Distance off the tee has been a great equalizer since golf’s inception. Modern golf courses are long and the classic courses are getting longer (you can almost hear the golf purists weep as you read that sentence). The distance players hit it and the evolution of balls and equipment has been on the forefront of discussion for the last 20 years. As soon as the first 460cc driver struck a solid core golf ball, all hell broke loose. There have been certain limits put in place by the USGA on the manufacturers to level the playing field. The problem is golf as a whole isn’t a level playing field. Less than 1% of the golfing public is tour professionals. That leaves a large amount of players without God given talent and 130 mph club head speed. But whether you’re a tour player, a 12 handicap, or a novice beginner with their first set of clubs, you want to hit the ball as long as possible. Straight helps too. But hitting an 8 iron into a green instead of a 5 iron makes the game easier and more fun for everyone, at any level.
Here are a few simple tips that you can incorporate into your own game to help you hit longer drives and maximize your speed, without totally rebuilding your swing and body.
Hit up, not down If you are too steep or swing “down” at the ball with your driver, you will hit high spinners that go nowhere. The way the center of gravity is positioned in most of these large drivers today, benefit a positive attack angle…meaning hitting it on the upswing. Play the ball forward in your stance to ensure that you catch the ball as the driver begins to travel “up”. If you play the ball too far back you will hit down on the ball or reverse pivot to stay behind the ball and try to strike it correctly. That will lead to a whole heap of problems. Set up with the ball just inside the heel of your lead foot. Keep your head behind the ball at address. Your lead shoulder should be higher than your back shoulder. For a right-handed player this means your left shoulder is angled more towards the sky and your right shoulder sits lower. This will ensure that you swing the driver with a positive attack angle, or “up”.
Stand Wide A wider stance will give you more balance and a solid base to make a nice turn. Stand narrow, and you’ll have a tendency to make a slower, smaller swing. The key to longer drives is a longer swing with speed and balance.
Turn baby, turn You can’t hit the ball far if you are only using your big muscles, i.e. your biceps etc. We hit the ball with our core, our chest, our shoulders, our hips, and our legs. And the only way to do this efficiently is to turn, or rotate on our backswing. We have already spoke about your wide stance and address position with your head behind the ball. Take the club away low and slow on your backswing and turn your hips. Even if you can only get to ¾ or short of parallel, that’s ok. I just want your back facing your target at the top of your swing. Look at the buttons on your polo, or your belt bucket. Did they move? If they’re still pointing at the ground you haven’t rotated. You slid.
Let it go, let it go Let the downswing fall into place naturally, as if effortless. Don’t “hit” at the ball from the top. We’re not chopping down trees. Picture what takes place when you shoot a rubber band at someone. When you pull the band back, that is your backswing. Your force created that motion and now all of that energy is stored. What do you do to shoot that rubber band? You let it go. Nothing is forced. Sequencing is extremely important on the downswing. If your hips move faster than your hands then we hit a block or push. If our arms move faster than our hips then we it a pull or hook. Timing will come with practice and repetition. I like to think of my left heel (lead foot) squashing a bug to trigger my downswing. Keep your head behind the ball, maintain your spine angle or tilt, and smash that ball on the upswing.
Quick tip: Tee height We sell 4 inch tees, and people buy them. I don’t know if you guys are building a railroad with them or killing vampires. The rule of thumb is to tee the ball about halfway above the crown of your driver. So picture the equator of your ball, the middle, and line that up perfectly with the top-line of the club. The “tee it high and let it fly” mantra works for most players but you have to experiment on the range first. I prefer to tee it just a hair shorter than that. Only a little bit of the ball is showing above the face. I feel this helps me stay down and through the shot longer and I get better contact. Better contact produces more speed and longer drives every day of the week. Like I said, this works for me. MyGolfSpy conducted a test with drivers striking balls at 2 different tee heights. The results were astounding. The higher tee performed better than the shorter tee in every category.
Get fit And I just don’t mean physically…but trust me, that’s a huge part of it. At 38 I’m 30 lbs heavier than I was at 28 and about 6-8 mph slower swing speed wise. Your swing will change as your body changes; for the better and for the worst. But you also must get dialed in equipment-wise with a proper club fitting. To hit the ball your absolute farthest we need to find the perfect club for you. Launch angle, spin rate, and smash factor are just some of the important attributes I look at when fitting a player for a driver. The right combination could mean an increase of 30 yards in some cases, and that’s just with an equipment change. I could hand you 5 drivers that are all 10.5° with a stiff flex, and all 5 will be significantly different in performance. One could have a deep and low center of gravity with a low kick point, and one could have a forward cg with a high kick point.
Golf 101 – Smash factor definition Smash factor has become a popular buzz word when it comes to club fitting. It is simply the ball speed of a shot divided by the player’s swing speed. We want to get as close to 1.50 as possible as this is the ideal figure when it comes to efficiently getting the most potential from a player’s speed. Ex. I hit a drive with 147 mph ball speed and a swing speed of 101 mph. Smash factor = 1.45.
Enjoy the game and each other,
Seth Zipay – Head Golf Professional