Relax into your backswing to increase distance

Take this quick mental quiz: how many times have you tried to get more distance on your shot by swinging hard at the ball? What about the gym: how much time do you spend strengthening so-called “golf muscles” and stretching?

Swinging hard ensures predictable results: Mis-hits that either fall short, or launch far into the woods or out of bounds. But wait, you’re thinking — if I build strength shouldn’t that make me hit the ball farther?

Intuitive as it may seem, getting stronger and more flexible do not by themselves result in hitting farther. That’s because distance in golf, like fast times in rowing or sprinting, relies less on strength and more on the ability to execute proper movements in a particular sequence. And the only way to achieve the distance holy grail, is to relax!

Watch players like Justin Thomas, all 5’7” 146 pounds of him, or Rory McIlroy, who tips the scales at an unremarkable 5’9”, 165 pounds, bomb 350-yard drives, and you’ll quickly understand there is more to distance than brute strength.

Long shots result from fast clubhead speeds. The only way to achieve high clubhead speed is to relax, because. nothing kills speed like tension.

In other sports, the fastest athletes and the ones who throw and drive the farthest, are often not the strongest among their peers – that is if you measure strength by slow heavy movements like the bench press or dead lift. What we’re really talking about, is power (we’re going back to high school physics here). Power is the ability to apply force at speed. And speed can only happen when an athlete relaxes.

Power = Force x Velocity


Moving with ease into your coil prevents extraneous muscles from diverting energy from that energy’s intended purpose. Relaxation frees your body to coordinate the muscles needed to produce speed. When you transition from backswing to downswing fluidly and free of tension, you’ll produce more speed because you’ll get a plyometric boost in power.

Next time you set up for a drive, or any shot, forget about strength. Instead, visualize how you’ll flow rhythmically through the swing, without tension or exertion.

Focus on these three core principles separately, keep practicing, and you’ll notice how it starts to come together:

  1. Focus awareness on your grip pressure. Keeping tension out of your swing starts with how you hold on to the club. Sam Snead used to say, “Hold the club as if you’re holding a baby bird in your hands.” What a great image to keep in mind, not just as you’re preparing to swing but throughout the entire swing!
  2. Pay attention to your breathing. We tend to hold our breath or take overly deep or shallow breaths when we’re preparing to exert maximum effort. This ramps up tension. Breathe in slowly and exhale evenly. One well-known instructor advises students to hum during their swing and keep the pitch constant.
  3. Find your tempo: Draw the club back fluidly and transition to your downswing with the feeling you’re slowly building energy. The muscles you need will engage when you need them without interference from the ones that rob you of speed and send the ball off course. It’s called a swing – not a hit, or a pound, or a crush.

Some of your shots may fall short at first because you haven’t coordinated this effortless sensation yet. Stick with it and you’ll quickly learn to drive the ball farther and with much more precision than you ever could through “mashing” the ball.

We’d love to hear how these tips work for you. Send us a message.


By Jeremiah Dees and John Venturino

Jeremiah Dees has a passion for improving movement literacy in the world. He enjoys helping golfers achieve better scores by tuning and refining their movement. He draws expertise from a broad background that includes elite athletics, a formal education in human bio-dynamics and 17 years of coaching experience.


John Venturino is a certified volunteer golf instructor for The First Tee of Contra Costa. He is a lifelong student of the game and a successful amateur scratch-play competitor. He is passionate about teaching players of all ages and abilities how to enjoy the game more and shoot lower scores along the way.