Why practicing like this can help ‘straighten’ your driver miss

If you want to learn to hit the ball straight, sometimes the best thing to do is practice hitting the ball sideways.

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Few things are worse in golf than looking up moments after feeling contact and seeing the ball sail off in an unintended direction. All we want is to hit the ball straight. That’s our goal, after all, when we set up to the golf ball. To hit the ball where we want to.

But how do we do it?

Strange as it sounds, it could be that practicing intentionally hitting your ball sideways could actually help you hit it straighter.

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As GOLF Teacher to Watch and Director of Instruction at Chevy Chase Club Sarah Stone explains in this interesting video below (you can and should follow Sarah on Instagram right here, by the way), it’s a concept called “Intentional Directional Awareness.” In simple terms, it’s teaching how to do something — even if it’s something you may not want to do — as a way of learning how not to do it. Think of it like driving a car: If you know how to turn left, and you know how to turn right, you now how not to do those things, too.

The same is true in golf. That’s why Sarah says she has her students practicing hitting the ball left, right, and then straight.

“What this is going to do it’s going to build awareness so that when you do hit the ball left, you can say: ‘wow, when I did that, I felt a lot of forearms, or wrist, or flip, or whatever,” she says. “That way, when you get out on the course and you’re missing it right, you can think back.”

Practicing it is as easy at it sounds: Try hitting a ball left, then right, then straight, then start again. Take careful note of what you’re feeling as you’re doing it, and disregard the notion that you’re not good enough to try — this is how you get better.

And aside from hitting the ball in different directions, GOLF Top 100 Teacher Mark Durland says you can practice this kind of awareness across the clubface, too. Try hitting a shot off the toe, then off the heel, then try hitting one out of the center.

“By giving your brain multiple reference points to think about, you force it to work harder — so you can learn faster,” he writes.

A simple piece of advice, and one that may help us all intentionally hit more drives down the middle.

Want to overhaul your bag for 2022? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf.

Luke Kerr-Dineen

Golf.com Contributor

Luke Kerr-Dineen is the Game Improvement Editor at GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com. In his role he oversees the brand’s game improvement content spanning instruction, equipment, health and fitness, across all of GOLF’s multimedia platforms.

An alumni of the International Junior Golf Academy and the University of South Carolina–Beaufort golf team, where he helped them to No. 1 in the national NAIA rankings, Luke moved to New York in 2012 to pursue his Masters degree in Journalism from Columbia University. His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf Digest, Newsweek and The Daily Beast.