Why walking—not riding—will actually help you hit longer drives

My favorite hour at Tuesday’s PGA Show Demo Day was spent watching the duo of Mark Blackburn and Lance Gill, who combined to give a talk called “Power Multipliers & Where to Find Them in Your Swing.” Most of the attendees were PGA professionals looking to add an edge to their own teaching, but one bit stuck with me particularly: The idea that walking will actually help you hit the ball farther.

Blackburn, a GOLF Top 100 Teacher and the Director of Instruction at Greystone Country Club, began the talk by asking the audience to get up on their feet for a demonstration. First, everyone put their weight all the way on their heels. “Jump!” Blackburn said. Nobody got very far off the ground. Then he had everyone put their weight forward — this time, from their toes and the balls of their feet, people jumped significantly higher (bear in mind that it’s all relative; it’s a rare PGA professional who can dunk a basketball, for instance).

His point was this: Where the pressure is on your foot matters immensely in generating force in your golf swing, particularly vertical force. From measuring junior golfers, Blackburn and Gill have found that some two-thirds of power comes from that vertical force.

That’s where Gill, a renowned fitness and performance coach, took over to explain where that power comes from (and why it’s limited). Many golfers can’t maximize their vertical power because they have weakness, tightness or inflexibility in their soleus, an important muscle in the calf. In other words, Phil Mickelson might be onto something: to hit bombs, you’re going to want to work on your calves.

Gill referenced one other muscle crucially important to creating vertical power, the anterior tibialus, which is located on the front of your shin. Most people on a golf course haven’t developed theirs properly, Gill said, with one notable exception: the caddies. Lugging heavy bags while walking mile after mile develops your anterior tibialus, which in turn allows for maximum dorsiflexion (flexing your toes towards your knee, basically).

Here’s where we come full circle, courtesy of Gill: “What this means is that you can hit it farther by doing something nobody does on golf courses anymore,” he said. “Walk! Walking drives dorsiflexion, which drives vertical power, which drives power.”

There you have it. Of course, I’d recommend getting the full version from Blackburn and Gill themselves, but if you were looking for one more reason to pass on the golf cart and hoof it around 18, remember: you might just get rewarded with some bombs off the tee.

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