Easy Drives

Simple tips and drills for finding the fairway more often

Easy DrivesThe higher the handicap, the more pivotal the tee ball becomes. Driving the ball into water, rough, bunkers, trees and other hazards is what causes high-handicappers to rack up strokes. As players become more proficient, they develop skills to execute trouble shots and hit pitches from the rough and sand, putting less pressure on hitting fairways. It’s almost as if good players expect to miss every now and then, feeling confident in knowing that they have the tools to recover from an errant drive. High-handicappers, unfortunately, don’t have that luxury.

Fact: Everybody wants to hit more fairways. Even the best players in the world occasionally misfire and wish they hit more. That’s somewhat encouraging, because it proves that great golf is attainable without always finding the short grass. The most common flaw among golfers who struggle with driving is a clubhead that travels on too steep an angle and far too much to the left of the target line as it approaches the golf ball (for right-handed golfers). This is what’s called an outside-in swing. The typical results from such a motion are cuts, pop-ups, topped shots, big slices and smothered hooks—basically, the gamut of poor shots. What’s confusing is that the steep, outside-in swing manages to work from time to time (especially with the mid- to short irons), leaving high-handicappers in a quandary over why they can hit their irons but not their driver.

If you fall into this category, here comes the bad news. The key to better golf is developing a swing that works well with the driver all the way down to the sand wedge. The swing to which I’m referring moves the clubhead from slightly inside the target line to slightly outside the target line on the downswing. Because short irons have shorter shafts, they require a steeper angle of descent, which is why every now and then a steep swing works well. However, it’s too difficult for the body and mind to cogitate two swings in one round. For the high-handicappers who really need to hit more fairways, it’s time to dump that steep and to-the-left swing (often indicated by marks on the high toe) and trade it in for a repeatable, inside-out swing motion that works well with every club in the bag. The good news: All you need are a few changes to your setup and swing.

Tidy Up Your Grip
How you position your hands on the handle often dictates whether or not you’re going to have a consistent swing. First and always, grip with the handle more in the fingers, and make sure the V-shapes formed between your thumb and index finger on each hand are pointing at your right shoulder. This assures the proper hand position at address. It also serves as a governor as to how far your hands release, turn and roll through impact. In addition, it’ll prevent you from collapsing your wrists and over-rotating or under-rotating the handle.

Set Up Right
Like skiing, golf often requires players to make certain moves that, on the surface, may seem counterintuitive. For instance, when you want to slow down on skis, you’re actually supposed to lean downhill. In golf, when you want to avoid hitting the ball to the right, the correct adjustment is to—you guessed it—set up to the right. Many talented players have adopted a slightly closed stance because it practically eliminates an outside-in swing and promotes a steady right-to-left spin on virtually every shot. Often, when amateurs struggle with slicing, they intuitively aim more to the left, which actually enhances the cutting-across motion. Try experimenting with a slightly closed stance, with the ball positioned opposite your left armpit at address. This will encourage a fuller turn through the ball from the inside out and, most likely, will result in a hook or draw spin.

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