I have gone from being able to bomb the ball, to watching my swing speed dip to under one hundred miles an hour. Three years ago, a good swing with the driver was still 105 miles per hour; slower than it was when I was thirty, but still fast enough to get the ball out there a respectable distance. I could still manage to play from the tips on any course I encountered. I might not have always wanted to play from the back tees, but at least I could do so if my playing partners were so inclined. I guess I still do venture back to the tips if I'm with some flat-bellies. But I usually end up wearing out my fairway woods and struggle to make some long carries. I can still manage for the most part, and, when I no longer can, I'll just move up a tee box or two.
Several years ago, I was playing in Myrtle Beach during the winter and found myself pretty much the only one on the course at Farmstead. It was cold and miserable, so only Canadians and guys from Wisconsin were out there. Being alone and having no one to push me, despite the cold, I decided to play one ball from the back tees and one from the regular men's tees. I think the back tees were about 6900 and the regular ones about 6300. At the end of the round I had shot the same score from both tees. It was actually a pretty decent score, but the point wasn't the score. The point was that the extra yardage was not really a significant factor. It just meant I was coming into the green with a longer club on the back tee ball.
I think most golfers are too inclined to think that distance is more important than it really is. Golfers spend more time trying for more distance, when it's accuracy that really counts. I was talking to Steve this morning and he told me that he played the other day using the nine o'clock swing that we had worked on the last time we played. He was even par on the front and four over on the back in cold weather. By gearing back on his swing and thinking of swinging it back to nine o'clock--in fact he actually takes it more to ten o'clock or 1030--he was hitting the ball just as far, but with more control. His concern was, can he keep doing it and not go back to over-swinging.
More shots are ruined by trying to hit it hard, or trying to get the maximum out of a seven iron when you could just hit an easy six. Sam Snead was a big proponent of swinging easy. He was convinced that he actually hit the ball better, and farther, swinging at what felt like 85 percent. I'm sure he was right. My best golf is always played when I take lots of club and feel like I'm just patty-caking it.
I was at GolfTown a couple of weeks ago testing four woods. In my current set I go from a 15 degree three wood to a 22 degree fairway wood, and I was wondering whether I should add something about 18 degrees. My back was out, and I probably shouldn't have been hitting balls, but I was hitting them anyway. My swing speed was coming up on the monitor at somewhere around 83 miles an hour, and I was only carrying the ball about 190 yards. Needless to say, this didn't inspire me to want to buy a new four wood. In fact, it made me want to take up shuffleboard.
At any rate, I decided to just patty-cake a few shots, letting the club do the work, and my swing speed immediately increased six miles per hour. I had the proof right there. A swing that felt like about fifty percent actually produced more swing speed. I definitely do hit it better when I patty-cake it. Given the state of my back, I'm almost certainly never going to swing at 105 miles an hour again. But, if I just swing easy, I can at least maximize what speed I still have.
The obvious question is, why don't I just patty-cake it all the time? The answer is also obvious in my case. For me, it's just plain hard to swing easy.