10 ways to launch your drives higher and longer
There is nothing more fun in golf than absolutely bombing your driver on an optimal trajectory to maximize distance. Here are 10 ways to help you to hit soaring tee shots, just like the pros do.
1. Center-face contact
A solid, well launched drive starts with center-faced contact. Off-center hits not only cause large amounts of distance loss but they also often come with some type of unwanted ball curvature. You can check where you are hitting your ball in your face by applying some type of marking sticker or spray to show you where contact occurred.
2. Good posture
Proper posture creates solid contact. Bend forward from your hips so your arms can hang with your hands below your shoulders. You should ideally be in the same posture with your driver as with your shorter clubs. Do not use your driver as an excuse to stand taller.
3. Proper ball position
Proper ball position in the front of your stance helps to deliver a square club face at impact and also places you athletically behind the ball in a location to generate power.
4. Shoulder tilt at address
Your lead shoulder should be higher and your trail shoulder lower so that your shoulders are parallel to your aim line but tilted back and away from the target at address. This shoulder tilt will allow you to catch the ball on the upswing maximizing smash factor as well as launch.
5. Tee it high enough
A higher tee will match well with forward ball position and shoulder tilt. If you tee the ball too low, you may catch the turf to hit the sweet spot in the face; on many drivers, the sweet spot is slightly above the center of the face.
6. Swing with speed
To launch the ball, you need speed. Speed will give the ball spin, and spin will give the ball lift. Two golfers may start the ball flight on the same launch angle and with similar impact condition, but the shot with more speed will continue to rise on that same trajectory but and travel a farther distance. I have the privilege to play with Rory McIlroy a few years back, and it was amazing to watch him launch his driver — and all of his clubs for that matter — thanks largely to his speed.
7. Practice swings should not brush the ground
When you take your practice swing with your driver, it should not hit the ground. I also like to hear the swoosh of the clubhead through the air at the bottom of the swing. If you can hear this swoosh, you are likely doing a good job generating speed. If your driver hits the ground, the swing is either too slow or too steep, and if the clubhead glances straight down the back of the ball, your launch angle is off.
8. Proper loft and shaft and weight
Having a properly fitted driver that includes the correct loft, shaft and weight is key to get the most out of it. Many golfers need more loft than they think. This is where using a launch monitor can be helpful, or spending time with a fitter. A top fitter like True Spec Golf (True Spec is an affiliate of GOLF.com) will have an array of shafts and clubheads available; trying different combinations and with feedback from a launch monitor, you’ll quickly see what combo of loft, shaft and weight work to maximize driver launch and distance for your swing.
9. Don’t confuse a pop-up with launch
Some of the worst golf advice I hear comes after a golfer pops up a drive: “You teed it too high…” If you are popping the ball up, the first thing to check is your set up — is your ball forward enough to be able to create shoulder tilt back and away from the target? You can check this by starting in a good posture with your feet together and your club addressing the ball. Take the smallest step you can with your lead foot and take a wider step with your back foot, allowing your trail shoulder to drop when taking this larger step. From that position, you can take smaller adjustment steps to get comfortable. Speed will also be your friend when you pop up the ball. If you slow down your forward swing too much, the club can fall to the ground with your steeper downswing breaking the tee (not good in the case of the driver). You need enough speed to keep the club moving across more than down, avoiding the broken-tee pop up.
10. Speed training with The Stack
One of my new favorite speed training tools and apps is The Stack, created by Sasho MacKenzie and Marty Jertson of Ping. This system uses a training aid and app to measure where you are and assigns specific training protocols to help to increase swing speed and distance.
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Launching driver is not a fun way to start a hole but it also makes the remainder of the hole and subsequent shots easier. A great drive has a domino effect for all ensuing shots. A shorter approach likely will set up easier short-game shots and putts.