Drive Time

Hit monster tee shots and keep them in the short stuff

TOE IT UP

When you address the ball, your driver head naturally rests on the turf. But since the ball is elevated on a tee, your club isn't exactly "square" to the ball. To fix this, you have to do one of two things. Raising your club at address is the first option. But the problem with this is if you raise the clubhead, it extends a little bit away from you, so that the ball is now closer to your club's heel. The best way to–ahem–address this issue is to position the ball toward the toe at address. That way when you return the club at impact (and it's naturally higher), you won't hit the ball on the toe, you'll hit it in the center of the face.

GET "LEAN"


Lean toward the ball from the hips, as opposed to stretching out the arms in an attempt to get wide.

From an upright setup, I'm likely to remain too upright throughout the golf swing.

Many golfers make steep swings. This, however, is a guaranteed "death move" if you want to drive the ball well. In order to effectively flatten your swing shape to a motion more conducive to hitting good drives, I suggest bending over more at address. By doing this, you'll steepen your shoulder tilt, and that will force you to create a shallower, more rounded swing shape with your arms, thus producing a more sweeping cut at contact. At first, it will feel a little strange, but from what I've seen on the range, just bending over at address will round your swing and produce shots you've only dreamed of.


ADD SOME PUNCH

No, I'm not training for an upcoming fight. I'm making a fist and a punching motion, which looks a lot like how I want my students' left hand to look at the top of their swings. Getting your left wrist into a "hitting" position at the top of the backswing provides a couple things: a shorter backswing, which results in a stable motion; and a square clubface, which is necessary if you want to consistently deliver a square hit at impact. And, really, who doesn't want to do that? Go ahead, make a swing without a club and feel that punch. Then grip the club and remember that feeling!

PLAY KEEP-AWAY

If you want to really power your drives, then you need to develop a wide arc in your backswing. I like to think of it as playing "keep-away." What do I mean? Well, in this case, I'm trying to keep the shaft far away from my right shoulder into the top of my backswing, versus having my arms and shaft folded or collapsed in close. As we've seen with big-hitting players like Bubba Watson, the wider that arc, the bigger the drives. Try this on the range a bunch because it'll feel strange at first, and if you don't already have a good exercise and stretching routine, then I highly suggest implementing one. You'll need it to play "keep-away."


DROP IN

Many players have a downswing that travels well over the top of their backswing, thus causing steep hits often associated with slicing. Good players, on the other hand, "drop in" on their downswings, coming from inside the target line (and under the backswing path). In the photos here, take note how my backswing and downswing differ. On the good swing, my backswing starts down the target line and then drops inside the target line, whereas on the bad swing, I pull the club inside, get stuck in the backswing and have nowhere else to go but across the target line on my downswing. And that's a guaranteed slice or wicked pull.

LEAVE EARLY

Even if golfers know that an open clubface causes a slice, they're not always able to square it up at impact. The reason for this is that they often try to close the face at contact. But by then, it's too late to square it up and make good contact. A way to fix this problem is to "leave early," or rather, to start closing the face much sooner in the downswing. In these photos, note that the club is shut when the club is parallel to the ground on the downswing. Now, that's soon, but it's a quick fix to ensure that if you're prone to slicing, you can hit it square.


MAKE IT HOT

Over the years, manufacturers have created a "hot spot" on driver faces that's well above the midpoint. From this position, high on the face, players can best optimize the club's trampoline effect. And to take advantage of this technology, you must "tee it high to let it fly." First get some tall tees and make sure you only place them in the ground a little bit so that when you put your ball on the tee, some of it rests higher than your clubface. Then place about 60% of your weight on your back foot. This should also make you tilt your spine a little too close to your back foot. When you make a swing from this setup, you'll catch the ball slightly on the upswing and high on the club's face.

ROUND UP

If you struggle with slicing the ball, you likely swing in a linear fashion up the line of flight. However, clubs are designed to travel on an arc and back around into the finish. There's even a mantra that coaches like to repeat: "Straight swings hit curved shots, whereas curved swings hit straight shots." Take a look at these different photos and note the difference in my swing shape. One goes up and down, while the other goes around. It's definitely to your advantage to swing more around so your swing moves in a circle and not so up and down.

WALK THE DOG

Rhythm is the glue that holds your swing together. That's why I want my students to learn to develop pace control by working their swing through a series of gears like a car. In first gear, make a full swing at 25 mph; in second gear, make a full swing that goes 50 mph; in third gear, go 75 and, finally, in fourth, go 100 or whatever your maximum capacity is. Make these swings from short to long and then back again, speeding up, then slowing down, or as I like to think of it, taking the dog for a walk then walking him back home again. Through practice, you'll develop a keen awareness of which pace gives you the best combination of distance and accuracy.

Top-25 Instructor, Jeff Ritter, PGA, teaches at Raven Golf Club – Phoenix, Ariz. For more information, visit him online at jeffrittergolf.com.

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