Over the last two days, I watched my compatriot James Hart Du Preez take on TPC Craig Ranch in the AT&T Byron Nelson.
The 6’9” South African ended on -2 after 36 holes, failing to make the cut. That got me thinking about tall golfers and how they can leverage their height for improved results.
Since we breed giants back home (South Africa), I have watched multiple tall golfers successfully navigate the links. This post looks at the clubhead speed and distance advantages a tall player can unlock. Plus, it teaches you how to optimize your golf game for improved results.
Is Being Tall an Advantage or Disadvantage When It Comes to Golf?
The Argument For Neither
In a previous post, I covered 100 golf facts. I touched on the tallest and shortest golfers to play on the DP World or PGA Tour. The shortest professional is Tadd Fujikawa, who stands at 5’1. Conversely, Du Preez and Jon Thomson, who measure 6’9, share the tallest player award.
All three of these golfers have turned professional and competed with the best in the world. The point is that taller and shorter players can both excel in golf. It comes down to how you refine the fundamentals of your golf swing to work for you.
Besides the extremely tall players, several individuals are well over the 6-foot mark. As a 5’8 individual, I consider anything higher than me as tall.
Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Ernie Els, and Davis Love III all exceed 6-feet. These chaps have lifted trophies in over 250-tournaments combined. Based on that success, it is safe to say that they are not significant disadvantages.
A top-level review of the fastest clubhead speed on the PGA Tour reveals that taller golfers reign supreme. 80% of the players with the top ten swing speeds this year exceed 6-feet. Only Brandon Hagy and Cameron Young are 5’9.
These are professionals, and they produce consistent shot results. Their swings showcase methodical rhythm and tempo. Unfortunately, amateurs are inconsistent and deliver a different takeaway and swing arc on each strike. The results are frequent erratic shots with varying ball flight.
As juniors, my buddies and I were surrounded by mainly average-height golfers. However, one of my closest friends is a fairly tall lad. He measures 6’6″ and had great success as a teenager.
He managed to develop a fluid single plane swing and actually went on to win our Club Champs in 2007. Since he learned to leverage what he had, he knew how to play the game of golf.
When those lanky arms of his drop the clubhead into position before impact, they do so at speed. This enhanced his energy transfer at impact for accelerated ball speed and optimal distance.
When the club was on plane and his swing was rhythmical, it was a joy to watch.
Being tall opens the average amateur up to potential disaster. This is because of an inconsistent swing path, angle of attack, and a loss of accuracy. You could say that is a disadvantage, pick up your golf ball and go to the 19th. Or, you could learn to use what God gave you to deliver exceptional results on the links.
Standard Golf Clubs
The main disadvantage for taller golfers is stock golf clubs. These are the options you find on the shelves at a competitive price. Despite their price, they may prove too short for your gigantic frame. That means that you may require longer golf clubs.
A stock club length may cause you to correct your posture, ball position, and swing plane, leading to erratic golf shots.
Tall golfers using the incorrect shafts may struggle to get comfortable at address. A shorter golf club set may cause you to stand too close to the golf ball and bend over.
That restricts your swing path and limits the ability to launch the club from the top of the backswing. Therefore, you lose clubhead and ball speed, leading to reduced distance.
My rugby coach used to say, “tackle the biggest player around the ankles and let the timber fall.” The taller you are, the higher your center of gravity is, which is not ideal for stability. The slightest mishap in your swing can cause you to lose your balance and any power you generated.
The taller players I have golfed with over the years had a tendency to sway on the odd shot. Instead of rotating their shoulders and hips to replicate a corkscrew, such golfers sway back and forth.
Their incorrect posture creates instability, and these golfers are not set up to rotate. Instead, they sway from the back to the front, generating limited power and an erratic swing path.
6 Tips to Help Tall Golfers Play Better
1. Shaft Length
My first suggestion for tall golfers is to ensure that you have the correct length shafts. If you have no idea how to determine that, there are two options. The most affordable and less effective route is to self-diagnose. You can use a shaft length chart offered by golf brands such as Callaway.
However, if you are a player with cash to burn, consider beings custom-fitted. A fitter will identify the ideal shaft, lie angle, and loft for your swing. This helps optimize your launch angle for superior flight, carry distance and accuracy.
Employing long-length clubs for your swing helps you maintain the desired posture to prompt a fluid swing. Therefore, you enjoy a consistent swing path and increased power for added distance and accuracy.
2. Stand A Suitable Length Away From The Ball
The floor measurement between you and your golf ball is vital, as it impacts every element of your swing. When you stand too close to the golf ball, you leave minimal space for your hands to take the club away freely. Golf coach Clay Ballard highlights this issue in the below video:
This restriction prevents you from swinging freely. As a result, it slows down your clubhead speed and reduces your coefficient of restitution (C.O.R) at impact.
Find a comfortable posture for you and adjust your position away from the ball according to it. Don’t change your posture based on where you are standing, as that is a recipe for disaster.
As Ballard shows in his video, you get your posture correct first. Then you move towards or away from your ball until you are comfortable.
3. Place The Ball Correctly In Your Stance
Once you are satisfied with your posture, address the ball and place it in a favorable position. If your ball is teed up, set it up in line with the heel of your front foot. Position the ball 1.5 to 2-inches back from your driver position when striking fairway woods.
Continue to place the ball 1 to 1.5-inches back in your stance for every club, including your long irons and wedges. Take a practice swing and ensure that the low point of your swing is in-line with the ball for iron strikes. Conversely, your swing’s low point should occur briefly before impact on tee shots.
4. Swing Slower
As a tall strapping individual, you may be tempted to channel your inner Kyle Berkshire. However, if you swing rapidly and lose your rhythm, your swing arc may be as erratic as Pinocchio’s polygraph results.
Take it easy, and slow things down. Ernie Els is an excellent example of this. In an analysis of his swing, the PGA shows that when he generates 113.33 mph of clubhead speed, he hits it 294.8-yards.
It may be 28.7-yards shorter than the longest hitter and fastest swinger on Tour this season. However, 294.8-yards is no reason to stick your nose up.
The point is that the 4-time major winner has earned the nickname the “Big Easy” because he never forces his swing. Focus on striking the ball cleanly and optimizing your C.O.R, for consistent distance.
5. Shorten Your Backswing
I struggled with accuracy in my long game over the last 3 years. It was caused by a bad swing that went on every path except the intended one. The results were numerous slices and lost golf balls. It took me to the brink of wanting to give up the game.
Fortunately, I came to my senses and shortened my swing. This limits the damage of my bad shots but is successful for the most part. I shot my best round in years this week when I returned a +4, 76. It is still nowhere near my glory days, and I have lost several yards, but I will take the accuracy.
Work on a half or ¾ swing on the range to get used to the motion. I swing to the ¾ quarter mark and pause before hurtling my clubface towards the ball. This boosts muscle memory to help you repeat this process seamlessly on the links.
6. Optimize Your Rotation
I spoke about swaying and limited hip rotation. Without it, you lose power and struggle to get your clubface square through impact. Golf Digest Top Instructor Todd Kolb provides a simple drill to work on rotation:
Grip your golf club and address the ball. As you take away your golf club, step back with your trailing leg. If you are right-handed, that is your right leg. Then commence your downswing and step forward. The purpose is to help you feel how your hips rotate and give you a sense of the additional power it provides.
While Kolb provides tips on hip rotation, we have a detailed guide on shoulder turn drills you can practice. Combining these exercises will lead to superior power through impact for a high, long shot.
Related: If you are a shorter golfer, read our post on how to tell when your golf clubs are too long. Make sure you attend to this issue swiftly to enjoy better results on the links.