High price of power: Driving for show can be misguided

So you think you hit the ball a long way?

When everyone else in your group is hitting a wood on that long par-3, you’ve got a 4-iron in your hands. And you can get there with it.

When you’re playing in a scramble, you always hit last because your drive has the best chance to dramatically shorten the hole.

When you’ve hit your best Sunday punch of a drive, it’s 50 yards ahead of anyone else in the group.

And it feels good.

All right then! Got that out of your system? Because if you’re not twenty-something anymore and your swing speed, while still impressive, isn’t what it used to be, you don’t hit the ball that far.

More importantly, you don’t hit it that hard.

I got another lesson in that basic piece of physics last weekend when I was paired with a couple of young bucks who recently played for a big-time college baseball program.

It was obvious from the start, on the first tee, that they’re a cut above. Their arms and legs are taut and robust. They wanted to play the back tees, which we agreed to because it’s a shorter course. And then I watched them swing the golf club.

Hoo boy! There are people who swing hard, and then there are violent swings. If you’ve seen Bryson DeChambeau hit a drive lately, you know what that looks like. These two guys swing so hard, you don’t just expect their shoelaces to come untied – you expect their shoes to sail off.

On hole after hole, it became like sport. I still can track the ball well, but I had to pour extra concentration into watching their drives. I’ve never seen anyone consistently hit drives so high. The tee became a launching pad, and they were the boosters.

What made it even more interesting is that the course we were playing is hilly, with some dramatically elevated tees. On one hole, it seemed as if their drives both were in the air for about a minute.

I became a fan. I told them of how in my younger days I came to be known as Kong for my ability to move a golf ball but that Kong had nothing on these monster drives. At the end of the day, I told them how much I had enjoyed it.

But I also enjoyed the lesson I got from it.

You see, for all their power, I’ll bet their score would have been somewhere around 100 if they had been playing the out-of-bounds rule properly. At least one of them was out of play on just about every hole.

They rued the fact that they still use a baseball grip and treat golf like our national pastime. In baseball, you’re taught to swing hard – under control, but hard.

As most of us know, that doesn’t work in our great game. Yes, you occasionally can get away with it if you load up and put extra oomph into a drive, but that usually is going to work against you.

These guys weren’t just trying to smoke the driver; they were trying to send every shot outside 150 yards into orbit. It was entertaining when it worked, but it was disastrous when it didn’t.

And then there was the short game. That was an even bigger problem on several occasions. It’s a course with some severely undulating greens, and anything coming down the hill required a deft touch. Several of their downhill chips and putts steamrolled past the flagstick and well off the green.

I hope those guys keep playing golf. I hope they learn to love the game as much as the rest of us do – they certainly seemed to have a good time despite all the lost balls. I hope they switch to the proper grip.

What I hope most of all is that they learn the right way to put on a show on the golf course. They’re blessed with incredible strength and have good swings. Properly harnessed, that’s an incredible weapon.

But as most of us know, it’s a weapon that blows up in your face if you don’t get it under control. We’ve learned the hard way that swinging too hard just makes the game harder – and leaves you a long way from being an effective player.

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