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January 27 2013

9:00 AM

On the Mark: Driving for power

By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM

The PGA TOUR has descended upon the picturesque cliffs of La Jolla and the Torrey Pines North and South Courses for the Farmers Insurance Open. Both tracks are specatular but the South Course is both Beauty and the Beast. At 7,668 yards, it was the longest course on the PGA TOUR in 2012 and with the wet conditions at sea level, the 2008 U.S. Open venue posed a challenging examination for the TOUR’s best.

Tiger Woods was a masterclass through the first two rounds.  He shot 68-65 to take a two-stroke lead. Statistically, he was also superior but where he truly separated himself from the field was off the tee with the driver in his hand. Woods hit 19 of 28 fairways, which ranked fourth in the field in driving accuracy. More impressively, not only was he accurate, he was also powerful, averaging 318.5 yards off the tee, which led the field in driving distance. With the Torrey Pines South Course playing its entire yardage, his ability to hit the ball long and straight off the tee certainly put him in the proverbial driver’s seat.

Now to drive the ball a long way, one needs a good helping of athletic ability and talent. Certainly Tiger is a rare breed. That said, every club golfer can employ my Power ABC’s to gain a few more yards off the tee:

Ascending strike: A sure-fire way to give up power is to create too much backspin on the ball. Think of the ball as an airplane with backspin acting as the flaps. No matter how much thrust the plane had, if the flaps were engaged the plane would continue to climb to a point where it would cease any forward travelling and the engine would stall. The golf ball performs in exactly the same fashion. To maximize power and forward force you must strike the ball with a squaring clubface on the ascending portion of the swing. A quick tip to promote an ascending blow is to address the ball with your spine tilted slightly away from the target and your lead shoulder slightly higher than your trail shoulder. From there, make a swing and strive to retain that slight tilt through impact.

Ball position: Alongside the slightly angled spine angle, the correct ball position will certainly encourage a slightly ascending and accelerating strike. At address, position the ball over the instep of your lead foot. If you are going to err, I would rather have the ball farther forward than back.

Coil: Remember that power is force and force is equal to mass multiplied by acceleration. To deliver more force, ensure first that you wind up correctly. Too many golfers make the mistake of just turning their body in the backswing instead of winding up and thereby creating an environment from which torque and force can be delivered. To coil up properly in the backswing, widen the stance slightly so that the insteps of the feet are about shoulder-width apart. Then retain the angle of the trail leg and knee, as set up at address, as you swing back and rotate your shoulders against that stable base. You will get the sense for how your upper body rotates against the resistance of the lower body creating a lot of torque -- torque you can parlay into force.

Mark Immelman, the brother of PGA TOUR professional Trevor Immelman, is a well-respected golf instructor and head coach of the Columbus State University (Ga.) golf team. For more information about Mark and his instruction, visit his web site, markimmelman.com or follow him on Twitter @mark_immelman or “Like” Mark Immelman Golf Instruction on Facebook. He also has a golf instruction e-book called “Consistently Straight Shots – The Simple Solution” available on iTunes/iBooks.

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