Three Keys for Recreational Golfers to Add More Power to Their Games

Looking at the Roles of Swing Mechanics, Golf Strength and Equipment

Golfer warming up with stretches
pbnj productions/Stockbyte/Getty Images

How can you develop more power in your golf swing? This is probably a question that every golfer wants answered. Many of us are willing to do whatever it takes to get that power into our drives, and I think we probably all have some ideas of where 300-yard drives come from. But I want to answer the question without any fluff.

Golf swing power is the result of three specific factors. Two of the three are much more important than the third, but the third does have a bearing on how far you hit that ball.

Those three factors are: swing mechanics, golf strength (a k a golf fitness), and golf equipment.

I bet you are not surprised to see swing mechanics on the list. But the second one - golf strength - is probably the least recognized of the three. But for many golfers it is the key to longer drives - but the one of our three factors that gets the least attention.

"Golf strength" is defined as how well your body is conditioned to swing a golf club with maximum power. Of our three factors in gaining power, golf strength is probably the least understood, but may be most needed by golfers in general.

As for golf equipment: Yes, equipment does make a difference in how far you drive the ball. The equipment manufacturers remind us of this constantly, and I bet we all have gone to the pro shop more than twice to pick up a new driver that promises to give us another 20 yards on every drive. That extra 20 yards might not be down the middle of the fairway, but it will give you an extra 20 yards - could be left, could be right, or could be in the center of the fairway.

That all depends on points one and two, swing mechanics and golf strength.

Equipment and technological advances have definitely lengthened the distance of our drives. But without better swing mechanics and without getting your body in better golf shape, new technology will not help your game. A bad swing will produce a bad result, regardless of any new driver you may have just purchased.

Swing Mechanics
All golfers are aware of how important the mechanics of the swing are when it comes to driving the ball down the fairway. Good swing mechanics are essential. If you are over the top with your swing or come inside too much, you'll see that dreaded slice or snap hook. The drives will be short, too low, too high, left, right, or any combination of these if you are putting bad swings on the ball.

It is essential for a golfer to work on the mechanics of his swing, week in and week out, to improve his game. If swings mechanics weren't that important, why would tour players - the best players in the world - have swing coaches working with them on a consistent basis? The golf swing is such a fine, mechanically complex movement, it requires constant work to keep it highly efficient.

One of the most common mistakes I see amateurs make is ignoring the availability of golf instruction. I see amateurs over and over at the driving ranges, week in and week out, pounding balls without any improvement.

This, I feel, is a result of one of two things: 1) a lack of instruction, or 2) low levels of golf strength. A lack of instruction leads to the development and ingraining of improper swing mechanics.

This only results in slices, hooks, topping the ball, and hitting it fat on the course. And we all know that those types of swings lead to frustration and bad rounds of golf. I would suggest to most every golfer interested in seriously improving to find a good instructor and take lessons on a consistent basis. This can only help your game in the long run.

Golf Strength (Golf Fitness)
Golf strength is a term we use to describe the golf fitness level of an individual as it pertains to swinging a club. This is much different than how much you can bench press or squat, which I like to refer to as "weight room strength."

Understand that these two terms, golf strength and weight room strength, are very different. If you do not quite understand the difference, ask yourself one question: How many bodybuilders do you see teeing it up on pro tours?

The answer to that question is quite obvious: none!

It comes down to this idea:

The mechanics of the golf swing require specific levels of flexibility, balance, stability, strength, endurance, and power to perform it efficiently. If your body does not have the required capacities then what will the result will be? A less than optimal swing, and a less-efficient swing than possible.

Essentially, your body supports your swing much like a foundation supports the house you build upon it. I am sure that all of you would choose to build a house on a stone foundation rather than a sand foundation. But many amateur and recreational golfers make a different choice when it comes to the golf swing. I quite often see amateurs developing their swings on a "foundation of sand," not a good thing to do in my book.

Regardless of how much time you spend working on your swing mechanics, if your body does not have the "golf strength" to support your swing, you are limiting your potential. It's a common sight: people practicing at the range who struggle because their bodies are limiting what they can do with their swing. Quite often I see people with limited flexibility, poor balance capabilities, and low levels of strength and power. The bottom line is that your mechanics will not get better until you fix the body that swings the club!

Optimal swing mechanics and the proper levels of "golf strength" in the body should go hand-in-hand. One without the other is going to leave you short when it comes to your potential in the game. And golf strength is addressed less often than swing mechanics when you get right down to it. The pros are all aware of the importance of golf strength, why not you?

(For a sample exercise that can improve your golf strength, take a look at one of my favorites - the Seated Russian Twist.)

Equipment
We have come to the final point, and that is equipment. I think the majority of golfers are aware of the technological advances that have occurred in golf equipment over the last 20 years.

Think about the 1980s when we were still playing with woods that actually had wood in them! And now we are using drivers with space-age faces that shoot the ball off them at warp speed.

In addition, there have been tremendous advances in terms of golf balls. How manufacturers design golf balls today makes a difference in how far they travel. What a lot of people do not realize is that the USGA has set standards on how "hot" driver faces can be and how "fast" balls can come off the face of drivers. Most clubs are reaching this limit, and anything past these USGA rules becomes illegal to play in any round covered by the Rules of Golf. So what does that tell us?

1) Club manufacturers have done a great - and I mean great - job in the advancement of technology; and
2) to increase the distance of your drives you are now going to have to turn to topics one and two above - swing mechanics and golf strength.

Bottom-line, how do you improve your power?

It comes down to three simple ideas. Number one is improving your golf swing mechanics. Improved mechanics will improve your driving distance. Number two is improving your golf strength. By improving your body as it pertains to the golf swing, you will improve your distance off the tee. Finally, equipment does make a difference, if you hit the ball correctly.

Best of luck with your game.

About the Author
Sean Cochran is a well-known golf fitness instructor who travels the PGA Tour regularly working with, among others, Phil Mickelson. To learn more about Sean and his golf fitness programs visit his Web site at www.seancochran.com.