Swing Faster, Not Harder

Distance is Everything

In case you haven’t been paying attention, golfers on the PGA Tour are hitting the ball longer than ever.  It used to be that driving it 300 yards was impressive.  Now 300 yard 3Ws are the norm.

Why are players working out harder than ever and perfecting their technique to smash the ball prodigious distances?  Because analytics clearly shows us that distance is a huge advantage.  In this lesson, I’m going to give you some ideas that will help you hit longer drives more consistently.

This Lesson Is For You If:

You want to hit longer drives

You want to hit your drives longer more consistently

Creating Distance: The Facts

Let’s start by establishing a couple basic facts.

When we’re talking about distance, ball speed is king.  All else equal, more ball speed means longer shots.

How do we get more ball speed?  There are two factors: club head speed and strike quality.  To create maximum ball speed for a given club head speed, you need to strike the ball on the club’s sweet spot.  To add more ball speed beyond that, you need more swing speed.

Effort vs. Swing Speed

We need more swing speed to hit longer drives, but how do we get it?  Most golfers have a simple answer: swing harder. 

You’ve seen this yourself (and probably experienced it) plenty of times.  You get to the hole with the long drive contest.  You put your ball on the tee and take your stance.  After your normal pre-shot routine, you look down the fairway and grip the club a little tighter.  All the muscles in your arms tense up.  You rip the club back like John Daly and throw everything you have into the downswing, barely staying upright as you move into your follow through.

The first question that I’ll propose to you is, “Does all that effort create more swing speed?”  There’s a simple way to get the answer: get on a launch monitor.  Use a launch monitor that actually measures the club head (Trackman, Foresight, Flightscope), and track your club head speed as you ratchet up your effort.  Make a few swings at 70% effort, then slowly work your way up until you’re swinging out of your shoes.  You may find that the harder you swing, the more swing speed you create…or you may not.

Before I go on, let me be clear that I’m NOT promoting the “swing easy, let the ball get in the way” junk.  No one who hits it far swings easy.  I’m only suggesting that you find your point of maximum return on effort through testing.

Effort vs. Ball Speed

The second question is, “At what effort level are you creating the most ball speed?”  You may find that swinging with maximum effort does create maximum club head speed, but that you can’t find the center of the club face.  It’s possible that, due to poor strike quality/lower smash factor, you create the most ball speed at 90% effort.  Or your ball speed may be the same at 90% and 100% because you’re trading strike quality for swing speed.

Let’s assume that last scenario is true.  What does that tell us?  It tells us that, on the course, you should be swinging at 90%.  Hitting the center of the club face will, all else equal, result in more accurate shots, and it’s less taxing on your body.  On the range, you might want to work on hitting the center of the club face while swinging at 100%.  With some dedicated practice, you can improve your strike quality at maximum effort and bring those distance gains to the course.

Applications Beyond the Tee

While it’s most fun to think about using this concept with the driver, recognize that it can be applied to your entire bag.  Are you actually able to squeeze another 5 yards out of your 7I by laying into it?  No way to know other than by testing.  Spend some time learning about your swing on a launch monitor and you’ll start posting lower scores.

Matt Saternus


  1. Some very good advice. How many times have we swung just that little more controlled and felt that “pingy” piercy flight and felt almost nothing through the shaft and thought “that felt good”. It’s the sweet spot. Chances are we will miss that “spot” when we start swinging out of skin and slashing at the ball. Better to get in the groove with nice sequencing and a settled transition.

  2. Very nice article Matt!

  3. William Allen

    I have tried almost everything to get my swing speed to increase I hit really solid & straight but my swing speed remains 83-86 mph. I feel my swing is in proper sequence but the speed is never there. One clue is that I typically have a sawed off finish even when I hit a good one , usually 190-200 yd carry.
    Pls. Help

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