How Mackenzie Hughes’ speed training helped him take his game to the next level

Mackenzie Hughes understands the value of having a little more speed in the tank while playing a par-5 course that is more over 600 yards long, such as the fifth hole at The Country Club of Jackson.

Hughes said Sunday that he has renewed his commitment to speed training over the last several months as length has become an increasingly advantageous trait on the PGA Tour.

“In the last couple years I’ve kind of wavered in and out of it a little bit,” he stated. “In the last, I’d say two and a half months, two months, I’ve really upped the ante on that and have really kind of bought in.”

That came out on Sunday, he said, when he won the Sanderson Farms Championship for the second time on the PGA Tour.

On the fifth hole, you had to fly the ball over a bunker, through rough, and then onto the fairway on the short dogleg right.

“The wind was off the right a little bit so it wasn’t really helping and the bunker was 290 to carry and it was like 300 to the fairway,” Hughes said. “I actually didn’t hit it my best and carried the bunker no problem. Just kind of one of those ones where you’re like, that was awesome, because that’s exactly why I do this.”

When you consider Hughes had not recorded an average ball speed for an event above 172 since the 2020 season, up to this season’s opening in Napa two weeks ago, his ball speed of 178.6 mph is impressive by today’s standards but not extraordinary by any means.

After averaging 174 mph at the Fortinet Championship, Hughes’ average ball speed for the week in Jackson was 175.5 mph, the highest record of his career. Through two races in 2022–2023, he has gone from being more than one mile per hour slower than the Tour average a season earlier to being more than two mph quicker than the norm.

He said that when he started working with trainer Mike Carroll a few years ago, his interest in speed training really took off. After his first victory in in six years, he is now beginning to see the benefits.

“It’s a huge focus of mine going forward,” Hughes said. “Just feeling like if you go down the top 10 in the World Rankings, all those guys are moving out there pretty good with a lot of speed, and that’s just something I feel like I’m very capable of, and it just needs some hard work and dedication to get there.”

“That’s the goal and the plan, and I’ll keep working that plan until I feel like I’m at a speed that I’m pretty happy with.”

He acknowledged on Saturday that his attempts to push his swing to the limit during the speed training sometimes seem a touch “crazy,” but he does not mind that. On Sunday, he said that, even during competitions, he does it every other day.

“The key with this training is I feel like I need to kind of do it throughout tournament weeks as well,” he said. “I can’t just stop for tournament weeks and say I’ll just do it next week because we’re on the road so much, play so many events.”

“Yesterday before the round, I hit 10 drivers as hard as I possibly could just to feel like what’s my top speed, and then I can kind of work back to my cruising speed or kind of a stock driver swing.”

Hughes has never been one of the PGA Tour’s longer players, and he still has a ways to go before he can hit the desired 180 mph ball speed range, but he wants to be able to have that gear available if necessary, as he did on the 5th tee on Sunday.

“I want to basically elevate my ceiling, what my max can be, and then when I go out on the course, obviously it’s not going to be quite that fast, but I just want to creep it up over time,” he said. “It’s been working so far, and yeah, I’ll keep working hard at it and see if I can get some more.”

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Photo Credit: (Frank Franklin II/AP)

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