Canadian Mackenzie Hughes credits his win at the Sanderson Farms Championship in October 2022 to the way he has refocused on speed training. The increase in the 31-year-old's swing speed appears to back his case, as RSNG.com discovers.
RSNG You’ve returned to your joint-highest world ranking: is that the best feeling possible?
MACKENZIE HUGHES, PGA TOUR GOLFER “It is. It is validation of a lot of things, and proof that the right processes produce the right results.
“We have tried a few things over the years, and some are wackier than others! But I feel the way golf is at the moment, with so much change and so much disturbance and unpredictability, is that the ones who are prepared to shake it up and look at different ways of doing things are going to be the ones who perhaps come away with unexpected outcomes.”
RSNG Was your Sanderson Farms Championship win an unexpected outcome then?
MACKENZIE HUGHES “I think it was definitely a welcome outcome, because of what we tried going into it and a few other tournaments as regards my golf and my swing in particular.”
It was validation that the things we were doing worked – that’s a great feeling for any person in any walk of life
RSNG Did you feel you had cracked something when your swing speed leapt up from an average of 169mph in 2021 to 173mph in 2022?
MACKENZIE HUGHES “It was validation that the things we were doing worked, and that’s a great feeling for any person in any walk of life.
“Yet it’s never enough by itself – you have to be ready to push on and push harder. I was ready for the next challenge, and I had hoped that would be the President’s Cup, but it wasn’t to be, and I narrowly missed selection.
“But not only now do I have the taste of victory again, I feel I have the tools with which to find that victory, no matter who I am put up against. This is a big thing for me because, as the years go by, you don’t always feel that way.”
RSNG How has your relationship to strength training changed?
MACKENZIE HUGHES “Power and strength is something that naturally deteriorates past a certain age – I think it’s around 26. It’s the genetic make-up of your body cells, and they do start to alter and reverse, so of course, I knew the importance of keeping pushing strength, agility and mobility. I think you know, though, as a person, when you are pushing and when you are really pushing.
“There were a few occasions at my local gym where I would watch these guys absolutely tearing into these weights, or totally burning themselves on treadmills. I’ve held back because of injury fears, and because it takes me much longer to come back now than it did in the past. Yet at the same time I was thinking what that extra power could do for my game.
“I was like, ‘If these guys are doing it just for body physique and to feel good, with no benefit in terms of their professional lives, then why am I not doing it?’ I know what extra power can do for club head speed, and I know what that does in terms of yardage, and control, and all that stuff.
“My new coach really instilled strength in me as a central point for anything I want to achieve in the sport over the next few years – I just didn’t expect the results to come this soon!”
RSNG So where do you take it from here?
MACKENZIE HUGHES “There has to be consistency. My form dipped a bit after that Championship win then came back towards the end of the season. It’s disappointing when that happens but I’d rather my good form came at the end than at the beginning, in a funny way.
“Ultimately, golf is about improving one thing and making sure it doesn’t impact another, so racing through faster tee shots is great on long fairways, but I’ve got to keep that in check and make sure it isn’t compromising another part of my game, and that’s what I’ll do.”
Sometimes you can produce really notable changes to play just by working out more on certain parts of the body
RSNG Your focus has been on speed training, but is it just the power to hit the ball faster?
MACKENZIE HUGHES “It’s more complex than that. There’s a lot we’ve been practicing that’s to do with explosiveness and sharp movements. I’ve also tried to focus on following through on drives more. That won’t change the ball speed on impact, but it will lengthen the shot from the follow-through; so speed is key but contact and length of contact is arguably just as important to picking up yards and maintaining accuracy.
“I speak to a lot of amateur golfers and many are looking for quite complex adjustments in terms of posture or technique or mobility. The reality is sometimes you can produce really notable changes to play just by working out more on certain parts of the body.
“At the moment I’m looking to be more powerful on drives, so it’s arms and shoulders. I know other guys really building up leg muscle in order to eliminate flawed golf motion and to improve accuracy off the tee.
“Sometimes the simple changes are the best.”
WHAT NEXT? Want to improve your speed? Check out RSNG.com’s progressive workout plan for golf strength and speed, designed by Pro Tour strength and conditioning coach Jamie Greaves.
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