Prior to his US Open victory at the Country Club in June 2022, just about every golfer underestimated Matthew Fitzpatrick’s driving distance.
In the minds of most golf fans and even fellow professionals, Fitzpatrick was regarded as a short, yet highly accurate driver of the golf ball. Some fans will even recall that Fitzpatrick was displeased with Bryson DeChambeau’s massive distance gains, partially because DeChambeau proved that hitting the ball longer can make the game of golf significantly easier, regardless of your handicap.
Fitzpatrick even famously tweeted “it’s not a skill to hit the ball a long way in my opinion“. Despite his jealousy of DeChambeau’s distance gains, it’s pretty clear that Fitzpatrick was actually influenced by the overwhelming evidence which indicates that you have to possess a lethal combination of distance and accuracy to consistently put yourself in contention in the majors and on the PGA Tour.
Matthew Fitzpatrick Driving Distance Stats - PGA Tour
Matthew Fitzpatrick Driving Distance Stats - European Tour
The Two Drives That Delivered Fitzpatrick the 2022 US Open
During Fitzpatrick’s US Open victory, there were two holes in the final round that truly verified his length gains of the tee. On the uphill yet driveable 310 yard fifth hole at the Country Club, Fitzpatrick was one of the few players in the field that managed to hold the green. The shape of the hole is such that it requires a near perfect baby fade with plenty of hang time to carry the bunker guarding the green on the left.
Then Fitzpatrick also demonstrated his newfound power by reaching the 557-yard par five-eighth in two, something that neither Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler were able to do on the day.
It is important to appreciate that if Fitzpatrick hadn’t dedicated himself to increasing his driving distance, he almost certainly wouldn’t have won the US Open. He was only one shot clear of Scottie Scheffler and Will Zalatoris at the completion of the tournament. If you take away those birdies on the 5th and the 8th, Fitzpatrick would have finished tied 3rd with Hideki Matsuyama.
If anything, Fitzpatrick’s distance gains simply verify that hitting the ball longer is one of the easiest ways to improve your golf game. If you are determined to lower your scoring average, increasing your driving distance is arguably the best place to start, regardless of your current skill level.
How did Matt Fitzpatrick gain distance?
1. Religious use of a swing speed stick called 'The Stack'.
The Stack System is one of the best golf training aids for distance currently available, but it is also very expensive. There are alternative swing speed sticks like the SuperSpeed Sticks and the RypStick which offer almost all the same benefits, but for a fraction of the cost.
The most important ingredient for increasing your distance off the tee is swing speed training. The basic idea is to increase your default swing speed by consistently engaging in ‘Overspeed training’. By using a speed stick that is lighter than your current driver, you should find that you can automatically swing the stick faster than your driver. Speed sticks essentially allow you to break through your current swing speed plateau.
If you follow the protocols recommended by the stack, you will see impressive speed gains during your first few speed training sessions. More importantly, however, if you commit to the training protocols for an extended period of time, you will slowly but surely increase your default swing speed.
This is how Fitzpatrick went from an average clubhead speed of 112.43 mph in 2020, to 118.13 mph in 2022.
2. Working with golf biomechanist Dr Sasho MacKenzie
Dr. Sasho Mackenzie is one of the leading biomechanists in golf and the founder of the Stack swing speed system. Dr Mackenzie explains that there are 4 fundamental ingredients that determine a golfer’s clubhead speed.
A) Hand Path Length
This is how far the hands travel on the backswing. As a rule of thumb, further = longer when it comes to hand path length.
B) Force Along Hand Path
The force that you are able to apply along the hand path has a direct impact on your ability to generate clubhead speed. This partially explains why players like Jon Rahm and Tony Finau are able to generate tremendous clubhead speed, despite having ridiculously short backswings.
C) Amount of Club Rotation
“This involves using your wrists as a lever, which increases the distance the club travels, and therefore helps you hit it farther.”
Sergio Garcia is famous for having some of the most dynamic wrist angles in the game of golf. Most people are effectively referencing this concept when they talk about creating lag. In this case, it’s more about the lag that you can create using your wrists.
D) 4. Torque About Rotation Axis
“This, put slightly too simply, is the release. The amount of push or pull you apply to the grip.”
In layman’s terms, it’s all about how you release the potential energy that has been created during your backswing and your downswing into the golf ball. Most professionals are exceptionally good at this particular aspect of the game, and Matt Fitzpatrick is no exception.
Importantly, the force applied to the grip during the release is ultimately governed by your hands. You are essentially transferring the immense stored energy of your swing, from your hands, into the grip of the club, which extends into the clubhead and ultimately the golf ball.
3. Six Months of Consistent Effort
If you take another look at Matt Fitzpatrick’s driving stats on the PGA Tour, you should notice that he gained just over 10 yards between the 2021 season (293.5 Yards) and the 2022 season (303.8 Yards).
However, these gains didn’t happen overnight. Instead, Fitzpatrick dedicated himself to swing speed training sessions and conditioning sessions for a full 6 months before the numbers started to indicate just how much work he had been putting in.
For amateur golfers, the time and effort required to increase your distance off the tee is almost certainly the biggest obstacle standing in the way. You need to carve out 20-30 minutes, 3 times a week, for 6 months or more to really feel the impact of Overspeed training. This is much easier said then done.
4. Practicing 'Swinging Hard'
This is comfortably the simplest way to start hitting the ball further. Over time, most golfers learn how to swing within themselves in order to maximize accuracy off the tee.
The problem is that you are effectively reducing your default swing speed to a level that is considerably lower than what you are physically capable of.
To implement this technique, you need to start engaging in practice sessions where your sole objective is to absolutely smash the ball.
For instance, if there is flag at your driving range that is usually an 8 iron, bring out your 9 iron or even your pitching wedge and see if you can hit that flag with the lesser club.
When you get warm enough to hit driver, you need to go to town. You need to try hit the ball so hard that you break into a sweat within the first 10 swings.
At this point, it is helpful to think of Bryson Dechambeau. If you watch any of his Youtube content you will appreciate that he spends a significant portion of his practice time trying to smash the living daylights of a golf ball with a driver in his hands. Over time, this exceptionally simple technique will unlock extra distance, and it is something that Matthew Fitzpatrick has integrated into his training regime as a golfer.
Matt Fitzpatrick’s significant increase in driving distance should serve as proof that you can transform yourself from an average-length player to a bomber off the tee.
While he will never become a long drive champion, the extra distance that he has unlocked ultimately paved the way for hist first major championship. If anything, he should thank Bryson DeChambeau for demonstrating to the entire golfing world that an extra 10 – 20 yards off the tee is one of the simplest ways to reduce the difficulty of the game of golf.
If you are feeling enthused at this point, check out our detailed guide on the best golf training aids for increasing swing speed.