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Game Improvement: Joining Golf’s Grand Swing Speed Experiment



Speed, speed, speed.

Nice to have in a car, nicer to have in wifi. But there are few arenas where velocity has gobbled up as much attention as in golf.

You could say Bryson DeChambeau brought the quest for swing speed to the masses, but in reality power players have had an edge in golf since the days of feather-filled balls and mashie niblicks. It’s no coincidence that a list of the game’s greats includes more guys and gals who could bomb it, compared to the alternative.

All things being equal — and even if some things aren’t — if you hit it farther, you have a better chance to score well. Might seem obvious, but until the advent of Mark Broadie’s revolutionary Strokes Gained metric, we didn’t have the proof.

There are exceptions, like crushing the ball into a penalty area or behind a tree. In those cases, yes, it’s better to be shorter. But in the convincing majority of scenarios, even just a few extra yards makes a statistically-significant difference.

Which is why I’ve joined the arms race myself.

I’ve long wanted to get on board with a legit golf fitness program, to complement my usual workouts. So when I stumbled upon Jaacob Bowden’s Swing Man Golf speed training regimen, I jumped in with both feet.

Part of the reason is convenience. Bowden’s workouts require just a resistance band or two; light and heavy swing-training aids are suggested, but not required. Even the longest workout day doesn’t take more than a half an hour.

The results, as I’ve been chronicling in a video series for the Appalachian Golf Alliance, have been eye-opening.

Over the course of four weeks, I’ve increased my average driver swing speed from 107 mph to 119 mph, my driver ball speed from 150 mph to 171 mph, and my average driver carry distance from 260 yards to 308 yards.

Yes, that’s a 48-yard increase in carry distance … not a typo! And I thought I was at least somewhat long before. Nothing like seeing the real data, courtesy of the Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor, to cut to the core of what’s actually happening in your golf swing.

In short, Bowden‘s program works, and that’s a credit his accumulated knowledge in the field. A PGA professional based in Washington, D.C., he has a history as a competitive long-driver, as well as extensive teaching of the art of swing speed.

Or maybe I should say the science of swing speed, because there’s a definite formula here. Build strength with swing-like movements, build stability with isometrics, and build velocity with overspeed training.

I’m not even a full month into this thing and it’s changed the way I think about the swing. Any motion that’s not intended to deliver the club head to the ball at maximum velocity is wasted motion. I can feel my core and leg muscles engaged in the swing like never before in my life.

Also, I’m finally treating golf like an actual sport, with actual strength and conditioning work. Amazing what can happen with some focused effort.

It’s not all been smooth sailing. I’ve had to make some adjustments to technique.

My added efficiency has forced me to change my left-hand grip from a strong one to neutral, if not a little on the weak side. I’ve found that my old motion with the new strength turned my usual draw into a hook, especially with the driver. (Honestly, it was a long time coming, as I’ve been working with a closed club face for a while, which was probably leading to inconsistency.)

What’s interesting is that a weak grip doesn’t necessarily mean a weak swing. DeChambeau has one of the ‘weakest’ left-hand grips on the PGA Tour, let he’s also the longest driver on Tour and he regularly draws the ball, to boot.

As usual, golf is as much about experimentation as it is competition. At least that’s what’s fascinating about it for me.

What’s my ultimate goal here? I don’t know!

I simply want to make some sort of progress every week I’m doing this. For instance, even though I didn’t maintain the rate of swing speed increase this week, I did get better at translating club speed into ball speed, a metric known as smash factor.

At some point I’m going to hit a ceiling, although I’d like to think I’m far from it. My best numbers last week were 121 mph swing speed, 173 mph ball speed and 315 yards carry distance.

At any rate, I hope you enjoy the video series. I would certainly endorse Bowden’s program. If you decide to join me, let me know how it’s going on social media (Twitter | Facebook | Instagram) or right here in the comments section below!

A 15-year veteran of sports media, Matt Gajtka (GITE-kah) is the founding editor of PGN. Matt is a lifelong golfer with a passion for all aspects of the sport, from technique to courses to competition. His experience ranges from reporting on Pittsburgh's major-league beats, to broadcasting a variety of sports, to public relations, multimedia production and social media.

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