The top 10 ways to gain distance regardless of your skill level

April 8, 2020
Justin Thomas hits a drive during the second round of the CJ Cup.

Everyone is searching for distance. From Tour Players to Amateurs, they all want to hit the ball further, and as a GOLF Top 100 Teacher, I help my students hit the ball longer every day. Over time I’ve noticed that there are 10 common things that I see when golfers struggle with distance.

Before you get going, I’d recommend picking one or two of these and work on it for two to three weeks. Any change takes time and give yourself a chance. Take the time to really improve in that one area and see if it makes a difference. You should see improvement if you put the focus and the time in on making the change.

1. Center Contact

Center contact is so important for golfers. It makes the shot feel great and it is where you optimize your distance. There are two problems that I see most amateur golfers have. They either hit the ball all over the club face or they hit the same area but it’s the wrong spot. If you are about 1 inch off of the center, you are losing about 10% of your distance.

The Fix: Spray your club and find out where you are hitting the club face. If you are towards the toe, you may be too far from the ball or your path is too out to in. If you are hitting it towards the heel, you may be too close to the ball or your path is too in to out. If you are hitting it all over the face, we have to minimize your area. We would start with smaller pitch shots and work on center contact. Then I may have you swing between two tees spaced apart. I may also just have you focus on hitting the center of the club and knowing where to hit it on the face.

2. Swing Faster

This seems obvious but you have to practice swinging faster to speed up your swing. If you are trying to get stronger, you have to increase the weight. The goal is to get you comfortable swinging the club faster and be able to hold your finish. Not swing out of control.

The Fix: I would have you take a 7 iron and swing the club much faster than you are use to swinging. Swing the club 10 times. Stop between each swing and start over. Always trying to get to your finish. The idea is that if you swing at 80 mph and you practice at 85 mph. You may increase your speed to 82 mph when you go on the course. You can also practice with certain training aids that have speed protocols.

3. Shaft Lean

Working on shaft lean can be very difficult for a lot of golfers. The goal for golfers is to have the shaft leaning more forward than when it started. Lots of golfers have their shaft leaning back at impact. This adds loft and also affects contact on the golf ball. Lots of tour players have a 7 iron and turn it into a 6 or 5 iron. Amateur golfers do the opposite, they take a 7 iron and turn it into a 8 or 9 iron. Just by improving your impact, you can gain distance without swinging any faster.

The Fix: One of my training exercises is to practice what impact looks and feels like. Take a 7 iron and get into your set up. Then without taking the club back, go into your impact position. Let’s start from the ground up: Your right foot rolled off the instep, right knee kicked in, left leg fairly straight, hips rotated open, about 70% of your weight into the left side, the club shaft past your zipper, more bend in the right wrist, more bend in the right elbow, shoulders fairly square and your head in the same spot. Work on going back and forth into set up and impact.

4. Longer Hand Arc

The idea here is that if you take your hands back further, you could hit the ball further. A longer arc can hit the ball further. Think of Bubba Watson. The important thing is that you don’t lift your arms and club back or just pick the club up further.

The Fix: You have to do it with your turns. You may have to make a bigger shoulder turn, you may have to make a bigger hip turn, you may have to let your left heel come off the ground. These are all great ways to get to a longer hand arc.

5. Use the Ground

Having great footwork is really important to help gain distance. The ground is a huge power source for a lot of golfers. At the tour level, you have Justin Thomas, Phil Mickleson and Lexi Thompson who really used the ground for power. Kyle Berkshire, winner of the Long Drive Competition, utilizes the ground to generate power. You can watch how he works back into his right side, then back to his left and an upward push off of the ground to smack the ball..

The Fix: You can work on this at home by taking a club and make small swings working back and forth. Feeling the weight move from side to side. Then lengthen the swing but keep the movement going side to side. As the swing gets bigger, let your heels come up and feel yourself pushing off of the ground on each swing.

6. Upgrade Equipment

As a coach, I try and put together a team that helps my students get better. Dialing in the correct weight, length, material and design of the clubhead can help swing faster. All of these factors can enhance your game and distance.

The Fix: I have a company that I work with that handles all my clubfitting needs. True Spec Golf (note: True Spec Golf and GOLF.com are operated by the same holding company, 8AM Golf) is a company that I use myself, but there are lots of excellent companies and fitters out there. What’s most important is that you are fit properly.

7. Get in the Gym

Almost every tour player is in the gym working out. Lots of them travel with their fitness coaches or have their customized workout programs. They are working on flexibility, strength, coordination and injury prevention.

The Fix: There are lots of things you can be doing such as yoga, pilates, TRX, at home training, Superflexx bands, etc. All of these things are excellent for your body and swing. Ideally, you should find a coach that can tailor your program to your needs and weaknesses. Titleist TPI with Greg Rose and Dave Phillips is a great place to start.

8. Better Sequence

Having a great sequence is something almost every tour player has in their swing. They have power and sequence. Golfers who struggle have poor sequence. Think of your body as 4 parts. Your lower body, from the waist down is 1, your upper body is 2, your arms are 3 and the club is 4. Elite players start their downswing in a 1-2-3-4 combination. Number 4, the club, is being whipped into the ball. Golfers who struggle tend to go 4-3-2-1 (club first, arms, shoulders, then lower body) or 2-3-4-1 (Shoulders, arms, club, then lower body) . You have to work on improving your sequence.

The Fix: To help work on improving your sequence, grab a 7 iron and turn it upside down in your right hand. Start with your feet together and as the club is swinging back with your right hand only about rib high, I want you to make a small side step with your left foot towards the target. You want to feel how you are moving in two different directions. As you step, you should feel how that wants to pull your right arm down. It’s not forced down. Keep doing this for about 10 swings. Then turn the club over and take a normal stance. Swing the club back and feel the step happening but don’t take the step. This can really help your sequence.

9. Faster Tempo

Having a faster tempo can gain distance in your swing. Too often players are told to slow down. Swing slower. You can not gain distance swinging slower.

The Fix: If you can increase your tempo of your swing, that can lead to more speed. You may want to speed up your backswing to help with more speed in your downswing.

10. Change Your Golf Ball

Golf balls are made up of all different materials. Some golf balls work better at higher speeds. Some golf balls don’t. You have to have a certain amount of clubhead speed to compress a golf ball to optimize your distance with that ball. That is why tour players have gained a lot of distance over the years due to the golf ball. There are also balls that can go further but you may sacrifice some spin around the greens or vice versa. You can hit the ball shorter but you may have more control around the greens. You have to know what is the most important for you. If I have a golfer who is looking for distance, I check out what ball he is playing and we test it. If they can gain 2-4 mph in ball speed by changing their golf ball, this could be a 4-10 yards difference.

The Fix: The ideal way to do this is to have some technology that can measure certain parameters like a Trackman, Flightscope or Quad. You can see very easily and quickly what is the best ball for you to use. If not, you would have to take certain brands of balls out on the course and test it the old way. See where the ball lands and how far it rolls out.

To receive GOLF’s all-new newsletters, subscribe for free here.