When we want distance, we think of clubhead speed and the need to swing the club faster. True, speed is important — but a powerful golf swing is actually created by the transfer of energy from the golfer’s body to the golfer’s arms, to the golf club, to the clubhead and into the ball .
Some golfers display maximum effort and contortions in their swings and the ball goes short with misdirection. Good golfers appear to get maximum distance by swinging easy, effortlessly and slowly. Good golfers use the science of energy transfer.
From high school, we learned that energy cannot be created; nor can it be destroyed. Energy can only be transferred from one state to another. When hitting a golf ball, energy from the body must be transferred to the ball.
To ensure that this process occurs with optimal efficiency we need to ensure proper timing and mechanics in the swing.
In trying to swing faster for more clubhead speed, the body often feels as if we put a lot of energy into the swing but, surprisingly, the ball doesn’t go too far. The reason is simple. We created energy, so-called potential energy, by coiling the body, but the problem is we did not release the energy from the body and into the ball. Most of the energy has remained in the body to the detriment of distance and direction. When we release energy correctly, the swing will feel effortless.
In order to release energy we must learn how to create energy and release it. The following examples will help us understand how to create and release energy for maximum results.
SNAP THE TOWEL
For our first example, let’s “snap the towel” at someone. This procedure is very simple.
- Hold one of end of the towel with the right hand and the back of the towel with the left hand so that the towel is in the horizontal position to the side of your body, as I’m doing in the first photo.
Pull the towel fast with the right hand toward the target but stop the right hand, and perhaps give a little pullback with the right hand as the towel moves fast toward the target, where the end of the towel will snap at the target with an audible sound (second photo).
- By moving the towel to the target, we have created energy, and stopping the hand action allows the body’s energy to transfer to the towel — and swiftly move to the target. If left-handed, reverse procedure.
WHIP IT GOOD
Let’s now look at the action of a bullwhip. Notice how the handle of the bullwhip is fairly thick and heavy (first photo). From the handle, the whip tapers to a very thin tip.
We now create energy by swinging the handle to the target, dragging the whip. As the whip is moving towards the target, energy is transferring into the whip (second photo). We then stop the swinging action of the hand to allow the energy from the body to transfer down the arm, into the whip and ending at the tip of the whip to give a loud snap. This audible snap is the tip of the bullwhip breaking the sound barrier, much like a jet aircraft.
We notice that large body action creates energy that transfers to the smaller mass of the towel and the bullwhip. For golf, large body movement creates lots of energy that transfers into the smaller arms, the smaller bullwhip handle and into the yet smaller taper of the whip, to the thin tip where all that energy is released at for a violent reaction. As earlier stated, energy cannot be created; nor can it be destroyed. Energy can only be transferred from one state to another, from body to ball. The large amount of energy created in the body transfers to the smaller mass of the ball for violent and strong energy action — and maximum distance and direction.
We should now understand how using the body creates a large mass of energy that transfers into smaller and smaller items. The body coils to create potential energy and uncoils with the arms swinging to the ball to release this energy from the body to the arms, then club and the ball.
SLOW OF HANDS
The true key to energy transfer? The HANDS SLOW DOWN or STOP for impact.
The clubhead has to move three to four times the distance the hands move. Hands must slow down or stop at impact for the clubhead to catch up to the hands and for the transfer of energy to release from the body to the ball.
Teachers have claimed Jack Nicklaus was one of the best at slowing down the hands so that energy created by his body coil or rotation can be released to the ball for impact. Like the towel and bullwhip, the energy has moved from the body to the lighter arms, the lighter club and to the lighter golf ball.
When we want to control distance, we simply use less body coil and therefore transfer less energy to the ball.
Many golfers fail to slow down the hands for energy release and, as a result, they usually slice the ball. This is often because they believe they must swing the hands fast to get distance. They cannot believe that actually slowing down the hands releases energy to the ball. People say, “slow down the swing,” but this is not entirely true; the accurate statement should be to slow the hands, or stop them for a split second, for impact. Slowing the swing down can often help this, but the proper hand action must prevail.
Some teachers emphasize this point in the golf swing by having a student swing down at the ball, then throw the club down the fairway to feel the energy releasing to the ball.
In general, since men have larger and stronger bodies than women, they create more energy to release and transfer to the ball, and are therefore able to create more distance. But women at the highest levels of the game can knock it way out there too — simply through their big coil and excellent hand action.
Dr. Gerald Walford is a longtime PGA instructor located in Florida. He is the author of The Golf Superbook.