Back in the late 1980s, Connecticut PGA Professional Paul Ramee, Jr., competed in the same field as Phil Mickelson in the prestigious North & South Amateur Championship at Pinehurst Resort. So, if anyone can relate to the remarkable display of golf Mickelson put on at the 2021 PGA Championship, it’s Ramee.
To recap, not only did Mickelson become the oldest golfer (at 50 years, 11 months) to ever win a major championship, but he did so by doing what he loves best, “hitting bombs.” Lefty averaged 313.1 yards for the week at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, and also hit the longest drive of the tournament on the par-5 16th hole on Sunday, out-distancing playing partner Brooks Koepka and even Bryson DeChambeau with a 366-yard drive. He also played the par 5s in 11-under par!
For the year, Mickelson is averaging 302 yards per drive, which is farther than he was hitting it in his prime in 2005 (300.0 yards) when he captured his first PGA Championship. Obviously, equipment has played a big part in his being able to hit bombs, but to sustain his power and even increase it into his 50s is nothing short of extraordinary, says Ramee, the Director of Golf and Lead Instructor at Bull’s Bridge Golf Club in Kent, CT. Just how is he able to hang drive for drive with the younger generation on Tour? Ramee, now 52, provides some answers, and explains how you, too, can keep hitting bombs well into your 50s.
STICK TO THE PROCESS
Lefty made a commitment four or five years ago to reshape his body and get much longer off the tee, so he wasn’t at such a disadvantage against today’s big boppers. What you’re now just seeing are the fruits of that labor, says Ramee. Despite being mocked by critics for his “hitting bombs” remarks on Twitter—the very same critics who said his best days were over and he should commit to playing full-time on the Champions Tour—Mickelson has continued to work hard on both his game and his fitness. This includes fasting for 36 hours every week!
Ramee doesn’t recommend fasting, but he does suggest finding an instructor who is TPI certified and can get you on a stretching, conditioning and strengthening program that can help you increase your range of motion and power. He also suggests you commit to working with that instructor long-term, for more than just a single lesson, both on your swing and on your body.
“Success in this game is multi-faceted,” said Ramee. “It’s the speed training, the getting to the gym and the dieting. All of the things that he did. It’s a process, it’s not just one item. Phil had a vision and he stayed committed to that vision for four years. He knew at the end there was going to be a pot of gold.”
TRAIN FAST TO GET FASTER
Part of the process for Mickelson was increasing his clubhead speed with the driver. In 2017 it had dipped below 115 mph. Two years later, after putting extensive work in with the SuperSpeed Golf Training Sticks—a series of low-, medium- and heavy-weighted training clubs—he increased his speed to over 120 mph.
Most golfers are hesitant to swing faster because they’re afraid they’ll lose control over the ball. But as Ramee points out, swinging as fast as you can teaches the body how to move properly and gets the club in a better position at impact.
“I use this analogy all of the time: When you ski scared, what happens? You fall down,” said Ramee. “People come to me expecting me to say, ‘Slow down.’ I get them to realize that swinging as fast as you can allows the body to unwind more properly. It allows the Kinematic Sequence to unfold, where the pelvis unwinds and your shoulders pull your arms around and the club is delivered properly.”
The SuperSpeed Sticks are a great way to develop speed. Another way is to simply turn your driver upside down and swing the grip end as fast as you can. The lighter grip end will encounter some resistance from the air, but the goal is to make it “swoosh” as loud as it can just after impact, or where the ball would normally be in your stance. “It feels like a 100-year-old drill but a lot people just don’t know how to generate speed,” says Ramee.
Ramee also uses other forms of cross-training, such as swinging a tennis racket or baseball bat, or throwing a ball, to teach the body how to unwind properly. The better you do this, the faster and more efficient you’re going to swing the club.
LEARN TO USE THE GROUND
If you look at Mickelson just after impact, there’s a lot of air under his cleats. He’s rolled up on the outside of his front foot and only the big toe on his trail foot seems to be touching the ground. You’ll see this with a lot of big hitters today, including Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson. What they’re doing is leveraging the ground to generate more lag and clubhead speed.
As you start the downswing increase the pressure into the ground by pushing down with both feet. Then, as you come through the ball, push hard off the ground, just as if you were jumping. This will cause the lead leg to extend, which helps you rotate the hips hard around to the left and keeps the clubhead moving on the correct path. That tight turn and rotation is what helps generate that extra whip and speed through impact.
If you happen to be reading this and you’re on the younger side, you can learn how to use the ground correctly by doing vertical box jumps onto a 20-inch-high sturdy surface. Otherwise,
simply jump from a standing position, squatting down into your knees and then propelling yourself up off the ground.
Paul Ramee, Jr., is the Director of Golf and Lead Instructor at Bull’s Bridge Golf Club in Kent, CT. To book a lesson with Paul, the 2016 Connecticut PGA Section Teacher of the Year and a Golf Digest “Best Teacher” in Connecticut, visit paulrameegolf.com or call 860-671-1196.