You don’t need huge muscles to get the ball off the tee and into the stratosphere. Here’s how major champ Justin Thomas is one of the biggest hitters in the game.
Lesson 1 - Get a wide base
The swing revolves around the set-up so, of course, a long drive revolves around how you set up to the ball. A couple of things you see almost instantly with Justin, below, is that he has a wide base. He isn’t the biggest of guys.
On the scales, he’s not going to weigh the same as someone like Brooks Koepka, so he has to create a wide base. You can see his feet are very much outside his shoulder width. His ball position is almost beyond the left heel and more towards the toe. He’s trying to get on to the ball as late as possible, making sure he hits the ball on the up.
We know from Trackman stats that if you strike the ball some 4˚ up, the more ‘up’ the club is travelling, the more left the clubface points and he compensates for that elsewhere in his swing. I get the impression that his head, and pretty much everything else, is behind the ball ready to strike on the up. He’s completely loaded behind the ball, a bit like a baseball player.
Lesson 2 - Maximise your width
Most long hitters take a long, wide takeaway – Rory McIlroy does this beautifully – and Justin is no different. Look at the length of his left arm, below, and look how far his right hand is away from his right hip. There isn’t anything that’s too close to his body.
He’s trying to maximise the arc and the radius and width of his swing. You don’t see a huge amount of shift to the right. You almost feel like he’s keeping his weight very centred. He’s maintained that radius and is maximising the width of his swing.
Notice how his arms haven’t folded into his body. Both hands are pushed away and he hasn’t slid to the right. He is very centred (and fully in control of the movement). You can draw a line from the centre of his head all the way down to the ground. That’s why he finds fairways, because he’s revolving around a centre axis.
Lesson 3 - Max-out your turn
What you notice at the top of his backswing, below, is that his left shoulder is very much in behind the ball. He’s stayed very centred. The clubshaft is fairly parallel at the top of the swing and he has absolutely maximised a full shoulder turn and hip turn.
While he’s done that huge rotation, notice how his left knee sits underneath his left hip. He’s not let his legs collapse. He has maintained that solid base, which is where so many amateurs fall down. He’s got strong width between his knees, and remains very stable.
What you’re looking at here is a very youthful golf swing. This is a young man’s golf swing. As he gets older, one of two things will happen: the swing will get shorter or the left heel will come up even more in order to maintain that turn. I can image he spends a lot of time stretching and doing mobility work.
Lesson 4 - How to sequence properly
This is the first part of the transition. From the full shoulder turn, below, you can see how aggressively his hips are moving. His arms have started to come down and his knees are already square.
So are the hips. You can see a bit of daylight underneath the heel. That tells you that he is turning back towards the ball at a lot of speed. The sequence, from a technical perspective, is feet>knees>hips>shoulders>arms>club.
Most amateurs get that the wrong way round and lead with the clubs and hands. He definitely working from the ground up. He has pretty aggressive footwork and by ‘aggressive’ I mean very active. For his size, that’s where he initiates his power.
Lesson 5 - Going clear
Look how far that right heel is off the ground. (Below) He has all his weight onto his left side, the heel is right up and his right knee is kicking in the direction of the ball. The left hip has absolutely cleared out of the way and he is maximising every bit of power he possibly has.
But there’s a very important point here that indicates why he is so accurate with the driver. Not only has he cleared his left hip and driven that right foot aggressively through, his forearms are square. They haven’t opened.
Even though he has turned his lower body, he hasn’t rolled over the top. He’s got the club travelling aggressively from inside, he’s got the clubface square at impact, and he’s essentially transferring his weight into that left side and left heel.