How this 150-pound pro averages over 300 yards off the tee
Distance is king in golf these days. The game has been trending that way for quite a while, but now with Bryson DeChambeau mashing bombs on a weekly basis, we may well have an arms race on our hands. And while DeChambeau took the chase for distance to the absolute extreme, packing on the pounds isn’t the only way to launch missiles down the fairways. Exhibit A — Joaquín Niemann.
At just 6 feet tall and weighing a touch over 150 pounds, Niemann does not look as though he would be able to generate the clubhead speed necessary to hit with power off the tee, but he does just that. The Chilean has averaged 301.5 yards per drive off the tee, ranking inside the top 60 on the PGA Tour in distance. This distance off the tee also translates well into advanced metrics, as the 21-year-old ranks 31st on Tour in SG: Off-the-Tee.
How is he able to pack such a punch with relatively little body mass to work with? It’s a combination of factors that contribute to this phenomenon, and Travis Fulton, the director of instruction for the PGA Tour Academy, recently helped break it down.
Niemann sets up with a strong grip with his left hand, meaning his left thumb is on the right side of the grip at address. This grip position makes it much easier to shut the clubface at impact. On his takeaway, he makes an aggressive turn away from the ball, losing flexion in the right knee to load up on his power.
From this position, he begins his transition and “sits down” into the ball, almost squatting as he club starts its way toward the ball. Then, he rapidly unloads all that energy he stored up in the backswing, as the club shallows out behind him on the downswing.
“He’s not launching,” Fulton says. “He’s not bumping where the lower goes (toward the target). He’s sitting it down. He’s rotating where it’s more of a gradual weight shift and then he just rotates and opens up.”
At impact, you can see Niemann’s shoulders and hips both open to the target, but the strong grip lets the clubhead easily close as it comes into the ball.
“Now you know what you do?” Fulton says. “You just turn and burn. You just open up.”
The result is a ball that explodes off the clubface. Niemann may be of slight figure, but there’s no question that he can send it.