Have you noticed recently that while the golf courses the tour pros play are getting longer and longer, their golf swings are getting shorter? Tiger’s done it. Sergio’s done it. Phil’s done it. Anthony Kim does it. Why is that? How can players whose livelihoods depend on dominating long golf courses give up distance by shortening their golf swings?

The answer – of course – is that they’re not giving up distance, or they probably would not have made the change.

One of the most important facts to remember when playing or learning golf is that the number one variable in swinging a golf club that directly relates to distance is clubhead speed.

My experience has been that most players either do not realize this, or wrongly associate the length of the swing with clubhead speed.

It’s really this simple: given that clubhead speed equals distance – with all else being equal – if my swing is long yet slow and yours is small but fast, you will get more distance than I will.

The added bonus is that your shorter swing is likely to be more consistent than my big one.

Jim McLean, one of my favorite golf instructors, said it best when he said: A slow swing produces short golf shots and a slow tempo will kill you.

One huge myth in the golf game is the absolute need to get the club shaft to horizontal at the top of the golf swing.

Why should the golf club get to horizontal?

Why is this the ideal position?

What is the scientific reasoning for this?

Getting the club to horizontal is an arbitrary instruction without any scientific justification that unfortunately cripples many a player in their efforts to get it there. It distracts them from the primary ingredient of the golf swing: the downswing, and especially the downswing to a correct impact position for solid ball striking.

There is an irony in the fact that most golfers try to make a big backswing, while telling their buddies to slow down. They couldn’t be more incorrect.

On the PGA Tour there are nearly as many different golf swings as there are players, but there are two common denominators among them, acceleration, a fairly short tempo time, and great position at impact.

Tempo time is the duration of time expended from the time you start your takeaway until the time your clubhead strikes the ball at impact.

BTW, you can have a short tempo and still have a swing that’s smooth as silk.  Watch Ernie Els, Fred Couples, or Reteif Goosen.

Every good player accelerates the golf club to and through impact. Many a struggling player makes such a big swing that they either get themselves into a position from which acceleration is difficult, or they feel so out of control that they unwittingly decelerate in order to try to gain some control by the time they reach impact.

Either way the result usually does not produce the distance desired, or the contact required.

Deceleration is contrary to centripetal force while acceleration contributes to it.

Two swings that were 90 mph at impact are not the same if one was accelerating from 80 to 90 at impact, while the other was decelerating from 100 to 90 at impact.

Think about it.

If you are driving a car, slow for a curve, then accelerate into it, you have the feel of control as you progress through the curve. Now think about those occasions where you came upon a curve and had to slow down to negotiate the turn. There’s no feeling of control there.

The golf swing is similar in that you feel in control of an accelerating swing, but with a decelerating swing you cannot keep the clubhead on it’s intended path and it usually veers
wider. This causes all kinds of errors, usually a fat shot due to the longer swing arc and the club bottoming out behind the ball instead of slightly in front of it.

The answer is acceleration.

While a big backswing tends to promote deceleration, a short backswing does just the opposite.

A short backswing promotes acceleration. Your proverbial win-win. Mentally, it is almost like you don’t believe the short backswing will do the trick, so you accelerate to make up for it.

The next thing you know, rather than trying to attain difficult physical positions you are practicing accelerating, and this is the path to more consistent ball striking and better scores.

I mentioned this in the last newsletter – but it’s worth repeating: practicing consistently leads to building a neurological pathway which creates a memory for the action, which leads to more speed when performing the action repeatedly.

How fast could you tie your shoes when you first learned to do it?  How fast can you tie them now?

PGA Tour players do not enjoy one luxury we do. They do not have the luxury to mess around with their swings too much. We can mess around and only our game suffers. They mess around and their day-to-day existence suffers. Tour players have learned that by shortening their swings and working on acceleration they can attain the same (or more) distance they used to have, and also gain accuracy and consistency ­ two staples to life on the Tour.

That is why we have seen a growing trend of shorter backswings on the PGA Tour.

Try shortening your backswing, and concentrate on accelerating more through impact, you’ll love the results.