Golfers dont come with better genes than Davis Love III. His father, the late Davis Love II, was a tour pro who went on to great acclaim as a teacher before his untimely death in a plane crash. Love III inherited his fathers natural gifts, and then some, and was well-schooled in the fundamentals from an early age.
While Love admits to being disappointed at winning just a single major title (as of this writing), the 1997 PGA Championship, his career has been a huge success by most any measure. His 20 tour victories have included a pair of Players Championships, while Love has earned a spot on six United States Ryder Cup teams. In fact, hell coach the American squad in the 2012 event.
Loves swing is one of the purest in golf. At 63” and quite lean, Love ranks among the longest hitters of his generation. Here's how he produces so much power, and how you can emulate his technique to boost your distance.
Loves signature: A very wide arc with the clubhead, and exceptionally high hands at the top of the backswing.
Love has always appeared effortless when swinging the club, which makes his driving distance all the more impressive. Rather than make a hard swipe at the ball, Love uses the concept of width to let the club do the work.
On the takeaway, Love extends his arms and hands in a classic one-piece, “low-and-slow” move. He continues with the hands well away from the body while rotating his shoulders; as he reaches the top, Loves left arm is completely vertical (perpendicular to the ground), and the club high above his head.
In effect, Love gets the club as far away from the ball as possible at the top of his swing. His clubhead speed is constantly accelerating as he covers that distance on the downswing.
Why it works for Love: Sometimes, tall golfers with long swings run into issues along the way. After all, with more space comes more room (and time) for trouble to spring up. Loves arms do the work of hoisting the club, but not at the expense of proper hip and shoulder rotation. His upper and lower portions move in unity.
Also, Love displays excellent balance. Even though his arms trace a wide path going back, his weight never goes to the outside of his right (back) foot. This creates coil between the hips and torso, the engine of a powerful downswing.
Notice, too, Loves exquisite tempo and rhythm. He never appears to be swinging hard because hes not – with correct mechanics, he doesn't have to.
How it can work for you: To start with, your left arm (for right-handers) should form a reasonably straight line with the shaft, from the shoulder to the ground. You want to keep this arm/shaft line intact for the initial part of the backswing, until the wrists begin to hinge naturally. Its important to rid the arms of any tension before beginning the swing; otherwise, they wont rotate correctly.
Here's an incredibly simple drill to groove a low, slow takeaway, which will widen your swing arc If you have trouble jerking the club back with your wrists then this tip could cure that problem.
- On the driving range, place a small, light object (clubhead cover) about six inches behind the ball and on the target line.
- Take the club back, pushing the object with the clubhead as far as possible until the club moves naturally upward.
Remember, don't force a longer takeaway by swaying to the right or overextending the upper body. The fix is to extend the arms and club while rotating the shoulders and hips.
Using an Ultra-Wide Swing Arc to Power Your Game
There is more than one way to generate speed in the golf swing. While all swings will have some basic ingredients in common, there can also be a good deal of variation in technique from player to player – even among the best players in the world. If you spend any time watching professional golf on TV, you already know this to be true. While all of the players you see on Tour are incredibly talented at what they do, no two swings look exactly alike. The goal is to maximize club head speed at the moment of impact, but you can take many different approaches to reach that same result.
Generally speaking, there are two main ways that you can try to build up the speed of your swing as the club heads down toward the ball. You can make a long downswing where the club builds speed gradually, or you can make a shorter, more aggressive swing where the club is mostly powered by the quick rotation of your body. While the shorter swing can be an effective option when done correctly, the content below is going to focus on how to use a long and wide swing to generate power.
Davis Love III is one of the most-accomplished golfers on the PGA Tour. He is a major champion, former Ryder Cup captain, and has long been one of the most-respected players in the world. Additionally, he is a great example of how a player can use an ultra-wide swing arc to create plenty of power in their golf swing. Watching Davis Love swing the club would make you think that he isn't hitting the ball very far at all, because of the smooth tempo that he uses. Of course, you would be mistaken – Love consistently ranked among the longest hitters on Tour, especially in his earlier years. Despite having a smooth swing with an easy tempo, Davis Love III can launch the golf ball high into the air and send it impressive distances down the fairway.
So how does he do it? Much of it has to do with the length of his swing. Taking advantage of his height, Davis Love is able to make an extremely wide swing which means that the club traces a big arc as it makes its way through the backswing and into the downswing. If it were to be measured, the arc that Love uses would surely be among the biggest on Tour. What that means is that the club has ample time to accumulate speed on the way down toward impact. If here were swinging on a shorter arc, the contact point with the ball would arrive before he had time to max out his swing speed. However, thanks to the long arc that he uses, the swing continues to speed up down into the hitting area and impressive power is the result.
The content below will take a look at whether or not an ultra-wide swing arc would be a good idea in your own game, and how you could try to achieve such a swing. Please note that all of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer, so please reverse the directions if you play left handed.
Are You a Good Candidate?
This kind of swing is not for everyone. While it works beautifully for Davis Love III, this approach may or may not be suitable for your own game. Before you head off to the driving range and start trying to make an ultra-wide swing arc work for you, it is best to work through the points below and make sure that you are a good candidate for this style of golf swing.
- How tall are you? Without question, a wide swing arc approach to the golf swing is going to work better for a tall player. If you stand less than six feet tall, you will probably be better off trying to generate power in your swing with an aggressive lower body rotation instead of a wide arc. Its not that you cant hit the ball with a wide arc, but your swing probably wont be long enough to create much power. The advantage that a player like Davis Love has is that his height provides him with some built-in length for the swing. Along with height usually comes long arms, which are added to the length of the club itself when creating a downswing arc. For shorter players, this strategy just isn't likely to be very effective.
- What tempo comes natural to you? It is important in golf to use a swing that doesn't fight against your natural instincts. If you are naturally a player who wants to use a quick tempo in your swing, it will be very difficult to force yourself into a slower rhythm. Even if you are able to do so successfully from time to time, consistency will be hard to achieve as your body wants to move back toward its natural, faster pace. The ultra-wide swing arc swing is one that works best with a slower tempo, so players who want to move fast in their swings will be better off avoiding this method.
- How much do you use your hands? Just like with tempo, the amount that you use your hands during the golf swing is very much a matter of personal style and preference. Players that keep their hands quiet for the most part throughout the swing are better suited for the wide arc approach. If you use a lot of hand action during your swing – specifically during the backswing – it may be tough for you to make the transition to this method. Making a wide backswing is imperative to creating the wide arc that you will be looking for, and that can only happen when your hands remain quiet until the club gets up near the top of the swing.
As you should be able to discern from the three points above, an ultra-wide swing arc is going to work best for a tall player who likes to use a slow tempo and little hand action in the swing. If you are a match for all three of those points, it could be worth your time to pursue this method. Even if two of the three are a match for you, there is a chance that the wide arc could be a good fit. However, if only one – or none – of those points relate to you, chances are you should avoid taking your golf swing in this direction.
How to Get Started
If you have passed the test above and decided that you want to work on making a swing with a wider arc, that journey will start on the practice range. The transition from a narrower swing to one that takes a wide arc is going to take some time, and there will likely be some struggles along the way. Before you get started, make sure that you are committed to this idea. Going back and forth between swing methods is something that can really take a toll on your golf game – so you want to pick a path and stick with it. If the wide swing arc is the path you are going to go down, then the following instruction will help you get started.
The first drill for you to work on is one that you wont need to hit any golf balls to complete. Standing on the driving range, grab one of the mid-irons from your bag and take your normal stance as if you were going to hit a shot. Again, there should be no ball involved in this drill. Once you have taken your stance, remove your right hand from the club. Now, with only your left hand holding onto the grip of the club, make a backswing all the way up to the top of your swing. Once you reach the top of the swing, pause and put your right hand back in place on the grip. From there, complete the rest of the swing all the way through to the finish. When done correctly, this drill will take place in two distinct parts – backswing with just the left hand, pause to put the right hand back on at the top, and then a downswing with both hands as normal.
So what is this drill doing for your swing? The first thing that it is teaching you is how to make a wide backswing. When you make a narrow backswing, it is usually because your right hand gets involved in the takeaway and lifts the club up and in close to your body. By removing the right hand from the club, you will be far less-likely to make this mistake. Instead, the weight of the club should prevent you from getting too narrow during the backswing as you turn your shoulders away from the target. Once you have reached the top of the swing, it is safe to put the right hand back in place because you should have already created the width that you are looking for.
Believe it or not, that one drill may be all you need to do to prepare for hitting some balls on the practice range. Once you have done enough repetitions of that drill to make yourself comfortable with the idea of a wide takeaway, go ahead and start hitting a few shots from the practice tee. Obviously, unlike in the drill, you will want to keep both hands on the club throughout your swing. However, you should still be thinking about making that wide takeaway and using the length of the swing to your advantage. If you feel your hands starting to get too involved early on in the backswing, revert back to doing the drill until you regain the width that you need.
It is okay if the first few shots that you hit don't look very pretty. In fact, you probably shouldn't expect too much in the way of great results at first. Your goal with your first few swings should just be to make solid contact and pay attention to the width that you are getting in the swing. As long as you are striking the ball cleanly, don't worry if your ball flight needs work. That part will come in time – assuming you stick with it and trust the process that you are going through.
Some Additional Notes
While hitting practice balls on the driving range with your new, wider swing, there are sure to be some struggles. When those struggles arise and you start to have trouble striking the ball properly, consult the notes below to help you work through the process. Hopefully, it wont be long before you start striking the ball consistently and hitting it longer than you ever have before.
- You still need your lower body. Just because you are making a wider swing and using the length of your swing to build power doesn't mean that your legs get to take a vacation. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. You will need to engage your legs in the downswing just like you would need to with any kind of golf swing that you make. The lower body is the engine that powers the swing, and that hasnt changed with your new swing arc. Once you arrive at the top of your backswing, make sure your legs quickly become engaged and start to turn toward the target. That motion will help you take advantage of the ultra-wide arc you have created so you can start building speed immediately from the beginning of the downswing.
- Maintain head position. When switching from a smaller swing arc to a larger one, your swing as a whole will take longer to complete. It only makes sense – a longer swing should take longer from start to finish. With that in mind, make sure you are giving the swing enough time to get to the ball before you start looking up toward the target. It is easy to get impatient with your downswing and begin to pull your head up out of the shot before the ball has actually been struck. The whole point of switching to a wider swing arc is so you can take your time and build speed – so don't ruin all of your hard work right at the end by coming out of the shot. Make a point to watch the club face collide with the ball at impact. As long as you see that moment, you will know that you have kept your head down nicely through the swing.
- Don't scoop the ball. In reference to hitting iron shots, it is still important that you hit down through the ball and take a divot after impact. When you start to make a wider swing, there might be a temptation to help the ball into the air by scooping it instead of hitting down through the shot. This mistake could end up wasting much of the speed that you worked so hard to develop earlier on in the swing. Hit down aggressively through your irons and trust the loft of the club, and the backspin that you are creating, to move the ball high up into the air.
It is always hard to make changes to your golf swing, no matter what they may be. However, changing something as fundamental as the arc that the club follows during the swing can be particularly upsetting to your usual tempo and rhythm. This is why repetition on the driving range is so important. Without hitting plenty of practice balls on the driving range, there will be no way to establish a new rhythm with the ultra-wide swing arc that you are using. Think about it this way – not only are you trying to learn a new swing, but you are also trying to forget an old one. It will take time and effort to clear the old swing thoughts and mechanics out of your head so you can make way for the new ones.
When you feel like you have gotten the new swing arc down comfortably, it might help to watch the swing back on video just to make sure you are making the progress that you think you are. Have a friend record a video of your swing on the driving range so you can watch it later and check your positions. If you find that your hands are staying quiet during the takeaway, and there is plenty of room between your hands and your head at the top of the swing, you should be well on your way.
The First Round Back
Many golfers don't appreciate just how much of a challenge it can be to return to the golf course after making a swing change. You might feel great on the driving range with your new swing, but don't expect amazing results immediately on the course. It is easy to set yourself up for disappointment during that first round by expecting great shots and a terrific score. Don't fall into that trap and wind up frustrated. Instead, simply take to the course with a goal of hitting some good shots, sticking with your new swing even after some poor shots, and enjoying yourself throughout the round.
What kind of changes can you expect to see on the course after moving to a wider swing arc? The following are a couple of possibilities –
- Flatter ball flight. Depending on the specifics of your old swing before making the switch, there is a chance that this new swing will lead to a flatter ball flight than you are used to. That can be a good thing down the line, but you are going to have to learn how to play with it. The carry distances on your clubs is likely to change along with a flatter ball flight, so it could take a few rounds until you are able to get dialed in on knowing exactly how far each club will go. While extra distance on your driver is something you can enjoy right away, added distance on iron shots will take some adjusting before you can dial them in.
- Different reaction from the rough. Since you will have changed the angle of attack that you are using to get to the ball, the way your shots react out of the rough will likely have changed as well. A narrow swing arc usually leads to a steeper angle of attack, meaning that your previous swings probably weren't affected much by the rough. However, with your wide swing arc and shallower plane, the rough may grab on to the head of your clubs more than it did previously. If this starts to happen, there may be a period of adjustment before you understand how to hit solid shots out of the rough. You can still play good irons from lies in the rough, but learning how to do so is only going to happen through trial and error out on the course.
Golfers are known for wanting instant results. After all, when you put in hard work on the practice range, it only seems fair that your scores would immediately go down when you head out onto the course. Unfortunately, that isn't how golf works. It requires plenty of hard work both on the driving range and on the course, and even then it is hard to shoot lower scores. Golf is known as one of the hardest games in the world for a reason.
Despite that fact, you should feel optimistic about your game going forward if you have been able to successfully create a wider swing arc that generates more power and allows you to strike the ball cleanly. Even if you struggle at first to make the results show up on the golf course, it wont take long before your efforts are rewarded with excellent performance from the first tee to the last green.