Loss of Distance

by Horton Smith


I’m sure that sudden loss of distance has crept into your game at one time or other. I know it’s happened to me.

You’ve been out-driving your weekend golf partners all season. Then one day you suddenly discover that you are short man off the tee. When this occurs it is time to review your swing, preferably under the guidance of a professional.

The golf swing should be a connected and coordinated unit, within which proper timing is paramount. Good timing gives the player all the mechanical advantages which have been built into his equipment. When loss of distance occurs, chances are good that the player’s timing is at fault.

However; “timing” is a general term, and proper timing is based on several swing fundamentals. If one or more of these fundamentals are executed improperly, bad timing – and loss of distance – result.

Fundamentals upon which good timing is predicated include: Good posture and balance; proper shifting of weight during the swing so as to achieve maximum control and momentum of the clubhead; and, of course, true alignment of the hands – especially the right – with the clubface both at address and at impact.

Ways to correct any possible short-circuiting of these Basic Require- ments for good timing will be discussed and illustrated on following pages. However, first I’d like to suggest a practice technique that has helped me regain distance.

Strangely enough, this involves practicing puffs from 5 to 50 feet in length. In such practice, power as such is de-emphasized. The premium is on elements of “precision,” such as “touch,” timing, square-to-target alignment of hands and clubface, and simply hitting the ball squarely.

Then, when the player progresses from puffing to short approach shots to full shots, this emphasis on precision will pay off in added distance. Thus, putting practice provides a foundation for full iron and wood shots. It’s like opening a door – once the key (in this case precise putting) is properly inserted into the lock (your swing), the door (longer drives) opens quite easily.

When practicing putting to build a base for longer drives, concen- trate on contacting the ball squarely in the center or “sweet area” of the clubface. Strive for a sharp and crisp sounding “click” as the putter meets the ball. Seek club-ball contact that produces a minimum of jar, shock or vibration.

My friend Frank Walsh used to advise that “as you swing you should train yourself to listen for the click.” Anticipating the click serves both as a goal and a check for a precise swing. Try it the next time you play.

In puffing, though force is a minimum objective, I am happy to “get distance” wit.~out consciously striking the ball hard. The more distance I get on puffs with the least effort, the better I like it. This tells me that my stroke is well-timed and in the groove so that the clubf ace strikes the ball squarely. Then I know that I can expect these same virtues on full shots.

Now let us turn to specific causes for loss of distance and suggestions on how these causes can be eliminated.

Illustration1
Error: Shifting weight to the left on the backswing Often times, in an a ttempt to keep the head steady, a golfer will shift his weight to the left on the backswing. He will proably fall back to his right foot on the downswing, sacrificing a great deal of power.
Illustration2
Correction: Shift some weight to the right leg on the backswing. Make certain that you turn and shift your weight in the same direction as you are moving the club. For right-handed players this would mean that some weight would shift to the right foot in rhythm with the clubhead’s move in that general direction
Illustration3
Error: Swaying or lateral movement of the form.Swaying causes many golf problems, including sliced, topped and “fat” or scuffed shots. However, it is also a major cause of loss of distance. When, instead of turning his body and shoulders on the backswing, the golfer moves his body laterally to the right, he fails to fully extend or coil the muscles of his left side. When these big muscles of the back and legs are not fully coiled, they fail to generate maximum power to the arms, hands and, finally, the clubhead when uncoiling on the downswing. swaying also puts too much burden on the arms which cannot, in themselves, provide maximum clubhead speed.
Illustration4
Correction: Stretch the rubber band. At one time in our lives many of us have played with model airplanes – the kind that are wound by twirling the propeller which is attached to a rubber band. So it is in the golf swing – except that you are the rubber band. On the backswing the body should coil or turn, yet still remain in the same area as it occupied at the address position. Generally speaking, the more fully the coiling stretches the left side muscles, the faster the club (like the propeller) will unwind on the downswing.
Illustration5
Error: Failure to achieve a straight and taut left arm and a fully cocked right arm at the start of the downswing. The golfer who starts his downswing with his left arm bent breaks the “circuit” of power which should be flowing from his legs and back muscles to the club. It’s like shutting off a flow of water by crimping a garden hose. Also, failure to keep the right arm bent, or “cocked”, at the start of the downswing encourages a premature release or uncocking of the wrists.
Illustration6
Correction: Quck weight shift and a “tight” right elbow.Return weight to the left foot immediately at the start of the downsiwng and, at the same time, move the right elbow in close to your side. These combined movements will automatically cause the left arm to straighten and right to cock early in the downstroke. Then, as the clubhead enters the hitting area, the left arm will be ready to conduct power to the club and the right arm can straighten and thrust the hands and clubhead throught the ball
Illustration7
Error: Pulling up in the hitting area. This fault is a result of improper weight shift on the downswing. The golfer has prematurely straightened his right arm and uncocked his wrists well before the clubhead reaches the point of impact. Most all of his power has already been spent.
Illustration8
Correction: Hit down and through the ball. By leading with the left side and holding wrist “break” until the last possible moment, you save your power for the hitting area. This allows you to achieve the maximum clubhead speed at point of impact and to avoid raising your body in the hitting area.

This is an excerpt from a book in the Online Classics Golf Library, an ever-expanding collection of golf books. Membership and lifetime access to the OCG library can be yours with your purchase of

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  • Randy says:

    It’s sad that there is always one that has to complain or point out grammatical errors in posts that are designed to help one play the game of golf more efficiently. I subscribe to several blogs, and it baffles me how many golfers looking for help, are also experts when it comes to the written word.

    To Bob – did you know a study was done showing that if I spelled words incorrectly by scrambling the middle letters, but made sure the first and last letters were correct, the majority of folks would still breeze right through without a problem? If the only response you have is to criticize the grammar, then don’t respond. you take away from the intent of the post and ruin it for those of us simply looking for answers to this frustrating game.

  • Bob says:

    There are a lot of “typos” in thes articles.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Bob for letting me know. I just had everything transferred over and sometimes it gets mistranslated. I’m working on it. 🙂

  • bill says:

    I’ve been trying the X factor swing that turns the upper body and minimum lower body. I’ve been extending my arms back on the backswing to waist level and then rotate my shoulders. i have lost all consistency, your info reminds me to go back to the basics to turn the hips with the arms and shoulders. Thanks, heading to the range tomorrow.

    • admin says:

      Yep, I wrote an article called: “not all golf instruction is good for your game” and you have learned that as well. I used to get all twisted up in knots until I realized that my swing is good enough.
      Greens and fairways,
      Craig

  • Tommy Valdes says:

    Great background from some very good golfers and educators. Thanks, very helpful

    • admin says:

      You’re welcome. I don’t pretend to know everything about golf and I bring in other experts. It’s up to the golfer to choose what works for him or her.
      🙂

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