Everyone loves big, booming drives. In fact, I challenge you to find any golfer who's willing to give up even an inch of that precious driving yardage. And while today's equipment manufacturers market the heck out of why their stuff is the longest, the obsession golfers have with hitting it farther is nothing new. I imagine even Old Tom Morris spent day and night looking for new ways to crush it farther down the fairway.
The question, then, becomes, what if you really want to crank one? I don't advise going all out on every drive you hit, but what if you come up against a drivable par-4 or reachable par-5? What are you going to do, lay up? C'mon, you've worked hard all week following the boss' rules and now you have two days to do things your way. I say let the lead out and mash a few.
Whether you're looking to knock the socks off your opponent or set a personal tee ball record, here are a handful of quick tips that will help you nuke it when you want it the most.
GRIP IT AND RIP IT
You may have heard the terms "weak" and "strong" related to the position of your hands on the grip. The image on the left is an example of a grip with the hands facing as if they're clapping, with the handle of the club settled down in the palms. This position is considered "weak," as the hand placement adversely affects the components of clubface and speed related to power. In essence, a weak grip creates a weak hit. Conversely, in the opposite image, the grip cradles the handle more in the fingers, with both hands rotated on the shaft to the right or away from the target. Coaching terminology would consider this to be a "stronger" grip than the previous example. A stronger grip puts the clubface in a better position to deliver a powerful strike, while placement more in the fingers helps to produce more speed or snap through the downswing.
Keep in mind that "weak" and "strong" are terms related to position, not pressure. When gearing up to bust it, avoid the common tendency to tense up. In fact, consider your grip pressure not only to be in your hands, but also extending throughout your entire upper body. I like to tell my clients to feel as if the connection between their hands and clubs is "secure," with soft and flexible wrists, arms and shoulders. Get these basic gripping components in line, and you can check one item off your list for crushing it.
SQUARE TO FLARE
For some reason, the majority of golfers who show up on my lesson tee do so with foot placement that's simply not good for hitting it big. If you want to pound it, you have to be able to really store up energy and then transfer it to the golf ball. For your swinging action, this means you need to wind up your body effectively in the backswing and then apply pressure to the ground as you transition powerfully into the downswing and follow through.
To do this, drop the "square" and go for some "flare." In the top image, this square foot placement inhibits a free release of the hips into the backswing, killing your ability to create a full shoulder turn. In addition, the square position of the front foot inhibits your ability to press hard into the ground and then turn through the hit. It also puts the lead ankle in prime position to produce too much roll, which can lead to injury. Keep in mind, I'm referring to foot position, not alignment. Flare your toes out about 20 degrees to each side, and you can check off item number two on your "mash it" list.
TEAR YOUR SHIRT!
We play golf standing to the side of the target line; this means you need to think of moving in a circle versus a straight line. Create a centered pivot where your knees, hips, shoulders, hands and clubhead circle around a relatively steady head. I like to feel as if my head is the sun and everything else is moving in a circular orbit around it. As you wind up to the top, feel some stretch in your arms building a nice wide arc as you try to rip your shirt. I actually can feel the left side of my shirt stretching across my torso when I really go after it. It also helps if you wear a tiny shirt!
INSTANT TIP: To add some width to your turn, swing two clubs in both hands or use a weighted training aid. Start slow and make the biggest swings you can back and through. In minutes, you'll feel 10 years younger and 20 yards longer!
MAKE IT HOT!
To really pop it out there, you need to create a high launch angle with a low spin rate. To do this, begin by teeing your ball way up. This will encourage you to produce an ascending angle of attack, helping you propel the ball upward. For most swingspeeds, this will deliver optimal results. Now that you have a high launch, you need to hit the ball on the proper spot on the face to produce a low rate of backspin. Hitting the ball too low on the clubface actually increases spin, leading to up-shooting shots that fall well short of maximum distance.
Conversely, hitting the ball high on the face, above center, does the opposite. The high-face hit is considered the club's hot spot. Find this magical combination, and you can say bye-bye to hitting first from the fairway in your group.
INSTANT TIP: Is your swingspeed 85, 95, 110 mph? Many top ball companies are using high-tech ball fittings and you should definitely take advantage. Check out your favorite manufacturer's website and find the ball that's perfect for you!
Look at any great ballstriker, and you'll see an impact position with the weight well forward and the hips pushing toward the target. To prime your impact position, set up and then shift your belt buckle forward even with the instep on your front foot. As you transition into your downswing, increase the weight on your front foot as you shift your belt buckle even more forward and past the ball. Notice how my left knee is still a little bent here, indicating that I'm really pushing hard into the turf. This setup and consequent transition move will put your body in perfect position to bust it!
For longer drives, sometimes adding some length to your driver shaft can help. An extra inch can add up to 5 to 10 yards, depending on your swingspeed. But keep in mind, extra length often leads to less control and more off-center hits.
When shooting golf instruction stories, an image that's photographed from low to high is often referred to as the "hero" shot. The reason is that this perspective makes the golfer appear tall, powerful and commanding, which looks super-cool in print. When I really want to lace one, I often think of my finish image when I'm gunning for the next cover of Golf Tips magazine. I imagine standing tall, with my hips forward, chest out and shoulders back, which puts my body into full extension, indicating that I've unleashed every ounce of fury into the shot. Take this image to the course, and you'll be surprised at how ending your swing properly can add more yards to your tee shot. In addition, you'll look awesome for your next big Instagram or Facebook photo, too!
Jeff Ritter, PGA, is a Top-25 Golf Tips Instructor and founder of the Make The Turn teaching system. For more information, visit jeffrittergolf.com.