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Should club head speed be the focus?

14 posts in this topic

For the past few years, my golf focus has been to improve scores by throttling back the driver (and hit more Fairway Woods) in an effort to hit more fairways. However, I have been doing some research lately and have found things like this:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15712503

and this:

http://www.golfdigest.com/golf-instruction/blogs/theinstructionblog/2014/02/fitness-friday-fantasy-vs-real.html

It got me thinking about a comment a friend of mine made last year who used to be on the Hooters tour and played some Nationwide events. I asked him what I should work on in my game, and he said I should work on swinging the driver as hard as I can, just within the limits of my control. He said worry about trajectory control later, that hitting the ball as far as I can is more important.

So all this has me wondering: shouldn’t maximizing potential clubhead speed be top priority among all golfers? If clubhead speed really is highly correlated with handicap per the studies above, shouldn’t stretching and developing core and forearm strength be fundamental to getting serious about improving scores? If clubhead speed is a valid indicator of performance in golfers (per the first study above), why should we spend so much time working on our short game, especially those of us who have been playing awhile and have some experience?

Which brings me to a similar question: Is there any situation where we should hit anything but a driver on a par 4 or 5? One scenario on a course I often play is a 320 yard par 4 with a narrow fairway lined with trees. My leave after hitting driver is usually about 70 yards, with hybrid its 100+ yards. My gut tells me its worth getting as close to the hole as possible, to accept the risk/reward scenario this hole presents. What do you all think, especially given the information above on the importance of club head speed and distance?

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Interesting question, and I have heard the same thing about the swinging as fast as you can at first. I would also add that you need to learn how to swing properly. I think it's working for me.

I was out with my son and two other golfers on the first 9 holes we played. One of the golfers was a high school Junior, who mentioned that there are many times when you don't pull a driver, and that you should get used to doing that on even courses that you don't need. He demonstrated by pulling out a 9 iron on a short par 4 and played only the 9i for both shots. He also chipped and putted with the 9i, but mentioned that that was not part of the "training". The main idea is that you get used to reaching par 4 without using a driver.

I am in pretty much the same situation as you are on the 320 yards with a leave of 70 yards or so. These shorter distances killed my score this weekend, and did not present a problem on longer courses because I would have no less than a perfect 52 degree wedge on those longer courses. I really think the answer to the 70 yard question is that I need to learn to shoot those half swings with more repeatability.

So, I think the purpose of using other clubs off the tee is not to tune the yardages to get perfect distances for a full swing, but rather to allow you to overcome obstacles on the higher rated courses.

I'd also like to hear more on this, and appreciate that you posted this thread.

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If clubhead speed is a valid indicator of performance in golfers (per the first study above), why should we spend so much time working on our short game, especially those of us who have been playing awhile and have some experience?

Which brings me to a similar question: Is there any situation where we should hit anything but a driver on a par 4 or 5? One scenario on a course I often play is a 320 yard par 4 with a narrow fairway lined with trees. My leave after hitting driver is usually about 70 yards, with hybrid its 100+ yards. My gut tells me its worth getting as close to the hole as possible, to accept the risk/reward scenario this hole presents. What do you all think, especially given the information above on the importance of club head speed and distance?

I think you may be interpreting the graph incorrectly. Those with low handicaps generally have higher clubhead speeds because they have better swings. Just swinging hard will not lower your handicap. You should swing as hard as possible WHILE STILL BEING ABLE TO HIT THE CENTER OF THE CLUBFACE. If you can't do that, you are probably swinging too hard.

Depending on the trouble off the tee, hitting less than driver is common. If there are bunkers right and left at 240 and my regular drive goes 250, I'd be stupid not to hit 3-wood.  Just look at any tournament on TV.  You will routinely see guys hitting 3-woods, hybrids and irons off the tee to eliminate trouble.

As far as short game, you should work on it so you can lower your score, plain and simple.

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My take is if you're good enough to play on the Hooters Tour you want to focus on club head speed and distance because the rest of your golf game should support mishit drives off the tee.

I score better when I keep the ball in the fairway, because my shots out of the rough and fairway bunkers isn't very good.  When guys like Tiger hit a 320 yard drive that lands in the rough, their concern isn't usually if they can get the ball out, it's if they can get enough spin on it to stop it on the green.  When I hit into thick rough I'm concerned I make good enough contract to give me a decent third shot.

IMO, the answer lies in each individual, based on the level of all aspects of their golf game.

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I think you may be interpreting the graph incorrectly. Those with low handicaps generally have higher clubhead speeds because they have better swings. Just swinging hard will not lower your handicap. You should swing as hard as possible WHILE STILL BEING ABLE TO HIT THE CENTER OF THE CLUBFACE. If you can't do that, you are probably swinging too hard.

My thought is, ideally you want to swing as hard as you can without losing balance, say, 90-95% of what you can muster with a driver. If you can't hit the swing spot or control your ball flight, then rather than swinging easier, practice swing mechanics and work on flexibility and strength until you can control it. Get as much swing speed as you can first, work on control later.

I agree that if the trouble is bad enough, one should lay up off the tee. However, I think we often overestimate the risk involved and underestimate the reward of a shorter iron into the green.

I think there comes a point of diminishing returns when it comes to practicing the short game. When you know how to hit the basic shots and you have some experience, I wonder if working on swing speed (or controlling it) is of greater value. Especially with some of the studies I have been reading.

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IMO, the answer lies in each individual, based on the level of all aspects of their golf game.

Ultimately, this is probably the right answer to all my questions. But it's more fun to over-analyze it on the forum :)

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My thought is, ideally you want to swing as hard as you can without losing balance, say, 90-95% of what you can muster with a driver. If you can't hit the swing spot or control your ball flight, then rather than swinging easier, practice swing mechanics and work on flexibility and strength until you can control it. Get as much swing speed as you can first, work on control later.

I agree that if the trouble is bad enough, one should lay up off the tee. However, I think we often overestimate the risk involved and underestimate the reward of a shorter iron into the green.

I think there comes a point of diminishing returns when it comes to practicing the short game. When you know how to hit the basic shots and you have some experience, I wonder if working on swing speed (or controlling it) is of greater value. Especially with some of the studies I have been reading.


Well, I guess you have your answer then. But I'm not sure you'll drop your score 10 strokes by swinging harder.  But that's just me; I guess we see it differently.

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I coached girls fast pitch softball for a few years when my daughter was playing (after coaching baseball for many years). Even though I'm a decent enough pitcher in fast pitch all of the pitchers had a personal pitching coach, that was more qualified to teach than I was, so I never tried to coach the girls on mechanics or conflict with anything the coaches were teaching. One thing that drove me crazy at first was that the pitching coaches had the theory that the girls should throw as hard as they possibly could throw no matter how wild they were and no matter how many batters they walked. They said "the control will come later". That caused us to lose quite a few games we shouldn't have lost when the girls were around 12 to 14 years old (but they could sure hum that ball). A few years later when the girls were high school age it was obvious that the coaches were correct. They got their control and completely overmatched hitters with the speed they were throwing. One turned out to be one of the best pitchers in the country and was probably going to be on the Olympic team (until she got pregnant). That whole sequence got me to thinking about my own childhood and what I did, unintentionally, that helped me to throw harder than any of the other kids around. My father and I went to the river every day and tried to throw rocks across the river. He could come within a few yards and by the time I was 11 years old I was throwing them across easily. Nothing mattered except to throw the rock as hard as possible. If I had a young kid that was learning to play golf: Sure I would get them lessons on mechanics from a qualified coach but I would also create every little fun game I could think of that involved absolutely knocking the crap out of the ball.
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The way I interpret both of those links is that better players have more clubhead speed.  And in my mind this means that they have good technique.  As my form is getting better I find that distance gains are coming also, not because I am trying to hit the ball harder or trying to swing faster per say, but because my form is better and that is generating more clubhead speed naturally.

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I coached girls fast pitch softball for a few years when my daughter was playing (after coaching baseball for many years).

Even though I'm a decent enough pitcher in fast pitch all of the pitchers had a personal pitching coach, that was more qualified to teach than I was, so I never tried to coach the girls on mechanics or conflict with anything the coaches were teaching.

One thing that drove me crazy at first was that the pitching coaches had the theory that the girls should throw as hard as they possibly could throw no matter how wild they were and no matter how many batters they walked. They said "the control will come later". That caused us to lose quite a few games we shouldn't have lost when the girls were around 12 to 14 years old (but they could sure hum that ball).

A few years later when the girls were high school age it was obvious that the coaches were correct. They got their control and completely overmatched hitters with the speed they were throwing. One turned out to be one of the best pitchers in the country and was probably going to be on the Olympic team (until she got pregnant).

That whole sequence got me to thinking about my own childhood and what I did, unintentionally, that helped me to throw harder than any of the other kids around. My father and I went to the river every day and tried to throw rocks across the river. He could come within a few yards and by the time I was 11 years old I was throwing them across easily. Nothing mattered except to throw the rock as hard as possible.

If I had a young kid that was learning to play golf: Sure I would get them lessons on mechanics from a qualified coach but I would also create every little fun game I could think of that involved absolutely knocking the crap out of the ball.

The key here is age.  If I was 15 I'd make sure I had good mechanics and work towards increasing my club head speed.  At that age you can make a significant improvement in strength and speed so it makes sense.

At 48, I'm fighting father time, I'm sure I can add maybe 5 mph to my swing by working out, more lessons and pushing myself to improve club speed but ultimately I'm not going to see the big benefits that a kid would.  My goal at this point is to slightly increase or maintain my speed, make my swing more consistent and avoid injury so I can keep playing for at least 30 more years.

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At 65, soon to be 66, speed is the least of my concern. I find that if I have a nice slowish, is that even a word..? tempo, and make a smooth down swing, 99.99% of the time, I get good distance, which means solid contact, and that's my main goal. If I speed up, I lose most of my goals. Just to put this into perspective, I constantly hit my 44* 9i 140 yds today. Slow is good.. :-D

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The way I interpret both of those links is that better players have more clubhead speed.  And in my mind this means that they have good technique.  As my form is getting better I find that distance gains are coming also, not because I am trying to hit the ball harder or trying to swing faster per say, but because my form is better and that is generating more clubhead speed naturally.

You know, for me the experience has been the other way around. When I started golfing (in my early 20's) I would just kill it, but had no control whatsoever over the ball flight. As time went on, I kept on dialing back on my swing until I had it under control. Now, I can't swing as hard as I used to even if I try (in my late 20's now). I even look back at some of my previous posts when I first joined this site (2009), talking about my typical iron distances, and can't believe I used to do that. I scored worse then than I do now despite having a higher swing speed, so the correlation between swing speed and skill can't be exact.

After thinking more about it today, I think you guys are really on point, saying that learning to swing hard young brings the greatest benefits. As a golfer who has not gotten any better for years and with limited time to practice, I am always trying to think of some way I can improve away from the course (as ridiculous as that sounds), like through working out. I haven't been too successful so far :hmm:

By the way Hammer, that's a nice 9i, 140!

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For the past few years, my golf focus has been to improve scores by throttling back the driver (and hit more Fairway Woods) in an effort to hit more fairways. However, I have been doing some research lately and have found things like this:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15712503

and this:

http://www.golfdigest.com/golf-instruction/blogs/theinstructionblog/2014/02/fitness-friday-fantasy-vs-real.html

It got me thinking about a comment a friend of mine made last year who used to be on the Hooters tour and played some Nationwide events. I asked him what I should work on in my game, and he said I should work on swinging the driver as hard as I can, just within the limits of my control. He said worry about trajectory control later, that hitting the ball as far as I can is more important.

So all this has me wondering: shouldn’t maximizing potential clubhead speed be top priority among all golfers? If clubhead speed really is highly correlated with handicap per the studies above, shouldn’t stretching and developing core and forearm strength be fundamental to getting serious about improving scores? If clubhead speed is a valid indicator of performance in golfers (per the first study above), why should we spend so much time working on our short game, especially those of us who have been playing awhile and have some experience?

Which brings me to a similar question: Is there any situation where we should hit anything but a driver on a par 4 or 5? One scenario on a course I often play is a 320 yard par 4 with a narrow fairway lined with trees. My leave after hitting driver is usually about 70 yards, with hybrid its 100+ yards. My gut tells me its worth getting as close to the hole as possible, to accept the risk/reward scenario this hole presents. What do you all think, especially given the information above on the importance of club head speed and distance?

Those articles have to be taken with a grain of salt. Do better players hit it farther, yes. Do they swing faster yes. They do it the RIGHT way.  Honestly I see more bad players swing VERY hard to get horrible club head speed. All the low handicappers I see hardly ever seem out of balance, yet they get great clubhead speed.

So, the best thing to do is, get a better swing. That will bring out a ton of club head speed. There are a few other things, working on some power accumulators that can help, but at the top should be a good swing.

As for the other stuff, wait till @iacas and @david_wedzik are done with their book. I am sure you will get a better answer there. :-D

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You know, for me the experience has been the other way around. When I started golfing (in my early 20's) I would just kill it, but had no control whatsoever over the ball flight. As time went on, I kept on dialing back on my swing until I had it under control. Now, I can't swing as hard as I used to even if I try (in my late 20's now). I even look back at some of my previous posts when I first joined this site (2009), talking about my typical iron distances, and can't believe I used to do that. I scored worse then than I do now despite having a higher swing speed, so the correlation between swing speed and skill can't be exact.

After thinking more about it today, I think you guys are really on point, saying that learning to swing hard young brings the greatest benefits. As a golfer who has not gotten any better for years and with limited time to practice, I am always trying to think of some way I can improve away from the course (as ridiculous as that sounds), like through working out. I haven't been too successful so far

By the way Hammer, that's a nice 9i, 140!

Thanks...BTW, maybe you have seen the thread where Mike and Erik, show and explain specific slow ways to practice. very good reading, and the slow practice seems to work for me, give it a look...Late 20's..? sheesh, enjoy it while you can..best of luck in your golfing.

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