The easiest way to increase your driving distance

Two men having their photo taken; the one on the left wearing baby blue t-shirt and dark blue trousers, the one on the right wearing a navy blue sweater and black shorts. On the right side of the photo, towards the back, a golf course is visible. Behind the men, trees and bushes form a fence

There is no getting away from it. If you want to improve your golf, score better, reduce your handicap and have more fun it is widely accepted that hitting the ball as far as you are able is the foundation. The brutal truth is that it does not matter how terrible your swing is. If you are missing fairways at the moment you are still likely to take fewer shots playing from that same rough 20 meters closer to the green. 

Some folks think that buying the latest driver will bring the big breakthrough. Maybe. Maybe not. Buying a new driver that is properly fitted for you will, in theory, narrow the dispersion and give you a little bit of length. As an avid watcher of YouTube I have learned from Rick Shiels, Mark Crossfield and many of the well known YouTube vloggers that the distance gain between last generation  and next generation drivers is actually very small. If your driver dates back to 2016 or newer then buying a new one is probably not the answer.

Let’s get right to the good part. Below is a table showing my before and after figures. Read on to learn how!

Average measured over 60 drives using trackman courtesy of Lee Eldridge at The Athlete Tribe and Black Iron Golf AcademyBefore the 90 day programAfter 90 day program
Clubhead speed (Swing speed)110mph or 177kph114mph or 184kph
Ball speed157mph or 252kph166mph or 267kph
Carry distance (no roll)250y or 229m278y or 254m
Best swing from each sessionBefore the programAfter the program
Clubhead speed (Swing speed)112mph or 180kph118mph or 190kph
Ball speed162mph or 260kph174mph or 280kph
Carry distance (no roll)259y or 234m291y or 266m

So, how did I do it? More to the point, how can you do it too?!

It’s simple, it’s not expensive and it does so much more for me than just making my golf better. 

Targeted resistance and strength training.

Don’t get turned off. It’s a positive yarn and has changed my life. It could do the same for you too.  For me it was about slowing the aging process, feeling fit and being more active.  It’s not about going nuts in the gym with a room full of meatheads! Gyms are civilized, peaceful places today. I have made a new circle of friends in my local gym. They all have different motivations, rehabilitation, getting stronger, training for their sport or just want to live longer! Just like in golfing circles you will find like minded people that will encourage and support you.

My story

2. Two men. The one in the background is wearing a light blue t-shirt, dark blue trousers and trainers, while doing squats. The man in the foreground is wearing a blue sweatshirt, standing with his back against the camera, taking a photo of the other man with his phone. They are on a green golf driving range. Trees are forming the background of the photo.

Born in 1965 I began playing golf aged five. In my teens I reached a 1 handicap and fluctuated between 2 and 5 for the next 20 years.  I stopped playing golf in 1999, for no reason, life got in the way. As my 30’s merged into my 40’s I found that my weight started moving in the wrong direction. By the age of 42 I could see a considerable loss of muscle tone in my legs, shoulders and arms. At this point only my  “one pack” was impressive!

I occasionally dabbled with weight training inspired by New Years resolutions. A series of starts and stops finally irked me to the point where from 2008 to 2012 I trained regularly. I was amazed at how quickly I changed shape and how quickly I changed my thoughts about exercise. After 6 weeks it became as much of my routine as cleaning my teeth.

In 2017 with a baby coming my wife and I decided to move to Spain. Having enjoyed 10 happy years at Mijas Golf in the 1990’s, I knew exactly where I wanted to settle. I was overjoyed to be returning to golf!

After two weeks and 8 rounds of walking around the wonderful Mijas Golf courses I became totally incapacitated. My right knee and ankle were so swollen that I was unable to bear the weight of bed clothes. Elite Performance Therapy  were able to rehabilitate the overuse injuries affecting my legs and posterior chain.

Lesson number 1:

Whatever the exercise, don’t go at it like a bull in a china shop if you are not conditioned for it! 

A man, standing straight on a golf driving range, with his back at the camera, arms stretched wide, looking into the distance. He’s wearing a blue sweatshirt, black shorts and trainers. On the right side of the background a golf course. On the left side and far back of the photo, trees and bushes form a fence.

I continued to pick up niggling injuries the more I practiced and played. Pain in my lumbar region, thoracic region, and piriformis syndrome meant that I was a regular visitor to Isy and Sarah at Elite. The stretching program Isy set for me was a great help and improved  my flexibility and golf no end.

However, I had lost a great deal of distance over the years and was struggling to play as I would like. My handicap had ballooned to 7 and I was nowhere close to playing to it! A session on the Trackman at Sunshine Golf showed that my club head speed with my driver was 104mph. At this point Sarah introduced me to Lee Eldridge, a Titleist Performance coach based at El Chaparral Golf.

The journey to 120mph begins!

A man, standing on on a golf driving range, on his toes, arms stretching up, holding a golf club. He’s wearing a blue sweatshirt, black shorts and trainers. Green grass is visible on the right side of the photo. The far back of the photo is a line of trees.

I booked an appointment and duly arrived. We talked about golf, training, work, all sorts. Lee asked what I wanted from my  golf, why I thought I didn’t achieve it, what I thought I needed to do to reach my goals etc. I found the discussion both enlightening and fascinating. I told him that years ago when in my late 20’s I was swinging the driver at 119mph and my target was to get as close as possible to regaining that speed. “120mph” said Lee. “Ninety days from now we’ll take a measurement to see how much you have closed the gap”

The next stage was on the training mat. He asked me to do a series of movements , jumps and postures to assess my levels of mobility across various joints and my current ability to generate plyometric power. In simple terms Lee explained that the higher I can jump the further I will hit the golf ball!

With a purple face and puffing like a steam train I asked Lee how high my vertical jump was. Twenty one centimetres came the answer. I asked if that was a good result. Lee paused for a moment to find the right words. “No. With some work you will reach 30 to 40cm”

Lee explained 3 facets to training for golf. Firstly to gain general strength, then develop golf specific speed and of course to practise golf.

I play 3 rounds of golf most weeks and practice for 45 minutes before each round. That covers the golf training. I could fit 3 early morning gym sessions each one between 45 and 55 minutes long during which I followed the workouts designed by Lee via his Athlete Tribe app. The app contains video demonstrations of each of the exercises and Lee provides the instruction, guidance and feedback.

The first 2 weeks I did not feel as though I was pushing very hard. Lee’s advice was ringing clear in my head. “Every session in the gym is a grain of sand. Session by session you keep adding to the pile of sand. That pile of sand will keep growing, day by day you will get stronger and faster. A gentle progression of weight and intensity is how to avoid hurting yourself and giving up.”

Lesson 2:

When you start strength training for golf make sure to consult a professional trainer with a background in golf like Lee. Don’t try to make it up as you go along. With no guidance it can be easy to get injured or fail to realize any gains.

Two men on a golf course driving range. One lying down on a mat, wearing a baby blue t-shirt, navy blue trousers and trainers. The other man, wearing a blue sweatshirt, black shorts and trainers, is squatting next to him, with a measuring tape. On a mat next to them, two golf clubs. The background is made of the driving range’s fence and further in the back, a line of trees.

What were the benefits?

After 6 weeks I could see and feel the difference in my body. My playing partners were commenting on how much further I was propelling the ball and my confidence was high!

On the 90th day Lee booked me on to the trackman and we recorded a batch of 60 drives to achieve the results in the table above.

A number of swings touched the 118mph mark, tantalizingly close to the 120mph target. An average increase of 25m with my driver has transformed my game. My 3 wood has gained 15m and the irons from 2 iron through to 60 degree wedge  between 12m to 8m.

In the last 2 months I have recorded more scores of level par or better than in the previous 12 months! My handicap now fluctuates between +0.6 and 1.3. My swing did not change or improve. All that is different is that the strength and speed that I have gained allow me to move the club faster. I still hit the same bad shots, the same good shots and make the same mistakes, the difference is entirely due to hitting it further.

Other benefits

A man wearing a light blue t-shirt and navy trousers is stretching on a mat, one hand and one knee on the mat, one arm and one leg in the air. On the golf driving range there’s another mat on the right of the photo and 2 golf clubs propped against the fence. Far background is a tree line.

My posture has improved. I feel healthy and vital. With no conscious effort to lose weight I have claimed back 5 centimeters around my waist, 4kg of fat have melted away! Zero joint pain. Walking and carrying my bag is as easy as it was 30 years ago. No more gout attacks. No further need for pain relief drugs or those dangerous NSAID anti-inflammatory drugs. Even the beer in the 19th tastes better!!

The story from Lee’s point of view:

How it started

A man, on a golf driving range, wearing a blue sweatshirt, black shorts and black trainers is lunging, left foot forward. He is holding a golf club against his back with both his hands. Next to him, on the right, there’s an exercise mat. Green grass is visible on the right of the driving range. A tree line is in the far background.

I can remember sitting down with Stuart for a coffee and talking all things golf. Clubhead speed and how to hit the ball further came up in the conversation.

“I can get you to 120mph clubhead speed,” I said confidently. Stuart and I had already completed a physical assessment, so I knew from his vertical jump score that he could improve his ability to create force and increase the rate at which he produces this force (the most important of the two).

Also, I have spent the last 15 years working with athletes to improve their physical performance, so I knew I had the knowledge and experience to help Stuart achieve his goal.

What is clubhead speed?

Clubhead speed (CHS) is the measurement of how fast the clubhead travels through space; it’s determined by considering both the forward and rotational velocities of the clubhead.

Why is clubhead speed critical?

Clubhead speed plays a significant role in driving distance. A faster clubhead will create more force on the ball, resulting in further distances hit while also reducing the risk of injuries due to increased shock absorption. Strength training has improved driving distance in golf by 10.9% in as short as eight weeks.

Stuart’s training would need to be specifically designed to improve his ability to produce force and increase his clubhead speed. This would involve enhancing both his strength and power. Strength training not only helps increase muscle mass but also enables the muscles to generate more force for a longer period. If you want to find out more about the importance of strength training for golf, check our article here.

The First STEP – Getting Baseline

We needed to collect baseline data of his clubhead speed, ball speed and carry distance. We jumped on the Trackman to get some data. It is incredible to me that people don’t measure if their training affects their sport. Transfer of training is by far the most important thing.

The Second STEP – Designing the programme

Having completed a physical assessment on Stuart, it was straightforward to design his programme as I knew the movements and areas that he needed to focus on. People are always trying to add things to a programme. I am always trying to make the programme as simple and effective as possible. I designed three total body strengths, with the main focus for the first six weeks being strength development and force production. We needed to increase the amount of force that Stuart could create into the ground. Each session lasted around 60 mins and was done on days that Stuart was not playing golf. In the days in between, he had a mobility session designed to help him with his restrictions and injury prevention.

The Third STEP – Monitoring, Adjusting and Training

Any training programme must be constantly monitored and adjusted. The programme is delivered via an app, so I was able to see how Stuart was doing from afar; we made a couple of adjustments due to equipment in his gym.

Two of the most significant benefits to working with Stuart are:

 1. He does the sessions; out of the first 18 sessions, Stuart did not miss one. He made it a priority in his week. 

2. He was focused and had intent in his sessions. Too many people don’t; they go to the gym and think that improvement will just happen. This is not the case; you need to have intent.

The Fourth STEP – Reassessment

We were able to increase clubhead speed by an average of 5mph, carry by 20m and ball speed by 15mph in 9 weeks. Stuart already has a great clubhead speed, around 110mph. This is the same average as a PGA Tour pro. So to get those results is fantastic — evidence of smart, hard work.

The next step – Hit 120mph

In the next block of training, we are changing the direction of the training to focus more now on the rate of force development. Stuart has improved his ability to create force; we want to be able to produce it faster. So we are adding more power-based exercises to do this. There will always be an element of strength training, as your level of strength determines your potential for power. Some golfers will turn around and say, “Is increasing clubhead speed that important?” I think Stuart can learn how to swing the club at 90% speed and still hit the ball out there. The further we hit it, the less club we have for the next shot. The difference between hitting a seven iron and nine iron into a hole is massive. Stuart has added an extra 20 metres on average.

Already in 2022, Stuart has recorded more rounds of par or better than in the previous 12 months! Working with Stuart has been a great project, and we are continuing the journey to 120mph and beyond. 

Progression over perfection

If you want to ask any questions drop me an email here info@theathletetribe.com

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