April 2011

APRIL 2011: Golf Tips From A Pro - The Truth About Light Drivers & Distance Scoring

Author: Pete Popovich | Photographer: Photography by Anne

One of the golf industry’s latest equipment trends is ultra light drivers. Many advertisements claim that this new concept can increase both swing speed and distance. Assuming that advertising is mainly directed toward increasing sales, such claims as “lighter means faster and longer” are not always true. Allow me to explain.

Everyone functions at a certain rhythm, e.g. you walk at a certain speed, talk at a certain speed, etc. This is determined in large part by your central nervous system and is personal to each golfer. To move efficiently and effectively, especially in the golf swing, it is important to swing in sync with your personal natural rhythm.

In order to swing at your inborn or natural rhythm, your muscles must have enough resistance from the club to maintain that natural rhythm throughout the swing. The amount of resistance is different for each individual golfer; i.e. it must be neither too little nor too much. If the club is too heavy, it will limit or hold back your natural swing speed, and if it is too light, it will cause loss of club control. If you went out and purchased one of the new ultra-light drivers based solely upon claims of greater distance, the chances are that your muscles would not have enough resistance to work against, and ultimately, your arms would outrace the rest of your body, thereby throwing your natural rhythm totally out of sync. Further, if your arms and body and club are not working together, it is difficult to hit the ball in the center of the club face; and center-face contact is the number one way to increase distance. (Note that, in spite of this fact, some manufacturers claim that off-center hits with their clubs will result in no distance loss! Our question is, loss from what distance to begin with?)

Bottom line: it is true that you may be able to swing a lighter driver faster. But if your arms and club are outracing your body and you can’t hit the ball in the center of the club face, what good does it do?

The second thing ultra light clubs do is allow the manufacturer to increase the club’s length in excess of 45 inches (the current average for public consumption) without increasing overall weight. The marketing claim is that you can hit a longer driver further. Again, the greatest distance comes from striking the ball in the center of the club face, and the chances of center-face hits actually decrease as club length is increased. In addition, clubs that are too long will disrupt the natural rhythm and tempo of any golfer. Why? Because if a club is too long, the club head does not get to complete its part in the backswing even though the hips, shoulders and hands have finished their parts. Now when the body says “Time to start forward,” the club head is still seeking its pause before transition. This makes it nearly impossible to square the club face at impact and hit the ball in the center of the face.

Most currently produced drivers are 45 inches long. Many ultra-lights are even 46 inches long. Unbeknownst to most people, the average driver length on the PGA Tour is 44.5 inches. If the best players in the world are playing with drivers less than 45 inches long, why would you play with one that is longer? (Long drive competitors have drivers that exceed 47 inches, but they are more concerned with distance than direction. And if you are looking to improve your scores, direction is a luxury you can’t afford to give up.)

There is more to hitting a golf ball than speed and more to a driver than weight and length. To discover which driver best suits you in these and other respects, you need a teacher with the ability to match the club to your swing—not force your swing to match the club.

If you would like to know if your driver fits your swing, hit the ball to maximum distance without sacrificing accuracy and shoot lower scores, call the Golf Performance Academy-Hilton Head. We can be reached at (843) 338-6737, golfacademyhiltonhead.com, or on Facebook at Golf Performance Academy-Hilton Head.

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