Category Archives: driver

No More Driver Depression

For a while now, longer than I want to admit, I have been suffering from driver depression. You know, you’re bummed out because you can’t hit this thing to save your life?

At one time it was my best friend and as straight as any club in the bag. Now? One duck hook after another.

I thought it was several things, which I won’t go into, because none of them were the reason.

But there is this book I have, titled Golf Doctor*, by the legendary British teacher, John Jacobs. He presents 25 “lessons,” each of which is a description of a particular (poor) ball flight, why it’s happening, and what to do about it.

And it’s not just, do you slice or do you hook. It gets much more detailed than that.

This is the one that described me:

“Lesson 7: Shots with all the clubs start out on target but curve to the left thereafter. Shots with all clubs fly lower than normal. Your driver, the least-lofted club, is practically unplayable.”

That’s me, especially the last. And you know what? It was all in the grip.

The first correction was to see if the grip is turned too far to the right. Too strong. Yes, my right hand had drifted over that too far to the right. I should be placing my right hand so the V made by the thumb and hand is nearly centered on the handle (see photo).

But that wasn’t all. He suggested a very fine point. At address, the pocket formed by the right hand rests firmly on top of the left thumb. If this pressure releases during the backswing, the right hand is free to get active and overpower the left hand through impact, closing the clubface.

That was my biggest problem. My right hand was separating itself from the left. There was a big gap between them by the time my backswing was finished.

When I was young, books talked about putting a blade of grass between the right hand and left thumb, and not letting it fall out when swinging the club. I don’t see that pointer too much anymore, though Tom Kite’s method book has it. There’s a picture of it in Jacobs’ book about five pages later where he uses that concept to fix something else.

So that’s it. Two things to work on. So I worked on them at home. When the winter weather cleared, I went to the range to try it out.

No luck. Same as before. But with two balls left in the bucket I realized I had gone back to my old habit and my hands were coming apart. More practice at home.

A few weeks later, and another trip to the range. This time I had “hands together” down pat.

Driver. I haven’t hit it that well in years. LOUD sound. Square in the center. Ball launching off the clubface, up in the air, straight down the “fairway” a long way. Again and again.

I’m happy now. No more driver depression.

You might look into getting a copy of this book.

* Also published as Quick Cures for Weekend Golfers.

Me and Tiger

GolfWRX published an article today on the driver Tiger Woods used when he won the Tiger Slam in 2000. It’s a Titleist 975D.

It just so happens that is the same driver I use, even now.

Tiger (actual club)
Me (actual club)

I hit fairways with it and it feels real good in my hands. It doesn’t go 298 yards, though. I must be doing something wrong.

Maybe it’s that my driver is 12.5* and not 6.5*. Maybe it’s that I have never hit it past 250 and have no idea how I hit it even that far. Once.

But I don’t care. Me and Tiger. We know a good driver when we see one.

The Right Way to Use Your Driver

I think the biggest problem we have with the driver is that we think of it as a distance club. Yes it’s the longest club, but it is not a club of unlimited length. It, like all the other clubs, is meant to hit the ball a certain distance.

We get the most out of our driver if we think of it instead as a positional club. Our task is to hit the ball off the tee to a place in the fairway that makes our shot to the green as easy as possible.

Consider every other club. If we want to make a six-foot putt, the direction has to be highly accurate. If we chip from off the green, we’re aiming at the hole.

When we pitch from 70 yards, we’re aiming at the hole.

When we hit an iron into the green, we’re aiming at something, maybe the pin, or somewhere more towards the center.

Why would it be different with the driver?

There’s a famous story about Ben Hogan at Carnoustie hitting his ball into a tiny space between a mid-fairway bunker and out-of-bounds because that spot gave him the best look at the green for his second shot.

It’s a shot that few people dare to try. But he did, because that’s how he used his driver―for position.

I know this is asking a lot. Turning your driver into a positional club is not easy to do. But start practicing with it that way. When you’re at the range, pick a specific spot and try to get the ball to that spot with your driver just like you would with a six-iron.

You might have to change how you hit your driver, but if you do, it’s going to be a change for the better.

In the end, you might not be able to land the ball in the divot you made yesterday, but if you can hit the ball to the right side, or the left side, or the center of the fairway at will, boy, those pars are going to start adding up.

Because the origin of pars (and birdies) is the tee, not the fairway, or around the green.

How To Hit Your Driver

When my first book, Better Recreational Golf“>Better Recreational Golf, came out, I had a publication party at a local book store, complete with books for me to sell and sign, and refreshments. It was really cool.

This was in 2009, and the name of the store was Tea Party Books.

The next year the Tea Party Republicans got elected to Congress and the book store got nationwide attention, but for reasons the owner had to spend a lot of time deflecting.

Anyway, I put up posters all over the area in golf course pro shops and sporting goods stores and so forth.

The only people who showed up, though, were family, a few friends, and my editor.

Well, I gave my spiel anyway, even though there were maybe three golfers in the room including me. When I was finished I asked if there were any questions.

My brother-in-law, who tries his hardest, asked me how to hit his driver. So I answered with a bunch of technical stuff that was in the book.

That was thirteen years ago. What I should have said was this:

Start hitting 7-irons. Hit lots of 7-irons. Get really good at hitting 7-irons.

Because if you can’t hit a 7-iron, why are you trying to hit a driver?

Ten More Yards with your driver

Everybody knows by now that the faster your clubhead is moving when it hits the ball, the farther the ball will go. F=ma, after all.

If you poke around the Internet you will find that in the range of swing speeds you now have, 1 more MPH will give you about 3 more yards of carry. So if you can get 3 more MPH, you’ll get almost 10 yards more carry.

So why don’t you just swing a little harder and get the extra speed? Well, it’s not that easy.

You’re probably already getting the highest swing speed you can get right now. Everyone has a limit, you know. And then trying harder means, for most people, putting out more effort, which usually ends up lowering your swing speed because of the extra tension you put into the harder swing.

And that, folks, is the key to getting those 3 MPH.

(Right now I feel like the coach in Chariots of Fire who told Harold Abrahams he needs three more yards and he can show Abrahams how to get them.)

If tension slows you down, the opposite of tension, relaxation speeds you up. What we’re going to relax are your arms, the parts of your body that do the actual swinging.

Stand up in your address position, but without a club in your hands. Let your arms hang down and swing them gently from side to side.

Notice how free and easy it is, and how all the movement is in the shoulder joint. The joint itself does not move.

Now stand up and swing both arms up and over your head, and let them fall straight down again so they swing behind you, just as if you were in a large stadium doing the Wave.

Just go back and forth, swinging freely, feeling as before all the movement in the joint but not of the joint.

Now ask yourself, do my arms feel like this when I swing a golf club? Especially in the forward swing?

I would bet they don’t. But if they did, those relaxed arms would swing faster perforce, and there you would have the extra speed you want.

How much more? I don’t know exactly, but there will be more. To put this technique into practice you have to trust that a relaxed swinging motion will send the ball farther away than a muscular hit will.

Which is true.

Simple Mathematics of the Driver

This isn’t going to be a big physics thing. I don’t know enough to write it, and would you understand it if I did?

This is about phonograph records. I know, I date myself, but they illustrate the point perfectly.

If you watch a spinning phonograph record, you would note that the part near the spindle turns very slowly, and the part at the far edge races around the turntable.

That’s because they have to make one revolution in the same amount of time, but with different distances to go.

On a 33-1/3 RPM recored, a spot a half-inch away from the spindle travels at a speed of 105 inches per minute. A spot on the far edge of the record, six inches away from the spindle, travels at 1,256 inches per minute. *

O.K.? So let’s talk about golf clubs. My 7-iron is 38″ long, and my driver is 44.5″ long.

If I swing them at the same speed, the clubhead of the driver, because the driver is a longer club, should be going 17% faster than the clubhead of the 7-iron.

That’s a theoretical analysis. Here is some actual data.

Average LPGA swing speed with a 7-iron is 76 MPH. The ball carries 141 yards at that speed. You can probably hit a 7-iron that far.

That same swing, applied to a driver, becomes 94 MPH, which is roughly 24 % faster. That yields a a carry distance of 218 yards. Add some roll-out and you have yourself a pretty decent drive …

… by swinging your driver the same as you do your 7-iron!**

Where does the extra clubhead speed come from? Why not just 17% faster?

Remember that the golf swing is a dual-lever motion. The arms, swinging from the shoulders, provide the 17%. The club, swinging from the hands to the clubhead, proved the remaining 7%.

But that’s not the point. The point is that your 7-iron swing is your driver swing. Let the design of the club (longer shaft, less loft) do the work.


* Scientists used a phonograph record to verify Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity. A “clock” on the edge of the record does run slower, because it is going faster, than a “clock” next to the center of the record. The difference is really, really, really small, but it’s there.

** Red typeface is the Internet equivalent of writing something on a large polo mallet and hitting you over the head with it.

Nailing Your Driver

There is an easy way to hit the ball square in the center of the clubface with your driver. Would you like to know what it is?

No changes in your physical technique are required. It’s strictly in your mind.

Your mind, that is, your unconscious mind, is very good at understanding orders and seeing to it that your body carries them out.

To do what I proposed, as you stand at address, and before you take the club back, think to yourself, “center hit.”

Then swing the club and stay out of its way. Anything your conscious mind adds to the swing to help make that center hit happen only “fouls” it up.

It will take some practice, because you have to teach your unconscious mind what “center hit” means.

But it shouldn’t be too long before it starts working.

You’re welcome!

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 (Madsen Rule). 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.


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.


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.