As a PGA Teaching Professional, one thing I never have to worry about are students coming to me completely content with how they’re hitting their drivers. It hasn’t happened yet, and I doubt it ever will.
Why? Because everyone, including touring pros and scratch golfers, wants to drive the ball longer, straighter, and with more consistency. And for higher-handicap players, better performance off the tee can do wonders for their scores and also dramatically improve the enjoyment they get from playing golf.
The simple reality is that hitting your driver well sets you up for success on the course. If you can get the ball in the fairway off the tee, you’ll hit more greens in regulation, with the result being lower scores. If you can also pick up added distance with the driver, that will lead to shorter approach shots, which will also help you hit more greens.
Of course, there are times when distance is more important than accuracy, and other times where finding the fairway is the only thing that matters. Being a good driver of the golf ball means being able to execute the shot that’s required in any given situation.
With that being said, here are some tips that I believe will help you improve your overall performance off the tee with the driver and give you a better chance to enjoy more success no matter what type of tee shots you’re faced with on the course.
1. CENTER CONTACT
There is nothing more important when it comes to good driving than being able to hit the ball in the center of the clubface. In fact, for most drivers on the market, the ideal place to contact the face is slightly above the geometric center. A cheap and simple way to see if you are contacting the clubface where you want is to purchase a can of powdered foot spray and spray the clubface. The ball will leave a mark where it made contact and the residue will wipe off easily when you are done. If you can find the sweet spot more often than not, you’ll pick up a few yards and hit the ball straighter.
2. IMPROVE YOUR ANGLE OF ATTACK
Angle of attack can be defined in layman’s terms as either hitting up or down on the ball at impact. The more you hit down on the ball with a driver, the more backspin you are going to produce. Backspin isn’t all bad since it will help you hit the ball straight. The tradeoff for a steep angle of attack with a driver, however, will be a lack of distance. A majority of players will benefit from hitting up on the ball at impact with the driver to reduce backspin and get more carry. To do this, make sure your spine stays tilted away from the target on the downswing and that you feel the clubhead swinging up and around your body.
3. FLAT LEAD WRIST
Clubface control is paramount to a player’s ability to control accuracy. A fundamentally sound grip and lead wrist control are key when it comes to controlling the clubface. Some players will be able to slightly cup their lead wrist at the top of the swing, but most will do much better by keeping it flat (think of Dustin Johnson, who actually bows his wrist at the top of his backswing). Another reason that a flat lead wrist is important specifically to driving is that you have to manage the length of the backswing in order to keep the lead wrist flat. That will help prevent over-swinging, which can cause all sorts of issues with the driver.
4. BALANCE, BALANCE, BALANCE
When the driver is in their hands, all most people can think about is hitting the ball as hard as they possibly can. While you definitely want speed with the driver, how you obtain it can be elusive. Trying to hit the ball too hard will usually lead to poor balance throughout the swing, which often results in off-center strikes. By swinging in better balance, you increase your chances to hit the ball solid and generate more efficient clubhead speed. I recommend holding your finish for at least three seconds after every shot to ensure proper balance.
5. HITTING THE “MUST HIT” FAIRWAY
There are usually times during a round that you will stand on the tee and the only option is to hit the fairway. If you miss that fairway, you will risk penalty shots or be faced with a second shot that’s likely to find serious trouble. There’s nothing wrong with clubbing down to a fairway metal or hybrid to increase accuracy, but sometimes you simply need the distance that the driver provides. Remember how decreasing your angle of attack can increase backspin and improve accuracy? When you have to hit the fairway, tee the ball lower than normal to encourage a more downward strike with your driver. As long as you make a normal swing, you can expect a straighter flying drive.
About the Author Tyrus York is a PGA Teaching Professional at the High Performance Golf Academy in Lexington, Kentucky, which is one of only two Golf Channel Academies in the state. He was named the 2014 Kentucky Section PGA Teacher of the Year, and he also serves as the head coach for the Transylvania University women’s golf team.