Category Archives: driver

A Driver Drill That Works

OK, OK. In spite of all the times I have said to leave your driver at home if you aren’t breaking 90 yet, you bring it anyway. So ignore me.

But only if you do this drill so you can learn to actually hit the [expletive deleted] thing.

Go to the range with just your driver (like half the other people there do). Get your bucket of 60 balls and do exactly this when you hit each ball. The same thing every time. No deviation.

Take your hands back, slowly, to the height of your shoulders. Or to where your left arm lies parallel to the ground. Now make a smooth, SLOW, rhythmic pass back through the ball, like you’re hitting a gentle lay-up. Remember to swing the club through the ball with hands ahead of the clubhead.

If you do this right, you will hit the ball squarely on the center of the clubface. THAT is the key to hitting your driver.

Do not be concerned at all about how far the ball goes or even in what direction. That is totally irrelevant. Be concerned about one thing only — making contact on the center of the clubface.

If that’s not happening, try slowing down your swing a bit more. If there’s still no joy, make sure your hands are ahead of the clubhead at contact.

Do not manipulate the club to get the result we’re looking for — smooth out your swing instead. Once you get the idea, keep doing it. Over and over. Same thing. Do not think, “I’ve got it!” and start pounding the ball with your full swing. Keep making these slow mini-swings to pound the sensation of a centered hit into your unconscious mind.

When you’re finished, you will have hit 60 balls with a driver and maybe none of them went over 150 yards. But most of them were struck on the CENTER of the clubface.

With this driver drill you are getting expert in the one thing you have to do with this cub — hit the ball on the center of the clubface.

Keep at this drill, and once you get VERY GOOD at it, you might speed up the swing a LITTLE BIT and make the swing a LITTLE BIT longer. But not much. Add to what works in tiny increments.

What about playing? Well, if you wanted to use this swing when you play, could you live with being in every fairway? As you get better at the drill and extend your movement, gradually, without getting greedy, the distance will come, and you’ll still be straight. The driver might become your favorite club in your bag.

Swing Up With Your Driver? Really?

The advice you read these days is that your driver should be arcing upward when it makes contact with the ball. True enough for recreational golfers. There are some instructors, though, who would have you learn a swing separately for your driver so that could happen.

I won’t argue with them, because they might well be right in that that would be ideal way to play golf. But recreational golfers who have time to make one trip to the range per week, and play one round of golf per week, don’t have the time to develop two swings. Getting good at just one is hard enough.

So here’s what you don’t have to do to be swinging upward with your driver.

– You don’t have to deliberately swing up at the ball.

– You don’t have to tilt your stance away from the target when you set up to the ball.

– You don’t have to tee the ball higher or tee it up way forward in your stance.

None of those things. All you have to do is use your normal stance and your normal golf swing.

I figured this out when I was working on my swing with a 6-iron and no ball. I found that the club kept hitting the ground about thee inches in front of the ball.

This means I would have hit a golf ball lying on the ground while the club was still going slightly down, like we’re supposed to. But three inches isn’t that far in front of the ball. After that, the club would have to start arcing upward.

I laid out a few alignment rods as shown in the picture. The orange rod points to the center of my stance, where I would place the ball for an iron shot. The tee peg points to a spot three inches in front of that, marking the bottom of my swing. The yellow rod points to the ball on a tee, even with the inside of my left heel.

driveup

As you can see, the yellow rod lies well in front of the bottom of my swing (tee peg). That means when the driver bottoms out three inches in front of the orange rod, it has plenty of time to be arcing upward when it contacts the ball.

When I started swinging normally at a teed-up ball, using the same swing feelings that I do when I swing an iron, the ball just took off.

Remember, all the clubhead has to be doing is moving a few degrees upward. By using your normal swing, that will happen.

One swing is hard enough to learn. Fortunately, that one swing is good enough for everything.

How Far Do You Hit It, Really?

We all think we hit it farther than we do. You hear that a lot. Actually, I think each of us has a very good idea of how far we hit it. It’s just not as far as we would like.

This chart tells the approximate truth. If you have a swing speed with your driver of 95 mph, which is high for the majority of recreational golfers, you will carry the ball 210 yards. With adequate roll, you can get about 225 yards out of that shot.

550_DistVsSwgSpd122704GIF

Now roll is highly variable. Have you ever seen an aerial shot of a Tour event and there’s a shot of a drive that falls straight out of the sky and maybe gets two yards of roll?

But, it was hit in the air a ton. Recreational golfers don’t hit those kinds of shots. Ours go lower and roll more.

So don’t kid yourself. If you are an average recreational golfer and you hit your driver 200 yards in the air, that’s a good shot. Add on maybe 15-20 yards of roll and you can play with that length.

Want to hit it farther? Assuming you hit the ball on the center of the clubface regularly (and that’s a big assumption) you’ll hit it farther by swinging faster AND maintaining good tempo.

A more lofted driver might help, too, but that’s another post.

Should you be hitting a driver?

Short and sweet today.

Go to the range and hit four 8-irons. Did you get similar-looking shots? They all had nice ball flight, and went where you were aimed? Didn’t hit any of them fat?

Good. We’ll call those shots Pretty Much the Same.

On to part two.

Hit four drivers. Did they all go Pretty Much the Same like your 8-iron shots did? Even two of them? No?

If not, if every one of them was different, then you shouldn’t be hitting your driver.

Start with your 9-iron and work your way through your bag, one club at a time, hitting four balls with each club. The longest club with which you can hit three out of four shots Pretty Much the Same (and straight) is the longest club you should be using off the tee.

End of lesson.

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The Driver and Parallax

I have a new golf tip idea, but since I’m not swinging a golf club these days, I need your help in seeing if it works. It concerns addressing the ball with a driver. Here is what I would like you to try.

1. Tee up the ball like you normally do for a drive.

2. Hover the clubhead directly behind the ball so the ball appears centered on the clubface.

3. Drop the club to the ground using your shoulders as the hinge. Do not make any changes to your posture, or the length of your arms, or adjust the position of the clubface on the ground. Just lower the club. It should look like you’re addressing the ball off the toe.

4. Swing away. If this works, you should hit the ball on the center of the clubface.

The reason I came up with this is that there is a parallax effect when you address a teed ball. If you address the ball in a centered way with the club on the ground, the clubface will actually be aligned in the air to hit the ball on the heel.

Because the ball is raised, you must add a second dimension to the address. Addressing the teed ball in this new way should correct for that. At least that’s my thinking.

It’s important when you try this not to make a compensation because it looks like you’re now addressing the ball off the toe of the club. Just swing, see what happens, and let me know. Ten shots should make a good trial.

Also, Make sure you just make a golf swing. Don’t try to bash the ball or steer the clubhead. Just swing.

Thank you for your help. Let me know how/if it works.

Visit www.therecreationalgolfer.com

When to Leave Your Driver in the Bag

The Big Dog gets you in trouble sometimes, and you have this nagging feeling every now and then that you shouldn’t be using it. How do you decide which times those are? These four questions can help. First, be honest and decide what score you expect to get on this hole. Then go down the list. At the first No, leave the driver in the bag and hit something else off the tee.

1. Is your expected score on this hole a par?
2. Think of the longest club you feel confident about hitting into a green. Will your average drive get you to at least the distance from which you can hit that club?
3. Do you need to hit a driver to have a short iron or less into the green?
4. Think of the trouble off the tee. If you hit into it with a driver, can you still make one stroke over your expected score with average play?


Here’s how this works out in practice. There is a hole on a course I play several times a year, 386 yards uphill, par 4. In the nearly twenty times I have played this hole, I have parred it twice. It’s an easy bogey for me, but a hard par. A perfect drive (what’s the chance of that?) leaves me with a hybrid club off an uphill lie to hit the ball onto the green (what’s the chance of that?). The answer to question 1 is No. I don’t expect to par this hole.

I play a hybrid club off the tee, advance the ball with a 6-iron, pitch on, and get my bogey. Keeping the driver in the bag lets me hit three easy shots into the green instead of two hard ones. Double bogey never gets put in play, and there’s an outside chance of making par if my chip gets close enough.

The very next hole, on the same course, is a 391-yard par 4. It’s longer, but I always use a driver. Why? Par is a reasonable expectation for me here because the fairway slopes downhill, making the hole play shorter, and angles to the left, favoring my shot shape (question 1 is Yes). Catching the slope will leave me with a short iron into the green. (question 2 is Yes).

Question 3 is Yes; a shorter club off the tee will leave me with a mid-iron to the green. As for question 4, the trouble on the right is easy to play out of. Sometimes I have made par from there, so the answer is Yes. Out comes the driver.

You don’t have to use your driver just because it’s a par 4 or a par 5. Make that club work for you when it’s to your advantage. Otherwise, try a different option off the tee.

See also: Keep the Long Clubs at Home

Visit www.therecreationalgolfer.com

Hit Your Driver Straight: A Checklist

Recreational golfers shoot good scores by getting the ball in the fairway off the tee. By going through the following checklist before you swing, you will increase your chances of hitting good shots with the hardest club to hit well.

Straighter shots begin when you set up to the ball. Most golfers set up aimed to the right of their target.

Either the ball goes right, or a subconscious correction sends the ball pretty much anywhere, only sometimes where you intend.

Practice your aim every time you go to the range. It is a skill that cannot be learned for good; it must be refreshed at every opportunity.

Ball position counts, too. With your driver, you want hit the ball slightly on the upswing.

Lay an alignment stick on the ground pointing from your stance toward the ball (at a right angle to your target line). When the stick points to the ball, and inside of your left heel lies against the stick, the ball is in the right place.

The following traits can be easily built into anyone’s swing. They help keep the club under control so you can return it to the ball square and in line.

1. Grip down about a half inch from where you normally do. This will give you more control of the club.

1a. Slow down. I want to say this before you even step up to the ball. Slow down, make an easy swing at the ball. When you try to clobber it, your swing gets out of sequence and the clubface goes in funny directions. Don’t worry. Distance is built into the club. Think of chipping the ball off the tee, but with a full swing.

2. Take the club back straight. It’s hard to take the club back outside, but easy to take it back inside. Have a friend stand down the line behind you to give you feedback on getting this right.

3. Do not swing the club back too far. Take it back only as far as when you hit your 9-iron and see what happens.

4. Start your downswing by turning your body. Let the arms and hands go along for the ride until the momentum of the downswing, on its own, unleashes them into the ball.

5. Keep your body turning. A common error is to slow down your body turn near impact so can apply a hit.

6. There’s a race between your hands and the clubhead to get to the ball first, which your hands have to win. Keep pulling your hands through the impact zone.

7. Suppress the urge to clobber the ball with your right hand. Swing your arms and hands through the ball with your body turn.

2013 update: This summer I have been hitting my driver exceedingly straight. I attribute that to the work I have been doing on making sure my hands are ahead of the clubhead through the hitting area.

Bonus: Until you can hit your driver straight, tee off with the longest club that you can hit straight.

Should You Buy That New Driver?

Every year, golf club manufacturers come out with new drivers, guaranteed to let you hit the ball longer and straighter. New technology and design trump last year’s up-to-the-minute advances. Now I assume that you’ve finally put that persimmon driver away, but at what point should you be willing to lay out $3-400 for a newer driver than the one you have, and if you want a new driver, should you have to pay that much for it?

Let’s look first at the job a driver has to do. It is a club designed to hit the ball off the tee a long way down the fairway. Its bigger head and longer shaft mean that extra distance comes without any extra effort on your part. All you have to do is make sure your swing hits the ball straight, which, because of its relatively upright face, is harder to do with a driver than with any other club.

So before you start looking for a new driver, ask yourself this question. Am I getting everything I need out of the driver I’m using right now? If the answer is yes, I’m getting satisfactory distance and I can put the ball in the fairway consistently, there might not be a reason to switch. If the answer is no, and you hit all your other clubs just fine, maybe all you need is a lesson to figure out what the problem is. If the answer is you don’t hit your other clubs much better either, then it’s the singer, not the song, and that $400 would be better spent on lessons.

So it looks like in every case, you should stick with what you have rather than upgrade. Not quite. There are times you should switch. The new designs and technology do make a difference. Maybe not so much from one year to the next, but the improvements compound themselves. If your driver is five years old, advances since it was new could well let you hit significantly better shots, or the same shots more easily.

How would you find out? Go try out some of the new ones under the supervision of your local pro or club fitter. Unless your current driver was fitted when you bought it, you might find that a new driver, fitted to your current swing, makes driving the ball a completely different experience.

You use your driver 10-14 times every round, depending on it to get you into a position from where you can attack the hole. Ben Hogan regarded it as the most important club in his bag. Make sure the one in your bag is your driver, and delivers everything a modern driver should. You owe it to yourself.

See also Custom-Made Driver?

My new book, The Golfing Self, is now available at www.therecreationalgolfer.com. It will change everything about the way you play.

Do You Have to Hit Your Driver Hard to Hit It Far?

Say you have a room full of people and you want to find out which ones play golf. All you have to do is say, “Who would like to know an easy way to hit a golf ball farther?” The ones who raise their hands before you’ve even finished the question are the golfers. Hitting a golf ball along way is fun with a capital F, and it’s easier to play golf by hitting 8-irons into greens instead of 5-irons. But how do you hit it farther?

Length in golf is expressed by a simple equation: clubhead speed + square contact = distance. There’s nothing more to it than that. Reduce clubhead speed and you hit the ball shorter. Hit the ball off-center and you hit the ball shorter. It takes both.

I’m only going to talk about hitting your driver farther. Trying to hit your irons farther is inviting trouble. These are accuracy clubs. You want to hit them straight. The only club you need to concern yourself with in your quest for distance is the driver.

The title of the article, then, is a question many recreational golfers ask, and I can give you an unequivocal answer to it: yes and no.

Yes, you do have to hit the ball hard to make it go a long way. Have you seen the hard hitters on the PGA Tour swing their driver? You almost hurt yourself just watching. But then there’s Ernie Els, who everyone thinks makes an easy pass at the ball. Watch him live, up close if you get a chance. Nothing easy about it. He hits the ball hard.

That’s the yes answer to the question, but here’s the no. If your driver sends the ball 250 yards through the air, but your slice means that 40 of those yards are spent taking the ball sideways, you didn’t really hit the ball very far.

Yes, the pros swing hard, but they also nail the ball on the dead center of the clubface almost every time. If you could see a wear mark on the face of their driver, it would be about the size of a dime. That is what gets them their distance, that enormous acceleration together with their precise impact. Clubhead speed without accurate contact won’t do.

So where does that leave the recreational golfer? Work on precise contact first. Even at slower swing speeds, you’ll get surprising distance with clean contact alone. At the range, try swinging your driver at half speed, to work only on hitting the ball off the center of the clubface. Build a swing that leads to that result.

Then, work on hitting the ball hard. Take 10 balls and hit each one as hard as you can on the center of the clubface. If you get some pushes or pulls, don’t concern yourself with that for now. Work on hard, centered contact. You’re building clubhead speed into your swing in a controlled way.

Yes, you do have to hit the ball hard to make it go far, but that works only in the context of centered contact. Never forget that.

My new book, The Golfing Self, is now available at www.therecreationalgolfer.com. It will change everything about the way you play.

Custom-Made Driver?

Earlier this week I called a club fitter/maker to talk about having a new driver made for me. I had read a book about how important a personally fitted driver is, and I guess I drank the Kool-Aid. Made the call, set up the appointment, hung up, and began having second thoughts.

The first was the price. I won’t get specific, but this would have been a very expensive golf club. That made me think, how much bang for all those bucks would I be getting? Would it really let me hit the ball 20 yards farther? That much straighter? Does my low-90s swing speed really demand a tailor-made club? How many strokes would it take off my game?

That last question is the one. How many strokes would better driving take off my game? I keep track of these things. It takes me 38-39 strokes right now to get the ball green-high in a round of golf. The rest of them are used in getting the ball into the hole from there. My handicap is built on getting down in three instead of two. The driver isn’t going to help me one bit with that.

I had a lesson last fall to learn how to hit those 25-35-yard chips that you have so often on par 5s and sometimes long par 4s. And I’m getting good at that shot. One-putt good.

In addition, this year I added a gap wedge to my bag and started practicing. With my pitching wedge, the gap wedge, and a sand wedge, I’ve got pitches at 10-yard increment down pretty well. Soon I’ll be working in cutting those intervals in half. Now it doesn’t do you any good to be able to hit a pitch on demand 70 yards instead of 75 if you don’t know exactly how far away the pin is. Rangefinder.

I guess I talked myself out of it. I can see the improvements in my short game, along with knowing exact distances, cutting 3-5 shots off my score. Can’t see that with the driver. I can with the rangefinder, though, and that’s where I feel justified in spending the money.

So I guess I’ll be calling to cancel the fitting appointment and hitting more short shots, just like you should.

My new book, The Golfing Self, is now available at www.therecreationalgolfer.com. It will change everything about the way you play.