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Smart Golf



We all crave more power, especially off the tee. But how to get it?There's no magic pill that can transform a mortally average golfer into a Tiger Woods or a John Daly. If you want to add ten or twenty yards to your drives, you've got to put in a little work. Eden Foster, a Golf magazine top-100 pro based at the Maidstone Club in East Hampton, New York, and at Calusa Pines Golf Club in Naples, Florida, offers a simple exercise regimen that you can squeeze in at odd times throughout the day to make your swing more powerful and give you more distance.

Perhaps the best thing about Foster's approach to adding power is that you don't have to hit the gym. As he points out, Ben Hogan, one of the most powerful ball strikers in the history of the game, never lifted barbells. Until late in their careers, neither did hockey star Mario Lemieux or tennis great Pete Sampras, both of whom also happen to be long-knocking golf nuts.

"Hogan, Lemieux and Sampras all gained power by practicing their sports over and over again," says Foster. "Lemieux shot hundreds of pucks in practice, and Sampras hit hundreds of tennis balls. Hogan built up his massive forearms by hitting a thousand golf balls every day."

In golf (as in most other sports), power is based largely on a combination of strength and flexibility, but swing technique also plays a major part. According to Foster, most amateur golfers are overly concerned with lengthening their swings so they can get the shaft of the club parallel to the ground at the top of their backswings. But very few have the flexibility or range of motion to get the shaft to parallel while still maintaining proper posture and swing plane. What's more, the whole notion that a longer swing is the secret to increasing power is somewhat misplaced.

"Longer isn't better—wider is better," Foster says. "Power is a direct result of keeping your swing wide on your backswing and downswing to increase the momentum of the club coming through the impact zone. Ernie Els is hitting the ball farther than ever, and his swing has actually gotten a little shorter than it was a few years ago. Els never gets the club all the way to parallel anymore. Neither does Tiger."

Foster offers a quick way to test the present state of your power and gauge your individual need for improvement: After you've warmed up on the practice range with some short- and middle-iron shots, pull out your driver and try to swing it back and through at full speed thirty times in a row without stopping. If you can't complete thirty nonstop swings, or if you find yourself worn out by the end, you'll benefit from some strength and flexibility exercises.

You can dramatically increase your strength and flexibility by exercising just a few times a day for a couple of minutes at a time. You don't have to live in the weight room or buy a lot of expensive equipment, and you don't have to hit a thousand balls a week, much less a thousand a day like Hogan did. All you need is a standard broom that can be found at a hardware store for about eight dollars and enough room to swing it.

For fast and injury-free progress in increasing power, start by trying to squeeze in this five-drill series three times a week. It's best to do the drills either after you play or on days you're not playing. It's fine to make six or ten broom swings as a warm-up aid, but if you do the full series right before you hit the course, you'll probably feel a little sore throughout the round.

Calusa Pines Golf Club, Naples, FL; 239-348-2220
Maidstone Club, East Hampton, NY; 631-324-5530
Individual lesson: $100 per hour

Start by finding a broom with a handle about equal in circumference to a thick golf grip. Saw off the handle so that the length of the broom is the same as the length of your driver when you prop the broom on its bristles as if you're addressing a tee shot. The bristles of the broom provide much the same kind of resistance as the blades on those plastic-fan swing-training devices, which work just as well for these exercises.

Swing the broom back and forth ten times at what Foster calls "smooth speed"—slower than your full-speed swing but slightly faster than a slow-motion swing. This will help prepare you for the exercises to come.

Place the broom handle behind your neck and shoulders and drape an arm over each end. Turn your body to the right as you would when making your normal backswing and hold the stretch for a count of ten. Now turn to the left, to your normal follow-through position, and again hold for a count of ten. Repeat the drill three times in each direction. This exercise will increase your range of motion and help you create a wider golf swing.

Hold the broom handle in front of you, parallel to the ground. Bend over from the waist, keeping both legs straight, and try to touch the broom handle to your toes for a count of ten. This drill will stretch both your back muscles, which help provide power in your swing, and your hamstring muscles, which support the posture and stance that allow you to deliver power to the ball with the club on the proper plane. Repeat the drill four times.

Feel free to add any other exercises you know for stretching your back, shoulders and hamstrings. You're going to want to feel warmed up and limber for the final power drill.

Swing the broom to the top of a backswing position that leaves the shaft just short of parallel to the ground and come to a complete stop. Now try to push the club as far away from your body as possible, feeling a full stretch in your left shoulder and the left side of your upper back. Hold the position for a count of ten, making sure to keep your weight over your right knee, and keep your right knee flexed. If you straighten it, as many average golfers do, you'll lose the lower-body resistance and coil that are essential to power. Hold the stretch for a count of ten, then lower the broom. Repeat four times.

Swing the broom back and through almost as hard and fast as you can without stopping. Try to make at least five swings in a row. If you're up to it, swing the broom ten times, twenty times or more. When you start to feel a burning sensation in your forearms, that's the warning signal that it's time to quit—at least for now. Every golfer will have a different initial level of strength, flexibility and tolerance for this drill. You can gradually increase the number of swings you make over time as the warning-signal burn in your forearms permits. You may also repeat the backswing-width drill after completing the full-speed-swing drill to further enhance your flexibility.


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