Swinging excessively hard is something every golfer has been guilty of at some point in their lifetime.
I’ve done it more times than I can count – when you load up and try to launch the ball that little bit farther and almost swing yourself off your feet, usually without the best results.
More often than not you’ll lose your balance and posture, but when it does click, and you middle one long and straight down the fairway, there’s no better feeling in the world.
Interestingly, there are some common misconceptions and ‘old wives tales’ surrounding how hard you should swing the club in order to hit the best possible golf shot.
We’ve all heard people say ‘the professionals only ever swing at 80 percent’, and we’ve all had a playing partner suggest slowing down your swing will help you to control the ball better.
On the other side of the argument are those who say that swinging close to your maximum, while remaining balanced, actually allows each part of your body – your legs, hips, shoulders and arms – to work in sync, resulting in better consistency and accuracy.
So, which is true? How hard should you really swing in golf?
In golf, you should swing as hard as you can without losing your balance and posture. The longer you can hit the ball off the tee, the easier scoring becomes as you’ll leave yourself less distance into the green. It is a common misconception that professional players aren’t swinging hard – most swing their driver at around 90 percent of their maxmium.
The biggest error amateur golfers make when trying to swing hard is thinking they must add speed from the top of the backswing by pulling down hard on the handle of the club – which usually leads to an over-the-top path and slice – rather than at the bottom of the arc, right before impact.
A great way to feel the correct sensation and generate maximum, controlled speed is by using a SKLZ Gold Flex Swing Trainer – which is a flexible training aid in the shape of a golf club that is weighted at the bottom, more so than a normal club.
Practicing with this cleverly designed device will help you develop the correct tempo, and train to swing harder and harder without losing your balance, which, when repeated often with translate to improved results on the course.
If you don’t wish to use the SKLZ Gold Flex Swing Trainer, holding two wedges together and swinging them in unison will provide a similar sensation (without being as effective, however).
So, why is it essential to swing the golf club hard? Why not just swing with less speed and try to steer the ball down the fairway?
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Do you have to swing hard to hit a golf ball far?
The short answer: yes. Faster swing speeds correlate to greater distances off the tee, so in order to hit your ball as far as possible down the fairway, you need to swing as hard as you can without losing your balance, posture or control of the club. You can’t hit the golf ball far with a slow swing.
That’s not to say your backswing can’t be slow – Japanese superstar and 2021 Masters winner Hideki Matsuyama has an incredibly slow backswing, and even a long pause at the top, however generates tremendous clubhead speed in the downswing that sees him hit the golf ball 300-plus yards regularly.
You have to swing hard – but ensure all the speed is happening at the bottom of your swing right before impact, rather than at the top – to generate the most distance off the tee.
And why is distance important?
Studies over the past 20 years show the farther an amateur golfer can drive the ball off the tee, the lower their handicap is likely to be.
In other words, if you want to shoot low scores and possibly even break par one day, you have to be able to hit the ball great distances.
Below is an excellent chart from the USGA’s ‘Distance Insights’ report which shows the average male driving distance, and correlating handicap, between 1996 and 2019:
It clearly shows that players who hit the ball farther are more likely to be a lower handicap than those who hit it shorter.
It is for this reason that swing speed, which translates into distance, is so important if you want to become a high-level player.
One of the big counter arguments of this theory is that swinging faster makes you less accurate, and that it’s better to be in the fairway and farther back from the green by swinging slower and more controlled, rather than letting rip and ending up stuck in the rough closer to the green.
But is that a substantiated claim? Let’s take a look.
Is it better to swing hard in golf?
Swinging hard in golf with a fast backswing and downswing, while using the correct balanced technique – including loading into the ground with your legs, and using rotational forces – will produce greater distance and, often accuracy, off the tee.
How do I know this? Well, YouTube golf professional Mark Crossfield put this exact theory to the test in an interesting case study published on his channel.
In the video, he and his golfing sidekick, Matt Lockey, tried two different swings – the first being their usual swing, and the second swinging as fast as possible in their backswing and downswing.
The data showed that taking the club back quicker in the backswing and downswing, as opposed to a slow takeaway and follow-through, led to increased distance off the tee with minimal change in accuracy – in Lockey’s case, his accuracy actually improved by swinging faster and he gained an extra eight miles an hour clubhead speed (translating to seven yarns of more distance).
You can check out their experiment in the video below:
What should my golf swing tempo be?
To master the correct swing tempo, you should count ‘one’ in your head as you take the club back, and then count ‘two’ in the downswing. Practicing this regularly at the range or on the course will help you produce a repeatable swing tempo, which will lead to greater consistency.
The worst thing you can do for swing tempo is to try and slow your backswing and downswing – which is usually the first thing amateur golfers will do if they’re struggling for accuracy off the tee.
As golf instructor Jim McLean explains:
People coming to my golf schools are actually trying to swing the club slower, (whereas) it’s exactly the opposite prescription for success. They’re doing it absolutely incorrectly. A slow swing produces short golf shots, and a slow tempo will kill you.
This further reiterates the point mentioned earlier that swinging fast will be better for you in the long run.
In another article I’ve written about What The Golf Swing Should Feel Like I talk about the importance of swing tempo, and offer two great drills that will help you perfect a fluent, rhythmic golf swing – I’d definitely recommend you check it out.
How do I stop swinging too hard in golf?
There is nothing wrong with swinging hard in golf as long as you stay balanced and in control of the club. For maximum clubhead speed, you must focus on maxing out your energy right at the bottom of your swing arc, rather than pulling down hard from the top of the backswing.
I realise I might be starting to sound like a broken record, but the idea that swinging the golf club hard is bad couldn’t be farther from the truth – and not aiming to increase your clubhead speed will likely see you struggle to improve your scoring.
Can your backswing be too slow in golf?
Yes, a backswing that is too slow in golf can negatively impact your clubhead speed, accuracy and swing tempo. While some PGA Tour players, like Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama, play great golf with a slow, considered backswing, for most amateurs this will lead to lost distance off the tee and, at times, less accuracy.
I’m someone who for a long time had a slow backswing, as I was so focused on getting the golf club into the ‘textbook’ positions during my takeaway – as a result, I struggled with rhythm and consistency, especially when hitting driver.
By focusing on quickening my backswing, I’ve found that I am less static over the ball at address and more relaxed, and have also improve my distance and accuracy.
How do I make my golf swing smoother?
One of the best drills for improving swing tempo and releasing tension in your golf swing is to count out loud, as this will help you develop a repeatable pre-shot routine that will help you perform under pressure. You should aim to complete your swing in the same number of seconds each time you address the ball, as this will develop a consistent tempo.
European Tour performance coach Iain Highfield says counting aloud in practice, and in your head when on the course, will lead to better ball-striking and results.
As he explains:
As humans, we’re negatively wired. We’re designed to figure out where the danger is, (and tell ourselves) ‘am I going to miss this shot’.
That brain is very active when we’re playing golf.
So, just by simply counting, you can calm that negative voice that’s in your mind and has kept you alive all these years, and you can hit good golf shots because you’re accessing your more fluid, repeatable swings rather than trying to avoid danger and forcing the club into different positions.
The other key to a smooth tempo is ensuring there is little to no tension in your arms, but also your face and jaw, when you swing the golf club.
When standing over the golf ball – while confronting a difficult shot – it’s natural for the body and arms to tense up, and many players will also clench their teeth together without realising.
All this extra tension makes it difficult to fluently swing the club, and more often than not will lead to a poor result.
As Highfield again explains:
Controlling jaw tension, and even just placing your mind’s focus on having a relaxed jaw and hands, can help you access your best golf swing, especially under stress and pressure.
You can see European Tour great Lee Westwood, when he hits, he has his tongue out and is controlling his jaw tension, and he’s one of the best iron players (in the world).
In my What The Golf Swing Should Feel Like article, I explain in more detail what the perfect swing tension should be, and I’d definitely recommend you give it a read.
You can hear more from Highfield about swing tempo and tension in the video below:
Swinging hard – without tension – is the key to maximising your distance, accuracy and consistency off the tee.
The key is to make sure you are generating the most speed at the bottom of your swing arc, rather than pulling down hard from the top of the golf swing.
Practicing this regularly will have you hitting it longer and straighter off the tee in no time.