10 things golfers need to do to hit longer drives
There aren’t many of us who don’t want to hit the ball farther, especially with our driver. Nothing is more fun than ripping a shot off the tee, approaching the green from close range, and making birdie. A solid, long drive starts the chain of good events. It’s like a domino effect that leads to better golf and lower scores. Here are some fundamentals and techniques that will help you to gain this additional yardage.
1. Groove center contact
While it may seem a bit obvious, hitting your driver properly in the center of the face makes a huge difference. One of the wonders of all of today’s technology is that we can actually measure the percentage of distance loss in off-center hits. You can mark your driver face with face tape or a powder spray that will show you the contact point of the ball and the face. Grove good contact by starting with slow and small swings, with a good grip and setup. Once you find the sweet spot doing that, add speed. I will often say to my students: “As you gain confidence (usually comes with good shots), add speed.
2. Get a good setup
Most of your set up fundamentals apply to all clubs when the ball is on the ground. The driver breaks the rules. Proper ball position should be very forward and typically in line with the lead foot instep. The high tee allows this. When your ball position is forward with your driver, the ability to tilt your shoulders back and away from the target allows the shoulder alignment to stay relatively parallel to the alignment of the face, but yet contact the golf ball on an upward angle where the club makes contact with the back of the ball. It can make a huge difference in distance. A great way to check this is to hug your club in the middle of your chest and then bow forward until the club shaft drops between your legs. Next, tilt away from the target until the club shaft makes contact with your lead leg. This will help you to feel proper bowing posture as well as the tilt away from the target needed to hit longer and often better launching drivers. If you tend to hit your driver solidly but too low, this is often one of the best fundamentals to check.
3. Turn your torso
Now that you are set up well and making good contact, you want to start gathering power. A backswing that is powerful includes an upper body rotating away from the target. While different flexibilities allow for different degrees of rotation on the backswing, this can be adjusted with foot flare. The more your flexibility is limited, the more you should consider turning your toes out to help increase your bodies ability to move. The simplest way that I have discovered to promote this is by keeping your arms connected and in sync with your torso. You can also practice this by crossing your arms close to your chest, like you see my fellow GOLF Top 100 Teacher John Tillery demonstrating above. All this will help you feel a circular rotation away from the target with a more athletic turn.
4. Get a good grip
Have you ever hit a slice? How did it feel? I have and I didn’t enjoy it because the ball goes so depressingly short. One of the quickest paths to hitting your driver longer is a good grip that will produce a square club face at impact. This allows square and direct contact versus and open face with a very glancing feeling at impact. A great practice is placing your lead hand onto the club exactly as it hangs and in the fingers. Try this. Relax your lead arm and let it hand and see what it looks like. How many knuckles do you see? This is how many you should see when your lead hand is on the club. Each and every one of us is different and our grip should match.
5. Swing in a circle
A golf swing is a circle and proper swing path has a lot to do with maximizing distance. A club head that cuts across the golf ball will produce a glancing contact and not produce the distance you might like. A great way to insure proper path is to practice with an alignment aid just outside your golf ball. This will help proper swing path at impact. Great posture, grip and rotation on your backswing are the building blocks to produce this.
6. Speed with your hands and arms
You can produce an incredible amount of speed with your hands and arms alone. Two moments come to mind that made a big impression on me that show the value of this.
I remember watching Jim Flick teach at PGA National to a school of students and he asked them where power was created. The group of students had a lot of different answers and he then sat in a chair, picked his feet off of the ground and pounded drivers down the middle of the fairway using only his hands and arms. It was impressionable and memorable.
On a separate occasion, I had a long drive contest with my friend Kathy Hart’s brother, Dudley, where he hit from his knees and I could make my regular swing. Yes, he won. The value of generating speed from your hands and arms is a huge part of distance. And I am certainly not saying that your body doesn’t add to this, but this is certainly an important part of distance. When you hold your driver properly, it is important not to squeeze so tightly that this tension works it way up your hands, and arms so that you are able to take advantage of this.
A great practice is to hold the club so that you are able to feel the weight of of the club head throughout your swing.
7. Get fit
If you could buy more distance, would you? I would and I did. Being fit for your driver, by a premium clubfitter like True Spec (editor’s note: True Spec and GOLF are owned by the same parent company, 8am Golf) or even just taking advantage of demo days you may have at your club or in your area will allow you to try new technology that may help you to hit the ball farther. Having the proper loft, shaft flex and driver length are all a part of this equation. The fitters have an incredible amount of product knowledge that can help you to max our your potential. And while it can get a bit expensive, the club shaft is also known as the “engine” of the club. For the increased enjoyment that you may gain, this expense is certainly a consideration.
8. Try Speed Training
For the small percentage of golfers who naturally have speed, I am happy for you (but a bit jealous). For the rest of us, we need to practice to gain and maintain speed. One of the simplest ways is to take one of your woods or your driver and turn it upside down and hold the shaft just below the club head. Making your normal swing, you will want to make the grip make as loud of a swooshing noise at the bottom of your swing, where the ball would be. As you swing the grip of your club, try to increase the speed and therefore the pitch of the swoosh. One of my favorite training systems is SuperSpeed Golf. The system is not particularly time consuming and has a real track record of increased distance.
9. Know when to swing hard
The more you play your course or courses you play regularly, you will find landing zones where the ball lands and kicks forward. You can see this as you watch golf on television where the professionals have amazing control of their ball flight. Often they are great at knowing where to land the golf ball to take advantage of speed slots that project the ball forward and help to yield shorter approaches to the green.
10. Play the right golf ball
Does the right golf ball make a difference? Yes! It does. It can be incredibly confusing with all of the options out there and the names and design characteristics change every year. Some companies offer ball fittings, and if you have the opportunity to take advantage of this you should. If not, feel free to ask your club professional what golf ball they think you should try and start there. It can also be fun to try your own experiment. Ask for three suggestions and try each. I think you will be surprised how obvious it is when you find the right golf ball for you.
Drive for show and drive longer for lower scores. Bryson DeChambeau certainly showed us the value of distance in the U.S. Open recently. His pure strength and distance were able to overpower the rough and the course. It certainly would be nice to hit it as far as he does, but I think each of us would be happy just hitting it farther than we do now. It certainly makes the rest of our golf games easier, but the fun factor with hitting that “big drive for you” is a lot of fun.