People love the driver. It’s just that easy to explain. Who doesn’t love crushing the ball down the middle past all their buddies? And honestly, this is how I’ve been my entire life. As a kid, the driver was the only club in my bag that I really had any faith in. From my first driver which was part of a four club set, to youth tournaments playing with a passed down Nike Sasquatch (which I still use, even though it’s been refurbished a few times), I knew I could trust my drive and my tee shots. This sort of consistency was one of the biggest factors (besides my chipping) for my early competitive victories. While other golfers would hit their drives into hazards and waste strokes hundreds of yards from the green, I would very rarely join them in their misery ( instead I gave away strokes with my irons…). As I grew my consistency fluttered but my power surged. Throughout high school I was the biggest hitter on my team and frequently in my foursome. This advantage of the tee can be hard to quantify but eventually, hitting wedges instead of 7 irons starts to add up. And at the end of the day, you have to travel a set amount of distance on each hole, and hitting the ball further (as long as it’s straight) can only help you play better. Driving always has been one of my favorite parts of golf and I know that once you unlock your own potential off the tee, you’re going to fall in love with long, straight, drives just like I have.
But before we actually talking about driving the ball there’s something important you need to think about. Hitting the ball further is really not going to make you better. In fact, trying to get the most distance out of your swing can actually make you worse. Very rarely will 20 yards of extra distance be worth it if you have to sacrific your accuracy and consistency in order to achieve it.
Think of it this way. If you drive the ball 250 yards of average and change your swing to get 270 yards instead you might think of that a big improvement, and it is by it self! But you need to look at the fairways you hit also. If you hit one or two balls extra per round into the woods because you’re trying to get too much out of your swing, you’re giving away all of the advantage you gained by driving the ball further and then some! The key to hitting good tee shots, is quick, quiet mechanics and that is exactly what we’re going to talk about today.
The words quick and quiet mechanics each play a part in the power and accuracy of your drives. But before you can be quick, you need to be quiet. So lets start there.
Quiet mechanics don’t have anything to do with noise but instead, how little excess movement your body makes. A golfer with a quiet swing will waste very little energy on unnecessary movement during his or her swing (any energy you waste can be thought of as distance lost). As with your irons, there are three things that we need to look at when it comes to mechanics:
- Stance and setup
- Ball position
- Swing plane and contact
When it comes to the stance, there are only a few changes from a setup for an iron shot. First, you want to think of widening your stance a little past shoulder width while putting a little more weight on your back foot rather than your front. Having a wider base will keep you firmly planted on the ground and keep your weight from swaying while the added weight on your back foot will help with power production. Keep a square stance with your feet perpendicular to the target and parallel to the club head. Bend at your waist and angle your back at a comfortable level (standing up too straight can result in too flat of a swing plane and a lot of hooked shots). I personally don’t like to hang my arms down like I do for an iron shot. Instead I prefer to think of them as almost an extension of the club because it gives me a longer swing arc (longer arc, more time to build up momentum, more power) but that is not something that will work for everyone. If you look to the right you can see a stance that is fully put together.
Continuing on we need to look at ball positioning next. Following the same rule that we learned when we talk about irons, we are going to play the driver furthest up in our stance because the driver is our lowest lofted club (besides a putter i suppose). Think of looking to position the ball right inside your forward foot as a starting point and then feel free to adjust it as you figure out what is comfortable for you. The reason we play the ball forward is to facilitate a sweeping motion which we can use with the driver because the ball is on a tee. This means we strike the ball after the swing has bottomed out which leads to extra height on our ball flight, and more distance on our drives. I personally choose to play the ball even further forward than this but I like to transfer my weight very aggressively when I go to strike the ball. It’s just a way for me to get a little more power, without having to increase my tempo.
Finally we need to discuss the swing. With the driver we want to think of having a longer swing arc than we would take with an iron because, like I said above, a longer swing arc gives you more time to build up momentum, which translates to more distance on your drive. From the ball a slow smooth take away is necessary to keep you body quiet. Focus on keeping a flatter swing plane than you would with an iron to compensate for the longer shaft and to help avoid slicing the ball. Continue to bring the club back until your waist is unable to turn anymore, and you find instead that your entire body is starting to coil. Once you get to the top of your back swing, it’s important to bring your entire body to a stationary point. This will ensure that, as you come back down, all the parts of your swing (hips, shoulders, arms, etc.) are working together in the correct order.
Follow the same swing path that you made on your back swing as you return to strike the ball, which will ensure that you make square contact. Similarly to an iron swing, remember to transfer your weight by driving your leading hip towards the target. However, instead of focusing on striking the ground in front of the ball, think of catching the ball after your swing has bottomed out and it’s on the way up. Continue to let the club release naturally around you and eventually rotate behind your head. If your weight transferred correctly your back foot should be resting on the toe of your shoe because all of the weight that was on it previously was shifted forward. Another thing to check is the rotation of your hips. You’ll know you’ve correctly rotated them if your belt buckle is pointed at the target area and your right shoulder has cleared where the ball was positioned. Anything besides this means there was either too much or too little rotation. If you’re anxious to see the entire swing and get a brief refresher on some of the basics as well as more advanced tips, check out this video below.
Following all of these tips will give you a solid, quiet swing. But we want to hit the ball far too, right? Well that’s where being quick comes in. Now being quick means a few different things. It means that overall, your tempo should be faster than when you’re taking an iron shot and it also means that the motions of your body can be quicker. The rotation of your hips back through the ball can be quicker. Your weight transfer can be quicker and more defined. Being quick does NOT mean, trying to swing harder using your arms (especially during the back swing). It does not mean you should start your downswing before you have come to a rest at the top of your swing. And it most certainly does not mean you should grab the club as hard as you can and wail away at the ball. These things might sound obvious but they are all common mistakes that actually end up hurting your distance instead of helping it.
So what do I tell the people I help when they ask me how to hit the ball further? Well I walk them through quiet mechanics and then I tell them this:
Sully’s Rules #2 “The further you want to hit the ball, the more you need to relax.”
It seems so cliche but it really is the truth and it took a long time for me to realize that this was the key to consistently successful driving. Relaxed muscles are stronger and faster than tense muscles and relaxed muscles don’t shake and make changes to your swing path like tense muscles do. So the next time you need a monster drive, take a step back, think about your quiet mechanics, take a deep breath, visualize how you want the ball to travel, and approach the ball with a clear mind and a relaxed body. I promise that if you do this instead of setting your mind to tearing the cover off the ball, it will work out well for you and your scorecard more often than not. Consistency and control will always be the winners at the end of the day. And so it’s time I said farewell for now. Until next time fellow golfers, enjoy the view from the tee box.
Honestly though. You don’t need to focus on improving your driving endlessly. In reality, you’re only going to use the driver maybe 13-14 times around anyways. We all know that everyone loves to drive for show, but never forget that you putt for dough. And that is where the real champions are made.