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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.

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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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Instruction

A Jedi Mind Trick For Improved Target Awareness

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I think all golfers, at some point in their life playing the game of golf, has gotten stuck, or become frozen over the golf ball. Why?  They’re trying to remember which of the 23 different swing thoughts they used for the day performed the best.

The disheartening reality: none of us are going to perform well on a consistent basis with our thoughts being so internally driven. Swing thoughts force our awareness inward. Is the shaft in the correct position? Am I making a proper pressure shift? Was that a reverse pivot? Close that club face! Regardless of the technique you are trying to manage or modify, these kinds of questions make you acquire sensations internally.

To complicate things further, we are taught to look at the golf ball, not the target, while hitting our golf shot. And yet instinctively, in almost all other skills of making a ball or object finish towards a target (throwing a ball or frisbee, kicking a soccer ball, skipping a rock across water, shooting a basket ball) our awareness is not on the ball or the motion itself, but rather the ultimate target.

So, can we develop a skill that allows us to still keep our eye on the ball, like the game of golf encourages, but have awareness of our target, like so many other target sports demand?  Yes, the answer is (third rate Yoda Speak), and the skill can easily be yours.

Here’s where this gets fun. You already have learned this skill set, but under different conditions. Perhaps this example resonates with you. Did you ever play hide-and-seek as a child? Remember how you used to close your eyes and count to 10? During those 10 seconds of having your eyes closed, weren’t you using all of your senses externally, trying to track where your friends were going to hide? Weren’t you, just like a bloodhound, able to go directly to a few of the less skillful hiders’ hiding places and locate them?

Or how about this example. When you are driving down your own local multilane highway, aren’t you aware of all the cars around you while keeping your eyes firmly on the road in front of you? Reconnecting, recognizing and/or developing these skills that all of us already use is the first step in knowing you’re not too far away from doing this with your golf game.

Here’s what I want you to do. Grab a putter and place your golf ball 3 feet away from the hole on a straight putt. Aim your putter, and then look at the hole. As you bring your eyes back to the golf ball, maintain part of your awareness back at the hole. Each successive time your eyes leave your golf ball and head back to the hole, your eyes will be able to confirm your target. It hasn’t moved; it’s still in the same location; your confidence builds.

When you know for certain that your external awareness of the target is locked in while still looking at your golf ball, step up and execute your putt.

The wonderful beauty of this skill set is that you now have the best of both worlds. You are still looking at the golf ball, which gives you a better chance of striking the golf ball solidly… AND you are now target aware just like you are when you are throwing an object at a target.

As always, acquire this skill set from a close target with a slower, smaller motion. If you don’t execute properly, you have a better chance of making the proper corrective assessment from a slower, smaller motion and closer target. As you become more proficient with this skill, allow the target to get farther away and try to add more speed with a larger range of motion.

So give learning this skill set a go. I don’t think there is anything more valuable in playing the game of golf than keeping your “athlete” attached to the target. Become proficient at developing this awareness and you can tell all your friends that the primary reason your scores are getting lower and you’re getting deeper into their wallets is because of Jedi Mind tricks. Good luck!

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6 things to consider before aiming at the flagstick

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One of the most impactful improvements you can make for your game is to hit more greens; you’ll have more birdie opportunities and will avoid bogeys more often. In fact, hitting more greens is the key to golfing success, in my opinion… more so than anything else.

However, there is a misconception among players when it comes to hitting approach shots. When people think “greens,” they tend to only think about the flagstick, when the pin may be the last thing you should be looking at. Obviously, we’d like to stick it on every shot, but shooting at the pin at the wrong time can cost you more pain than gain.

So I’d like to give you a few rules for hitting greens and aiming at the flagstick.

1) Avoid Sucker Pins

I want you to think about Hole No. 12 at Augusta and when the pin is on the far right side of the green… you know, the Sunday pin. Where do the pros try and aim? The center of the green! That’s because the right pin is by all means a sucker pin. If they miss the shot just a touch, they’re in the water, in the bunker, or left with an impossible up-and-down.

Sucker pins are the ones at the extreme sides of the green complex, and especially the ones that go against your normal shot pattern.

So go back to No. 12 with a far right pin, and say your natural shot shape is right-to-left. Would you really aim out over the water and move it towards the pin? That would be a terrible idea! It’s a center of the green shot all day, even for those who work it left-to-right. Learn to recognize sucker pins, and you won’t short side yourself ever again.

2) Are You a Good Bunker Player?

A “sucker pin,” or just a difficult hole location, is often tucked behind a bunker. Therefore, you should ask yourself, “am I a good bunker player?” Because if you are not, then you should never aim at a pin stuck behind one. If I wanted to shoot at pins all day, I’d make sure I was the best lob wedge player around. If you are not a short-game wizard, then you will have a serious problem attacking pins all round.

For those who lack confidence in their short game, or simply are not skilled on all the shots, it’s a good idea to hit to the fat part of the green most of the time. You must find ways to work around your weaknesses, and hitting “away” from the pin isn’t a bad thing, it’s a smart thing for your game.

3) Hitting the Correct Shelf

I want you to imagine a pin placed on top of a shelf. What things would you consider in order to attack this type of pin? You should answer: shot trajectory, type of golf ball, your landing angle with the club you’re hitting, the green conditions, and the consequences of your miss. This is where people really struggle as they forget to take into account these factors.

If you don’t consider what you can and cannot do with the shot at hand, you will miss greens, especially when aiming at a pin on a shelf. Sometimes, you will simply have to aim at the wrong level of the green in order to not bring the big number into play. Remember, if you aim for a top shelf and miss, you will leave yourself with an even more difficult pitch shot back onto that same shelf you just missed.

4) Know your Carry Distances

In my opinion, there is no excuse these days to not know your carry distances down to the last yard. Back when I was growing up, I had to go to a flat hole and chart these distances as best I could by the ball marks on the green. Now, I just spend an hour on Trackman.

My question to you is if you don’t know how far you carry the ball, how could you possibly shoot at a pin with any type of confidence? If you cannot determine what specific number you carry the ball, and how the ball will react on the green, then you should hit the ball in the center of the green. However, if the conditions are soft and you know your yardages, then the green becomes a dart board. My advice: spend some time this off-season getting to know your distances, and you’ll have more “green lights” come Spring.

5) When do you have the Green Light?

Do you really know when it’s OK to aim at the pin? Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help:

  • How are you hitting the ball that day?
  • How is your yardage control?
  • What is the slope of the green doing to help or hinder your ball on the green?
  • Do you have a backstop behind the pin?

It’s thoughts such as these that will help you to determine if you should hit at the pin or not. Remember, hitting at the pin (for amateurs) does not happen too often per nine holes of golf. You must leave your ego in the car and make the best decisions based on what information you have at that time. Simple mistakes on your approach shot can easily lead to bogeys and doubles.

6) When is Any Part of the Green Considered a Success?

There are some times when you have a terrible angle, or you’re in the rough/a fairway bunker. These are times when you must accept “anywhere on the green.”

Left in these situations, some players immediatly think to try and pull off the “miracle” shot, and wonder why they compound mistakes during a round. Learn to recognize if you should be happy with anywhere on the green, or the best place to miss the ball for the easiest up and down.

Think of Ben Hogan at Augusta on No. 11; he said that if you see him on that green in regulation then you know he missed the shot. He decided that short right was better than even trying to hit the green… sometimes you must do this too. But for now analyze your situation and make the best choice possible. When in doubt, eliminate the big numbers!

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Is There An Ideal Backswing?

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In this video, I talk about the backswing and look into optimal positions. I also discuss the positives and negatives of different backswing positions.

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