May 262009
 

Add 42 Yards Now!

As Rick Smith demonstrates above, many golfers start down with the upper body, which pushes the club to the outside (left). To stay inside, let the legs and hips lead the downswing (right). Smith shows how to swing from the inside on pages 96-101. Below, note the dramatic difference in yardage between a downswing that approaches from 9 degrees outside the target line and one that comes from inside or on the line.

By Mike Stachura
Photos By J.D. Cuban August 2008

Think about that for a minute: What would another 42 yards on your tee shot do for you, besides get you jazzed to play more golf? Maybe make some of those long par 4s reachable in two, or even the par 5s. You might be able to hit a short iron into more greens — hey, we love those new hybrids, too, but who wants to pull them out on every hole? Fact is, distance makes golf a more enjoyable game. In this package, we share our findings from an exclusive Golf Digest test in which we measured the effect of swing path on driving distance. It’s commonly said that power comes from hitting from the inside, but here we quantify what that really means. Then Golf Digest Teaching Professional Rick Smith goes through the faults that prevent the inside approach and offers tips and drills for achieving it. Finally, we share the power secrets of eight tour players. You might never hit it like them, but 42 more yards is a darn good start.

The idea is not new.

Horace Hutchinson, whose book Hints on Golf basically invented the art form of written golf instruction, suggested it in the 1880s. The great British champion J.H. Taylor discussed it about a hundred years ago in his own volume on instruction. And J. Douglas Edgar, winner of the French and Canadian Opens before the introduction of the steel shaft, actually created a training aid in 1920 to groove what he called “the movement,” saying “it has the exhilarating effect of champagne, without the aftereffects.”

It’s what we call today “hitting it from the inside,” otherwise known as swinging the club on a path that approaches the ball from the golfer’s side of the target line as opposed to outside. And though it’s a common refrain from instructors and a somewhat obvious swing theory (everybody knows that swinging out to in is a sure way to hit a weak slice), for the first time Golf Digest has documented the real value of the inside move. Just how important is it? In the bluntest of terms, it’s 42 yards more important. Champagne effect, indeed.

Utilizing a robot simulation of the golf swing from industry testing leader Golf Laboratories Inc., we were able to mimic downswing paths at six angles, as well as a straight-on, or neutral, approach. At a swing speed of 95 miles per hour (slightly faster than average), our results show that an inside path of 3, 6 and even 9 degrees, as well as the neutral swing path, combined to produce drives averaging 244 yards. But when those paths veered outside the target line, bad things started to happen. The average on as little as a 3-degree out-to-in path was 233 yards, or a loss of 11 yards versus the neutral-inside paths. At 6 degrees the loss of yardage was a whopping 30 yards. At 9 degrees, average drives were going just 202 yards, for a loss of 42 yards, as in the numerals “4” and “2.”

What was going on? Looking at the numbers on TrackMan’s ball-flight radar system, it’s fairly simple physics. Shots hit from the inside were mirroring the distance maxim of high launch/low spin. (Generally speaking, the higher you launch the ball with a lower amount of spin per degree of launch angle, the farther your drives will go.) In our test, the out-to-in swings were doing just the opposite: launching low with a lot more spin per degree of launch angle. The neutral and inside paths produced launches more than twice as high (13.6 degrees versus 6.2) with spin rates less than half those of the out-to-in swings (203 revolutions per minute versus 452 rpm per degree of launch).

Those severely out-to-in paths might seem outrageous, but sadly, they’re not. According to Dave Anderson, TaylorMade’s director of research, the universe of golfers they have tested on the company’s swing-analysis system falls along a swing-path range that stretches to 11 degrees out to in. Meanwhile, the majority of tour players in TaylorMade’s research stays within a range of neutral to about 3 degrees inside.

Fredrik Tuxen, the inventor of TrackMan, has studied swing path at the tour level. His research shows that a great influence on distance is the trajectory the clubhead takes into the ball. Specifically, players who hit down on the ball are not maximizing distance. (This is important to our research because generally speaking, an out-to-in swing produces a downward hit, and an in-to-out swing leads to an upward strike.) According to Tuxen, two players can have the same swing speed, but the player who attacks the ball on the upswing can produce as many as 28 more yards than a player with a downward strike. One solution can be found in equipment, he says.

“It’s very difficult to change one’s clubhead speed,” Tuxen writes in a paper presented in March at the World Scientific Congress of Golf V in Phoenix. “Also, the attack angle is difficult for most golfers to change without intervention, such as instruction. So, the easiest thing the golfer can do is change the club!” (See box, below left.)

Still, to see the real benefits of the inside path, you need to make a swing change. “Biomechanically, great players look so good because they’re so efficient at using their bodies,” says Dave Phillips, co-founder of the Titleist Performance Institute. “How often do you hear, ‘They swing so slow and hit it so far — how do they do it?’ The reason is, everything is moving in harmony.” Harmony. Champagne. Either way, hitting it from the inside is pretty sweet.


The robot never lies

The Golf Laboratories swing robot simulated seven paths at a slightly above-average speed. Inside and neutral swings produced an average of a 42-yard gain over the most extreme outside path.


Photo: Jim Herity

Can’t fix swing? Change clubs

Don’t have time to correct your out-to-in swing? Try a higher-lofted driver as a temporary solution. It will improve your launch angle and mitigate the effects of sidespin without a meaningful loss of ball speed.


Develop a Powerful Base

For power, fire your right side from the ground up
By Jimmy Ballard
One of GOLF MAGAZINE’S Top 100 Teachers
Published: November 01, 2000

YOU CAN’T GENERATE power without hip turn, and you can’t move the hips properly on the downswing without firing your right side. But right-side motion must travel from the ground up: For right-handed golfers, like Annika Sorenstam (shown below and right), it begins by kicking in the right foot and knee. This drives the legs, which in turn drive the hips, which propel the rest of the body and the club through impact.


SAM GREENWOOD
Initiate the forward swing by kicking in the right knee and foot (right). This shifts your weight to your left side, setting your hip turn in motion.

Many amateurs have power problems because they think firing the right side means starting the downswing from the top — with the right arm and right shoulder. The result is an over-the-top swing path, which prevents the hips from turning properly and produces a weak slice.
Unhappy with this result, some over-the-top swingers overcompensate by tucking the right arm too close to the body on the downswing and sliding the hips laterally, a combination that blocks the ball well right of the target. Or they try taming the right side by keeping the majority of their weight on the right leg and stabbing at the ball with their arms and hands, another move that only diminishes power.
Power, and a good hip turn coming down, begin on the backswing. Start by getting behind the ball at the top, with your upper body coiled against a braced right leg that is supporting most of your weight (above, left). From here, you must initiate the forward swing with your right side, since there’s no weight on the left. The first move is the right foot and right knee kicking in toward the ball (above, right). This shifts weight and balance to the left side and sets your hip turn in motion.
Once your weight has shifted left and your hips begin to clear, release the entire right side and the spine (your swing center). Your hands will respond naturally, falling into the correct downswing plane, approaching the ball from the inside, then extending down the target line after impact.

Impact check. Grip down on a club a few inches so you can easily see the butt end. Simulate your swing, stopping just after impact and again in your follow-through when the shaft is horizontal to the ground. The exposed end of the grip should be pointing toward the center of your body at these two spots (see photos, left). If your hips slide rather than turn, the grip will point ahead of your body; if you’ve hung back on your right side, your right arm will cross over your left and the grip will point backward, away from the target.


How to Add 10 Yards to Your Drives BAD (left) Too much shoulder turn forces the clubhead back on a shallow plane.GOOD (right) Start the club back with your hands to keep it on plane.

How to Add 10 Yards to Your Drives

This “fingers-only” drill automatically widens your swing’s arc
By Brad Brewer
GOLF Magazine Top 100 Teacher
Published: December 01, 2007

his story is for you if…
• You’re dying for 10 extra yards off the tee
• You don’t know how to gain clubhead speed
• You don’t like “testing” new swings on the course

CHECK THIS!Start your backswing
Make a slow backswing with your driver. If the clubface points toward the ground when your hands reach hip height, you’ve narrowed your swing’s arc by turning your shoulders too quickly.

DRILL Start your backswing with just your index fingers and thumbs to prevent you from manipulating the clubhead and force the club to extend back on a naturally wide arc.

FIX IT WITH THIS DRILL
Take your normal grip with your driver and then let go with the last three fingers on each hand, leaving only your thumbs and index fingers on the handle. Start your swing by pushing the left side of the grip back with your left thumb and index finger. Add just a touch of shoulder and hip turn. Feel how the clubhead extends naturally back along your target line with the toe of the club pointing up. This makes your swing arc as wide as it can be, giving you extra power without having to swing harder or faster.

HOW TO KNOW YOU HAVE IT RIGHT
Use the feel this drill gives you on some slow, full swings. Do it correctly and the clubface will point directly away from you when your hands reach hip height. When you hit balls, swing the club away first with your arms and hands, then begin coiling your shoulders and hips. You’ll pick up yards with every club in your bag.