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How do LPGA Tour players hit their drives so straight?

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As a teacher, I have had the privilege of coaching both men and women golfers through the decades, and I’ve found that there are both similarities and significant differences in the approach to teaching golf to each gender.

When coaching male golfers, I often need to keep tabs on the amount of strain used in the swing, especially with the driver. On a scale of 1-10, the strain level used should be around 3-4 to get a velocity and compression of 7-8. Think about it as your second serve in tennis. Tom Watson was an expert at this. 

When I ask my new male students to rate their level of strain, they often answer 8-10… and that is after I describe 10 as a separated rib (which, by the way, you see more often than you would think on the professional tours). Using this level of strain is the equivalent of flooring a race car on a wet track; there is a red line there for a reason! It’s the same with your body; you need to be aware of your limits.  

Because men generally have more muscular density than women, they can take a golf club and yank it around like a big dog with a rag doll. This is generally not the case for women. They respond to the weight of the golf club and flow with it, rather than against it. As a result they develop better timing and rhythm in their swings, which leads to them hitting more fairways.

Like a lumber jack with a heavy axe, all golfers should learn to use the weight of the golf club to deliver the blow. Watch the video above to learn more.

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Shawn Clement is the Director of the Richmond Hill Golf Learning Centre and a class A PGA teaching professional. Shawn Clement was a 2011 and 2015 Ontario PGA Teacher of the Year nominee and was also voted in the top 10 (tied with Martin Hall at No. 9) as most sought after teacher on the internet with 65 K subscribers on YouTube and 29 millions hits.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. OW

    Mar 18, 2017 at 3:41 am

    Shawn, thank you very much for the Driver lesson. I’m looking forward to the long iron/fwy lesson. I’m a ~10 hp golfer and hit my mid and long irons decent, but struggle with fairway woods from the turf. I’d really like to see a lesson on fwy’s from the turf. Thank you.

  2. Wrong

    Mar 16, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    With no disrespect at ALL to the women on the LPGA tour, they are sharp and incredibly talented and could beat most everyone from any tee box…but the reason the women hit it straighter is because they swing way slower. Its simple math. Who has the potential to hit it more crooked, the 22 year old who carries it 330, or the 75 year old who nukes his driver 200? Clearly the latter. Also, next time you go to a tough golf course play it from three tees up from the tips. 99% of courses lose their intimidation factor off the tee box when your tees are so forward. You are closer to the fairway, don’t have gorse or valleys to carry, and it’s just a more comfortable shot to hit. So yeah….when you’re swinging your driver at 95 MPH it’s pretty hard to put too much gnarly side spin or block / pull it off the planet. Plus the tee boxes are relatively stress free from a mental stand point. Again, the women on the LPGA tour are incredibly talented, and once off the tee box it squares up with with the guys. But it goes without saying that they play an easier game off the tee box.

    • Ian Muir

      Mar 17, 2017 at 1:27 pm

      The LPGA tournaments are not played from three tees up as you say – they typically play 6,800 yard tracks which will be akin to longer courses than you play in the monthly medal. This week in China at Mission Hills it’s 7,300 yards and they’re still shooting 65s.

      The rationale about women’s golf at the elite level is misunderstood (my daughter is 16 years old and plays off +3 and carries her drives 255 on the fly…270 with run-out most typically yet averages 67 around a 6,100 ladies course /6,990 men’s course). Like all elite ladies/girls she thinks her way around and uses the right clubs to yardages which she knows like a pro. She can beat me (and I’m off +1 handicap) playing off level from the men’s tips more often than I beat her.

      Amateur men (that’s not the elite variety but you and your mates) typically try to emulate Dustin or Rory as it’s all about swagger. You’ll think you hit your irons farther than you actually do and you don’t course-manage very well at all. It’s quite simple really, it’s not all about distance. My nephew is 20 years younger than me and averages 320 yards off the tee with driver (with a 3 handicap) but despite being 40 yards past me most times never wins even when in receipt of 5 shots. Why? Because he tries to power his irons and rarely hits better than 40% GIR…I manage 70% GIR and therein lies the difference. Wake up and realise it’s not all about distance off the tee or hitting your 56* wedge 140 yards.

      • Andrew Cooper

        Mar 18, 2017 at 12:16 pm

        Trackman tour data: LPGA average driver carry distance 218 yards v PGA Tour average 275 yards. Swing speed averages LPGA 94mph and PGA Tour 113mph.
        LPGA courses set up on average between 6200 and 6600 yards.

      • Dale Doback

        Mar 18, 2017 at 2:55 pm

        The ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills had several tee boxes forward of where I had to play a golf channel am tour event at 6400 yards. It was a phenomenal event but the course was setup around 6500 yards for a MAJOR. If you are correct Ian Muir, which I know for a fact you are not and if the LPGA played a course at 7300 yards Inbee Park would need 3 shots to reach every par 4 since she carries the ball around 210 yards. Thats awesome your Daughter can drive it 260 yards that will put her near top in distance on the LPGA and still dead last on the PGA Tour and Senior PGA tour. LPGA players are more accurate because they are about 60 yards shorter on average. You can hit the ball much further offline and still hit fairway the shorter you hit it.
        http://blog.trackmangolf.com/trackman-average-tour-stats/

      • setter02

        Mar 20, 2017 at 9:17 am

        Stopped reading after you talked about the yardages they play from, not even close. Please don’t think that what the card says is what they play, even more so in wet weather where the Ladies get no roll. Then you’ll see some events played at or below 6300 yards. Typically sub 6500, and even when they announce 6500, its usually below that.

  3. Guia

    Mar 16, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    Want to hit it straight???? Straight back, straight through.

  4. Jerry

    Mar 16, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    Rubbish. PGA tour clubhead speed stats show average and max clubhead speed within a few mph of each other. Gotta go after it to generate speed. Swinging easy is a bandaid for other swing flaws. Additionally with less distance you’ll pick up phony accuracy due to the geometry of a shot. The same percentage offline miss at 250 in the first cut is in the trees at 310.

    • Patricknorm

      Mar 16, 2017 at 7:36 pm

      I don’t think you understood what the writer said. There is a point of diminishing return when swinging a golf club, specifically a driver. Most pros will tell you they swing at about 80% because they want to be under control. Occasionally they swing harder but nothing near 100%. That’s reckless , especially if this is the way you earn income. Besides, if pros swung at or near 100% all the time their careers would be very short because of injuries or….too many missed cuts.
      Watching the Arnold Palmer Invitation today, Frank Nobilo pointed out that Brandt Snedeker was hooking the ball too much because he was swinging too hard. Like I said before, there is a point of diminishing return. That was what the author was trying to say.

      • Shawn Clement

        Mar 18, 2017 at 2:02 am

        Awesome Patrick! Exactly what I meant!! Thank you!

      • Bobby Bigshlawng

        Mar 20, 2017 at 5:14 am

        Whenever I have a driver in my hand I am going after it…when I do connect and hit a bomb..it makes me feel like I have a big Johnson

  5. Alex

    Mar 16, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    This method of creating speed works for you because you’re about 7 feet tall with a 10-foot wingspan. How about for those of us with short limbs and height?

  6. Golfwhiler

    Mar 16, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    The point matches up to experience. Speed and accuracy are at a nexus. Try hammering a nail. If you want to hit the nail dead center on the head with the middle of the hammer, the slower you swing the hammer the more accurate.

    Next, try hitting the nail with as fast as swing as possible. The chance of controlling swing path and therefore accuracy will diminish. For one thing, you’ll have to grip the hammer more firmly the faster you swing to compensate for centrifugal force pulling the club out of your hand.

    Tighter grip means tighter forearms and bigger muscle groups taking over. These are strength muscles and not fine motor skill muscles. This all translates into less control of swing path and face to path which factor into where the club face meets the ball. The latter are what determines accuracy to target.

    Course management involves knowing what your maximum driver distance off the tee is with enough accuracy to have a decent line into the layup or the green. My bet is that most casual golfers would do better on par 5s hitting 3w, 6i, 7i, W and two putting for bogey than Driver, two shots out of the trees, 3w, 7i, W and two putt for a triple.

  7. larrybud

    Mar 16, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    I’m not sold on the assumption. You need to measure “straightness” by degrees off line with similar swing speeds. If I hit it 230 off the tee and am 5 degrees offline, (which is 20 yards from center), and I “straighter” than if I hit it 330 off the tee and 4 degrees offline, which is 23 yards from center?

    Obviously if you hit it farther, it will go more offline with the same degrees of inaccuracy.

  8. Dj

    Mar 16, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    It seems that the women with higher swing speeds have the same issue of being a bit more inaccurate. Might be something to be said about new equipment and slower swing speeds to go along with their tempo and rhythm

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How to fix the root cause of hitting your golf shots fat

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Of all the shots golfers fear, hitting the ball FAT has to be right up at the top of the list. At least it heads the list of commonly hit poor shots (let’s leave the shank and the whiff out for now). After fat, I’d list topping, followed by slicing and then hooking. They are all round-killers, although the order of the list is an individual thing based on ability. Professionals despise a hook, but club golfers by and large fear FAT. Why?

First of all, it’s embarrassing. Secondly, it goes nowhere — at least compared to thin — and it can be physically painful! So to avoid this dreaded miss, golfers do any number of things (consciously or subconsciously) to avoid it. The pattern develops very early in one’s golf life. It does not take very many fat shots for golfers to realize that they need to do something differently. But rather than correct the problem with the correct move(s), golfers often correct a fault with a fault.

Shortening the radius (chicken-winging), raising the swing center, early lower-body extension, holding on through impact (saving it), running the upper body ahead of the golf ball and even coming over the top are all ways of avoiding fat shots. No matter how many drills I may offer for correcting any of those mistakes, none will work if the root cause of fat is not addressed.

So what causes fat? We have to start with posture. Some players simply do not have enough room to deliver the golf club on a good plane from inside to inside. Next on the list of causes is a wide, early cast of the club head. This move is invariably followed by a break down in the lead arm, holding on for dear life into impact, or any of the others…

“Swaying” (getting the swing center too far off the golf ball) is another cause of fat, as well as falling to the rear foot or “reversing the weight.” Both of these moves can cause one to bottom out well behind the ball. Finally, an excessive inside-out swing path (usually the fault of those who hook the ball) also causes an early bottom or fat shot, particularly if the release is even remotely early. 

Here are 4 things to try if you’re hitting fat shots

  1. Better Posture: Bend forward from the hips so that arms hang from the shoulders and directly over the tips of the toes, knees slightly flexed over the shoelaces, seat out for balance and chin off the chest!
  2. Maintaining the Angles: Casting, the natural urge to throw the clubhead at the golf ball, is a very difficult habit to break if one is not trained from the start. The real correction is maintaining the angle of the trail wrist (lag) a little longer so that the downswing is considerably more narrow than the backswing. But as I said, if you have been playing for some time, this is risky business. Talk to your instructor before working on this!
  3. Maintaining the Swing Center Over the Golf Ball: In your backswing, focus on keeping your sternum more directly over the golf ball (turning in a barrel, as Ernest Jones recommended). For many, this may feel like a “reverse pivot,” but if you are actually swaying off the ball it’s not likely you will suddenly get stuck with too much weight on your lead foot.
  4. Setting Up a Little More Open: If your swing direction is too much in-to-out, you may need to align your body more open (or feel that way). You could also work with a teaching aid that helps you feel the golf club is being swung more out in front of you and more left (for right-handers) coming through — something as simple as a head cover inside the golf ball. You’ll hit the headcover if you are stuck too far inside coming down.

The point is that most players do what they have to do to avoid their disastrous result. Slicers swing way left, players who fight a hook swing inside out and anybody who has ever laid sod over the golf ball will find a way to avoid doing it again. This, in my opinion, is the evolution of most swing faults, and trying to correct a fault with a fault almost never ends up well.

Get with an instructor, get some good videos (and perhaps even some radar numbers) to see what you are actually doing. Then work on the real corrections, not ones that will cause more trouble.

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Right Knee Bend: The Difference Between PGA Tour Players and Amateurs

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The knees play an especially important role in the golf swing, helping to transfer the forces golfers generate through our connection with the ground. When we look closer at the right knee bend in the golf swing, we’re able to get a better sense of how PGA Tour players generate power compared to most amateur golfers.

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How to eliminate the double cross: Vertical plane, gear effect and impact location

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One of the biggest issues teachers see on the lesson tee is an out-to-in golf swing from a player who is trying to fade the ball, only to look up and see the deadly double cross! This gear effect assisted toe hook is one of the most frustrating things about trying to move the ball from left to right for the right-handed golfer. In this article, I want to show you what this looks like with Trackman and give you a few ways in which you can eliminate this from your game.

Below is the address position of a golfer I teach here in Punta Mita; his handicap ranges between scratch and 2, depending on how much he’s playing, but his miss is a double cross when he’s struggling.

Now let’s examine his impact position:

Observations

  • You see a pull-hooking ball flight
  • The hands are significantly higher at impact than they were at address
  • If you look at the clubhead closely you can see it is wide open post impact due to a toe hit (which we’ll see more of in a second)
  • The face to path is 0.5 which means with a perfectly centered hit, this ball would have moved very slightly from the left to the right
  • However, we see a shot that has a very high negative spin axis -13.7 showing a shot that is moving right to left

Now let’s look at impact location via Trackman:

As we can see here, the impact of the shot above was obviously on the toe and this is the reason why the double-cross occurred. Now the question remains is “why did he hit the ball off of the toe?”

This is what I see from people who swing a touch too much from out-to-in and try to hit fades: a standing up of the body and a lifting of the hands raising the Vertical Swing Plane and Dynamic Lie of the club at impact. From address, let’s assume his lie angle was 45 degrees (for simplicity) and now at impact you can see his Dynamic Lie is 51 degrees. Simply put, he’s standing up the shaft during impact…when this happens you will tend to pull the heel off the ground at impact and this exposes the toe of the club, hence the toe hits and the gear effect toe hook.

Now that we know the problem, what’s the solution? In my opinion it’s a three stage process:

  1. Don’t swing as much from out-to-in so you won’t stand up as much during impact
  2. A better swing plane will help you to remain in your posture and lower the hands a touch more through impact
  3. Move the weights in your driver to promote a slight fade bias

Obviously the key here is to make better swings, but remember to use technology to your advantage and understand why these type of things happen!

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