What You Can Learn From Kyle Berkshire's Swing And Junior Development
Fri Sep 13, 2019 by TPI
The sport of World Long Drive isn’t just a competition, but a sort of living laboratory that highlights what the fastest golfers in the world do to squeeze every inch of distance out of their swing. Though it might not make sense to copy all aspects of their swings, we've always said that the average golfer can learn a lot about how to hit it further from studying Long Drive athletes. 2019 World Long Drive Champion Kyle Berkshire not only offers an example of optimal technique, but optimal athletic development.
Kyle’s meteoric rise in World Long Drive is uncommon. He started competing in Long Drive at the Spring of 2017 and less than three years later he became the World Champion.
Kyle was a talented junior golfer, but golf was not the only sport he played growing up (he was an exceptional baseball player, choosing to focus on golf in high school). When he was 12 years old, Kyle was fortunate to begin working with TPI Certified Bernie Najar of Caves Valley in Baltimore, MD. Their work together is a testament to what smart coaching can do to prepare a young golfer for long-term success.
At 6'3" and 200+ lbs today, it may be hard to imagine Kyle as an undersized athlete, but he didn't have his major growth spurt until his junior year of high school. The delayed physical development was a key to learning a technique that maximized speed, according to Bernie.
Kyle was smaller than most of his peers when he was younger. Most could hit it further than him and it drove him crazy. He was determined to be longer so he developed a really athletic, dynamic move with his lower body. He had to use the ground as aggressively as possible to keep up with the bigger kids.
Here’s Kyle’s swing from age 12 to age 22. We probably don’t need to prompt this, but notice the similarities in his movement pattern over the decade. What began as a compensation became a superpower.
A core fundamental of our Junior curriculum is that we believe one of the worst things you can do for a young golfer is to prioritize accuracy at the expense of speed. Bernie agrees:
One of the best things I did was go through the TPI Junior Certification so I knew about speed windows and growth velocity. I think it helped us maximize Kyle’s speed potential. We worked on shot making and fine tuning, but I never discouraged his aggressiveness. I never wanted him to swing easy.
Most young athletes have underdeveloped upper body or core strength so rely on their lower bodies to generate speed. It's why so many kids "jump" (vertical thrust) when trying to swing fast. It may look different, but it's not bad. One of the best things that Bernie did for Kyle was not listen to people who suggested he promote a quiet lower body.
Parents and coaches would always ask me, ‘Why don’t you fix his feet? He's jumping all over the place.’ I said I didn’t want to take away his power source.
When Kyle returned from college, his clubhead speed was creeping into the 130's. When he started to compete in Long Drive, Bobby Peterson joined the coaching team.
I’m very thankful that Bobby got into the mix because you can’t wear every hat. I trained him to be as good as he could be before college and then got him on the path to being a long driver. Bobby has helped him take it to another level.
For golfers that are trying to increase speed, developing a dynamic lower body is one of the most successful strategies. Two-Time World Champion Long Drive legend and Golf Channel commentator, Art Sellinger, believes that this is one of the elements of Kyle's swing that could be adopted by amateurs.
I have always felt that amateurs are trying to stay grounded too much. Kyle's footwork in the backswing swing is a great drill for amateurs. He gets his left heel off the ground which helps him to get more width at the top and incredibly high hands. This allows him to propel the club at speeds I’ve never seen before”.
The average player has to realize that to create speed the upper body tilt and head work back away from the ball. I see them trying to make this big lateral weight shift on their forward swing, but they cannot create speed when their center of mass is past the ball prior to striking it.
- Art Sellinger
Think about an intertube being towed by a boat. If the driver wanted to make the tube accelerate outside the right wake, they'd crank the boat hard to the left. It's an analogy, but the same general concept applies to the golf swing. This is why golfers who slide (excessive movement towards target) or early extend (move towards target line) often have a difficult time maximizing their power potential. Look at the 200 mph ball speed swing that Tony Finau posted this week. His body moves back, away from the target line.
Tony Finau averages 180 mph ball speed on the PGA TOUR (left), but topped 200 mph with this swing on the right.— BODITRAK SPORTS (@boditraksports) September 10, 2019
A longer backswing is a significant contributor to the increase in speed, but take note of where his lead foot ends up in the swing on the right. pic.twitter.com/Io4GvowRTA
There isn't a formula to creating successful athletes, but our advanced Junior seminars highlight what a coach, trainer or medical professional can do to give them the best chance at long-term success.
The two biggest pieces I’d share with a parent or coach are: Don’t overlook the importance of growth velocities in kids. Don’t try to teach everyone to swing the same way. -Bernie Najar