When it comes to training aids, you can safely split them into three categories. The first category we can call the eye-rollers: even the most casual of golfers can look at these things and think what kind of a chucklehead would spend his money on that? And admit it, we’ve all bought at least one.
The training aids in the second category are, in fact, fairly useful, but a creative golfer could probably figure out how to sorta-kinda-almost make the same thing on his own. ThePuttingStick is a prime example – a flat, plastic contraption to help groove your putting stroke. It works very well, and if you crave instruction, bells, whistles, and testimonials, you’d be happy to buy it, and it would probably help you. If you don’t value any of that stuff, a yardstick might get you most of the way there.
The last category is the smallest and the toughest to crack: training aids that actually, you know, work, and have some real science behind them. The DST Compressor is one example, the Orange Whip is another, but very few ever reach this hallowed ground.
SuperSpeed Golf is knocking on the door of this rather exclusive club for two reasons; it works and, more interestingly, as a product, it very likely isn’t what you think it is.
It’s a whole lot more.
What Is SuperSpeed?
Once you take equipment out of the equation (heck, even with equipment in the equation), the only way to hit the ball farther is to swing faster.
Not harder. Faster.
There’s a physical fitness and strength aspect to swinging the club faster, but all things being equal, the key to increasing your swing speed may, in fact, lie right between your ears.
SuperSpeed calls it Overspeed Training, and it involves swinging three weighted shafts as aggressively as you can to prove to your neurological systems that your body can move that fast.
“We first learned of the concept – called overload/underload training – in 2012 at the World Golf Fitness Summit,” says Michael Napoleon, President and Co-founder of SuperSpeed Golf. “A brilliant coach named Tom House talked about the work he was doing with baseball pitchers using overweight and underweight baseballs to help them increase pitching speed.”
What Napoleon is talking about is resetting your neurological wiring and training your brain to understand that you can swing faster.
“You’re actually able to – by swinging underweight and overweight clubs – make the body move significantly faster than it does during the golf swing,” says Kyle Shay, Napoleon’s business partner and the other co-founder of SuperSpeed Golf. “You’re doing a physical thing swinging our clubs, but you’re actually increasing the speed at which your brain signals to your muscles to move during the golf swing.”
It’s an interesting concept, and it’s important to understand it’s more than just swinging a heavy club. Napoleon and Shay come from different backgrounds, but they share a similar passion for turning complicated concepts into something you and I can get our heads around and actually use.
To get to the root of it all, we have to go back to music school.
The Joy Of Sax
“I’m a golf coach, but all my formal education and degrees are in music performance,” says Napoleon, who was a doctoral candidate in Saxophone Performance from Arizona State before changing course to pursue golf. “We spent a lot of time detailing how people should practice and how people learn. Should they practice in little bursts and take breaks? Should they be going for two-hour blocks? How many days a week should they practice, and how much time each day?”
As a golfer, however, Napoleon found that while his teaching pro knew the game, he wasn’t able to provide a specific practice or drill program that would work for him. That spark led him away from the sax and into the golf world.
An accomplished amateur golfer who eventually burned out, Shay earned his physiology bones working in a rehab center teaching corrective exercise. The two ultimately met up in Chicago and formed a teaching center called Catalyst Golf. Their meeting with House led to testing the overload/underload concept on their students, and the results wound up being life-changing.
“We had 56 or 57 people go through testing,” says Napoleon. “I think we had 98% of them see at least a 3 or 4 miles-per-hour speed gain just after the initial session. As soon as we saw those results, we knew we had something. We didn’t know why it was all happening yet, but we were confident we had something that was going to work for just about anybody that picked it up.”
The Need For Speed
So what, exactly, is SuperSpeed Golf, and how is it any different from swinging a weighted club?
A SuperSpeed Golf set features three gripped shafts with different weights on the end. The lightest is 20% lighter than a standard driver, the next one is 10% lighter than your driver, and the third is 5% heavier. A training session consists of three sets of five reps swinging each club as fast as humanly possible, starting with the lightest and working your way up to the heaviest.
“If we start with something 20% lighter than their normal driver, we know their kinematic sequence (legs-torso-pelvis-arm and club) is going to be the same,” says Napoleon. “They’re going to get the same recruitment out of the ground, legs, and pelvis throughout the entire sequence as they do during a normal swing. The brain is thinking that this motion is the same motor pattern as their golf swing, but because of the reduced resistance and reduced weight, it can go a lot faster.”
Napoleon and Shay say a typical 100 MPH swinger will swing the lightest SuperSpeed club around 118-119 MPH. When they jump to the middle weight club, speed will drop to around 115 MPH. By the time they hit the heaviest club, they’ll still be swinging faster.
“Because we did this neuro-muscular speed reset with the light clubs, we’ll see that player who started at 100 MPH swing the heavier club usually around 110 to 112 MPH, significantly faster than their normal golf swing,” says Napoleon.
“We do like to finish with the lightest club at the end, just to retrigger that neurological system to the faster speeds.”
Standard protocol includes normal swings, step-forward swings (think a high leg kick baseball swing), a Happy Gilmore type swing and opposite side swinging.
“What we’re trying to do with that is develop the deceleration chain of the golf swing,” says Shay. “You can only accelerate as fast as you can decelerate, so in a golf swing when you get past impact into follow-through, you have to stabilize into that left hip/left leg so you can stop the pelvis and stop the swing. The better we can post or stabilize into that lead side, the better we can create clubhead speed.”
Faster vs. Harder
Ever wonder how a shrimpy guy like Justin Thomas can hit the ball as far as he does? Or how a bigger guy like Ernie Els – The Big Easy – hits the ball so far with such an effortless swing?
“They’re swinging in a very efficient sequence,” says Napoleon. “They’re able to stabilize those segments of the swing very well, which adds to the whole fluidity of the motion.”
When we amateurs try to hit the ball farther, we tend to just grip the club tighter and swing the club harder. And more often than not, that throws the whole swing sequence out of whack.
“Once you see that acceleration start in the lower body, the whole kinematic sequence happens in a specific peaking order. The pelvis is going to get to its max speed and then it has to stop. What we found is the faster the segment is able to stabilize in the kinematic sequence, the more energy gets transferred to the next segment in the series – to the torso and then to the arm and club and then, ultimately, to the ball.”
Both Shay and Napoleon shy away from hard when talking about the golf swing, opting instead to use the more descriptive aggressive or fast.
“As a coach, I’m more of a minimalist in all this,” says Napoleon. “I don’t want to explain to the player how to make the club move faster. I want them, from a discovery standpoint, to make three or four swings during the training, see on radar which ones went faster, and then they start to learn what pieces made the club move faster. That’s how you teach complex bio-mechanics to someone without overloading them with a bunch of information they don’t need.”
So you may be asking, why the heck don’t you just swing a heavier club, or why not just swing a driver upside down to create more speed? Fair questions both and, as it turns out, baseball studies have refuted to the notion that weighted bats, or clubs, do anything to promote swing speed.
“We found that when you get above 5% heavier than your regular driver, you’ll start to see swing speed actually slow down,” says Napoleon. “TPI did a great study on this disproving the ‘donut on a bat’ theory.”
“They had collegiate and high-level professionals do their normal donut bat routine while on the on-deck circle and tested to see if that increased or decreased bat speed. On average they’d see a 30% drop in bat speed, and it would take them three or four swings to get back to normal. You have to be careful when swinging something heavy for too many reps.” Michael Napoleon, SuperSpeed Golf
Going too light is a problem, as well, such as when you swing an alignment rod or turn a driver upside down.
“You’ll start to see the sequencing change quite a bit,” says Napoleon. “You’ll see arm and hand speed increase, but there’s not enough weight on the end for your brain to go ‘okay, I need to use my lower body and my torso to go faster, too.'”
“We tested to see how light you could go without being too light, and how heavy you could go without being too heavy so you could maintain an increase in speed without altering the kinematic sequence.”
Using a fan or a parachute to increase resistance are just other ways to make the club heavy without adding any actual weight to it. Napoleon says anytime you try to swing something heavier than your normal club, the extra inertia is going to make it harder to make the club change direction, accelerate or even move.
“Your body can’t do it as quickly,” says Napoleon. “You may go pick up your regular club and it’s going to feel lighter, but neurologically your body actually remembers the speed it was going with that heavy club, and it will actually swing slower.”
Yeah, But Does It Work?
Another fair question. SuperSpeed Golf is finding its way into the bags of dozens of Tour pros, including Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell, Xander Schauffele and Kevin Na, as well as dozens of Champions, Web.com, LPGA and Symetra Tour players.
SuperSpeed’s baseball training has made it to the major leagues, with 8 teams using it from the low minors to the big leagues, including the reigning World Series Champion Houston Astros.
“A lot of guys get so much more joy out of playing golf,” says Shay. “They’re not struggling, they’re hitting it past their buddies. It’s gratifying to see guys that have lost some club speed over the years, your 50+ golfer, getting some of that speed back. Now it’s two clubs less into greens, or they’re not hitting hybrids into every par 4, or they don’t have to move up a tee box. We hear it all the time.”
One recent testimonial came from a customer in Boston who had just won a fight with cancer.
“He was just getting to the point where he could go back out and play,” says Napoleon. “He played with the same group of guys he’d played with for 20 years, and he wasn’t able to hit the ball far enough to even play from the forward tees. He got our stuff and worked with it for four or five months, and he was finally able to get back to where he could play golf again.”
“That could have been a guy that would’ve quit playing the game because he lost too much distance. Now he’s back to playing golf and having fun with his friends every week.”
Everyone wants to hit it farther – it’s the rock upon which the equipment industry is built. SuperSpeed Golf isn’t going to promise you 20 or 30 more yards, but they do say that if you follow the program, you will see an immediate and – if you follow the training protocols they provide – permanent increase in swing speed.
“That’s the really cool thing,” says Napoleon. “Just about everybody gets a gain along the way because most people have never done any kind of purely neurological speed training, especially in golf. It’s like if you’ve never gone to the gym and then started lifting dumbbells – you’ll start seeing results right off the bat.”
“There’s a lot going on under the surface that makes this very complex,” adds Shay. “But we’ve tried to make it as simple as possible. Can you do eight minutes three times a week and just follow a few simple steps?”
My own experience with SuperSpeed Golf falls into the so far, so good category and I am noticing drives getting a bit longer as the season wears on. But I’m also getting some odd looks at the driving range, which I presume are related to SuperSpeed protocols.
“I bet half those people will start researching online,” says Napoleon. “If you’re doing that while warming up and then go blast it past your buddies, I bet they’ll all be doing it within a week.”
For more information, videos, and testamonials, visit SuperSpeedGolf.com.