As a golf teacher and coach, I understand how important driving distance is. I have yet to have a student ask me if I can help them hit it shorter. As statistical analysis has continued to improve, the importance of distance and how advantageous it is has come to the forefront.
There are two primary ways to increase distance, especially with the driver. The first is to increase clubhead speed. This is what I see most golfers trying to do when they want more distance. They reason that the harder you swing the farther the ball will go. That’s sound reasoning, but it doesn’t always work. The second way, and arguably easier way to increase distance, is to increase your efficiency, because a more efficient swing creates more ball speed and better launch conditions, thus increasing carry and total yardage even with the same clubhead speed.
I find it much easier to improve distance among my students by attacking efficiency rather than speed. This is not to say that you cannot and should not try to increase speed, but speed without efficiency will have minimal impact on your overall yardage.
So what makes a driver swing efficient? Center contact and the proper launch conditions. If you struggle with both, don’t worry. I have a drill to help at the bottom of this story.
Ball speed off the center of the club face will always be higher than the ball speed from a mis-hit shot with the same clubhead speed. Also, off-center hits — especially with the driver — greatly influence the flight of the ball, and can cause a good swing to produce off-line shots.
- Worst place to hit the ball for ball speed: Low, heel.
- Best places to hit the ball for ball speed: Center, slightly high toe.
High launch, low spin is what you always hear is the secret to more distance — and it’s not so secret anymore to distance. While the statement is generally true, golfers need to match their launch angle and spin rate to their swing speed, as well as their angle of attack to get the absolute most distance off the tee.
As you can see from the Trackman tables below, every clubhead speed has an ideal launch angle and spin rate for maximum distance. A swing speed of 80 mph will not create optimal distance if it is matched with the optimal launch angle and spin rate of someone swinging 120 mph, and vice versa. Across the board, however, what’s apparent is how much more driver distance golfers can create when they hit up on their driver rather than down.
Optimal Launch Conditions for 75-95 mph Swing Speeds
Optimal Launch Conditions for 100-120 mph Swing Speeds
I’m routinely asked if the driver swing is the same as the iron swing, which requires a downward angle of attack because the majority of iron shots are hit off the ground. Although I do not always say this the answer is no, the swings are not the same. Trackman data, as well as video studies and pressure traces prove it.
The driver has the shallowest average attack angle of any club in the bag. We also see the most rearward head movement with the driver of all the clubs, particularly halfway down into impact. Ideally the head is staying back, allowing the driver to move in an upward fashion sooner. That’s what enables some golfers to optimize their launch conditions, contact and overall distance with the driver.
For some golfers this is an unconscious act, something they have developed over time through feel and adaptation. For those of you who struggle with distance and have poor launch conditions, however, the drill below is an excellent way to quickly get the correct feel for how the driver should move through impact for optimal launch conditions and total yardage.
Tee a ball up so that it is about 3/4 of an inch above the crown of the driver. Then place an alignment stick in the ground about 6 inches behind the ball and six inches above the ground. Lay another alignment stick on the ground 6 inches front of the ball to promote an upward move through impact. The swing back and through under the stick, trying not to hit it, while smashing a big drive.
This station will create an environment where you can only hit the ball solid by missing the sticks. Such feedback is critical to making this change.
WATCH: How to swing the driver “from the inside”
In this video, I show you how to consistently deliver the driver from the inside.
Golf 101: How to properly grip the golf club
I’m sure you’ve heard by now that a good grip is one of the cornerstones of a good swing. Clichés become clichés because they’re true, and putting your hands on the club is extremely important… for reasons you know, and for some reasons you probably haven’t heard before.
Let’s start with the big, obvious one you already know. Your grip establishes the default relationship between the clubface and the golf ball. If you set your grip in a way that promotes bringing the club back to impact open or closed, you’re going to have to do something else in your swing to compensate for that. In other words, a sound grip makes the job of squaring the club easier.
The less obvious reason that a good grip is important is speed. If you set the club in your hands correctly—so that the handle runs across the base of the fingers in your left hand and not across the palm—you’re giving your wrists much more freedom to move. This wrist “mobility” is what allows the final transfer of energy from the body to the club. A great swing thought is to envision that your wrist joints were just greased up. They should feel like they are unrestricted and “oily.”
Another less obvious problem caused by a bad grip is that it tends to perpetuate itself. If you have a bad grip and repeatedly make off-center contact on the clubface, the off-center hits will actually jar the face of the club more off-line, and you’ll hit it even more crooked. And the bad feeling those shots produce in your hands will cause you to continually adjust it. There’s no consistency or feel there. It’s like hitting a whole bunch of baseballs off the end of an aluminum bat on a 39-degree day. A recipe for pain.
To fix your grip, start with your left (top) hand. Set the handle along the first joints of your fingers, and hold it like you would carry a suitcase or briefcase by its handle.
When you get the grip in this position, you’re creating an angle (and a lever) between the club and your left arm, and you’re giving the wrist freedom to move. If you turned the handle so that it crossed your palm diagonally—like a putting grip—you’d immediately feel how your wrist would be much more restricted in how it could bend or turn. That’s why it’s great for putting—because it restricts how the face turns. But on a full swing, you want to take full advantage of the range of motion that comes from rotating from open to square. (this is what the club is designed to do!)
Get a firm grip on the handle with all of the fingers of your left hand and get as much of the thumbprint pushed onto the grip as you can. Now, place your right hand on the handle so that the underside of your right thumb covers the left thumb as much as possible, and get as much of the thumbprint on your right hand onto the top of the grip as possible.
Where you place your hand on the grip is more important than if you decide to interlock, overlap or play with all 10 fingers on the handle. I prefer the overlapping grip because it keeps the index finger of your left hand on the handle, and that extra finger can make a difference for many players.
If your grip isn’t great and you make these changes, it’ll definitely feel strange at first. But I’m betting that straighter and longer shots will make up for it.
WATCH: How to use a sledgehammer to stop swaying in your golf swing
It is pretty much impossible to sway when swinging a sledgehammer. Take advantage of the feel you get from swinging a sledgehammer and see how easy it is to implant in your own golf swing. You were built for this move!
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