Bubba Watson has become one the most popular players on the PGA tour thanks to his success on the course, easy going demeanour, shot making savvy and not least those crushing drives!
But whats his secret to all that raw power in his homemade looking golf swing? Why is he out driving many of his fellow tour players who often exhibit more ‘classically’ correct golf swings? And what can you learn to apply to your swing?
To shed some light I’d like to take a detour into the world of long drive. The first notable difference between long drive competitors and tour pros is you’ll be hard pressed to find a long drive guy that keeps his lead foot on the floor.
The second thing easily noticeable, is a very high hand position and a backswing much longer than the average PGA tour player, this allows for greater speed to be generated in the trunk on the downswing.
Check out these youtube videos of Bubba hitting some drives in slow motion, notice these traits of the long drive competitors in Bubba’s swing too. I put two videos in because, well, it’s just fun to watch Bubba bombing drives!
There are other things, as well, that you might not notice first time round. Watch how Bubba squats down as he begins his downswing and then literally jumps back up through impact. This is known as vertical thrust, and is a trait shared with Jason Zuback and many other long drives champs. The squatting motion at the start of the downswing increases ground reaction force, this leads to more energy coming back through the lower body and transferring up the body to the club. This is then followed by literally a vertical jump as he comes through impact (if you look closely you can actually see both his feet are off the floor)!
Indeed, putting long drive competitors on a force plate often yields blackout though impact. This basically means they are not contacting the ground and the force plate just goes blank because there’s nobody on it anymore.
So how does hitting huge drives actually work? And how can you do it?
3-D motion capture of the golf swing shows energy starts from the lower body, the lower body starts to create incredible rotary speed as the downswing is initiated (the lower body rotates the equivalent of up to 500 degrees per second at this point). That energy is then transferred to the trunk, as the trunk rotates (rotary speed is now hitting almost 900 degrees per second) it then transfers energy to the arms, the arms then transfer energy to the club (at clubhead speeds in excess of 140mph) and the club then transfers energy into the ball on impact. It is a perfect sequence seen in every long driver and results in ball speeds approaching 220mph.
The average tour players arm rotates around 900 degrees per second. On a longer driver the arms may rotate almost 1300 degrees per second. Almost 50% more energy can be generated from the thorax to the arm. This is an incredible difference that yields explosive distance.
Simply, the longest drivers can rotate their body faster than those who don’t hit as far. This is made possible by a perfect synergy of technique, strength and rotational speed.