We all want to be able to out drive our friend or maybe at least feel competitive for the long drive contest in your next local scramble. There is nothing better than stepping up to the tee and ripping one straight down the middle 300 yards. I know we all suffer from this desire, so I have put together some concepts that will help you get a little more club head speed, but keep it straight at the same time and feel more confident on the tee.
Before I can touch base on the actual swing, I want to briefly talk about club fitting. With all of the advancements in technology you can differ sometimes 30 yards between two drivers. Also with technology the computer systems and high speed cameras offer these days you can actually compute the spin rate coming off of the driver as well as the club head speed and ball speed. The general rule of thumb for professionals with higher swing speeds is that you want your back spin off of the driver to be around 2000-2600rpms. Too much back spin can rob you of distance as the ball would go up instead of out; not enough and off of the tee you won’t be able to carry the normal lake on your dog leg par 4. According to the PGA, the average male golfer's swing speed is about 85 mph. Female players, on average, swing the club at 65 mph. Consequently, the average male player typically sees a ball speed of 120 to 134 mph, a spin rate of 2,800 to 3,500 rpm and a launch angle of 12 to 16 degrees. Pros average about 150 to 170 mph, 2,000 to 2,600 rpm and 10 to 14 degrees. Average female players manage between 90 and 120 mph, 3,000 to 4,000 rpm and 15 to 18 degrees. Every ball/driver combo has different spin rates for everyone so make sure you consult your local PGA Professional and have your driver swing analyzed on their computer system. This way when you buy your next driver you know you have the perfect club in your hands for your swing type.
Let’s start with the grip. Take your normal grip, but let’s rotate that left had a little to the right and the right hand also a little to the right. The left thumb should be right of center on the grip. Like the old rule of thumb, you want both Vs pointing at your right shoulder. Most power hitters play a draw and that is what I want you to try to do. I like to see 2 ½ knuckles from my left hand at setup; this way I know I have a little stronger grip than normal which promotes a draw ball flight. The reason that a draw is more common is that a fade actually goes up to the right and lands soft, where as a draw curves down left hits the ground hard and keeps rolling.
Ok, now for the swing. There are a lot of parts, but I have tried to break it down in sections for you. The first thing is setting up to the driver; you need to make sure you are solid at setup enabling you to take a nice rip at it. After you have taken alignment and you feel comfortable with where you are aimed, you need to take a little wider stance. In order to do this without taking the ball away from the inside of your left foot, drop your right foot back a little. This way you are more in touch with the ground and can really push off of it at impact through the uncoiling of your body.
Tempo is crucial. When you take the club back I don’t want you to think that you want to kill it. Many times when you do, amateurs and pros alike tend to bring it back with a jerky movement and simply ruin the tempo of the golf swing by taking it back to fast. You don’t have to take the club back faster to swing faster. Actually quite the contrary; if you can take it back with a smooth tempo, you will actually hit it further. Your muscles will be more relaxed versus taking it back quick with tight muscles. Your swing can now move back freely and with a normal smooth tempo you will really be able to wind up.
I like to take it back wide just so I don’t get stuck on the inside. You have to feel like you are stretching your left lat on the take away going into a full shoulder turn (right lat for lefties), but without allowing your left arm to come off of your body. A good visual is to think that there is a catcher just to the right of your backswing for a right handed golfer; you want to put your driver head in his mitt. This way you are creating a wider arc, which in turn will create more club head speed.
Keeping the left arm straight at the top is crucial for a wide backswing as well, but instead of thinking about the left arm, at the top think about moving the butt end of the club away from you; this will also help widen your swing. I remember years ago hearing from professionals that Tiger used to think “full shoulder turn, but short arms” at the top of his back swing. This way he could make a full athletic shoulder turn, but by keeping his arms short he would never go past parallel; it is considered the benchmark for power and I think accuracy as well. The hips don’t need to over rotate, but the shoulders need to turn full or wind up. Not many people can swing like John Daly and still hit it straight or be consistent for that matter. If you can do a full shoulder turn and keep your arms from going all the way back you will be much more compact and loaded up for an aggressive swing. Your weight will now be on your right foot; about 70/30 and the club head would not have gotten past you…a solid athletic position to start the down swing.
Ok, now shift your weight forward. Once you have full extension on the back swing you can start to move your weight forward towards the direction of your swing path. Start this with your top lat moving toward the target. Your left hip and remaining weight of your body will do this naturally as you unwind.
On the downswing true power hitters have a lot of room between themselves and the golf ball. Many amateurs are too close to the ball limiting the arc and the amount of club head speed that can be generated. Think of it like this, if you were to throw a baseball or football you wouldn’t have your arms close in and bunched up; you would be freer flowing giving yourself room so you could really wind up and throw it. Well the same goes for the golf swing; you need to give yourself room. A good drill for this is the head cover drill. Put a head cover just underneath the teed ball towards your feet. Give your driver head enough room to set up without hitting the head cover, but to where you think you are going to hit it on the down swing at impact. You can start out further away if you prefer so you don’t see your head cover flying down the range, but move the head cover closer as you become more confident. This will create needed space at impact between your arms and body. If you can take a swing without hitting the head cover you are giving yourself enough room at impact to really allow the club head to come through with maximum speed. You will also see that they are going to fly straighter as well. Don’t be hesitant, accelerate through the ball and don’t stop. I don’t want you to get mad and therefore jerky trying to “kill” it, but an athletic move towards the golf ball while still in control.
The final thought about impact is to keep your hands in front of the ball. Leading the turn with your left side, let your upper body rotate hard toward the target, but not allowing the club head to pass your hands or left arm until you have hit through the ball. Flipping your wrists or lagging them to much will rob you of club head speed and accuracy.
After impact you want to give as good as an extension as you did on the back swing through the follow-through as well. Keep swinging towards the target and allowing your chest to rise up facing down your target line. This will promote a fuller finish and again allowing your swing to be as fast and consistent as possible. Everyone finishes differently at this point in the swing so I am not going to tell you where the club should be. Some people finish around the body like Tiger Woods and Jack Nicholas and others finish above the head like Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer; and they were all pretty good! Just so you are good at impact and have finished high and proud, the remaining part of the swing we will leave to unique personal style.
I hope this has helped you get a couple extra yards out of your driver. All in all whether you are playing an older knock off or current top of the line name brand product, a wider stance, stronger grip, a full shoulder turn with short arms on the back swing, and an accelerated follow though finishing with a taller chest off of the left foot will increase the club head speed and accuracy no matter what driver you have in your hands. So before you go out and buy a new club for $400, let’s test out what you have first…but buying a new driver is ALWAYS FUN!
Hit it pure!