Lee Brandon is one of the longest hitters of a golf ball in the women’s game – a former world champion who has some outspoken views on how best to strike it long and straight.
With the traditional start of the season upon us – the US Masters week starts at Augusta National– we asked Lee, a certified strength and conditioning specialist based in California, for some inside tips on how to get the most from your driver…
Grip, ball position, posture, lining up are the key fundamentals to striking a golf balls. Tell us how you do it?
It all starts with taking aim at a specific landing target in the distance; aiming in the general direction isn’t good enough. Pick a spot in the distance and keep it in view. I always do my mental preparation before any physical action is taken.
Then get your sense of a grip. If I were to hold a hammer to drive a nail into a board…this is my grip of choice. I make a pre-shot swing to make a swoosh of air through where the ball would be ensure my timing’s right.
I tend to keep the ball forward in my stance to ensure a full weight transfer through the ball in an athletic movement. The shafts of my driver are 47- 50 inches long, so I need to get a lot of weight transfer while keeping my head behind the ball at impact.
Another one of my power secrets is in strong forearms. Turning my right hand over the top at impact allows me a "flush hit" and more roll.
Posture and power always go together. Your torso muscles act like suspension wires on a bridge. Under severe rotational torque in a golf swing, the muscles have to be firing in a co-ordinated, contracted, but not restrictive way . There’s a fine line between the generation of power and flexibility.
Over stretching might set up your back up for injury so be careful to find an expert coach. A car with sloppy shock absorbers can’t hold a tight curve. A spine with too much flexibility can injure you in a high velocity swing.
Training your postural muscles to be firing during a golf swing allows the hands and arms to whip, while the core (lower back, mid back and lower portion of the abdominals) stay connected to your legs.
Without going in to too much detail about the technology of the take-away, the top of the backswing and the downswing, give us a few simple swing thoughts that work for you.
Being a blond, keeping it simple works for me! Seriously though I think of sweeping the club away low to ensure lots of width when I reach the top of the backswing.
My hands merely fall from the top on my downswing and my only thought is to be behind the ball and balanced down the line.
I am currently experimenting with not stopping with the shaft parallel to the ground in my backswing but holding my wrists in a cocked position for as long as possible. If I can hold the wrist angle longer it will hopefully improve my timing and my distances.
What do you think about when you want to crush it, say 20 yards further?
I just want to concentrate on flushing the ball. My best shots are obviously when I can strike the ball out of the centre of the face.
If I think about swinging the club faster or trying to hit the ball harder, that tends to be counter-productive for me.
How important are the grips on your shafts and the grips on your shoes?
I like to have a sticky grip on the shaft and always travel with three sets of spikes for my shoes depending on the conditions. My footing is essential for me because I use the edges of my shoes for additional support.
What are the specifications of your driver?
My driver of choice is the Nike 400 cc driver. I have eight and nine degree versions with an XX and XXX stiff shaft.
How important is a pre-round warm up? What would you recommend for the average golfer?
Just as I would never accelerate my car hard when it’s cold, likewise I firmly believe that a gentle range of movements are essential in a good warm up.
I keep a small rubber tube training device called the Flexi-Club in my bag to do shoulder, chest and back exercises to warm up all the tissues around the shoulder, spine and neck. these will be for sale in the next few months with a simple fun video at www.LeeBrandonInc.com
External rotation of the shoulders is essential before unleashing the first drive. I also stand tall in a neutral position (head, neck and lower back are neither in flexion or extension) and I hold the tubing in front of me (palms up, chest out, tummy in) with elbows bent at right angles, imagining I’m gripping a coin under each armpit.
I imagine I'm squeezing a pencil between my shoulder blades and pull the tube tight across my belly button and hold it for 3-4 seconds. I do this ten times.
I bring my ears back in line with my shoulders. This doesn’t always feel comfortable but it’s a good exercise for posture because all the bone structures in your body line-up.
Golf is a game where a one-sided action is repeated and a rounded posture which looks as if the spine had been moulded in a hammock, will not produce long drives.
Swing arcs tend to get shorter because of bad posture.
Can you suggest a few more exercises?
With my driver I’ll start with a 50% swing to my non-dominant side. I’m a right-handed golfer, so I’ll swing like a lefty 10 times. This way I warm up my spine and shoulders symmetrically.
Then I move the dominant side and do 10 swings to match.
As a mental exercise I find my diaphramatic deep-breathing muscles. I do slow deep breaths while seeing my target and the shape of my preferred ball flight. Only then will I step up, take aim and trust the work I've done in the gym and on the range!
While we’re not actually warming up at the course, is there a way we can work to build up the right muscles and keep subtle, while sitting at a desk for instance?
One simple thing I do is focus on drawing my abdomen in, while sitting, standing, driving, or even shopping. This wakes up the key muscles that stabilise the spine. I always remember to do this in a pure neatrual posture by standing tall.
It may sound strange, but much new research shows that holding neutral, and good posture all day long, and using everyday chores and work as resistance to the spine develops strength endurance to the torso area and helps avoid overuse to the spine.
Pictures courtesy of Sports Illustrated.
Article first published April 2003, updated April 2013.