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Lessons learned from World Long Drive Champions Justin James and "Fast" Eddie Fernandes

Updated: Feb 28

The past two weeks I was able to observe and learn from World Long Drive Champions Justin James and Fast Eddie Fernandes. Justin and Eddie are two of the fastest golfers on the planet with swing speeds above 155 mph and ball speeds above 220 mph! Eddie is especially impressive considering he is 53 and still swinging over 150 mph and has went his entire golfing career without any injuries. While these are obviously elite athletes with talent and physical capabilities most golfers can only dream of, I thought there were several lessons I learned from them that can be applied to golfers at any level looking to safely and appropriately add more speed and distance to their game

Swing efficiency does not mean lack of effort

Below is a video I took of Eddie Fernandes's swing. In this video with his play driver he is at 140 mph and 208 ball speed. This swing looks effortless and smooth and certainly doesn't look like 140 mph, however this doesn't mean that he is swinging easy. In fact he is actually swinging with significant effort. This is a common misconception among golfers who watch swings such as this and Ernie Els and think that I just need to swing smooth and easy to create speed. This couldn't be further from the truth and could be robbing you of speed and distance in the swing. These swings look so easy and effortless because the body is moving with proper sequencing and timing even though the swing is very fast. John Novosel of Tour Tempo has several examples of Tour Swings that dispel this common myth.

"Command, repeatability, and the ability to maximize power with the least amount of effort is being efficient." -Dr. Greg Rose, TPI

In my opinion Eddie is a great example of what Dr. Greg Rose is describing in his definition of swing efficiency. He is producing maximal power with the least amount of effort in his swing as seen in the video below. He is perfectly transferring energy from the ground to the legs, through the core, then the arms and finally from the club to the ball.

The importance of appropriate footwork and using the ground in the swing

Ground reaction forces play a significant role in being able to produce an efficient swing. Both Justin and Eddie emphasized this during their presentations and the importance in being able to effectively use the ground to maximize speed in the swing. As the swing starts from the ground up, your interaction with the ground can have a significant impact on your swing mechanics and speeds. Eddie emphasized some very unique ways he uses the ground to load in backswing which I had never seen before. Both Eddie and Justin really emphasized the importance of being able to effectively use the lead leg as a speed generator. Justin is describing this concept in the clip below. If you are wanting to improve speed, being able to optimize your footwork and interaction with the ground is extremely important.

Don't expect to swing like someone who has a V12 if you only have a V4

Justin James is a little different from Eddie in that when you watch him swing you can tell the power and speed he possesses. This is also evident with how he moves in the gym. The video below of Justin on Proteus Motion gives a glimpse of the elite power he has that allows him to create some of the fastest speeds on the planet. While swing mechanics and efficiency are important to maximizing your speed, the body is a crucial piece of the puzzle as well. In order to create speed in the swing you need to possess a certain level of strength, speed and power. Building the physical capacity of the body allows you to create more speed. It also helps protect the body as well against the forces placed on the body while swinging at faster speeds. Justin has a Proteus motion system at his house which provides testing on his physical power and speed.

ROTEX Motion is an integral part of their programs

I was introduced to ROTEX motion about 2 years ago. Initially it was something that I saw on social media and honestly was a little skeptical. However, over time I saw it become part of several PGA and Long Drive professionals' programs and I decided to learn more about it. I began doing it daily and seeing some really good gains in my mobility and stability and became a believer in its effectiveness. The last two I weeks I was exposed to several new applications for it by Eddie and Justin as well as Dr. Joe LaCaze, the inventor of ROTEX. It has become my favorite piece of equipment for training mobility and stability. It also is really beneficial as part of pre round/range warm up, recovery after playing and also for training certain feels and movement patterns in the swing. Even better it is very time efficient as well as you can get through whole body routines in a short period of time. Below are a few examples of exercises demonstrated by Eddie and Justin on ROTEX. Eddie demonstrated the 5 minute routine he does prior to competing and after doing this routine is able to very quickly warm up to peak speeds. After doing this warm up routine he can get up to 150 mph club head speed within 10 swings. I cannot recommend this product highly enough.

Be an athlete!

Golf can be really hard. It is easy to come robotic and paralyzed by too many swing thoughts. Golf is a sport and golfers are athletes. Both Justin and Eddie made a point to allow the body to move athletically in the swing through various technical modifications. The interesting part is that in most cases as people were allowing the body to move this way, speeds were not only increasing, but often times accuracy and dispersion were as well. To help with this Justin made a point to have students do several drills without a club and ball to help to golfers get a feel for these movements.

Beyond the swing side of things its also evident that these guys are world class athletes. Besides having a golf background, Justin and Eddie were exceptional multisport athletes. Justin played professional baseball before going into long drive. Eddie was a great youth baseball player before committing to golf in high school and college. All things being equal better athletes are going to be able to produce more speed. If you are a junior golfer the focus should be on becoming an athlete first and having a well rounded athletic background before specializing in golf. As an adult you should focus on maintaining some level of athleticism as you age.

Minimum effective dose: "Enough is Enough"

Both Justin and Eddie provided detailed elements of their programming in the gym and swing training. It was evident that both had a very clear plan and program and explanation of why they were doing what they were doing. Everything had a purpose. There was no fluff. I think some people were surprised by this and in some ways surprised they weren't doing more in the gym or with their speed training. Both Justin and Eddie have refined their programs to identify the necessities to create their desired training effects and not wasting time on things that don't matter. Adding more and more into the program doesn't necessarily mean that is better. During Eddie's seminar he had a quote related to this concept: "Enough is enough". Do enough to get the desired training adaptations. Don't do more just for the sake of more.

This strategy allows for less stress on the body, better recovery and most likely longer longevity in their careers. Both of these golfers have been healthy through the majority of their careers and I think this is part of the reason why. Many of the golfers I work with are over the age of 40 and have families and jobs that take up a lot of their time. Being able to put a clear and concise program focused on your unique needs will allow you to be more efficient with your time.

There is no magic bullet: 1% Better Mentality

It can be easy to fall into the temptation of thinking there is some secret to more speed. Unfortunately that is typically not the case. Whether making mechanical changes in the swing or physical changes in the gym these changes take time. Putting in consistent work with a mentality of getting 1% better each week will add up over time to significant improvements. This the approach that both Justin and Eddie have taken and has led to success in their careers. Eddie has increased his club head speed by almost 13 mph from age 43 to 53!

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