Monday, March 5, 2007
Drive Off The DeckGrowing up in Oklahoma, my golfing buddies and I had more than our fair share of wind to deal with on the course. As a PGA professional on the island of Maui, I still rely on different techniques to cheat the breeze and set up more scoring opportunities.
Any golfer who plays in windy conditions knows that certain skills are required to keep the ball low—and to keep the ball from blowing back over your head! One of these skills is hitting driver off the deck. Making a pass with the driver from the fairway isn’t your everyday type of shot, but it flies low and with plenty of distance, making it the perfect play when you have a ton of yardage left into a par-4 green. It’s also an advantageous shot to reach a par-5 green in two and set up—hopefully—a nice eagle opportunity.
To perform this shot, I start with a slightly open stance and a ball position that allows me to pick it cleanly off the turf (which is just to the right of a normally teed golf ball). As far as posture goes, I follow David Leadbetter’s recommended three to five percent body tilt to the right. Setting up with my right shoulder slightly lower than the left (reverse for left-handers) allows me to load up and fully extend my arms on the backswing.
During the takeaway, keep the feet and legs as quiet as possible—you’ll need a solid foundation to support the power of this swing. Concentrate on rotating your torso, and don’t be afraid to turn your back to the target. For control, stop your backswing so that the clubshaft lies just short of parallel at the top.
Now, things get fun. From the top, the key is to simply turn back toward the target. As you do, use the ground to push off and transfer your weight to the inside of your left foot. Your hip rotation should follow this move quickly and power the hands and clubhead into the impact zone.
Re-creating your setup position at impact is key to really giving the ball a beating. As a young golfer, my friends and I used to stand in front of a poster picturing Ben Hogan at impact and try to imitate his contact posture, keeping our arms in front of our torsos. From impact, strive for full extension (no chicken-winging here!) and a balanced, full finish with everything facing the target (“Park it in the garage,” as Gary Player says).
The driver off the deck usually produces a left-to-right ballflight, a ton of distance and a fairly low trajectory (which is much more reliable than a high, floating trajectory, especially on windy days).
In conclusion, use this technique off the tee box when playing into a strong headwind or for extra distance on a second shot to reach a par-5. Remember, the shot requires a solid foundation, proper grip pressure (be certain that you don’t grip the club too tightly), arms in front of the trunk, good extension on the backswing and a full extension after impact. Also, your results will improve if you try to pick the ball off the turf, making a sweeping pass instead of the down-and-through dynamic used in a proper iron swing. To become more adept at picking the ball off the turf, try practicing off a patch of hardpan and not taking a divot.
If you can meet these requirements, you’ll be well on your way to producing big yards in tough situations (and likely eliciting a few “oohs” and “aahs” from your playing partners). If you can’t, by all means, don’t try something you can’t do. There’s a local saying here in Hawaii: “If can, can; if no can, no can!” That’s perfect advice for driver off the deck.
Aloha and good luck!
PGA professional Kirk Nelson is the head professional at the Makena Golf Courses at Makena Resort in Maui, Hawaii.