Category Archives: driver

A Few Golf Things

Not a very catchy title, is it? I couldn’t think of what else to call this post and still build in a little SEO. So no great ideas this week, just a few things I’ve been fiddling with, and a story.

1. Practice your putting stroke at home, maybe ten or so strokes a day. Not a lot, just enough to keep the feeling of how you do it from slipping away. Putt a ball to a target while doing this. I use a jar opener for a target. You can get one at a grocery store. It’s a thin sheet of rubber about five inches on a side, with a lot of raised bumps. If you trace out a circle on it using a 24-oz. can of tomatoes as your guide, you can cut out a “hole” just about 4¼” in diameter. You can also take this ersatz hole to the practice green and drop it where you want a hole to be, if the ones already cut out aren’t where you want to putt/chip to.

2. Lately I have taken to swinging a 7-iron in my living room late at night with the lights out. Don’t worry, you won’t hit the ceiling. Just make sure you’re clear of ceiling-mounted light fixtures. Swinging in the dark will improve your balance, since you don’t have the visual cues you normally use to stay in balance. It also slows down your swing so you’re actually swinging, not clobbering.

3. A little thought I’ve been using for a while concerning the driver is a way to make sure the clubhead is moving upward when it contacts the ball. Before I address the ball I think not about hitting it square on the back, but a bit below that, on the underside. Now I know that’s not possible, but it does give the unconscious mind a way to tell the body how to hit the ball with the clubhead on the rise. Make sure as well your hands lead the clubhead. By all means turn off the conscious mind when you swing. Just a smidgen of thinking about hitting under the ball will ruin the effort.

4. Once at the range my son asked me to hit a ball as hard as I could. I think I had a 6-iron or so in my hand. So I did, and it went a long way. Then, I said, “Watch this.” I put my normal swing on the ball, which doesn’t have any “hit” in, and the ball went five yards less. How much can you slow down your swing with a particular club and still get the same distance out of it? Try it.

Actually, I didn’t really hit the first ball as hard as I could. I did that another time while playing in a 4-club tournament. I was 170 yards from the green. I had a 7-iron, my 140-yard club, and a 19* hybrid, my 200-yard club, in the bag. I didn’t want to ease up on the hybrid, because you can really hit a terrible shot that way. So I had to clobber the 7. I stood beside the ball for about a minute, psyching myself to swing as hard as I could, yet still control the strike. I swung, connected, and the ball took off and landed on the green. I put the 7-iron back in the bag and promised myself I would never, ever do that again.

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.

Hit Your Driver Straight

[Note: this post was completely revised on February 6, 2015]

The driver is probably the recreational golfer’s most important club. If you put the ball in the fairway, you have a chance for a par. If you miss, the odds are considerably lower. Here is one way to tame a difficult club.

You have to get two things right at impact to hit the driver straight. First, the clubhouse to be travelling toward the target. Second, the clubface has to square to that line of travel. Let’s take up the second one first, because it involves the backswing.

The clubface will remain square to the swing path if the angle in the left wrist is the same at the top of the backswing as it is at address.

Stand upright with your hands at your sides. Now reach up with your left hand and put your palm on your right shoulder. You will see that the angle in your left wrist is the same is it was when your arm hung at your side. This is what I’m talking about.

Get into your stance with your driver and take a backswing, stopping at the top. Let go with your left hand and the left arm hang down as it will. Now reach up with your left hand to touch the club handle with the underside of the fingers of your left hand. Again, you will notice that the angle in your left wrist has not changed.

Get into address position gain. Before you take the club back, imagine a line about six inches long extending away from the ball toward the target. I’ll come back to this later.

Now swing up with both hands so your left wrist is undisturbed as I have been describing. Unless you do something really silly on the downswing, the clubface will be square at impact.

I will now describe how to swing the club down and through the ball so it goes right at the target.

Imagine your upper body is in a cast from your waist to your finger tips. None of that can move a bit. Swing down by easing your left hip toward the target as you rotate your hips into the ball. Your upper body goes along for the ride.

When your hands and arms get to about hip height, let them release the club into the ball, using as a target the six-inch line you visualized earlier, as your hips keep turning. Let the club swing right along that line.

Two silly things you can do is try to hit the ball with your hands, or leave them behind to get what you think is a late hit. Doing the first will likely close the clubface, and doing the second one opens it. Think passive hands, and keep them up with everything else. They lead the clubhead into the ball, but only by a little.

Accompany these swing techniques with the proper 3:1 rhythm and I think you will like the results.

Thirteen golf clubs, one swing

Many advisors say you would be better off leaving your driver at home and teeing off with a 3-wood. I am completely opposed to that idea. The driver is one of the most valuable clubs in your bag. Instead of avoiding it, learn how to use it.

The reason the driver is so hard to hit is not because it is so much longer than the other clubs, or has less loft, but because of the way you approach it. The driver hits the ball father than any other club, and you see the touring pros absolutely bombing it, so you think you have to do the same, that it’s a distance club.

That makes you swing it differently from your other clubs, asking your swing to do different things, and the driver to different things, than they were designed to do.

You don’t think that way with your 9-iron, do you? With that club, you’re trying to hit an accurate shot to a target. No one tries to bomb their 9-iron. So why not do the same with your driver? Hit an accurate shot to a target. A very long time ago, the driver was called a “play club,” meant only to get the ball in play at a distance, with “in play” being the part that mattered.

The way to hit your driver well is to hit it the way you hit all your other clubs. Here’s a drill that will show how that feels.

Take two clubs to the range, you driver and your 9-iron. Warm up with your 9-iron and get to the point where each shot is a good one. Then, lay down that club, pick up your driver, and swing it with the same swing you’ve been using with the 9. That swing might feel a bit small, so open it up a bit, but stick to that 9-iron feeling. Hit three balls (no more!), and go back to the 9 and hit it with the driver swing you were just using. Now you will have a bit of driver feeling in your 9-iron. Hit a few balls with that swing, then go back to your driver and hit three balls with your new 9-iron swing.

What you’re doing is bringing aspects of one club into the swing of the other. You’re making your driver a little more like a short iron, and your short iron a little more like a driver. You keep going back and forth, one club borrowing from the other, until there’s nothing left to borrow. At the point where both swings feel the same, you’ve done it.

At that point, you should be hitting smooth, straight drives, and 9-irons that have real authority. This is the place where you want to be with your swing, where you have one swing for thirteen clubs.

In your daily life, you don’t run into a problem area and avoid it. You would figure out how to solve the problem and make that area a new strength. Do the same in your golf. Learn how to hit the driver and leave your 3-wood at home. That would make room for another wedge!

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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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A little-known way to hit your driver father

By now, you probably know, or should know, that physical tension does not help you swing faster. It actually slows you down. In order to hit the ball a long way, you need to have clubhead speed, and lots of it.

True, you need to make centered contact, but that’s another post. This one is about pure speed and how to get it. You get it by being relaxed from head to toe.

So you know that grip pressure needs to be light. You cannot strangle the club. Light grip pressure keeps tension out of your hands and forearms. Thus, you hold the club lightly.

You could put tension in your legs, too, in the attempt to power the swing through the ball. But you have found out that never works, so you’re not doing that either.

There’s one place where you still have tension, and you know it, because your swing still doesn’t feel completely free. Where could that other place be?

It’s your upper chest and shoulders.

Even though you’re being very good about keeping tension out of the obvious places, you still want to hit the ball hard and the only place left to try to do that is with your upper chest and shoulders.

Try it. Swing your driver fully, and if you feel the least bit tight in that area, that’s what’s holding you back from a really long hit.

That tension is slowing down your arms as they come through the ball, robbing you of I don’t know how many MPH of swing speed, but it doesn’t matter how much. All that matters is that tension which prevents you from doing your best.

There’s only so far you can hit the ball. Some people are longer hitters than others, but everyone has a maximum and most golfers never get close to it.

If you were to swing the driver in a slow, free manner, with the clubhead maybe a foot off the air when it passes in front of you, you would feel that tensionless swing.

All you have to do now is swing the driver at your normal speed, but with that same lack of tension in your entire body.

That’s easy to do, but difficult to trust, because it doesn’t feel powerful. But that’s exactly how it’s supposed to feel — effortless. This is not a power swing, it’s a speed swing, and maximum speed is generated when you are completely free of tension.

Try this experiment. Work with this swing for a bit until you feel like you are swinging fully, not holding anything back, but you have no tension in your body. When you think you have it, swing again and listen to the sound the clubhead makes as it whooshes through the impact area.

Now swing again, using your normal driver swing, and listen to the whoosh. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that the second swing has a lower pitch than the first one, proving that the clubhead was moving slower.

Take this new swing to the range, now, and give it a try. It might take several balls before you decide to just swing freely and see what happens. I’m positive that when you connect, you will see the light.

Hitting the ball farther without having to work for weeks on a swing change. How good is that?

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

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.

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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

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