Hit It Big

Crush your drives with these fifteen tips

STRONG GRIP = STRONG HIT Grips are usually classified as neutral, weak or strong. A weak grip, where your hands are rotated to the left, adds loft at impact and makes your club of choice play a bit weaker. The result? Loss of distance. On the other hand, a strong grip (one where your hands are rotated to the right) de-lofts the club through impact, effectively strengthening the hit, adding more yards to your shot. Strong grip equals strong hit–it's as simple as that!

MAKE A WIDE BASE To hit it deep, you need to generate some serious power, and a rock-solid, stable base is the best foundation from which to hit. Think of your driver base not as a stance, but rather as a launching pad. Much like the Space Shuttle needs a solid foundation to rocket out of the atmosphere, your footwork provides the foundation for balance and stability for a big, fast-moving swing. Little shots go narrow; big shots go wide!

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MAKE TWO SQUARES Speed is a key component to generating power, but all too often, golfers try to manufacture it in the wrong way (usually by overusing their big muscles and forgetting the simple zip you can get from quality hand action). To create an efficient lever system, make a backswing where your right arm and corresponding wrist fold to create a square between your bicep, forearm and club shaft. On the follow through, re-create the same square with the opposite hand and arm. The faster you can move from square to square, the more speed you'll have in your hit.

FAST FACT! Bubba Watson leads the PGA Tour in driving distance this year, averaging 312 yards off the tee. In 1999, John Daly held the honor at 305.6; in 1989, it was Ed Humenik. He averaged 280.9 yards.

SWING WITH YOUR DOMINANT ARM ONLY Ben Hogan believed so much in the power of his dominant arm that he used to say that he wished he had three right arms at impact. Makes sense. Your dominant arm is naturally going to be the stronger of your two arms. To develop more arm strength in your dominant arm, practice hitting shots on a regular basis with only that arm. At first, it's a bit difficult, but soon you'll be amazed at just how far you can hit it. When you place your other hand on the handle, you'll feel exactly what Hogan was talking about–the ability even in golf to deliver a knock-out punch!

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PRACTICE THE TWO-SHAFT DRILL Instructors talk a lot about the hands, arms and body when generating power, but we can't forget about the simple power you get from just being able to consistently hit the sweet spot. Solid hits are all about swinging your club on plane.

To get a feel for your proper swing shape, address the ball with two clubs, one in each hand, side by side. With the first club, make a backswing, so that the shaft angle at the top matches the shaft at the bottom. Then return to impact, and swing the other shaft into the followthrough, again matching your original shaft angle. A little work with this drill will show you just how to swing your club on a perfect plane for solid hits.

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START YOUR BACKSWING SMOOTHLY The smoother your swing starts, the better chance you have to gradually build up powerful momentum. To keep your takeaway in check, hit some shots where you gently roll a ball away from address with the back end of your driver. After hitting the shot, take note of how far you've rolled the ball away. If you're within one to two feet from your starting position, then you likely got off to a smooth start and are in good shape; if it's greater than that, you rushed your takeaway and need to slow it down.

UNWIND SLOWLY Rush, rush, rush! That's a common mistake most players make when they try to hit a big drive. When trying to generate a little extra mojo, it's important to keep in mind that the universe is rooted in paradox. It's patience, not rushing, that'll help you generate more speed. Many golfers get too anxious, causing their smaller muscles to take over and to make an over-the-top swing. Check out the photo at right, where I'm tossing a ball up in the air. Notice how, when the ball reaches its apex, it's neither traveling up nor down. This is the all-important transition point between the two directions. The transition in this simple tossing exercise is slow and quiet. When you strive for more power, it's vital that you incorporate this same slow and quiet attitude into your swing.

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WIDEN YOUR ARC The big arc made popular by Jack Nicklaus was what helped him generate a lot of power. To add some width to your swing, practice some rehearsals where you swing your lead arm about one-third of the way into your backswing. Make sure to keep your head fairly centered as you stretch. Once the left arm is in position, place your right hand on the club, as well. Notice how wide your arc is? With the proper amount of stretch, you should see a gap about the size of a softball between the inside of your upper arm and rib cage. Big drives are just moves away.

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NARROW YOUR ATTACK A common problem for many golfers is what I call clubhead throwaway, where the angles created in the backswing are too quickly dissipated coming down, leading to poor speed and lack of compression. Once you've got a wide arc going back, try to narrow it a bit coming down. Thinking wide to narrow and trying to make your swing look a little like Ben Hogan or Sergio Garcia is a great way to keep those angles in check.

TEE IT HIGH The key to great driving is to create an angle of attack that's level to slightly ascending at the point of contact. Teeing the ball up so that at least half of it is above the club's topline ensures that you won't go after it with too steep of a descending blow. Also, your driver's hot spot is likely near the top of the face, so this tip will allow you to take full advantage of your club's distance and carry capabilities. As they say, Tee it high and let it fly!

SLOW HANDS, FAST CLUBHEAD Think of your golf swing as two circles: an inner circle represented by the path taken by the handle and your hands; and the outer circle represented by the arc created by the clubhead. Through impact, in order to speed the outer circle, you must actually slow down the inner circle. A great way to feel this is to emulate some baseball swings where you start slow and gradually try to add some whip. Be mindful of the relationship between the head and the handle, and soon you'll understand the feeling you're looking for.

SNAP YOUR LEFT LEG AT IMPACT A good transition starts with creating pressure into the turf or what I call, loading the left leg. This is represented by feeling some flex in your left quad as your left foot pushes into the turf. Once you've got energy loaded into your left leg, it's time to release that energy into impact with what I call the snap! Make some half swings trying to feel the load-then-snap sequence, where the leg goes from flexed to straight. The leg straightening facilitates your body's rotation into the followthrough, keeping your circle intact with a ton of centrifugal force, adding yards to your hit. If done properly, your left leg should reach a straightened position simultaneously with the club's impact into the ball.

BASEBALL SWING GOLF SWING

BECOME A PULL HITTER In baseball, power hitters are pull hitters, meaning that most home runs tend to be out toward left field (if they're right-handed). To put a baseball player's mentality into your golf swing, try to point your chest into the left-field stands as you unwind into a full finish. Many golfers think that a good finish is made when they finish facing the target, but that's not the case. After impact, the best golfers' bodies point well to the left of their target. Let this be your goal, too.

FAST FACT! In 1983, when TaylorMade introduced the Tour Burner driver, it had a clubhead volume of 140cc. Today's Tour Burner measures 450cc

SWING LIKE YOU THROW Science shows that there's a perfect kinetic chain of movement that will allow the body to produce maximum velocity. This chain can be dissected in the basic throwing motion. Notice how, in the two pictures above, I start from the ground up, adding pressure with my front foot as I unwind. This is followed by an unwinding of my hips and subsequent rotation of my torso, which is then followed by the throw itself with my hands and wrist supplying the final snap and zip.

To practice this, play catch with a friend, starting off close together with short, easy throws. Gradually spread apart adding some heat to your throws. Finally, throw a long one as if you were trying to hit home plate from the outfield, and you'll experience what it feels like to never break the chain.

USE THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT Think back ten years. If your physical makeup and swing have not changed all that much, I bet you're driving the ball at least 10 to 20 yards farther. That's good news. You've noticed a gain from equipment upgrades. I've got even better news for you: With a few more upgrades, you can hit it even farther.

Buying modern golf equipment off the rack may add yards to your game, but if you want to add more, you have to get fitted. Find the right shaft-and-clubhead combo and the right ball and get your lie angles adjusted. You'll see your contact and consistency improve and you can tack on another 10 yards.

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