By Brian O’Neill, PGA, Director of Instruction – Jack Nicklaus Academy of Golf Orlando
The joy that juniors bring to the game is beyond infectious, and as a coach, it is what motivates me to continue growing as an instructor. Over the years the one subject that has stayed at the top of every parent and juniors list is the search for more distance off the tee. The game of golf has become a power game at every level so I can’t blame them for that.
Having coached juniors of varying ages has helped me get better acquainted with the typical characteristics of growing kids and athletes. The body develops at different times for every young player and so getting direction on what should be the priority for your junior is critical. Young golfers will use every inch of their body in conjunction with the ground to create speed to help them hit the ball as far as possible. Why? Because that is what they see in most adult golf swings especially those on the professional tours. Kids will correctly use this combined effort of their body and the ground instinctively. But the one MISSING LINK to greater distance is their ANGLE OF ATTACK.
One of these key factors that we focus on is “What is your angle of attack?” Most junior golfers hit down with their drivers because the sequence of the moving parts in their golf swing are out of order. The result; if you hit down 5 degrees on your driver you are leaving potentially 15-30 yards on the table! At the Nicklaus Academy Orlando, we use the latest Flightscope launch monitor to collect data from all of our juniors so we can develop a systematic pathway to improve their angle of attack.
A quick tip next time you are at the range with your junior is to lay down a water bottle about 4 inches in front of the ball. Have them hit their driver as they normally do. Does the ball miss the bottle? Or does their club run into the bottle? If either the club or the ball run into the bottle, it quickly shows their angle of attack is not optimized. We need to encourage a more upward angle into the ball by incorporating a slight tilting of the spine away from the target. That will create the positive angle of attack we are after. Once they miss the bottle a few times the result will be obvious; longer tee shots. WHAT’S YOUR ANGLE?
Brian O’Neill, PGA
Director of Instruction
Jack Nicklaus Academy of Golf Orlando