When faced with a 600-yard-plus par-5 like the 5th hole of The Country Club of Jackson, Mackenzie Hughes realizes it pays to have a little extra speed in the tank.
With length becoming more and more of an advantage on the PGA Tour, Hughes said Sunday he’s rededicated himself over the past few months to speed training.
“In the last couple years I’ve kind of wavered in and out of it a little bit,” he said. “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 showed up on Sunday he said on his way to his second PGA Tour win at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
On the 5th, needed to fly the ball over a bunker and then a stretch of rough before reaching the fairway on the slight 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.”
His ball speed was recorded at 178.6 mph, not crazy by today’s standards, but outstanding when you consider Hughes hadn’t recorded an average ball speed for an event over 172 since the 2020 season, until this season’s opener in Napa two weeks ago.
Hughes’ average ball speed for the week in Jackson was 175.5 mph, the fastest mark in his career, and this is after averaging 174 mph at the Fortinet Championship. He’s gone from more than one mile per hour slower than Tour average a season ago to more than two mph faster than average through two events in 2022-23.
He said his interest in speed training started a few years ago during COVID when he began seeing trainer Mike Carroll. Now he’s starting to see the results after his first win in nearly six years.
“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 admitted Saturday the speed training can look a little “crazy” when he’s whaling away at balls on the driving range, trying to push his swing to the limits, but he doesn’t mind it. He said Sunday he does it every other day, including at tournaments.
“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 longer players on the PGA Tour, and he’s got a long way to go if he wants to reach the coveted 180 mph ball speed range, but he wants to be able to have that gear in reserve if he needs it, like he did on the 5th tee 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.”