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DISTANCE by Fred Elliott, PGA Director of Instruction

November 11, 2012

Distance?  Don’t Forget Our Two Most Important Levers

Longer courses, manufacturer’s ads, and that human desire to see the ball soar over that fairway bunker and past our playing partners have created today’s golf atmosphere of more distance, more distance and…more distance.

 Technology, Fitness, Rotate

One (if not the) main request from the individual taking a lesson is to be able to hit the ball longer.  The modern answer of the last few years has been three fold.  First, pursue the latest technology with the skills of a qualified club-fitter thrown in.   Second, join the wave of being more physically fit and your golf will benefit also.  Third, from the swing mechanics side is the invocation to turn, turn or rotate.  All three have merit, but in the third area we may be not seeing the forest for the trees.

Scientists tell us the biggest source of club-head speed is the “double pendulum.”  This is the combination of our two most efficient levers, our left arm and wrist hinge working together to multiply clubhead speed.  The distance we can swing the left arm back (Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in their prime swung the left arm back almost 180 degrees) while still keeping our lower half stable can create tremendous leverage. Combine this with a full wrist hinge and our potential to “multiply” our clubhead speed is great.

Conquer These Two Challenges

There are two areas that have their pitfalls.  First, the left arm and club must swing together in path or plane.  The wrist hinges as if it is part of the arm so the left wrist is flat and in a line with the left arm. A good grip certainly also has to be a component here. The second key is the angle between left arm and the club remaining constant as we shift into the forward swing.  This retention of wrist angle is referred to by the scientists as “conservation of angular momentum” and is a major source of clubhead acceleration.

Coupling arm swing and angle retention to get the benefit from our “double pendulum” is tricky business, so seeking the experience and the trained eye of your local PGA Professional will be a huge help.

On the other hand, this is one area where all of us, without special athletic skills or cutting-edge equipment, can gain significant yardage. So give your major power sources a tune-up and carry that fairway bunker that was unreachable before.

Fred Elliott is PGA Director of  Instruction, Rosewood Lakes Golf Course& Teaching Professional Hidden Valley CC, Reno, Nevada.    Email:

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