One of my PGA Tour athletes once came to me and wanted to increase his clubhead speed without changing his swing. He and his coach had decided that was where they could make the most gains on the scorecard. After our initial assessment, his clubhead speed was about PGA Tour average - 114mph. Once we started training, it was up to 118mph. By the end of a strength training period of about six months, we got his clubhead up to 125mph and that was on the course – not just on the practice fairway. How did we achieve that? Well, it’s combination of strength/power training and regularly assessing a player’s ground force capabilities. I’ll explain the process below, and what the average golfer can learn.
At the PGA Tour level, the guys already swing quite well, and they swing quite efficiently in most cases. And so the work that I did with some of our guys and most of the people that I work with is just about trying to figure out how well they use their feet and how well they push into the ground to be able to utilize those ground forces up the kinetic chain into the golf swing so that they can deliver peak club head speed at impact and throughout the swing
If they're on a tee and they need to carry a bunker 300 yards, they need to get the most out of their swing and so they're going to utilize the ground in a way that is most effective to be able to maximise all those available forces and power at the same time.
If an athlete comes to me and wants to improve their clubhead speed, the exercises I’d prescribe are as follows:
First, we look at how well they use their own body and how much available force they're able to produce. We assess that using a force plate. A vertical force plate is relatively inexpensive compared to a 3D force plate. Vertical force plates are more specifically utilised in strength and conditioning.
We’ll have a look at the athlete performing a normal squat pattern on a force plate and that shows us what their body's physiological characteristics are during those movements. I also like to assess an athlete’s power generation by looking at ground force capabilities with a countermovement jump. After both those exercises and a few other tests on the plate, I can determine an athlete’s force velocity profile.
This is important for me when tailoring their workout program, because a guy who weighs 200 pounds (90 kilograms) and stands at 184cm/6-foot-1 has a different needs analysis compared to someone who is 5-foot-8 and 150 pounds (68 kilograms). In most cases the 5 foot-8/150 pounds athlete has to work twice as hard to generate the same amount of force.
If the goal - after speaking to the coach and the player - is to increase clubhead speed, we may look at squat training, through different phases such as back squat and front squat at higher intensities and with different set and rep ratios. We'll aim to gain top-end strength out of this (peak force). A successful outcome would be the athlete being able to drive their feet into the ground with a lot more force than what we were previously able to do. A great example was the player I mentioned at the beginning of this post, he went from 114mph to 125mph in six months with a dedicated training program.
So, how can we measure gains? Through ShotLink – a platform for collecting and disseminating scoring and statistical data on every shot by every player in real-time on the PGA Tour – and through the player’s own TrackMan data (Golf Radar Technology).
Bottom line, if a golfer doesn’t have strength, they won’t have the ability to control high clubhead speeds. The two go hand-in-hand.
Golf Specific Speed
Following a structured strength and power training program, a speed training phase is required to get the most out of your swing. Just like pushing top end strength is the goal of the strength program I’ve previously spoken about, top end speed is the goal with a speed training program. How do I do this you might ask?
Looking at the velocity (speed) part of the force velocity profile, I am trying to drive faster movements to increase peak speed output. How is this done? Pick a lighter weight (roughly 30% to 60% of your max strength) and move it as fast as you can whilst remaining in control.
Using the squat pattern for example, the concentric part of the squat (where you reach the bottom and push through the ground back up to standing) needs to happen quickly! Once the body is primed for speed, transference of training needs to occur with the use of speed sticks, med balls etc. Speed sticks are a great way to mimic the golf sing swinging as hard as you can (whilst still in control)
So what can the average amateur golfer learn from this? I would say they can also increase clubhead speed using a strength and power training program prescribed by a qualified strength and conditioning coach. That is important because amateurs do not have the same safety network around them that professional athletes on the PGA Tour enjoy.
But once you’ve been given a program by an exercise professional, you can increase your available force in the golf swing using squat exercise variations– back squats, front squats and single leg squats.
Grip it and rip it!
Cheers, Nic Catterall
About Nic Catterall/Peak Power Golf
Nic Catterall is an Australian high-performance coach, specializing in strength and conditioning, musculoskeletal therapy and sports science, for professional golfers on the PGA Tour in the U.S.A. Nic works with Cam Smith, Luke List, Matt Jones, Dylan Frittelli and Hank Lebioda. Nic created the Peak Power Golf company to educate about the athleticism of golfers and what they are capable of. Peak Power Golf provides online training, athlete mentoring and athlete assessments.