Mar 5, 2015
By: Brady Riggs, PGA, Director of Instruction at Woodley Lakes G.C.
Developing champion golfers isn’t an exact science. Every young player comes with a set of strengths and weaknesses that is unique to them and must be evaluated. While all the elements of the game are important, it is my strong belief that power should be the primary focus when working with young players.
Having developed collegiate level players for a couple decades I have seen the game change from one of precision to power. While this is something that many of us have noticed empirically it has been proven with hard data from Shotlink and Mark Brodie’s book, Every Shot Counts. While the thinking and focus on power being a priority in instruction may be changing slowly, it has always been a huge indicator of success, especially on the highest levels. You don’t need to look any further than a couple guys named Jack and Tiger for proof.
The focus on producing speed over accuracy is at the heart of a larger philosophy of developing athletic players for the long term rather than worrying about short term results. Focusing on the elements of the swing that produce speed asks our young players to be stronger, more flexible and fit. In a nutshell, the goal is to develop athletes that have huge upsides rather than cookie cutter little robots that hit an artificial ceiling created by trying to avoid mistakes.
When power and speed is the priority, there may be some very errant shots hit in strange places along the way. Those who don’t understand the philosophy will advise these young players to swing slower or swing shorter to keep the ball in play. They will get pressured by their local, amateur know-it-all dispensing moronic tips on the range, high school Coaches who know more about wrestling than golf and parents convinced their scholarship to Stanford is on the line if they don’t win the 12-13 age division in a one day SCPGA event. Again, the focus should be on the future not the present.
To reach a player’s potential for speed I encourage a maxed out pivot going back to fill up the power tank. This will produce long backswings that go past parallel and draw the ire of those who think for some reason this is a bad thing. Once they have filled the tank the goal is to accelerate through the proper sequence and throw on the brakes as hard as possible. In the ultimate of ironies, the swing that contains these elements is not only extremely powerful, it’s unbelievably accurate. Staying committed to long term results is most definitely the path less traveled, but the benefits are amazing.
Pictured bellow is a sequence of the 2015 Byron Nelson Award winner and two time NCAA All-American from Cal Berkeley Brandon Hagy. A student of mine for over a decade, Brandon led the AT&T at Pebble Beach in all power categories this year making his first cut on the PGA Tour. His 128.5mph clubhead speed, 190.38 ball speed and 314.3 carry distance were all the strongest recorded on Tour this season despite his 5’11”, 170lbs frame.
Brady Riggs is Director of Instruction at Woodley Lakes GC in Van Nuys, CA. He has been one of Golf Magazines Top 100 Teachers since 2007 and is an Adjunct Faculty Member in Teaching for the PGA of America.