 180 yard with the chicken stick shot was now a legitimate 240 yard+ drive.
When I was downhill, with the wind, or was able to cut a corner, I was seeing 270 plus “effective” drives (I would find myself 120 years out on a 390 year par 4, for example, even though I know I don’t have the speeds for a true 270 yard drive). I was swinging my irons faster as well.
What a game changer this was! My GIRs shot WAY up. When I missed the green, I would miss it MUCH closer on average, so my par saves went way up too, and thus my putts per round went down.
All from a simple “swing faster” adjustment.
It was much more fun to golf like this too. I couldn’t wait to rip at the ball. I wasn’t swinging out of my skin or spinning out of my stance or anything – not even close. I was just swinging solid and fast. Full speed.
Swing faster without sacrificing control
So how did I accomplish this?
For one I would simply wind up just a bit more. Nothing crazy, just a full, yet relaxed, wind up.
Next, I would stall or pause just a bit as I started my downswing. Some might call this “shoulder lag”? Again, nothing crazy gong on here. I would leave the golf club up there just for a second and do nothing (to load up power).
Lastly I would make sure that my hands would be in front of the ball (toward the target) at impact while my “release” was totally loose and passive.
The first two points were important, but that last one is what really got me ripping at the ball.
This resulted in forward shaft lean on my irons and a similar (but upward move) with the driver. I’m not sure what to call it, I’m not a PGA instructor.
So…stalling at first and then “firing” my hands firmly toward the target but with totally loose, relaxed, and passive wrists resulted in a SIGNIFICANT increase in club head speed and also a surprising increase of accuracy.
Stay loose and relax
Again, as mentioned before, I would also grip the club at a 1 on a scale of 1-10. And a “zero” as far as “active control” of the wrists go. They were totally loose and passive. Don’t forget this part of it. A fast but tense swing is bound to take you out of bounds, into the trees, result in a wicked slice, or a duff toward the women’s tees.
Look at the ground after the ball departs
Lastly, to gain both speed and accuracy, I would be sure to look at the ground where the ball used to be instead of following the ball to the target.
Only after I finished my follow through would I allow the club to raise my head and eyes to admire my shot. My golf buddies, for a while at first, would exclaim out loud in surprise and appreciation for my newfound ability (to rip at golf)!
I would use this “wow” or “ooohh” as a cue that I was OK to finally look up.
Not only did this help with accuracy, but it helped with speed too. You know – a stable body helps you swing faster as compared to one that “moves in the same direction as the swing at impact”. Or something.
OK, so I’m not the best golf instructor.
I’m just telling you how I went from 180 to 240 off of the tee and how that helped me to finally break 80 after so many frustrating years of failure.
Bear with me here. Try to picture slowly twirling a bolt on the end of a string. Now picture increasing the speed of rotation of the bolt. When you tighten your circles, the speed of the rotation increases.
When you keep your body steady (instead of moving toward the target), the club will naturally move faster. Free speed with no added effort? Yes please.
So anyway, if you are facing a plateau like I was and you have been listening to the common advice of “swing slower and work on your short game”. I would suggest, for a year, to try “swinging fast and working on your short game”.
Please let me know what you think or how it goes, thank you.