Accelerate (verb): To move or go faster; increase in speed.
Of course, you don't need a dictionary to tell you what “accelerate” means. But it's a helpful reminder that the golf club absolutely must accelerate through the hitting zone in order to produce long, accurate shots.
Amateurs, either through tentativeness or poor swing mechanics, often fail to achieve acceleration on the downswing. In fact, deceleration – where the club is actually slowing down through impact – is a common malady. Failure to accelerate not only robs you of distance, it prevents you from squaring the clubface and hitting shots on target.
How do you develop an accelerating swing? First, here's how not to do it: by swinging harder with your arms. Many golfers make the mistake of lashing violently downward after finishing the backswing, which creates a multitude of problems. Instead, acceleration should be a natural by-product of the body's “big muscles” – hips, mid-section and shoulders – working in sync.
That may sound complicated, but it's really not. In fact, one of golf's simplest drills is designed to generate swing acceleration – and you can do it in the comfort of your living room (provided there's ample space to swing, of course):
How to Create Acceleration through the Golf Ball
One of the basic building blocks of the golf swing is acceleration through the hitting area. If you can accelerate the club as it moves through impact each and every time you hit a shot, you will be going in the right direction with your game. Certainly, there is more to the swing than just good acceleration, but this would be a great place to start. Many amateur golfers are actually decelerating the club by the time they reach impact, which is why so many golfers struggle to create powerful, accurate shots. If you can simply accelerate the club each time you hit a shot, you will be well ahead of most of your competition.
In this article, we are going to take a look at everything in the golf swing which relates to acceleration. You might be surprised to learn that this is a point which is both physical and mental in nature. Yes, you need to have the right fundamentals in your swing to accelerate the club at the bottom, but you also need to have the right mental approach. Only when your technique and your mindset come together successfully can you expect to produce reliable, powerful shots all day long.
As you might imagine, professional golfers do a great job of accelerating the club through the hitting area. This, obviously, is a big part of why pro golfers can hit the ball such impressive distances. Many pros make swings which look like they require little effort, only to wind up launching the ball hundreds of yards through the air. How do they do it? Much of this ability comes down to accelerating the club at just the right moment in time. When speed is added to the swing at the bottom, it isn't necessary to swing so fast throughout the rest of the motion. A quality player will be able to make a smooth swing which maximizes its speed right at the moment of impact – with the end result being a powerful swing which looks like it is in total control from start to finish.
Cooperation from your entire body is going to be required if you are going to accelerate the club properly. A good golf swing is a motion that utilizes the entire body from the feet to the head in order to swing the club through the ball. Most amateur players focus the swing on their arms alone, which is never a good strategy. You need to integrate your entire body into the action, which is something that will be emphasized later in this article. You just might be surprised to find how much power is hiding within your swing, waiting to be unleashed when you use your entire body properly. It isn't necessary to be a big, strong individual in order to hit long drives and high iron shots – you simply have to be efficient with your movements.
All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
The Importance of Acceleration
Why do you need to focus on the acceleration of your golf club through the hitting area? While distance certainly has something to do with this matter, acceleration is not all about power. You actually need to accelerate for a variety of reason, a few of which are listed below.
- Making solid contact. Your basic golf for each swing you make during a round of golf should be to make solid contact. If you can hit the ball solidly on the middle of the face, you will be well ahead of the game. Unfortunately, it is difficult to make solid contact if you are decelerating the club as you approach the ball. Giving up on your swing before impact has arrived will take the club off path, and the quality of your contact will suffer as a result. Don't fall into that trap. Instead, keep the club moving through the ball, gaining speed as you go. This method will make it more likely that you will find the sweet spot, and your shots will be more likely to find their target as a result.
- Cutting through the grass. It is a fact of life in this game that not all of the shots you hit are going to be played from the short grass. Your ball is going to stray into the rough from time to time, even if you are a highly accomplished golfer. When you do find your ball in the longer grass, acceleration is going to help you get back on track. A club head which is accelerating through the hitting area is far more likely to cut through the rough successfully while remaining square to the target line. If you decelerate the club, you will likely deal with some twisting of the club head – and you may not be able to put the ball back in position. Playing from the rough is never ideal, but swinging through with an accelerating club head will make the best of a bad situation.
- Staying on balance. Accelerating through the ball is the natural way to swing the club. If you begin the process of stopping your swing prematurely – such as prior to the club arriving at the ball, you will bring up the possibility of knocking yourself off balance. Obviously, this is not an ideal outcome. You need balance in order to strike consistent shots, as nearly every one of the top golfers in the world arrives at a balanced finish after his or her swing. Commit yourself to aggressive acceleration and swing all the way up into a controlled, balanced finish on your left leg.
When you add everything up, the story is quite simple – you need to accelerate the club through the hitting area if you hope to take your golf game to another level. No matter what kind of shot you are hitting, acceleration is going to be one of the key ingredients in a successful outcome. If you think that your current swing is a bit lacking in the acceleration department, getting down to work on this point right away will be in your best interest.
Key Physical Fundamentals
As was mentioned in the introduction, the matter of accelerating through impact with your golf swing is a combination of mental and physical performance. To start, we are going to address the physical keys of this part of your swing. Later, we will get into the specifics of how you can train your mind to help with the goal of accelerating all the way through the hitting area.
While working on your swing technique at the driving range, key on the points below. If you are able to hit on all of these points, it is almost certain that you will be left with an accelerating golf swing.
- Make a full turn going back. Acceleration at the bottom of the golf swing actually starts with a great turn away from the target in the backswing. As you go back, focus your efforts on the rotation of your shoulders. At the top of the swing, you should be in a position where your back is turned to the target and your lower body is in a similar position to the one it held at address. Many amateur golfers struggle to make a full turn on the way back, and they are never able to accelerate in the downswing as a result. Spend time on the range working on your backswing rotation and you will be a big step closer to finding acceleration at the bottom.
- Hold your angle early in the downswing. The transition is a key time in the golf swing. When you stop turning back and begin to move down toward the target, you may be tempted to use your hands to force the club head down toward the ball. This would be a mistake. If you use your hands and wrists actively at the top of the swing, you are going to 'lose your angle' and it will be impossible to accelerate through impact. The 'angle' in question here is the one formed between your left arm and the shaft of the club. You want to maintain this angle from the top of the swing as far into the downswing as possible. Many golfers refer to this as 'lag', and it is a powerful component of your technique. If you can hold on to your lag deep into the downswing, you will have plenty of potential energy stored up which can be used through the hitting area to accelerate the club nicely.
- Turn your hips hard through the hitting area. When you get down to it, your hips actually hold the key for this entire discussion. If you are going to accelerate the club nicely through the ball, you need to keep your hips moving through the hitting area and on into the finish. It is your hips which really drive the downswing, as your arms should just be coming along for the ride. The combination of a powerful hip turn with great lag is a recipe for powerful drives. As you swing down, think about the goal of pointing your belt buckle at the target when the swing is finished. This mental image will help you to accelerate properly all the way through the shot, rather than giving up on the swing prematurely. If you are going to 'unlock' additional power in your golf swing, it is very likely that you will find that power in the form of an improved hip turn through the ball.
- Unleash the right hand. Remember how you were trying to hold your angle from the top of the swing into the downswing for as long as possible? Assuming you have done so successfully, you will want to use your right hand at the moment of impact to smash the ball toward the target. By holding your angle, the right wrist will be bent back on itself in the downswing. When impact arrives, straighten the wrist to accelerate the club sharply through the ball and down the line. A well-timed release of the club, along with a good hip turn, is going to launch the ball high and far into the distance. It will take some time to learn how to bring all of these pieces together properly, but you will love the results when it works out.
The four points above make up the majority of what you need to do in order to hit powerful shots by accelerating the club head through the impact area. It isn't necessarily easy to make this swing work in the real world, as it sounds simpler in written form than it is in reality. You can do it, however, as long as you are committed to putting in the work necessary to train your body. Be patient with yourself in this process and look forward to gradually improving results as time goes by.
The Mental Side
The mental game is consistently underrated among amateur golfers. The way you think on the course has almost as much to do with your performance as the swings you make. If you can train your mind to work for you – instead of against you – on the golf course, you can open up an entirely new level of play. Thinking properly on the course isn't going to automatically lead you to great results, but it is a big step in the right direction.
When it comes to the topic of acceleration, there are a few mental game issues at play. The first is confidence. You need to be confident in your swing at all times, or you will always run the risk of decelerating at the bottom of the swing. This is an issue seen in the swings of many amateur golfers. Afraid of hitting a poor shot, many players 'ease up' on their swing right as impact approaches. These players are trying to guide the ball toward the target rather than hitting it, a strategy that rarely works out in a positive manner.
If you have plenty of confidence on your side, you won't be tempted to give up on your swing. As you move the club back and through, you will only be thinking about great results – because you expect to succeed. This is where professional golfers try to position themselves with regard to the mental game. It takes tremendous confidence to play well under pressure, which is why pro players need to believe in themselves as completely as possible. While you might not ever develop the confidence of a professional golfer, you can work toward adding confidence as a method of improving your swing acceleration.
Another part of the mental game which is seen at work with regard to acceleration is commitment to a specific target. Countless golfers play this game without actually picking targets before they make a swing. Sure, they might aim toward the middle of the fairway or at the flag, but there will be very little specific direction involved in these targets. Good players know that golf is a target-based game, and it is necessary to select very specific objectives for each shot. When you have a specific target in mind, your swing is likely to be more aggressive because you will know where you are aiming. Your mind will not be wandering or unclear in any way – you will have a specific objective, and you will be doing everything you can to achieve that goal.
Finally, the last mental point which needs to be made has to do with your focus during the swing. Once all of your pre-swing work has been done and you are standing over the ball, you need to shift your mind onto something which will direct you in a positive way. That something is thinking about accelerating the club through impact. As your swing gets going, make acceleration your only specific goal. As long as you accelerate through the ball and on into the finish, you should be happy with yourself. Some of your shots will hit their target and some will not, but you are going to be satisfied more often than not when acceleration has been achieved.
The mental side of your golf game is not to be ignored. Whether it relates to acceleration as in this article, or to any other part of the way you think on the golf course, acceleration is vital to your performance. Time spent training your mind to play better golf is just as valuable as time spent training your body to make good swings. In the end, you need both mental and physical performance to shoot low scores, so don't underestimate the impact your brain can have on your game.
Acceleration in the Short Game
The talk about accelerating the club through the hitting area does not end with the full swing. As is usually the case in golf, there are also implications on the short game when it comes to this topic. To chip and putt the golf ball successfully, you need to be accelerating the club through impact just as you do with your full swing technique. Most amateur golfers could actually stand to improve even more in the short game than in the full swing, so be sure to give this part of your game the attention is required.
Below you will find a collection of tips related to accelerating the club in the short game.
- Keep your backswing/backstroke under control. Whether we are talking about chipping or putting, it is important to keep the length of your backswing or backstroke under control. If you allow the backward movement of the club to carry on too long, you will be forced to decelerate through impact as a way of avoiding hitting the ball too far. Should you accelerate after this long backswing, you will be likely to make solid contact – but you will send the ball shooting past the target time and time again. Make a controlled, modest move away from the ball and give yourself the opportunity to accelerate comfortably through impact.
- Reach a finish position. For many golfers, the chipping or putting action ends as soon as the ball is struck. Of course, you probably already know that this is a mistake. Your club, whether it is a wedge or your putter, should continue on after the ball until it reaches a full finish. As a way to practice this important point, make it a habit to hold your finish until the ball has stopped moving. By holding your finish, you will be reminding yourself that it is important to reach that finish each time.
- Keep your head steady. One way to wind up decelerating through the ball is to lift your head up out of the shot early. If you look up to see where the ball is going, your shoulders will stop doing their job and the club will quickly lose speed. Not only is it difficult to make solid contact when you make this mistake, but you will also tend to come up short with your chips and putts. Commit yourself to keeping your eyes down on the ball all the way through the shot and your tendency to decelerate should fade away.
Acceleration is important in golf. No matter what kind of shot you are hitting, or what club happens to be in your hands, it is crucial that you accelerate the club through the ball with confidence. The skill of acceleration is part mental and part physical, so be sure to work on both sides of this issue in order to round your game into form. When you reach a point of accelerating through the bottom of the swing each time, you will add power to your game, and your shots will be more consistent as well. Good luck!