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Longer Drives and How to Get Them

The 52nd Secret

Very often, the biggest factor preventing a person from obtaining maximum power is his psychological attitude. If this attitude is not a proper one, he puts an artificial limit on his distance. Since there is a good correlation between one's distance and one's over-all play, he thus also places an artificial limit on his scoring averages.

The first requirement for obtaining greater length is an understanding of the fact that very few golfers attain their maximum effective distance, and that it is not likely that the reader has. Some day we shall have a test that will indicate the maximum distance for each golfer, but until that time we must believe that there is a good bit of difference between how far we do hit and how far we could hit the ball.

The second requirement for greater length is an understanding of the theory of golfing power. The mechanics of generating power have been so well described in other sources that it would be inappropriate to deal with it in detail here. However, it is psychologically helpful if we understand the theory of the power swing.Power becomes cumulative in the correct golf swing—somewhat as it does in a four-stage rocket. In the rocket, the first speed is generated by the burning of the lower end of the rocket. When the rocket is making all the speed it can with this energy, the second stage adds its burst of speed. Then the third stage adds its power. Finally, the fourth stage (in the golf swing, the hands) capitalizes on all the other speeds and adds its own.
It is obvious that no single application of power can do the cumulative job of all four, and it is also obvious that if the stages of the rocket go off in the wrong order, speed must be lost. The part of psychology in this is rather small, but that small bit is important. You must have a proper image of how the power is theoretically applied before you can get out of yourself all that is within you. The greatest single cause of the loss of power is the lack of a proper image of golfing mechanics. "Hitting hard" is not enough. A small golfer who applies his power correctly can out-drive a larger one who does not.

The third requirement for distance is exercise of the will to hit. Many golfers do not obtain the distance they should because they do not hit the ball as hard as they can. Somewhere along the way they found a method of hitting the ball more squarely by hitting it easily. This produced the common golfing delusion that you can hit a ball just as far by hitting it easily as you can by hitting it hard. Those who have made this "discovery" or have picked it up on hearsay are convinced that they cannot hit it hard and squarely. They lose the will to hit hard. This becomes a habit, difficult to overcome.
One reason for the difficulty is that as soon as a "soft" hitter begins trying to use more power, he adds a variable and begins to miss the ball. To hit a ball easily and squarely is quite different from hitting it hard and squarely. The latter requires a completely new set of attitudes and learning habits. This re-learning produces a temporary slump which will cause many golfers to return to the "soft" hit. In fact, golfers who can hit a shot hard and straight will have difficulty hitting the same shot easily and straight. For power then, the golfer must exercise the will to hit and then learn how to apply it mechanically.

The fourth important requirement for distance is a proper image of how the ball should behave in flight. The best trajectory has an angle of 11 degrees. Many golfers go for years sacrificing distance because they accept a trajectory that varies greatly from this angle. Even worse, many become reconciled to a high cut shot, the greatest distance-killer known to man after the outright dub or shank.

The fifth requirement for those who have the innate power to hit the ball is an avoidance of the confusion of long individual drives with long average drives. A 250-yard drive on number 1 is effectively cancelled out by a hook into the woods on number 2. There can be so much concentration on the single long balls that one forgets the greater importance of longer average drives.
This form of self-destructiveness is caused by ego involvement. The long belter becomes emotionally attached to the "oh's" and "ah's" of his friends and is willing to sacrifice the pleasure of a good score for temporary admiration.

The sixth requirement for gaining distance is avoidance of the attempt to get distance with straightness in a piecemeal fashion. One golfer says, "First, I will learn to hit it straight and then I will hit it hard." A second golfer says, "First, I will learn to hit it hard, then I will learn to hit it straight." Of the two, the second is more apt to eventually wind up with a long straight shot. But even this method can be improved upon. A third golfer who concentrates from the beginning on the long and straight shot will come out soonest with the longest straight drive. This involves the psychological principle of learning by wholes rather than parts—a method which is generally advantageous.
Golfers who concentrate first on learning to hit hard or to hit straight are both in danger of having their game disintegrate when they try to put the two pieces together. This will occur because old tricks of timing will have to undergo readjustment.
The club will be moving faster or slower. Old muscles will be given new tasks. The whole natural feel is changed, arousing anxiety. This mental conflict is sufficient to demoralize learning. Slumps and discouragement generally follow, and the golfer tends to return to old inefficient ways, blocking long range improvement. Out of all this have grown the well known observations, "He hits it a mile, but you never can tell where it's going," and "He hits it straight, but he just won't hit the ball."

The seventh requirement for obtaining additional yardage is good tee-shot management. This is not open to most of us, since it is all that we can do to keep good drives in the fairway. It is a factor, however, with good players. Even with lesser golfers, the best spots for drives should be selected more or less in advance, so that the effective average drive will not be reduced by a poorly planned, though well executed, shot.

The eighth requirement for probable additional yardage is experimentation with club-head weight, club weight, length of shaft, and stiffness of shaft. No formal research has been done in this area that I know of. I have done some experimenting and have been able to lengthen my tee shot some twenty yards by the use of shafts which have varied from 46 to 50 inches, and which, peculiarly enough, have given me greater accuracy.
There is a shaft length and club weight which is just right for each individual golfer. This variation is much greater than it is generally considered to be. A slow but strong swinger, such as I am can get more leverage and hence greater speed with longer shafts. A very fast but weak swinger would be at the other extreme and could do better with shorter and lighter clubs.

The ninth requirement is a slower backswing. The disadvantage of the fast backswing is that it introduces additional variables. The faster the backswing, the greater is the force necessary to keep the swing stable. Newton's law of physics, that to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, gives us the explanation. The faster we swing back, the greater the force that is necessary to keep our golf position under control.
The slower backswing will increase distance in two ways: first, it will simplify getting the club head into the proper slot squarely; second, there is a certain amount of energy burned up in the fast backswing that should be used for hitting.

The tenth requirement for distance is a type of ball that suits one's swing. Not everyone can get maximum distance out of the high-pressure balls. Also for winter play, it is an advantage to use a ball-warmer. A ball travels best at 87 degrees. At 40-50 degrees, a ball will be appreciably shorter. Finally, there is an advantage in using a new ball, and one with a record of uniform compression. The advantage may be only a few yards per shot, but this advantage is multiplied by two on long holes.
The final requirement is sufficient driving practice to keep muscle tone at a good level. This does not require very many practice shots. It is the experience of most golfers that the tee shot requires the least amount of practice.