I’m a huge believer that awareness is half the battle when it comes to improving one’s game. We’d all like to our best driver — to drive the ball as long and straight as top PGA Tour players.
Most of us will never be able to achieve the overall distance of a Dustin Johnson, Cameron Champ, or Bubba Watson, but that doesn’t mean we can’t become our own best version of these players.
We all have the ability to improve our distance, as well as accuracy, no matter the level of golfer you may be. Improving things such as one’s clubface, turns, tilts, ground reaction forces, and wrist angles are all things that help gain an extra 15-20 yards off the tee.
Everyone can go about achieving their best driving differently; in fact, most golf coaches will have their own way to go about getting you to hit it further and straighter, which is the beauty of the art of coaching and teaching. As long as your coach makes your game better, that’s all that matters!
I mention this because of what we’re about to get into: There’s a reaction to every position, force, and torque throughout the golf swing. Everyone will have their best “swing ID” based on who they are, as none of us are created equal.
I’ve provided two positions that the majority of high-level professional golfers all achieve. These positions come in the transition to begin the downswing as well as half way through the downswing. Pro golfers achieve these positions with different postures, arm planes, clubface orientations, turns, and tilts in the backswing. If you’d like to drive the ball your furthest while adding in accuracy, focus on these two positions.
LOWER BODY LEADS
First, to begin the downswing, the lower body, not the chest, is the first big segment to move.
In fact, the lower body actually begins shifting forward before the shoulders complete the backswing. This move allows for the professional to have the thighs parallel to the target line by the time the lead arm is parallel to the ground in the downswing.
If you look at Photo 1, you’ll see the knees driving forward and the trail elbow below the lead arm at this point. This is the first position to emulate.
CHEST AND SHAFT PARALLEL
If one can achieve the position above, it will be much easier to then achieve the next ideal position at “shaft parallel” in the downswing.
At this point, the best drivers in the world have a chest that is parallel to the target line once the shaft is parallel to the ground. The hips are open to the chest, the trail arm has bend in it, and the clubface is slightly toe down to toe up.
A tip for the slicers out there: Make sure the clubface is slightly toe down with the clubhead behind the hands at this position. If done properly, the lead wrist will be flat to slightly bowed! Not much can go wrong if one can achieve these positions. Photo 2 shows what I’m talking about.
At first, I recommend rehearsing these positions off the ball with visual feedback if possible. Face a mirror and get into your regular stance. Go to the top of your backswing and pause, then let your eyes drop so that you’re looking at your knees. Slowly begin the downswing with the knee action. Pause again when you see your knees parallel to the target line. Your lead arm should be parallel to the ground at this point with the trail elbow bent and underneath the lead arm. Pay attention to the “feels” you get when attaining the new positions. This is critical as the feels should turn into verbal cues for effective practice habits.
When the shaft of the club gets to the parallel position, pause again and check your body. Your torso should be parallel to the target line, your lower body will have turned open to that same line, and your trail arm will still have some bend in it. Keep making slow swings with these checkpoints in mind. After a number of reps, it will feel much more natural, and you can add a ball.
It’s very important that you hit balls very slowly to start. Don’t get caught up on the result at first, but pay more attention to the feels. Ask yourself if the slow swings with the golf ball feel the same as your off-the-ball training. If the answer is yes you can progress with the speed in 10 percent intervals.
Work on getting to the final pause mentioned above, then make a small turn back again for some momentum and hit gentle shots.
This is a great stepping stone to becoming your best driver of the golf ball.
Bill Schmedes III is Director of Instruction at Forsgate Country Club in Monroe Township, New Jersey. Visit him at www.BS3Golf.com