Putt For Show, Drive For Dough

If you follow our social medial you know I just finished a book on golf performance that sparked this blog. With golf performance training still in its infantile stages there are bound to be a lot of people trying to pump out information and establish themselves as the leading authority. Ever since Tigers Woods’ emergence into the golf world winning 14 majors and spending about 10 years as the World’s #1 player, people have started realizing that maybe some work in the gym can pay off on the course. Unfortunately this has resulted in some serious trial and error, mostly error.

Adding distance off the tee is the easiest way to shave strokes for both established and casual golfer. As I’ve said before, chicks dig the long ball (which for some may be reason enough to swing for the fences) but as you can see below, there is a direct correlation between driving distance and success on tour for the golfers on that list. 

When looking at the statistics on pga.com, driving distance seemed to be the best indicator of success: much more than driving accuracy. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on that but there is no doubt that shortening the course will improve scores.

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I am currently a month out from competing in the World Long Drive Championships. Using these methods I have brought my swing speed to 145mph+ hitting the ball upwards of 400 yards. There are three factors that I believe create your power potential on the tee. Everyone is lacking in one or more of these. Yes, I said everyone including myself and the guys on the list above leading the tour in driving distance.

1.       Strength

An incredibly general term I know. There are many different forms of strength and for the sake of time I won’t dive into them all and how they relate to the golf swing. The term thrown around a ton in the golf world is this idea of functional strength. It is an incredibly misunderstood term and is preached by some of the top golf instructors in the World. The result is what I consider totally sub-par performance on the tee by even the guys topping the list above. 


Functional training is any exercise that directly correlates to the sporting movement. These gurus take this as looking exactly like the movement with resistance or instability. Doing swings balancing on bosu balls or doing rotational med ball throws all day.

Dr. Mel Siff said it the best, “One cannot categorically label a given exercise or form of training as “functional” or “non-functional” without considering the context of the specific training stage and individual involved.”

Different people are at different stages. When looking at those different stages it MUST be through the lens of athletic potential and not sporting performance. Phil Mickelson is an incredible golfer but a below average athlete and must be trained as such. He can shoot 60 but probably can’t deadlift his golf bag. His training focus should be on GPP (General Physical Preparedness), a focus on general strength.

For some reason the bench mark for long drives is set at 300 yards and everyone is completely ignoring the population that hits it 400 yards. Long drive competitors are big… strong… dudes…and great athletes. Three of the final eight in the World Long drive competition last year were former professional baseball players. Want to know the difference between them and Phil Mickelson? He is weak, they are strong. No offense to Phil who I have a man crush on. 

If you are new to training. I would focus on absolute strength gains. Focus on the big lifts (bench, squat, deadlift) going up for some time. The other special strengths will take care of themselves during that time. Absolute strength is a prerequisite for power.

2.       Kinematic Sequencing

The kinematic sequence is “a measure of the rotational velocities of the club and body segments during the swing.  By studying the kinematic sequence we can determine whether a swing has efficient sequencing, efficient timing, and efficient speed generation.” – Don Parsons

This is probably the most important thing to increase power and the only reason most pros can make it to the fairway. The golf swing itself is essential for a powerful swing. If you are creating a bunch of swing faults and leaking power in every stage of your swing you can never have a powerful golf swing. Back to my social media post this week, THIS is the reason NFL running backs don’t hit it further than John Daly. Not some functional strength they are lacking and he possesses. Pair John Daly’s swing with Adrian Peterson’s power output potential as an athlete and he is hitting it over 400 yards. No question.

3.       Mobility

This goes hand in hand with kinematic sequencing. If you are unable to get into proper positions due to mobility restrictions you will never reach your full potential with driving distance. Everyone’s swing is different but there are some universal truths that need to take place in every swing. Make sure you are mobile enough to achieve them.

For myself, and a lot of other golfers, thoracic spine is a problem area in my take away. Creating the separation of the hips and shoulders (x-factor) during the takeaway is key in producing a powerful downswing. If you are lacking power that is the first place I would look. No “x-factor”, no distance.

These are the only three factors for producing a powerful swing. If you are looking for some added distance off the tee suggest evaluating these aspects of your game and making some adjustments. No one wants to walk with their pants down to the women’s tee.

Edwin KnoblockComment