Measuring progress for #Chasing350

There have been a number of articles in the last two weeks about various pros working to increase their ball speed and thus their distance. Rory McIlroy, already one of the best drivers, if not the best, on tour is working on improving his distance. My favorite bit from this article is:

“Bryson, when he speed-trains, he just hits the ball into a net, so he doesn’t really know where it’s going,” McIlroy continued. “He’s just trying to move as fast as he can … and sort of making the target irrelevant for the time being and then you can sort of try to bring it in from there. From what I’ve done and what I’ve been trying – you know, sort of experimenting with the last couple weeks – it’s the fastest I’ve ever moved the club, the fastest my body has ever moved.”

This resonates as it is what I do. At least one, of the ways I practice. I have a nice little practice area in the backyard where I can hit balls into a net in front of a strip of woodlands below the interstate. With a SuperSpeed Swing Radar and I can gauge swing speed and Dr. Scholl’s foot powder spray I can check ball contact. After all, it doesn’t matter how fast as I swing if I don’t make good contact. This allows me to practice in between trips to my local range and the golf course.

At the range near my house, the fence is at 250 yards and I think 75 feet tall. The balls are not only range balls, made to reduce distance by 30%, but they are so old, they are almost smooth. Many of these balls I suspect I have hit multiple times over the last 20 years. Generally, when I am going all out, I can either get the ball to drop close enough to hit the net or maybe catch the lowest 10 feet of net. My goal is, of course, to clear the net, or least hit it high enough that I can expect another 10 or 20 yards of ball flight (carry distance). Based on the chart in this article, it looks like I need to hit the net about 30 feet off the ground to pick up 17 yards of carry, translating to about 267 yards or so of carry. Ultimately my goal is 330 yards of carry, which suggests that I need to be well over the net and still climbing … over the trees and into the houses behind. This would be bad.

The good news is this. If I pull out a formerly lost ball that I had picked up while playing that is in good shape, I can hit much higher on the net, but it is still at a descending trajectory.

I’ve got a ways to go.

I have switched to a longer shaft. My driver is now at the max of 48 inches, with an extra stiff shaft. I am able to average about 116 mph on my little radar, so my clubhead speed is up about 5ph. Occasionally I top out over 120mph and rarely, 135 or 136 mph – which is about where I need to be to hit a 350 yard drive. The only problem, well there are two, is that the radar is probably only about 95% accurate and likely overstates my speed, and second, there is a big difference between swinging all out on the range (or in the backyard) and doing it on the course. My plan is take radar to the course and check my on-course speeds every few rounds.

Finally, I have another good indicator of speed improvement. A couple months ago I was practicing in the yard and saw the ball disappear into the woods. “what the hell? ” I figured I hit a worm-burner, but that didn’t seem possible since the tee box is a good foot above the bottom edge of the net, which hangs loosely. A few balls later, it happened again, only I saw the ball in trees and it was not worm-killing ground ball. The this happened:

This ball had a slice in the cover that got caught in the netting. So I am occasionally managing to hit through a commercial quality golf net, 10 feet in front of me. I can’t do it all the time. But occasionally. Today, I did it twice with a three-wood, and then with the driver. So, progress.

Be nice. It won't hurt either of us.

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