Category: Golf Tips
Driving Made Easy
On the Practice Tee
with Joe Giles
PGA Professional and
Southern Ohio PGA Teacher of the Year
So what’s the least favorite club in your bag. No, don’t tell me, let me guess. If you are like most players that I ask that same question, your answer is sure to be the driver. Because of it’s length and lack of loft, I agree that it is the most difficult club to hit accurately. This set of tips will focus only on the driver and some thoughts on how to improve your tee shots.
Before I take you through your “Driver’s Ed.” course, let me give you some background on this particular club. They used to all be wooden, but now they are mostly Titanium. The lighter metal allows for a bigger head (easier to hit) without being too heavy. The are huge in size compared to the clubs I grew up hitting. Now they come with the ability to adjust the lie, loft and face angle of the club. Technology has attempted to make this club as easy as possible to hit, however the majority of today’s golfers still struggle when they tee it up. Drivers are by far the number one selling individual club in the golf industry. Every time a new driver comes on the market, claiming to improve distance, you can bet the consumer will jump at the chance to hit one. I even heard there is a company in Oregon developing an all-purpose driver. It is not only guaranteed to add 30 yards to your tee shot, it also develops buns of steel, helps you lose 10 pounds in a week, prevents hair loss, and makes unsightly wrinkles disappear. I’m anxiously waiting with my home-shopping card in hand.
Now that you know everything about the drive, let’s learn how to hit the darn thing. The very same reasons that allow you to hit this club farther than any of the others, are also the reasons why so many of us hit it poorly. The length of the club will allow you to establish a huge swing arc, creating a great deal of club head speed, however, the length of the club also makes it more difficult to return the club to a square or straight position at impact. The loft (or pitch) of the driver forces the ball to lift off of the club on a very low trajectory. This lower flight sends the ball out, rather than up, gaining distance at a high rate of speed. The loft, or lack of loft, can also hurt you. I think a lot of beginners would be better off hitting a #3 or #5 wood from the tee until they are able to generate enough club head speed to get the ball airborne.
In order to help improve your driving record, I’m going to do a little trouble shooting. See if you can identify with some of these typical errant tee shots:
Effect: The ball goes straight up in the air and the club drives the tee into the ground.
Cause: Club is making contact on too steep of a downward plane.
Tip 1: Make sure to position the ball forward in your stance (inside left heel is recommended).
Tip 2: Just lay a tee on the ground a couple inches outside the ball but exactly where the middle of your body is (sternum). Instead of placing your driver head directly behind the ball, line it up even with the tee. Only focus on the tee throughout the swing, basically ignoring the ball and let the club swing forward while you remain steadfast focused on maintaining your “center” position. When the club extends towards the target, let it turn your right side so you finish properly, with your weight on your left side. This should prevent you from moving forward as you start your downswing.
Effect: The ball starts left of the target then slices way right.
Cause: Swing path is coming from outside the target line, ending up way inside the target, with the face of the club aiming to the right. You probably made a big move at the ball with your right shoulder when you started your downswing to get the club in this position.
Tip: At the top of your swing when your shoulders are aiming to the right, just let your left hand drop down instead of turning your shoulders back to square. This will get your swing path going from inside the target to outside the target. Next you’ll have to learn how to change the angle of the club face on this path (to be discussed at a later time…sorry!).
Effect: Hitting the top of the ball resulting in a shot that rolls on the ground.
Cause: Not maintaining a spine angle that is slightly bent. In other words you straighten your spine in an effort to get leverage while trying to hit the ball.
Tip: When you practice, try teeing the ball up as high as you can, and instead of trying to hit the ball, concentrate on sweeping through the tee and not hitting the ball. When you do it right, you will either go completely under the ball or the ball will go very high in the air. Gradually lower the height of the tee but still focus on sweeping the tee out from under the ball. You probably should put some clear tape on the top of your driver when practicing this drill so as not to mar the top of your club.
Try some of the drills that I’ve listed to correct your errant shots. The drive swing is no different from any other full swing. It’s just that the mistakes are amplified. So, good luck and learn to “drive safely.”
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