Stay Relaxed and Supple to Maximize Distance

We've all seen photos of modern-day professional golfers with their rippling biceps and shoulders a linebacker would envy.

Every weekend, we watch them swing with maximum force to pound 320-yard drives (not to mention 200-yard 8-irons) and reduce monster par 5s to piece-o'-cake birdie holes.

It stands to reason, then, that muscling up on the driver and treating it like a battering ram is the key to hitting the ball prodigious distances, right? Wrong.

Even the strongest, most intense of pros know the dangers of tension. They may not look like it, but they're relaxed when setting up to the ball. And despite their he-man physiques, they spend at least as much time working on flexibility as they do pumping iron.

The golfer with a supple body is able to turn the shoulders and hips easily back and through while maintaining good balance and posture. A daily stretching routine can do wonders for your swing (and your overall health).

Still, good flexibility is all but wasted if you tense up over the ball. Use these tips for relaxing before you start the backswing and you'll get the most from your distance potential:

  • Keep grip pressure light: Tension begins in the hands. Nip it in the bud by holding the club with a force of only 4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. Any firmer and your forearms will tighten, starting a chain reaction that inhibits free-flowing motion.
  • Let the arms hang: If you're reaching for the ball, your arms will automatically tense up. Conversely, if the arms are too close to your body, your movement will be restricted. A proper setup finds the arms hanging naturally from the shoulders, with the upper body tension-free.
  • Take a few deep breaths: Deep breathing is a well-known relaxation technique, on or off the course. While it's a critical tool for those nervous moments in golf—teeing off in front of a crowd or facing a long carry over water—deep breathing should be practiced before every shot. Read this tutorial to learn more: Proper Deep Breathing.
  • When you watch the pros, don't get caught up in muscle envy. Flexibility and relaxation are more important if you want to max out your driving yardage.

Stay Relaxed and Supple to Maximize Distance

Stay Relaxed and Supple to Maximize Distance

If you are a golfer, it's safe to say that you want to hit the ball farther. How do we know that? Simple – all golfers want to hit the ball farther! Not only are long shots fun to hit, they can also be quite useful when trying to score well on a long, challenging golf course. There is nothing quite like a long and accurate drive to take the difficulty out of a tough par four or par five hole. You don't necessarily have to be a long hitter in order to be a good golfer, but it sure doesn't hurt.

Unfortunately, many amateur golfers go about the task of finding additional distance in all the wrong ways. Instead of trying to make a balanced, controlled golf swing, many players simply try to overpower the ball. They try to get as many big muscles involved as possible, tensing up both before and during the swing. That might feel like the right way to go, but it really isn't. You can't overpower the golf club or the golf ball – you have to make a fluid swing in order to produce the kind of speed necessary to generate long shots. It isn't brute force that lets you hit the golf ball a long distance. Rather, you need to master your mechanics, creating a smooth swing that lets the club gradually build speed from the top of the backswing all the way down to the moment of impact.

In this article, we are going to talk about how relaxation is one of the keys to maximizing your distances on the golf course. For the perfect illustration of this point, take a moment to watch the swings of some of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour. Do the long hitters in the pro game look like they are exerting every bit of muscle they have as they swing the club? Of course not. Instead, the best players look like they are barely trying at all. They have smooth swings which remain in control from start to finish. Sure, there is the rare exception to this rule, but the vast majority of pro golfers make controlled, balanced swings. And yet, they still hit the ball in excess of 300 yards on many occasions. How is that possible? It all comes down to making a fluid swing. If you let the club flow, and you have the right mechanics in place, you can launch the ball at impressive speeds with relatively little effort.

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.

Understanding Power in Golf

Understanding Power in Golf

So, if you aren't supposed to overpower the golf ball as you attempt to send it down the fairway, how are you supposed to approach this part of the game? How do you create power while maintaining control over your body and the ball? As you might suspect, this isn't easy. It's hard to control your swing while unleashing considerable power through your shots, but it can be done.

Now that you know sheer power is not going to be the path you should use to find powerful golf shots, it's time to look at what it is you can – and should – do to find power. The list below highlights the key components of a powerful golf swing.

  • Plenty of rotation. This is where it all starts. The golf swing is a rotational action, so you want to create as much rotation as possible in your swing. The farther you can turn back, the more room you will have to accelerate the club on the way down. Think about it this way – when you make a big turn, there will be more distance for the club to accelerate before you reach impact. Therefore, you should be able to hit the ball farther (all other things being equal). If you were to shorten your turn, the length of your downswing would be shortened as well, and you would have less power to use through the hitting area. To be sure, making a big turn is a great thing in the pursuit of power. A word or warning, however – if you turn so far that you lose your balance, your swing won't be consistent enough to utilize your newfound power. The goal is to make a swing which includes plenty of rotation but also keeps you comfortably balanced from start to finish.
  • Effective use of the lower body. Many golfers are surprised to learn that the lower body plays a critical role in the golf swing. Specifically, you need to your lower body to do its job during the downswing if you want to create serious power. The lower body should lead the way, with your hips turning aggressively toward the target before the club comes through. If you fail to turn your hips, or if you turn your hips too late (after the club has moved through the ball), you will never live up to your power potential. Immediately upon transitioning from backswing to downswing, you need to make sure your lower body is in on the action. This point is one of the biggest differences between the swings made by professional golfers, and the swing used by the typical amateur. Pro golfers know how to use their lower bodies effectively, and they have the distance to show for it.
  • Mastering the art of lag. If there is a secret in golf, it is known as 'lag'. Accomplished golfers understand lag and how to use it to their advantage. Newer golfers, or those who still struggle to hit solid shots, typically don't know what lag is or why it is important. This is a bit of a complicated topic, but lag is basically the way the club head lags behind your hands during the downswing. During the downswing, your club head should be behind your hands the whole way, gradually building up speed while you maintain a large angle between your left arm and the shaft of the club. Then, as you approach impact, you use up that lag by allowing your right hand to fire the club head through the ball. This is an incredibly powerful action, as the club head can accelerate tremendously in just a short amount of time. The topic of lag deserves an article – or book – all to itself, but you should at least understand that this is a part of your swing mechanics which is worthy of your attention.
  • When the three components above come together in a single golf swing, great things are possible. The ball can jump off the club at a high speed when you manage to blend great rotation, proper use of the lower body, and excellent lag. Needless to say, this is a combination that very few amateur golfers manage to master. Most players are missing at least one of these three keys, and many players are missing all three. If you would like to work toward more powerful shots with all of your clubs, you'll pay close attention to these keys while practicing on the range.

Making a Free-Flowing Swing

Making a Free-Flowing Swing

The title of this article mentions 'staying soft and supple' as a way to improve your distance off the tee. That is exactly the topic we are going to tackle in this section. While it might seem impossible to the average amateur golfer, it is actually possible – and maybe even likely – that you'll gain yardage by relaxing both before and during your swing. But doing so is going to be easier said than done.

If you would like to work on remaining relaxed as a way to generate more distance, consider the tips listed below.

  • Muscles should be relaxed at address. This is a great place to start. When standing over the ball preparing to swing, you should feel relaxed and comfortable. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many players. Countless amateurs get tense at address, especially when preparing to swing a driver. If you feel any tension in your body while standing over the ball, work on relaxing that area of your body before moving on. Of course, you should be working on this during practice so you don't even need to think about it on the course. It will often be the hands, wrists, and arms that get tense before the swing, so pay careful attention to those areas.
  • Don't stress. Mental tension can easily turn into physical tension which gets in the way of making a free, powerful golf swing. As you stand over the ball, try not to worry too much about the outcome of the shot. Some of your shots are going to come off great, and some aren't going to work at all. That's the nature of the game. If you stress about each and every shot that you hit, it's going to be nearly impossible to live up to your distance potential. Not only that, but you will never play this game as well as you could if you were able to relax. Remember, at the end of the day, it's just golf – relax, have fun, and let your talent shine through.
  • It's a swing, not a hit. While it might seem like a subtle difference, it is important to remember that the goal is to swing through the hitting area, not just hit at the ball. When you think about hitting at the ball, you will be more likely to tighten up and try to overpower the shot. The mental image of swinging freely through impact is a good one. Picture yourself making a flowing swing from start to finish, and always try to make it up into a full, balanced finish position. Professional golfers tend to do a great job of making swings which flow from start to finish, and you should try to follow their lead. If you never reach a full finish position with your body facing the target, it's a safe bet that there is too much tension in your swing.
  • We should point out here that a free-flowing swing is not something which will only benefit you with the driver. While you are going to think first and foremost about the driver when trying to add distance, hitting the ball farther is something that can help you throughout the bag. It's important to remain relaxed and supple when getting ready to hit any club, whether it's a driver or a wedge.