PGA Pro Tips: Add 25 Yards to Your Drives by Letting Go of Tension (the Famous Potato Chip Exercise)
The best thing you can do to improve your distance off the tee is to increase your swing speed. The worst thing you can do to try to get more distance is to swing HARDER.
Consider that for every one mile-per-hour increase in swing speed you will gain an extra 2-1/2 yards off the tee. Adding just 10 mph to your swing speed will get you 25 yards! The problem is that when most golfers try to get that extra 25 yards the almost universal instinct is to “muscle up” on the ball. The paradox is that you don’t need more power, you need more speed. And to get more speed in your golf swing you have to lighten up.
When you swing harder you will introduce tension in your swing. Tension kills swing speed. Tense muscles do not operate as smoothly nor as quickly as tension-free muscles. The typical result of muscling up is an actual LOSS of distance as well as inconsistency.
Try the Potato Chip exercise
The Potato Chip exercise came about while working with a student who was trying to add distance. As a big, strong guy his instincts told him distance came from power. As he started his swing he was so tight the cords in his neck literally stood out. Tension radiated from his clenched teeth, down his neck, into his shoulders, and out his arms.
Grabbing a bag of potato chips from the snack shop we put a chip between his teeth and asked him to swing. On his first try he couldn’t even get his swing started without biting the chip. As soon as he started his take-away, Crunch! It took 5 chips to get the swing started, and 20 before he could get to the top of his backswing and start his downswing without breaking the chip.
But the lesson was learned. By the end of the bag of chips the student was able to swing freely all the way through the ball to the target. He added 10 mph to his swing speed and 25 yards to his drives. He was much happier (and not as hungry).
The potato chip exercise, while a fun drill, was really just a feedback mechanism to help understand how much tension he had in his golf swing, where the tension was coming from, and how to let his tension go. By working on his awareness of tension rather than brute strength he was able to generate a more naturally powerful, faster swing and consistently longer drives and 25 yards.