We’re always looking for those extra yards off the tee, or to reach the green in two and especially to carry that big lake or waste area. So what do we do? Swing hard, speed up our tempo, squeeze too hard on the club and end up with the worst shot of the round, if we make contact at all. So what’s the secret? How do we increase our distance without totally screwing up the shot? How many times have we heard someone say — or even said it ourselves — I slowed down my swing, swung easier and hit the best shot of my life? Well maybe there’s something to that, but how do we avoid the temptation to overswing when distance is our main thought in those pressure situations? How do you control your tempo and hit those beautiful crisp long-distance shots that we see on TV every weekend?
Well here’s a tip to try next time you’re out practicing on the driving range. Remember when we were young (or younger) and played tug-of-war in the park over a muddy pond? If you stood squarely facing your opponents on the other end the rope and tried pulling with your arms you probably ended up falling face first in the muddy water with the rest of your team crashing in on top of you. But if you turn sideways and pull with your legs, hips and back using your arms only to hold onto the rope — essentially wrapping the rope around you — you’re much more effective and stronger because you’re using the biggest muscles in your body.
So how do we apply this same concept to our golf swing instead of just using the limited strength in our skinny little arms? Well here’s the tip: In slow motion take the club back to the top of your backswing and stop. Now before you start your downswing to the ball, start the swing by turning your legs and hips to the left first and around your left leg (right-handed players, of course) while resisting your upper body, shoulders and arms from unwinding and swinging past your lower body. Use your lower body or legs to initiate the downswing to maintain tension in your coil just as you turn sideways in the game of tug-of-war while leaving your arms and hands behind you. Try using this mental approach next time you practice — working on driving the swing with the legs and lower body first — and it will help you set a more even tempo with your body and incorporate the larger muscles in your swing, which should result in longer drives and better distance with all of the clubs in your bag — including short irons and wedges.
Mark Nickel is a PGA pro and director of golf at the Raven Golf Club at Three Peaks in Silverthorne.