When you look across these pages and see Brooke Henderson’s driver swing, you’ll probably think If I tried that, I’d be in the hospital. Knowing the physical limitations of the typical amateur golfer, we won’t disagree. But even if copying her physicality isn’t realistic, her mental approach to driving is worth considering.
“I’m not technical at all. I really don’t want to be thinking about my swing. I just want to let it happen,” says Henderson, a four-time winner on the LPGA Tour, including the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, one of the tour’s five Majors. She also lost the same tournament by a shot to Danielle Kang this past July. “If there’s one thing for sure that I know I do, I’d say I’m trying to hit the ball as hard as I can.”
No kidding. Henderson is only 5-foot-4, but she uses the combination of a strong lower body, hypermobile wrists and great timing to power through the ball like someone who is much larger.
That’s not to say she’s the longest on tour. Fellow Canadian Maude-Aimee Leblanc is 12 metres longer off the tee on average. But Henderson’s technique, including using a 48-inch driver (three inches longer than standard), could lead to even more distance as she matures, her father and coach, Dave Henderson, says.
Brooke, who turned 20 in September, began developing her powerful swing in the most unusual place. She was a goalie for the Canadian national girls’ junior ice hockey team at 14, and that helped make her lower body very strong, Dave says.
“When you grow up playing goalie, you get used to carrying 60 pounds of equipment,” he says. “You learn to use your legs for leverage and power. So it was easy for her to transition to swinging a driver.”
Studying Henderson’s swing here, look at how stable her lower body is until it’s time to slash the club through the hitting area. Then her legs and feet come to life. The irony is that she learned to be stable on one of the most unstable of surfaces – ice.
“You might focus on how far she takes the club back, but the way she uses her lower body is very effective,” says Golf Digest Teaching Professional Josh Zander. “Everything from how stable and grounded she is going back, to the way she shifts her weight, to her springing off the ground – it’s all demonstrative of someone who knows how to use their legs to generate power and hit the ball hard.”
Zander, who teaches at Stanford Golf Course and nearby Sharon Heights Golf & Country Club in Northern California, provides an analysis of Henderson’s swing below, and what you can take from it.
“She knows how to use her lower body to generate power.”
– Josh Zander
The thing to focus on here is ball position, says Golf Digest Teaching Professional Josh Zander. With her left foot flared, she’s playing it properly off her left heel. “Playing it farther forward will promote a slice.”
“She takes the club back on a wide arc, key to generating clubhead speed on the way down,” Zander says. “I really like how she is creating a great stretch between her upper and lower body – the sign of flexibility and strength.”
The top of her swing is worth a pause to stare at in wonderment, Zander says. “Weight firmly on the right, huge shoulder turn, amazing extension of the left arm, wrist hinge way, way past 90 degrees. It’s a Daly-type backswing – built for power.”
You’ll want to focus on the lagging of the clubhead behind her hands, but she’s not doing that on purpose, Zander says. “That super-long backswing and ensuing weight shift sets the club way behind. She’s setting up for a very fast release of the club – another power source.”
Brooke can’t afford to hold her arm swing back. If she didn’t release hard, Zander says, she’d block the ball dead right. “Also, look at how her right shin is leaning. That shows how much pressure she’s shifted towards the target.”
Both heels are off the ground as the club smacks the ball. “She pushed down with her legs and then jumped up,” Zander says. “Jumping like this can create good swing speed – especially for smaller golfers – although some bigger players do it, too.”
Flexibilty is really evident here, Zander says, noting the position of the right shoulder as she finishes the swing. “Also important is how much the left shoulder moved back. Like throwing an uppercut. It’s a knockout punch, for sure.”
20 / 163cm / Smith Falls, Ontario, Canada
Driver Ping G
Ball Titleist Pro V1