I am enjoying playing golf, hitting a straight ball (usually around a 210-yard drive). However, I am always slightly intimidated/put off by the guys in some of the competitions that can hit a drive 75-100 yards further than I can.

I've been told it's all about getting good clubhead speed, not power. So, what can I do to improve my driving?


2 Answers 2


The first thing you must understand is that a 210-yard drive that flies in the direction you want it to go is much preferred over a drive that would have gone 300 yards had it not taken that huge right turn in mid air and sailed out of bounds. A "grip it and rip it" mentality will be far more detrimental to your score than a shorter drive distance.

Second, yes, the professional players have great drives. However, they "drive for show, and putt for dough". Tiger can hit an 8-iron 180 yards and can drive well over 300. He still takes his putter with him for the round (even when he leaves his driver behind). Given that you can put a drive, wood or long iron shot on the fairway, and have at least one club in your bag that can reach that par-3 green (most par-3s I've seen are in mid-iron range, with a couple 200-yarders requiring a wood shot; they don't tend to test the 240-yard upper limit of what you can call a par-3, at least not from the normal Men's tee box), it's the short game that determines your score for a hole; I've had beautiful tee shots ruined by skulling the approach chip shot, and made the green in regulation only to four-putt. The drive distance used as a benchmark for the USGA's hypothetical "scratch golfer" (and thus for determining the par of a hole and course difficulty ratings) is only 250 yards, so if you can drive that distance, you can achieve a zero handicap. More distance is always desirable (until you're carrying your drives over the green into a lake) but never at the expense of accuracy and control.

Given that, 210 yards is more like a good 3-wood distance than a drive, and it's understandable that you would want to improve that (again, not by much). Here are some dos and don'ts:

  • Do take a second look at your driver. Drive distance is a function of the golfer and the club; the club should fit the player. The two biggest areas of change are the flex of the shaft, and the loft angle of the clubface. Shaft flex determines how energy is stored and released in the shaft during your swing; too whippy and the shaft is still flexed at impact, too much and the shaft doesn't flex (or releases what little you had too early). Just right and the shaft straightens right at impact, producing maximum clubhead speed for the swing. Loft angle determines the ball's launch angle and the amount of backspin it has. A higher launch angle keeps the ball in the air longer so it can carry further, but the energy sending it higher is no longer sending it out, and the increased backspin will reduce rollout distance. A lower launch angle uses more of the swing energy to send the ball out over the course instead of up in the air, and reduces backspin for more rollout, but because of the reduced "hang time", the ball may not carry as far as you'd want it to.

    There's a balance point to all of this that maximizes total distance for a player's individual swing; the average golfer generally gets the best results out of a driver with 10.5 degrees of loft and a "regular" shaft flex. "Regular" differs slightly between clubmakers, but generally falls in a bell curve. This combination produces the best distance from a correct swing between 80 and 95mph at impact. Golfers with a lower swing speed may benefit either from a lighter flex to increase the "whip" effect at impact, a higher loft to increase hang time, or both. Golfers with a higher swing speed may benefit from some combination of a stiffer flex to allow them to store and properly release more power during their downswing, and a lower loft angle which reduces the launch trajectory, using the player's greater power to send the ball out instead of up.

  • Do take a look at your preferred ball. Golf balls these days have a lot of subtle variations that can produce significant changes in flight path and energy transfer. One of the key variations is the compression rating or "hardness" of the ball, which determines two things; the "feel" of the shot (a harder high-compression ball feels like hitting a rock which can be good for players who want to dial in their ball-striking; a softer low-compression ball will reduce the shock through the shaft at impact which can be preferable to players seeking a "smoother" feel), and the amount of backspin (the softer a ball is, the more of its surface that will be in contact with the clubface at impact).

    A common misconception is that you have to match this rating to your swing speed in order to get the best performance; players with slower swings should use a softer ball. This isn't true; while theoretically the physics involved would indicate that a slower swing compresses the ball less, in practice the difference is insignificant. What you have to match is the feel and the spin characteristics of the ball to your personal preference and game needs; a lower-compression ball trades drive distance for that smooth shot that sticks on the green, while a higher-compression ball will launch straight off the club like a rocket and roll out for an additional 20-30 yards, but will feel like a rock and won't stay where you put it on those close-in shots (unless your home course has really soft greens).

  • Do compare your drive distance to the distance from your other clubs. Especially pay attention to the difference between your driver and 3-wood, and between your woods and irons. Your driver distance is about what I'd expect a 3-wood to do (on a good day; often I have to choke down on or soften my 3-wood swing for a straight shot and that drops about 20 yards). So, take your driver and 3-wood out to the range and look at the relative distances. If you're hitting them about the same, that indicates that you're doing something different with the driver that's sapping range (or that the driver is a very bad fit for you).

    If you get a decent spread through your woods (between 20-40 yards difference between odd-numbered lofts depending on the exact clubs; the modern driver's designed for pure distance off the tee, and so it may outclass the 3-wood of the same model line by a greater margin than between a 3 and 5), then pull out your 4 or 5 iron and take a few swings. Your 4 iron (or hybrid) should be getting you about 20-30 yards less than your 3-wood, and each progressively higher loft number through the irons should be producing about 10 fewer yards. If any of these clubs goes about the same distance or longer than the next longer club, you're changing something between your wood swing and iron swing that is reducing distance.

  • Do get a club fitting. You can find the right club two ways: by guessing, buying a club, figuring out which way you erred, and buying a new club to correct, then rinsing and repeating until you find exactly the right one (or you're broke); or, by going to a custom clubfitter and getting a swing analysis. You'll stand in a computerized driving range and hit balls off a tee, while a high-speed camera watches the clubhead and ball at impact, producing data such as clubhead speed, launch speed, launch angle, backspin and side spin, which it can use to model the ball in flight and compute carry distance and rolling distance (and thus total distance), as well as undesirable flight patterns like slices and hooks. You'll try several demo clubs in various launch angles and shaft flexes, to find the one that maximizes the distance of your current swing. When you're done, you should know at least what loft angle and shaft flex to shop for, if not a particular brand or model of club that just felt right and went the distance.

  • Do pay attention to what muscles you're using as you swing. A good swing engages all the muscles that can be employed to add acceleration to that clubhead, in a balance that maintains your alignment with the ball and the desired direction of travel. However, a bad swing engages muscles to extremes, or involves movements that pull you out of alignment.

    Your core is a good place to start. Specifically, your obliques will rotate your shoulders, and your pecs, lats and delts will rotate your arms. Your legs play a minor role, but you do twist at the hips a little which engages the quads, hamstring, gastronemius, etc. Work on building and toning these groups to gain core and leg strength. Your arms bend slightly as you backswing, and so your triceps enter the picture. Don't over-focus on any of these, though.

  • Do get a lesson or two. A professional trainer knows how to swing, and more importantly knows how to teach swinging. If your swing doesn't feel natural or you still think there's something missing, cough up for a couple hours of lessons. An instructor will be able to see what might be wrong with your swing and suggest things to work on, for instance to "unhitch" something you're locking up as you swing, or to engage muscles and joints you're not using, or conversely to reduce overuse of certain groups that bring you out of alignment, thus forcing you to slow something else down to compensate.

  • Don't just "grip it and rip it". Again, you will lose more in accuracy than you gain in distance by just hauling off and swinging at the ball. When you're working on improving your swing speed, always be thinking "faster", not "harder". There is a big difference between those two in a golf swing; a hard swing will use a lot of energy flexing your muscles in conflict with each other, or will focus too much on adding power to one set of muscles which will put some part of your swing ahead of other critical elements. A "fast" swing uses the muscles efficiently to maximize clubhead acceleration while maintaining alignment.

  • Don't change too many things at once. Your friends, your instructor, online videos, answers from this site, etc are all going to recommend things to try. Try one or two things at a time. Again, if you have an accurate drive, you will lose more than you gain by tearing your swing apart and starting from scratch. If you have an accurate drive, more likely than not you won't need to change much.

  • Don't get discouraged. Again, a 210-yard drive that goes where you want it is usually very playable (the only time I can think of where it's otherwise is when you have to carry a water hazard over 200 yards). A 300-yard drive into the trees or that lake on the right side of the fairway is not. You're already ahead of the curve if you have an accurate drive, no matter the distance.

  • Don't forget to have fun. It's a game. From a probability standpoint you are highly unlikely to make enough money playing the game to cover expenses incurred, and so it's a hobby. You simply don't play a game or pursue a hobby you don't enjoy. If you get outdriven, so what? Drop that chip shot within a foot of the hole and you'll have their jaws dropping.

  • 1
    I read the question as originally asked and realized that the only section that addresses the original question is "Do pay attention to what muscles you're using as you swing." I now understand that the question was edited to cover your all-encompassing answer (which a great answer, don't get me wrong) but I was looking for an answer specific to the original question as I had a similar question. Sep 21, 2018 at 13:14

A strong core is essential to a strong, balanced golf swing. This is because the core links the upper and lower bodies. The stronger the core, the more power the body can generate for more clubhead speed.


Furthermore, lighter clubs contribute to more clubhead speed, but control is sacrificed.

A fast swinger dropping 30 grams from his or her driver will pick up 3 miles per hour of ball speed, more than offsetting the loss of 1 mph of ball speed due to less mass in the head. The bottom line: a boost of nearly eight yards.


As for exercises to strengthen your core, I recommend the following (take a look at the linked videos/visual explanations for further detail):

  • Crunches

  • Mason Twist

    In a sitting position with heels off the ground, clasp your hands together and touch the ground with the back of your clasped hand on each side of your body. Using weights (or a kettlebell or a medicine ball) makes this exercise more effective.

  • Leg Lifts

    Lying down with your legs straight out, heels off the ground by 6 inches, lift your legs (while keeping them as straight as you can) to a 90 degree angle and lower them back to 6 inches. For more of a challenge, do it slowly.

  • Bicycles

    Lying down with your legs straight out, bend one leg toward your upper body and move both your legs as you would if you were riding a bicycle. As you do that, crunch toward the side where your knee is bent.

NOTE: If you have a desk job, I recommend replacing your office chair with an exercise ball. Anything to help your core out during the day. I would also look into core stability....also helps in treating lower back pain.

  • Would controlling an improved swing be directly proportional to your fitness? I'm specifically intrigued by the "control is sacrificed" part of your answer. Though it is generally accurate that the longer you hit, the less accurate you may become, but would improved fitness cause other factors outside of distance to remain equivalent? Sep 21, 2018 at 13:17

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