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Tue, Jan. 21

Gunby: The quest for distance
Tee it Up

May I be frank with you? Or Wayne, or Chuck, or Roger? Seriously, we all have an ego. You would love to hit that little golf ball farther than you do. Admit it – you want more distance, as you think it will help you lower your score.

I’m with you! But I have to accept some facts. I am older than I used to be (shocking, huh?). And I am not in the same physical condition I was when I was younger (another shocker). And my reflexes aren’t as good, either (duh!). Do you get where I am coming from?

When I was a kid, I was taught to swing “nice ‘n easy” by my Dad. Too bad I learned this method very well as evidenced by my, slower-than-I-would-like-to-have, current swing speed. But luckily, I can still hit a lot of shots in the center of the clubface. Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, as juniors, were taught to hit it hard and figure out the direction later, which equated in real fast swing speeds. Many of my contemporaries were taught that same way and still out-drive me considerably.

Let’s discuss distance. For the most part, distance is determined by two things: the clubhead speed at contact; and the solidness of contact (centeredness on the clubface). By far, the most important of these two factors is the centeredness of contact.

In learning the golf swing, it is very beneficial to learn the proper fundamentals by doing Thai-Chi (very slow, methodical) swings. But once the proper fundamentals are learned and incorporated as habits, you must start figuring out how to increase your swing speed while still optimizing your centeredness of contact.

“How can I increase my distance” you ask? First, learn how to hit the center of the clubface. Once you have habituated your fundamentally sound golf swing, get professionally fitted for the correct golf club specifications for your swing.

After that, you can experiment with your golf swing and awareness to optimize your distance. We don’t have the space or time to discuss all the variables you can experiment with. Your PGA Golf Coach can assist you though and together, discover what works for you.

You should be able to fairly assess whether you have hit the ball in the center of the clubface, just by feel. Using impact tape or just drawing a dot with a Magic Marker on the back of a practice ball and hitting it, will give you a little more accurate feedback.

There are a few things that can help you measure your swing speed. Most of us cannot afford a “Trackman”, so forget that. A “Speed Stick”, a “Swing Speed Radar”, and a “Swing Caddie” are some tools I use that are efficient and cost-effective. I particularly like the “Swing Caddie” as it measures your clubhead speed and smash factor (ball speed divided by clubhead speed), which is a good indicator of the centeredness of contact. It also estimates the carry distance.

Sometimes we must suck it up and accept our limitations. It is tough to do, especially if you still have a good memory. Leave your ego at home. Use alternate tee boxes to shorten the length of the course you play instead of trying to play from the same distance you used to play from 40 years ago.

Let’s use Byron Nelson as an example. In his later years, he was paired with three younger men who teed off from the back tees. After they had teed off, Mr. Nelson got in his golf cart and started to drive away. Somewhat befuddled, these men said, “Mr. Nelson, we thought you were going to play golf with us?” Mr. Nelson replied, “Yes, I am, but I am going to tee off from the 150-yard marker. I am out here to make pars and birdies.”

John Gunby Sr. is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at

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