Even among the pros, you'll see some pretty funky backswings. When LPGA legend Nancy Lopez took the club back, it was akin to watching a creaky screen door slowly opening. PGA star Jim Furyk waves the club around like he's trying to swat a buzzing bee. But the downswing is a different story. The downswing of almost every elite golfer is fast and powerful. The faster your club is moving at the point of impact, the farther the golf ball flies. By improving your strength and flexibility, you can boost your downswing speed, commonly referred to as clubhead speed. An increase of just 5 mph will increase your driving distance by 15 yards.
Plyometrics exercises, which usually involve bounding, leaping and throwing movements, are designed to produce explosive power, the type you need to burst past a defender on the soccer field or generate downswing speeds of 100 mph, an average number for a pro on the LPGA Tour. STACK recommends a variety of plyometric exercises to increase the speed of your downswing, including a squat jump and scissors jump. For the former, you drop into a squat position then explode upward while raising your arms toward the sky, land softly and then repeat immediately. The scissors jump is similar, but instead of the upward arm movement, leave your arms at your sides as you leap and scissor your legs back and forth before you return to the ground.
As STACK notes, golfers are not bodybuilders, and strength exercises for the links are best designed to enable different muscles groups to work together during the swing. Because you generate most of your downswing speed from your lower body and core area, lower-body strength exercises can increase your downswing speed and your distance. Recommended exercises include: deadlifts for the glute muscles; lunges for the glutes and quads; plank variations for core stability; and Russian twists with a medicine ball for your obliques and hips. Throw in forearm curls for arm strength, and you'll be ready to grip it and rip it.
If you intend to belt it a mile, "Golf Digest" says that you'll need to rotate your hips toward the target faster than your upper torso. You do so by firing your hips so that they face the target at impact while your chest is still facing the ball. This is a move for advanced players, because the timing has to be precise to produce more clubhead speed without sacrificing accuracy. A recommended hip rotation exercise is to place your left foot on a bench while holding a medicine ball in your hands. Bring the ball toward your right hip and then you swing your right leg sharply up and to the left.
Every golfer can benefit from a proper warm-up before teeing off. Not only will it loosen up your muscles and joints and help prevent injuries, but also an Australian research study indicates you can increase your clubhead speed considerably with golf-specific stretching exercises both before and after the round. The 2004 Australian study, published in the "British Journal of Sports Medicine," found that golfers increased their clubhead speeds by as much as 25 percent over a five-week period. The participants performed commonly recommended golf stretches, such as windmills and trunk twists, to stretch and warm-up their shoulders, back, hands and wrists, hamstrings, quads and calf muscles before they teed off and after walking off the 18th green.
- Junior Golf Scorecard: Junior Golfers Use Fitness for Greater Clubhead Speed
- STACK: Increase the Speed of Your Golf Swing with Strength Training and Plyometrics
- Golf Digest: Fitness Friday: An Exercise to Generate Serious Clubhead Speed
- STACK: To Build Club Speed, Train Like a Golfer, Not Like a Bodybuilder
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.