20 Jul 2023

Padraig Harrington – Chasing distance

Pádraig Harrington has taken to the PGA Tour Champions like a duck to water, with his dominant performances helping him capture five titles, including the U.S. Senior Open, since joining the circuit last year.

But the biggest standout from his maiden season was the Irishman’s astonishing distance off the tee.

Never renowned as a bomber during his prime, Harrington is now driving the ball farther than ever, topping the Tour’s driving stats last season with an average of 308.7 yards – more than ten yards ahead of the next longest driver on Tour.

So, how did the two-time Champion Golfer of the Year average nearly 309 yards off the tee in 2022 at the age of 51?

“It’s complicated at one level and it’s quite simple at another level,” said Harrington in a recent chat with Me and My Golf.

“If you want to hit further, you’ve got to hit it harder. And to do that, you’ve got to break a lot of inhibitions.

“I got a launch monitor in 2003 and my top ball speed was 169mph on the old vector cameras. By 2008 I could get 190mph ball speed doing a Happy Gilmore and could do that for four hours and get faster and faster, but it wasn’t transferring to the course.

“I changed my attitude around two to three years ago – now I want my first swing to be the best, not my 150th swing. I used to peak around 70 swings in, so that’s why you see me take three vigorous practice swings out on the golf course as generally my third of fourth swing is quickest at this stage.

“The simple answer to hitting it longer is to lose some inhibitions, stop trying to hit it straight and just swing at it.”

So, how can us amateurs improve our distance off the tee?

“I say this to pretty much every amateur – you’ve got to hit at least 20 balls once a week with no interest in hitting them straight. You’ve got to be purely focused on getting the clubhead to go as fast as it can. You’re trying to get to a limit on the range that you can back off on the course.

“Anybody pre-1990 that plays the game moves their feet and hands during set up, and this adds speed. The more aggressive your feet are, the more speed you’ll get. It also makes you look like a better player when you waggle compared to standing stiff over the ball – you look terrible!

“You’ve got to be athletic and move your feet. You should never be still, everything I do is in a beat.”

But perhaps Harrington’s biggest secret, which nobody seems to have noticed until he let the cat out of the bag, is that he has a different grip that he uses only for his driver.

“Nobody has ever noticed this and I’ve been doing it for three years,” he said.

“Every other club I use a single overlap grip. On my driver, I use a double overlap. The closer yours hands are together, the faster they go.”

It’s a small adjustment, but which allows him to release a little extra energy into the clubhead for more power overall.

With Harrington arriving at The Senior Open this month hoping to go one better than his runner-up finish last season, his monster distance off the tee could well pave the way for him becoming just the fifth player to lift both the Claret Jug and Senior Open trophy after Sir Bob Charles, Gary Player, Tom Watson and Darren Clarke.

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