In most sports, there are performance indicators that are used to determine an athlete’s ability, or perhaps potential ability would actually be more appropriate. An easy example of this is the National Football League Combine. The combine consists of tests such as the vertical jump, the 40 yard dash, bench press and others which measure strength, power, agility, etc. to attempt to predict the potential of the athlete. These numbers are taken very seriously, and as I am sure you know can change a player’s draft status despite what kind of career they had in college. These methods are not perfect, as there have been many highly touted players who never lived up to their playing potential in professional sports despite being freak athletes and dominating the combine.
In a sport like golf, technical ability can overshadow physical performance characteristics simply because the game has less variables. There are no 250 pound linebackers running at you, or a 70mph football flying towards you – the only thing that matters is how many times it takes you to put the ball in the hole. Admittedly, it probably matters less in golf if you can run a certain speed, lift a certain amount of weight, or jump a certain distance. However, it still matters!
With technological improvements, increased participation and 600+ yard par-5’s, the game has changed. With that, attempting to understand what makes someone a better golfer is the million dollar question. As mentioned previously, there are so many things that can help someone improve their score. They can overcome their lack of distance with a great short game, they can overcome poor putting with impeccable ball striking, you get the idea. Yet, when looking at the NFL, it is easy to see that a great 40-yard dash might make you a better football player, but are there tests to help us look at golfers? The answer is YES! Now, it is difficult to measure someones ability to become a good putter, or to get up and down. Perhaps hand-eye coordination, vision, or balance tests may be appropriate, and there is some research that relates some of those items to lower handicap. However, one measure has been consistently used to determine a golfer’s driving distance or yardage off of the tee. That measure is club head speed (CHS). Author’s note: click HERE or the video link below of Dustin Johnson’s club head speed and driving distance. Do you think there is any coincidence that he can dunk a basketball?! Power is power. Period.
Now that you are back, lets talk about club head speed. Within, the available literature, increases in CHS have been reported after strength and plyometric training, correlating with lower handicaps, and overall golf performance. So, if you want to hit the ball further, you must train the body to produce more force. This should not come as a surprise, as golf is primarily a fast-twitch (anaerobic) sport with the golf swing lasting less than a second.
To date, investigations into relationships between physical performance and CHS involved a range of approaches that usually required high-tech laboratory equipment. Recently, inexpensive field-based tests have been studied to determine their correlation with physical performance and CHS. Furthermore, several of these tests have been shown to reliably predict CHS and driving distance. For more detail click —> HERE.
Likewise, physical characteristics such as strength, flexibility, and balance have been shown in highly proficient golfers. Again, this should be no surprise because even though the golf swing is highly technical…power, flexibility, balance, and coordination reside in the body. Would a wide receiver just practice catching passes to improve his hands, or would he train his body to improve his ability to run, jump, and elude defenders?
The bottom line is that whether you are a tour pro or a recreational golfer, this same correlation needs to be understood and applied to maximize your abilities on the course! Optimize your mobility and movement patterns, then once you are competent in all of those patters (especially ones relevant to golf), train those patters for strength and power!