Like most golfers, you probably want to hit the ball farther. Seems no matter how far we crush it, there's always room to hit it a few more yards down the fairway. And why? Well, longer drives tend to result in shorter, easier approach shots, which, as you know, make it a lot easier to shoot lower scores. The problem most golfers have is, they don't really know all the ingredients that'll maximize their distance. Clubhead speed, for instance, is a major component of more yardage. But increasing your clubhead speed isn't something you can just do overnight. You have to optimize your golf swing for more speed, as well as train your body to react faster during your swing–both in order to ramp up your clubhead speed. Another way many golfers try to increase their clubhead speed is to swing longer and lighter drivers, since the longer the club, the greater the centrifugal force it has as it swings in an arc around your body. And while that's true, and longer clubs can boost your swing speed, what happens to your consistency? What happens to the moment of impact with the ball and the clubface?
I'm a big believer that the most effective way to add distance to your tee shots is to hone in on your impact. In other words, make it more efficient. For instance, hitting the ball just toward the heel and low on the face can lower your launch angle about 4 degrees, costing you at least 5 mph of ball speed. It also can increase your spin by about 700 rpm, resulting in a distance loss as high as 20% and a decrease in accuracy by up to 30 yards offline!
So what can you do to make sure you're making solid contact? Obviously, get your driver fitted for your swing, and factor in loft, shaft length and even lie angle to the equation. You may find that a longer driver can actually help you hit more solid shots. Second, when working with your instructor and clubfitter, determine the optimal impact point on the clubface that's best for your game. Better players, who tend to have higher swing speeds may benefit from hitting their tee shots just above the center of the face, resulting in a slightly lower ball speed but a higher launch angle with more spin. Higher-handicappers, on the other hand, may benefit from hitting their tee shots more toward the center or even just below the center of the clubface, resulting in shots that have a higher ball speed and added spin for greater loft. The best way to start checking your optimal impact point is to use a simple dry-erase marker. They're easy to use, wipe clean and work wonders not only in helping you see where you're making contact with the ball, but also in helping you make the swing and club adjustments necessary to start hitting longer and straighter tee shots. It just might be the best $1.50 you ever spent!
James Leitz, PGA, is the head professional at Pinewood CC in Louisiana. Visit pinewoodcc.net.About Face
Today's drivers are more forgiving than ever. In fact, some could say that the driver is the most forgiving club in the entire bag. Why? First, it's the biggest. And the bigger the overall head volume, the bigger the clubface can be. And the bigger the clubface, the easier it is to hit straighter, longer shots. Now, this doesn't mean that bigger drivers have bigger sweet spots. They don't. Instead, they tend to have a greater area around the sweet spot where you can make contact with the golf ball and still produce good results. This is what "forgiveness" actually means. More forgiving drivers are ones that produce little to no noticeable distance/accuracy loss on shots off the sweet spot.
Most equipment manufacturers take advantage of a variety of titanium face designs, primarily because titanium is lightweight, strong and resilient. And while faces tend to look relatively the same on the outside, behind the clubface is all business. It's here that some drivers have mixed thicknesses and cool geometries, which again, work to make the area around the sweet spot as forgiving as possible. Other variants include a "cup-face" design, which is a fancy way of describing a clubface that includes the front part of the crown and sole of the club. This means no welds on the actual face, which some manufacturers say leads to greater distance and forgiveness.
No matter what clubface you encounter today, rest assured it's a lot better than we had to choose from as little as 10 years ago. Just be sure you get fit for the right driver for your game!