With the weekend warrior in mind we created Bump and Run, a weekly Q&A with some of the game's top instructors. Each Friday, a teaching professional will occupy this space and answer questions directed toward improving your game. This week it's Mike Malaska, worldwide director of instruction for the Nicklaus Academies and one of Golf Digest's America's 50 Greatest Teachers.
Director of Instruction, Superstition Mountain G&CC, Superstition Mountain, AZ; Worldwide Director of Instruction, Nicklaus Academies
- Golf Digest's 50 Greatest Teachers
- Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers
- 1996 Utah PGA Section Teacher of the Year
Notable Students (past and present): Tom Lehman, Phil Blackmar, Fred Funk, Bruce Summerhays, Don Pooley
Malaska, a former All-American at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, competed in the 1982 and 1986 U.S. Opens, and was a regular on the mini-tours. He came within one shot of qualifying for both the PGA and Champions Tours, but never did earn his card.
Considered one of the pioneers in golf-specific conditioning and fitness, Malaska competed in several long drive contests during college. Today, he still boasts a clubhead speed of 112-114 miles per hour and a ball speed of 167-170 mph, considered above average for someone on the Champions Tour.
'It doesn't take a lot of clubhead speed to hit the ball far if you have the maximum smash factor,' said Malaska, who's on the advisory staff for TaylorMade-adidas Golf. 'Whatever your clubhead speed is with the driver, your ball speed should be 1-1/2 times that off the clubface. If you take a look at the clubhead and ball speeds of most amateurs, their clubhead speed might be 100 mph but their ball speed is 135 or 140 mph, not 150, which means they haven't learned how to square the clubface on the ball correctly.'
To submit a question to Malaska or one of our teachers, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and check back every Friday to see if your question got answered.
So how does one generate a maximum smash factor of 1.5?
It’s a combination of using all the levers in your swing (hands, arms, wrists, club) efficiently, which maximizes clubhead speed, and how the clubface runs into the ball. You have to learn to square the face and have it delofted through impact. You don't want to be adding loft to the face. As the clubhead travels through the ball the toe is turning over and passing the heel, so the face is shutting down, delofting the club.
The angle you're hitting up on the ball is about 2 degrees, so if you have a 10-degree driver you should have 12 degrees of launch angle. Most amateurs, if they have a 10-degree driver, have a clubface with 13 or 14 degrees of loft on it at impact, because they’re sliding the bottom of the clubhead under the ball a little. The ball doesn’t compress on the face, and that’s why their ball speed doesn’t match their clubhead speed.
What kind of distance can one expect if they do max out their smash factor?
If someone has a clubhead speed of 100 mph, they should have 150 mph of ball speed with the driver. Launch it at the right angle with the right spin and it’ll carry about 260-265 yards. If their ball speed isn’t 1.5 times their clubhead speed, then they don’t need more speed, they need to control the speed they already have and they’ll pick up anywhere from five to 20 yards of distance.Do you have a power tip for those golfers who hit the ball fairly straight, but struggle to get any distance off the tee?
There are a number of speed producers in the golf swing, the primary one being your hands, arms, wrists and club, being able to use these levers to create maximum speed. When you make your backswing, see that there's a 90-degree angle to your left arm and the club shaft when your left arm is parallel to the ground (about waist height). On the follow-through side, your right arm and the shaft should be back to that 90-degree angle, so that you've gone from an 'L' on one side to an 'L' on the other.
The clubhead doesn't have to travel a huge amount of distance because neither the club nor your hands are moving all that much.
Conversely, do you have a tip for those golfers who can hit the ball a mile, but struggle to keep it in play?
One of the best drills you can do is to set up to a ball, make a full swing and see if you can hit the ball 100 yards; try and hit the ball in the center of the clubface. Gradually increase your clubhead speed at the bottom of your swing, where the ball is. Don’t change your speed on the backswing or at the change of direction. When you get to the point where you can’t add any more speed, that’s as far as you go. If you go any harder, you’re not going to be able to control your ball.
Any advice for the weekend warrior? Something that may help them drop a shot or two during their Saturday or Sunday round?
The rotation of your left arm is what stabilizes and squares the clubface. The left forearm rotates and the left elbow folds; the left arm does not pull away from your side. Feel as if your left arm and forearm start to rotate from your shoulder socket almost immediately at the start of the downswing. It’s a gradual and continual rotation all the way into the follow-through, which keeps the left arm against your chest.
Moving off the subject of driving, one of our readers wants to know what you can do if you have trouble seeing the break on the green? Any green reading tips for this?
Take a step back, crouch down, and look at the horizon. See if you can find something flat, like the roofline on a house, or some water. Look down from that roofline and glance at the green and you should see the break because you have a reference to something that is level (the roofline). Most of the guys on Tour look off into the horizon and then look down to the green, so it’s easier to pick out the break. If you just stare down at the green, at your feet, you have no reference to the break.
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