Tiger Woods has a smash factor of 1.48. Bubba Watson is around 1.52. The average amateur has a smash factor of about 1.20. What’s this mean? Your smash factor, which is a clever way to gauge how effectively and efficiently you’re compressing the golf ball, measures your ball speed divided by your clubhead speed. The higher the number, the more power you’re leveraging into the golf ball.
There are several ways to help increase your smash factor, and I’ve broken it down into a few drills and quick fixes that’ll help you ramp up your horsepower on the fly. Whether it’s a drivable par-4, a long par-5 you want to reach in two, or a tricky forced carry into the wind, the following tips will help you nuke your next tee shot.
|Grip your left wrist with your right hand, from underneath. This will position your right elbow in the proper place during the golf swing.|
GRIP YOUR WRIST
This drill helps by maintaining more width and extension. A wide swing arc will go a long way toward shallowing out your swing, creating a longer flat spot through the hit. And the greater your width, the more room the clubhead has to generate speed. This generous flat spot in your swing will also help create an ascending angle of attack, helping to launch the ball higher and farther. Think of a kiddie bike with small wheels and an adult bike with big wheels. With the same pedal power, the adult bike will go faster than the kiddie bike because the tire covers more ground. As your swing circle gets bigger, so will your clubhead speed. By gripping your left wrist and making practice swings, you’ll really widen things out before your next big drive.
FEEL THE CLUBSHAFT FLEX
The shaft is called the engine of the club for a reason. When properly loaded and unloaded, it provides a lot of power, as an engine would (and you are the gasoline that makes the engine run!). When harnessed properly, the shaft loads and unloads, with a last-minute snap and acceleration, much like cracking a whip. Also when flexed properly, the shaft can add loft to the clubhead, helping to increase your launch angle and carry distance.
As you can see here, I’m demonstrating with two alignment sticks where the shaft really should start stressing (bending). This is the mental picture I want you to have. Think of “stressing the clubshaft” midway down your downswing, not at the top of your swing. Doing this will help you better leverage the flex in the shaft and whip the clubhead through at impact.
Of course, do yourself a favor and get fitted for your driver shaft. The clubfitter will get you set with a shaft that flexes, bends, loads and unloads perfectly for your natural swing, tempo and rhythm. Trust me, clubfitting is worth the effort.
WHIP THE CLUBSHAFT
Science has proven that the biggest power source in accelerating the clubhead during the golf swing is to speed up your wrists. Your wrists generate 75% of the overall speed of the clubhead. Another overlooked source of power are the arms and the role that they play in accelerating the clubhead. Getting your arms to move quickly and efficiently is a trait of many long hitters. A great drill to energize your small fast-twitch muscles in both your arms and your wrists is to swing the club upside down, back and through.
Start with only using your left hand, and concentrate on the “whoosh” sound. In the correct scenario, the whoosh should come at the lowest point of your swing arc. Do the same for your right hand, then again with both hands. This drill will help you get a sense of whipping the clubshaft through the shot, helping you to hit that next drive a few yards farther down the fairway.
SNAP YOUR LEFT LEG
One of the secrets Tiger Woods used to outdrive his competitors was to snap (extend) his left leg just before impact. Although it also required four knee surgeries for Tiger, once in a while, snapping your left knee can help you tack on a few extra yards. Think of your left leg as the pole you whip a tetherball around. If you can straighten your left leg, you have a bigger pole to whip the club around, and more room to generate speed. Also, straightening your left leg means pushing into the ground, again, helping to create torque and a faster upper-body turn. Snapping your left leg also increases the speed of your hips. Increasing the speed at which your hips open up and fire makes it easier for the upper body to increase the speed of the clubhead.
The “snap” of the left leg actually means to quickly straighten it. There’s no real snapping occurring!
To snap effectively, keep your knee flexed for as long as you can, then straighten your left leg as fast as you can and as close to impact as possible. If you straighten your left leg after impact, you’re too late. The goal is to do it just before impact, helping you add some nitro to your swing speed and hit longer shots.
FEEL THE ROTATION OF THE CLUBHEAD WITH YOUR RIGHT HAND
Forearm rotation encourages a ball that draws, which launches the ball with lower spin. Low spin means more roll, and better distance when hitting into the wind. When someone learns to put some draw spin on the ball, a prerequisite is to swing from inside the target line to outside the target line. Think of a tennis player and a topspin forehand. A shot like that produces a lot of forward energy. One last note, a proper draw is hit with an open clubface at impact, but with a significant rate of closure (rate at which the clubface closes) through separation (ball stuck but leaving the face) and into the followthrough. Don’t do it too soon and arrive at impact with a closed face. You’ll hook the lights out of it!
CHOOSE THE RIGHT GRIPS
One of the most important components of any club in your bag is the grip. It’s also one of the most overlooked, since most golfers assume as long as the grip is working well at preventing the hands from slipping, it’s not worth thinking about.
Actually, that’s not true. Your grips should be comfortable, and yes, they should prevent slippage. But how big your grips are is equally important. Increasing or decreasing your grip size can have a profound effect on how the hands operate during the golf swing.
If your grips have a small diameter, typically what this will do is move your grip more into your fingers, which essentially speeds up the hands to help hit more draws and/or battle sliced shots. Grips that have a larger diameter do the opposite, and slow the hands down. This is a great way to fight a hook. Also, lighter grips can help you hit higher shots. So, weight is something to consider, as well.
Either way, get fitted for the proper grip size and weight, and then experiment with the right grip diameter that works best for you. This may even mean having different grip diameters for different clubs in your bag.
STEP INTO IT
Vijay Singh does this drill before all of his tee shots, which will help ignite your kinematic chain (sequence of events in the downswing). To maximize your potential for the greatest possible clubhead speed, you must initiate your downswing with your lower body. The sequence of movement in a powerful swing is a lot like shifting gears in a race car from first to second to third, fourth and then fifth. We must do the same in the golf swing–you can’t jump gears in an effort to get to fifth gear quicker. The downswing begins with your feet, then knees, hips, shoulders, arms, hands, and finally the clubhead is given speed from the proper kinematic sequence. Most over-the-toppers do it wrong from the beginning of the downswing, initiating with a spinning of the shoulders, forcing them to swing across the ball, with nothing but weak glancing contact. The “Step Into It” drill helps you get your sequencing correct.
To do it, take a backswing and lift your left leg as you reach the top. Then, as you start the downswing, plant it down and swing through. Do this a few times before the next tee shot that you really want to rip.
SHOOT IT! RELEASE IT!
Ben Hogan once said that he wished he had three right hands. He was referring to the sensation and speed he attained through the hitting area with his right hand and wrist. These are fast-twitch reflexive muscles that can help accelerate the clubhead through the ball, when released correctly. This also can help add a little loft to the clubhead, giving you extra carry. It also increases your flat spot, and the length of time your club is traveling down the target line. Think of Jeremy Lin nailing a three-pointer from outside the paint, with an effortless flick of his wrists. Maintain your right wrist hinge until late in your downswing, then let it go just before impact. It’ll feel as if you’re conserving your potential power until late in the downswing.
THINK OF A HIGH JUMPER
Most people try to keep their head down throughout the swing, or maintain their spine angle in the swing. While these are not bad thoughts, they’re not totally true. They can limit the amount of possible rotation in the backswing, cutting you off from your true distance potential. In order to achieve your full range of motion, and maximum shoulder rotation, and open up your hip turn, you must learn to extend your spine in the backswing. It’s much like Dick Fosbury, who revolutionized high jumping with his new method of extending backward over the high bar. Feel as if you’re extending over the high bar to achieve the biggest possible shoulder turn.
Think of a high jumper before your next tee shot, and I bet you’ll hit it farther!
Top-25 Instructor Zach Allen, PGA, teaches at DeBell Golf Club in Burbank, Calif. For more info, visit zachallengolf.com.