Michelle Wie: My 4 Driving Secrets to Find Every Fairway

Golf is a lot more fun when you’re splitting fairways. These four driving secrets helped me win last year’s U.S. Women’s Open. Use my moves to blast it farther and straighter than ever.

I’ve been driving it past most of the girls I’ve played against (and some of the boys) since I was 13. I’m 25 now, and my tee game has gotten better as I’ve grown older. I’m lucky. I’m six feet tall with long arms and legs—my body was built to create swing speed. But you have to be long and straight to make it as a pro.

I’ve worked hard on improving my accuracy without sacrificing much distance. A 26 percent increase in fairways hit since 2012—and a U.S. Women’s Open trophy—prove that I’m where I need to be.

My big secret to straight drives that soar over 250 yards on average? Leg power. I’m in the gym six days a week doing lower-body exercises. Strong legs help me minimize my hip turn in my backswing, creating more coil at the top. That coil is key. Hitting solid, accurate drives is like shooting an arrow: Pull the bowstring back taut and let ‘er rip. It’s as simple as that—and easier than you think.

You don’t need a lean, lanky frame to be a good driver. You just need to achieve four fundamental swing positions that, with a little practice, automatically increase your speed and improve your accuracy. So follow my step-by-step checklist and you’ll see that when you’re driving it far and straight, golf isn’t just more fun—it’s downright Wiesy.

1. Address: Don’t just set up to the ball – build a “power plant”

When weekend players stand at address, they usually think about the target, or more likely, the pond lurking on the right. Me? I think about my legs. I want them as sturdy and steady as possible, from my glutes to my calves. This lets me limit my hip turn when I start rotating my shoulders, maxing out my coil.

To start, do what I do: Take an extra-wide stance and plant each foot well outside your shoulders (photo, above). This broader base further restricts your hip turn. Then push out your knees so you look a bit bowlegged, like I do, and squat down a bit, pressing your spikes into the ground. Your legs are now engaged—the tightness signals that you’re ready to start your backswing.

“Activating” your legs this way helps you swing like an athlete. If your legs are as limp as noodles, they’ll collapse under the force of your motion. Even for non-power hitters, loose legs sink swings!

2. Backswing: Move everything except your lower body for a power-packed turn

Last season I hit nearly 67 percent of my fairways. That’s huge for me. And I found the short grass 70 percent of the time on my way to winning the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst last June. The big difference has been simplifying my backswing. I used to try to turn everything going back. Take my advice: Simply turn your upper body and let your arms and hands come along for the ride. This makes it almost impossible to get off plane. That’s why activating your legs at address is so important; without a solid base, your lower body turns in sync with your upper, no matter how hard you try to stop it.

In my backswing, notice how my lower body (above) looks compared with its position at address (in Tip 1.). It’s a carbon copy! The Nike logo on my left quad hasn’t moved. And look at the coil (the difference in hip turn and shoulder turn) I’ve built up just halfway into my backswing. That’s power I’ll put to good use at impact.

3. Transition: As you start your downswing, do less – not more – to keep the club on plane and conserve energy for impact

Watching golf on TV, it’s hard to tell when a player’s backswing ends and the downswing begins. But in your swing, the transition is obvious. Like most weekend players, your first move from the top is probably to spin your hips wide open. I get it—a lot of instruction advises you to “clear your hips.” Here’s the truth, though: This clearing should happen closer to impact than to the start of your downswing.

It’s called a “transition” for a reason—you’re prepping your body to exert power, but not (yet) exerting that power. The sturdy lower body you establish at address and maintain during your backswing? Hold it—and your upper body—rock-steady here, too. Simply shift your weight to your left foot without turning your hips or shoulders. There’s no difference between my end-of-transition and top positions (above) other than the fact that my left hip is closer to the ball because I’ve shifted toward the target. (My hands and arms drop in response to this move.) From this spot, I can crank up the speed without fearing a hook or a slice.

4. Downswing. Now the fun part. Simply uncoil–and pour on the power!

Once I finish shifting my hips toward the target during my transition, I immediately turn, first with my hips and then with my upper body, creating a whiplike “snap” through the ball. It’s that simple—just unwind, releasing the coil you built up in your backswing.

When I’m driving it my best, I unwind without changing my posture. In other words, my head is the same distance from the ball at impact as it was at address. The same goes for my hands—I look for a near match between address and impact here, too. Most golfers, me included, tend to hit the ball with “high hands,” meaning that the shaft is raised a little. This can leave the face open at impact. My coach, David Leadbetter, has been hammering this home: “Stay down and turn through.”

Here’s my tip: Focus on the ball—and I mean really focus. At address, pick out a single dimple and don’t lose sight of it until your ball leaves the face. Eyeballing a dimple steadies your body, keeping you lower to the ball and preventing you from lifting your torso through the hitting zone. It sounds like a small thing, but little things can make a big difference. So take it from me—keep your eye on the ball.

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