3 MOVES TO SMASH YOUR DRIVES
THE TOUR SECRET TO POWER: AMP UP YOUR DOWNSWING
Rickie fowler isn’t some physical freak who can bench press 180 kilograms and run blisteringly fast. He’s 5-foot-9, 68 kilograms. But he produces 188 kilometres per hour of clubhead speed with his driver and can carry the ball 275 metres – and you don’t. Why is that? It isn’t some magic “it factor” that only great athletes are born with. Thanks to some advanced motion-capture technology and biomechanical research from a few very smart guys, we’re starting to get a much clearer picture of how elite players produce power, and what you can do to get some more of it.
I vividly remember going to the New Orleans PGA Tour event with my dad 40 years ago, and we’d watch Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson hit balls on the range. My dad was a big guy and a great athlete, but he couldn’t produce anywhere near the same clubhead speed. “Those guys are doing something different,” he’d say. They still are. To get that seemingly effortless power, tour players aren’t just relying on centrifugal force to sling the club through impact on a single plane. They’re actively torquing – or twisting – the club in three specific ways during the downswing to help produce those high speeds.
The concept comes from research by Dr Steven Nesbit, a professor of mechanical engineering at Lafayette College and an expert in mechanism analysis and design. He decoded the pro swing and identified the torques at work.
Using the Gears Golf system for tracking body and club movement – the same technology that produced the 3-D swing images in this story – we’re able to pinpoint the moves that create those torques and compare them from player to player.
To produce peak repeatable speed in a swing, the player needs to use the three torques (or twisting motions) in the correct order and degree. In swing-geek shorthand, we call the torques Alpha, Beta and Gamma, but it might help you to think of them as “Out,” “Over” and “Around,” because that’s how each torque moves the club on the downswing.
These twisting movements are what make a great swing take on its characteristic look. Alpha torque changes the relationship between the club and arms from an L shape at the top of the backswing to more of an I shape near impact. Beta torque sets the club in the right position in relation to the body during the downswing. Gamma torque helps square the clubface. In short, to get from the top to impact powerfully, the club has to move out, over and around – and the three torques make that happen.
Relax – it isn’t as complicated as it might sound. The swing issues you have will dictate the torque (or torques) you need to improve. Start with the simple drill that corresponds to the appropriate torque for your issue, and you’ll be able to add speed to your swing and start consistently smashing the ball.