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The Quest for 300: How to Bomb Your Driver (Part 2)

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In my first installment, I talked about the minimum prerequisites to drive a ball 300 yards under neutral conditions Let’s recap.

You will need to have at least 108 mph of club head speed and 160 mph of ball speed. Furthermore, you will need proper club delivery into the ball, with square and solid contact. Finally, 300-yard drives are unlikely to happen without a really well-fit driver.

So why should you aim to hit the ball 300 yards or more (assuming we are straight)? Some of you feel that 285 yards is plenty, and on some holes it is. But in my experience, completely overpowering a golf course is not only fun, but a great way to dominate (and intimidate) the competition. You can hit over trees, carry fairway bunkers and cut doglegs. It’s a huge help to take it really low.

At 285 yards, chances are you’re still hitting a hybrid (or more) into a par 5. And you aren’t scaring any par 4s. But when you can hit a mid or short iron into par 5s and knock it pin high on short 4s, you’re tapping in for birdie a few times per round.

For many of you, who may be after 250 yards (89 mph club head speed), this is the difference between reaching all the holes in regulation on your course or not. And that is a big difference in strokes. These tips will work just as well for you, or even a 200 yard hitter.

Click here to read other articles written by Steve Pratt.

So today I want to discuss club delivery. How you deliver the driver head through space into the back of the ball makes a giant difference.

Most golfers hit down and across. This means contact is made with a downward strike, and then a low, left exit. Most slicers swing this way.

Additionally, better golfers who rely on video analysis with plane lines swing this way. However, if your club shaft is tracking the line, you are cheating yourself out of 25 straight yards. This could be the difference between 285 and 310. Or 225 to 250!

If your teacher recommends you have each club on the plane line, he is not accounting for what golf Doppler radar systems like FlightScope and Trackman have shown us about club delivery and ball flight.

Those devices prove that the most efficient way to deliver the strike with a driver is from under, up and out. The club head reaches the bottom of its arc a few inches before impact, approaching well from the inside. The strike is upward, and the club head actually crosses the target line early in the follow through.

On video, the shaft will appear under the plane line. But because of the D-plane adjustments, this will not be a push — nor will you be stuck. In fact, the club path will be dead on target — zero degrees!

With a proper release, ball flight will be high and penetrating. It has been proven that we will gain more than 25 yards from this “track” into the ball.

Delivering the club in this manner takes three adjustments. We will move the ball more forward in our stance, from front heel to big toe. Also, we must allow the right hip and shoulder to achieve a “low” position via a large lateral shift. Finally, we will release the club head freely, and earlier.

In part 3, I will talk more about finding the right driver to match your swing and aid in your quest to hit a 300 yard drive.

The Quest For 300: How To Bomb Your Driver (Part 1)

The Quest For 300: How To Bomb Your Driver (Part 3)

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Steve Pratt teaches full-time at Lindero Country Club in Southern California using Trackman technology. Steve teaches the Mike Austin method of swinging which, using Kinesiology, unlocks the maximum power and accuracy possible from the human body. Steve's clients include many professional long drivers who routinely hit the ball over 400 yards. You can find Steve on the web at www.hititlonger.com, and @hititlonger on Twitter.com.

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Pingback: Technology is here to stay in televised sports | Girl With A Notebook

  2. William

    Jun 11, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    Great article Steve. With the principles that Steve teaches extra distance is a bonus. His swing methods produce a very repeatable swing that is very accurate. I recently took some lesson from Steve and I am convinced that he is the best instructor on the planet. The Yoda of the golf swing.

  3. shane

    May 15, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Can anyone explain further the under plane approach not being stuck?? I look at my swing on video and my clubshaft is slightly under the original shaft plane line and was always told that this cause a push/hook. Can you explain witht he D plane why its not stuck and will hit straight shots? Also hanging back while not great for accuracy or your back seems essential to hitting up on the ball. correct?

  4. Finn

    May 15, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Great article, all 3 parts. It is rewarding to see that I have found something correct by just hitting the ball and seeing what works. I am 52 years and will soon (on July 4th) have been playing golf for 7 years. I have a Tailormade (version 2) driver with stiff shaft and 9.5 loft but the actual loft is closer to 14.5 so I have roughly 5 degrees of AoA. I vary my drives from standing straight (for sharper draws) and tilting my upper torso (for maximum height or fades). 300 yards (270 meters) only happens a few times a year but 255-280 yards (230-250 meters) every round.

  5. Aaron Davis

    May 15, 2013 at 1:53 am

    Great article Steve, glad to see you on here!

  6. tmk

    May 14, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Great article and looking forward to the other stories. One quick question — it seems like most of the big hitters have a relatively upright swing with high hands. I’ve been working on this and it does seem to give me a bit more clubhead speed. At times, however, it also seems to make it harder for me to hit from the inside. I’m not sure if this really is the case or if it just feels that way to me because I’m starting my downswing from a place that is not as far to the inside. Any thoughts would be helpful. Thanks again for the article.

  7. Steve Pratt

    May 4, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    @Emmanuel – Now that you’re becoming a teacher, you’ll be able to teach slicers this skill!

    @JoeGolfer – I make a full release without the toe passing the heel, making hooks virtually impossible. Injuries are always tough, and we must work with what we’ve got at the end of the day.

  8. Emmanuel Vizcaya

    May 3, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    I for one enjoyed this write up and can attest to the benefits of striking up from the inside. The added distance was one of the reasons I passed my PAT.
    That being said, not everyone possesses the skill to do this. If a slicer doesn’t possess enough skill to correct a slice this hitting motion would be extremely difficult for him to achieve.

  9. Steve Pratt

    May 3, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    @MarkY – I’m sorry you find the article uninspiring. And you’re missing the point. 300 is just an ultimate destination, a journey. For some golfers the target might be 200 yards, but the principles apply just the same.

    We’re not talking about effort, we’re talking about getting results with higher efficiency. Less wasted motion, smoother – yet powerful.

    • Joe Golfer

      May 4, 2013 at 12:08 am

      Good, diplomatic response. Never fun when some “Anonymous” says what you’ve written is B.S.
      He really did miss the point. I thought your advice was very good.
      I play the ball forward and hit on a slight upswing, but I have to go with a slight fade due to a bad back and old injuries. I have to use a slightly open stance due to my back/hips. Plus, if I close my stance to hit from the inside-out (which I agree with you is the best way to increase distance), I find that I can’t always control it, as I have to release my hands more, and I get inconsistent results as far as accuracy.
      With the straight to very slight fade, I get the accuracy, and the hands release naturally. So I’ll just have to take a loss of yardage because of a balky back. I’m missing that extra yardage that a strong hand release gives, and I understand your point, as I use it in tennis, but the hand release it too inconsistent if I go to inside-out path, even with a strong grip.

    • Slim

      May 15, 2013 at 3:36 pm

      Don’t listen to the negative Nellie’s. They can stop reading. The rest of us are enjoying the effort you’re putting into this and the info you’re sharing. People can take from it what they want.

  10. Cody Lewis

    May 3, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    Great article, I agree with some of the comments that your next installment should include videos but otherwise, good information here. I often coach golfers at Falcon Ridge Golf Course in NV and you are spot on.

  11. MarkY

    May 3, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    What a BS article. 95% of most amateurs would do well to hit 285 and keep it in the fairway. Trying to gas a drive 300 is asking for trouble.

    D-plane, doppler, etc… what a bunch of nonsense.

    • naflack

      May 3, 2013 at 2:32 pm

      It is interesting that so many tour pros still hit down with their long clubs…

  12. Steve Pratt

    May 2, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    @Andy – send me your Trackman report. I will discuss increasing clubhead speed in a future article.

    • Andy

      May 3, 2013 at 4:23 am

      Morning Steve,

      How do you wish me to forward the report ? I can’t see an email address to use.

      I note on my Driver testing I was hitting 1 to 2 degrees down in general (Trackman data) but during the MATT fitting (prior to hitting balls) I was 1 degree positive.

      Thanks for offering to take a look.

      • Joe Golfer

        May 4, 2013 at 12:13 am

        @Andy I noticed that his bio at bottom of article has a website address called http://www.hititlonger.com and a Twitter handle of @hititlonger
        His website has a link to contact him and ask a question or send a comment, and it asks for your email address. So I assume you can contact him that way and explain that he asked for your Trackman report at GolfWRX. Hopefully he’ll respond and give you an email address where you can send your info.

  13. Steve Pratt

    May 2, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    Tiger is currently at 295.1 from 119.5 mph clubhead speed. (PGATour.com). He could be at a 320+ average at the same speed. Arguing that this delivery pattern is intentional for better accuracy is relatively invalid, as he is 152nd at 55.7% fairways hit.

    Hunter Mahan is at 287.1 from 112 mph clubhead speed. More efficient, but not great.

    • Narf

      May 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm

      Don’t the PGA stats include drives hit with 3 & 5w? That’s hardly a fair number for this conversation.

  14. Tags

    May 2, 2013 at 10:59 am

    Swing up on the ball works but Tiger hits down and still pipes it 325. Hunter Mahan hits down too and hits about 285-290

    • Cris

      May 2, 2013 at 12:40 pm

      …and both of them are making the corresponding swing changes to hit up on the ball and increase their carry distances.

      • naflack

        May 3, 2013 at 2:30 pm

        Tiger is not doing that. His go to ball off the tee is a cut with the ball teed lower and slightly descending strike.

  15. Andy

    May 2, 2013 at 5:29 am

    Love the article Steve. I’d certainly like to get near that 300 mark.

    I’m 44, live in the UK and the idea of hot days and hard fairways is alien over here. So need to do it the hard way.

    I work with my Pro on Trackman during lessons and last weekend spent 2 hours at TaylorMade (Wentworth) being measured for a new driver and Irons. So I’m serious at improving. Have the trackman data from that, but won’t bore you with that detail here 😉

    My swing speed is currently 98-101 with a driver.

    So really my first big challenge is – how do I get that speed up by 10Mph ? I already take lessons, I already play regularly, seems I need to get stronger and more flexible…?

    Looking forward to reading the other parts.

  16. Shastygolfer

    May 2, 2013 at 12:27 am

    Dude videos

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Instruction

How-to Series: How to move your hips on the backswing

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Lucas Wald How To Series: How to move your hips on the backswing

This is the first installment in our How To Series — follow this plan to master the movements of the hips on the backswing!


Watch the series introduction here

This new series is all about helping you improve your golf swing quickly. We’re going to break the swing down into its component parts and give you specific practice direction — master these key elements of the swing and you’ll see improvement fast!

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How “long arms” at the top of the backswing can help you hit the ball farther

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One of the hardest things to do as we get older is to make a big shoulder turn with extended arms at the top. It’s the swing of a younger golfer! However, every one of us can add width at the top so we can hit it farther, but few know how to actually do so. In this article, I will use MySwing 3D Motion Analysis to help you understand how beneficial long arms are at the top.

As you examine the swing of this particular player, you will notice that the lead arm is “soft” and the hands are close to this player’s head at the top. This is the classic narrow armswing to the top that most older players employ. And as we all know this position leaves yardage in the bag!

Now let’s look at the data so we can see what is actually happening…

At the top you can see that the shoulders have turned 100 degrees which is more than enough, but the arms look jammed and narrow at the top. Why?

The answer lies within the actions of the rear arm, the lead arm is only REACTING to the over-bending of the rear elbow. As you can see at the top the rear elbow is bent 60 degrees. In a perfect world, when the rear elbow is at 90 degrees (a right angle) or more, the lead arm will be mostly straight — depending on how you’re built.

Something to note…in this position the hands are just past the chest and the shoulders have turned almost 90 degrees. However, when this player finished his backswing, he added 30 more degrees of rear elbow bend and only 11 more degrees of shoulder turn! What this means is that for the last quarter of the backswing, all this player did is allow the hands to basically collapse to the top of the backswing. This move is less than efficient and will cause major issues in your downswing sequencing, as well as, your transitional action.

As stated when your trail elbow stays at 90 degrees or wider in route to the top, you will have a much straighter lead arm.

One last thing to note when comparing these two players is that this player two had a shorter backswing length but a BIGGER shoulder turn with WIDER arms at the top, giving this player a short compact motion that resembles Adam Scott — which seems to work for he and Butch!

Therefore, the thing to remember is that if your lead arm is soft at the top and your arms look crowded at the top, then you must fix the over-bending of the rear elbow on the backswing. And if you have wider arms you will have a more solid “package” to become a ballstriking machine!

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Champ or choker? 5 ways to keep from being the latter

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Golf can be a lonely game. Rarely in sports are you more on an island while battling fears, doubts, and inner demons in the effort not to choke — especially on the biggest stages. But even if we’ve never been a champ, or played in a major championship, we’ve all been there, battling those same demons, and that’s why most of us can relate so well with some of golf’s most infamous chokes.

The pinnacle of these ignoble events was likely on the final hole at Carnoustie, in the ‘99 British Open, when Jean Van de Velde gave up a three-shot lead in a tragic comedy of bad shots (and even worse judgment), a scene that saw him take off his shoes and socks and wade deep into the Barry Burn before finally coming to his senses. Van de Velde ultimately lost in a playoff to Paul Lawrie, earning his place in golfing infamy, but when it comes to choking away victory on the biggest stage, he certainly wasn’t alone.

In the 1966 U.S. Open at Olympic Club, Arnold Palmer lost a seven-shot lead to Billy Casper on the final nine holes. Ed Sneed blew a five-shot lead on the final day of the ’79 Masters that was a three-shot lead with three to play by missing very short putts on each of the last three holes. Greg Norman’s infamous collapse at the 1996 Masters should be counted as well, when he threw away a six-shot lead with an atrocious 78 on the final day, allowing Nick Faldo to win.

And the champions of this generation haven’t proven immune either. Rory McIlroy coughed up a four-shot lead on the final day at Augusta in the 2011 Masters, ultimately carding an 80. And Dustin Johnson has a hat trick of tight-collar escapades in majors, losing the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by shooting a final-round 78 after starting with a three-shot lead, and the 2010 PGA by committing a rules violation when he had the lead on the final hole, and the 2015 U.S. Open to Jordan Spieth when he three-putted the final hole from just 15 feet. And speaking of Spieth, his final round collapse at Amen Corner on the back nine at the 2016 Masters, when he gave up a five-shot lead by going bogey-bogey-quadruple-bogey after putting two balls in the water at the dreaded 12th, is how that year’s event will forever be remembered.

Now golfers aren’t alone when it comes to choking. Athletes in nearly every sport fear it, suffer from it, and work their entire careers to avoid being associated with it. It wouldn’t be too far a stretch to say that a large percentage of athletes would rather be known as a cheat, a thief, and a liar before being known as a choker. Our sports culture reveres the clutch athlete, the player who can handle the biggest moments on the biggest stage and rise to the occasion time and again. And possibly because most of us can’t, we look up to those who can handle those pressure-packed situations like almost no other. And we cast aspersions upon those who can’t, labeling some who’ve done it even once as chokers, and those who have a habit of self-sabotage as choke artists. We are fascinated by those who can succeed in the spotlight, and, as sports fans, frustrated by those who wither when the lights are brightest. And the awareness of this is so pervasive that avoiding having to wear the choker label can arguably be in and of itself the greatest pressure.

As a result of this preoccupation with choking, scientists have studied it quite a bit. And some are finally beginning to identify its causes and how to avoid it. And while it sounds like a gross oversimplification, much of this study seems to conclude that choking ultimately comes down to simply this… Thinking too much. When athletes get nervous about their performance they stop doing whatever it is they do instinctively and essentially fall into the trap of trying not to make mistakes. They begin to desperately try and control whatever the necessary motions they need to make to a higher degree than normal and, in the process, the fluidity of those motions is lost along with their grace and talent.

Now that’s a layman’s description of what happens, but let’s use putting to explain what’s going on a little more scientifically. When people first learn to putt, they have numerous things to consider. They need to assess the break of the green, what line they will use, and at what speed they will need to roll the ball in order for it follow their intended path. They must also ensure their stroke is not only straight enough to send the ball upon the intended line, but the right size so that it rolls it at the intended speed. For a new golfer, this is more than challenging enough to require the majority of their focus and attention, and at first this necessary. By focusing on their stroke mechanics, as well as the other necessary elements they are trying accomplish, they can avoid mistakes and make better putts.

Once they’ve played for a while, though, and possess the requisite skill to putt, everything changes. Analyzing the stroke at this point is wasted mental energy as the brain almost automatically computes the necessary break and speed needed for a successful putt. Complex learned motor skills like putting are controlled by the cerebellum, and trying to consciously control these skills shifts control to the slower, more deliberate prefrontal cortex, causing a performance drop. If you look at the brain waves of athletes during performance, those of beginners tend to have erratic dips and spikes as well as wildly inconsistent rhythm, the neural signature of a mind engaging in conscious thought. By contrast, expert athletes’ minds look almost eerily serene, showcasing a mental tranquility that ignores disruption or interruption from the outside world, highlighting the fact that in optimal performance those who succeed essentially don’t think, they just do.

This is why studies show that experienced golfers who are forced to think about technique hit significantly worse shots. Once our technique is embedded we instead want to rely on the automatic brain. Conscious thought essentially erases years of practice, and this is what often happens when athletes start to choke. They begin to second-guess their skill, and the part of the brain that monitors their behavior begins to interfere with the types of actions that are normally made without thinking. Before long, performance spirals, as failures mount and increasing doubt about the ability to perform begin to rise.

So why are golfers so much more apt to choke than other athletes? Well, unlike most reactionary sports, we’ve unfortunately got a lot of available time to engage in all that unnecessary thinking. This means we have a proverbial minefield of potential mind-traps out there waiting for us to step on. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If we take cues from the available research, we can devise habits, routines, and strategies to help short-circuit the choking phenomenon, and potentially avoid becoming another Van de Velde the next time the chips are down.

  1. Practice Desired Outcome Focus – It’s essentially impossible (and a bad habit) to try and not do something. Telling yourself not to hit it left in the hazard, or to stay away from the bunker right is a really bad idea, and there are studies backing that up. Shift your focus instead to what your desired outcome is.
  2. Practice Positive Visualization – Positive visualization is a great tactic to use to avoid choking. Get in the habit of mentally rehearsing a positive image of the skill you want to perform, or better yet, a successful image of the shot you want to make like a high fade towards the tallest pine at the corner of the dogleg.
  3. Practice Implicit Learning – This is learning through observation, rather than the step-by-step instruction manual approach, and its practitioners have been observed in studies to be much less susceptible to choking than their overly analytical counterparts.
  4. Practice a Pre-Shot Routine – Players who have a disciplined performance routine that allows them to become engrossed in the process, shifting their mind away from too much outcome thinking, have also proven to be much less susceptible to choking.
  5. Embrace Distraction – Athletes asked to listen to sounds or words unrelated to the actions they are performing rarely show the type of drop-off in performance in high pressure situations than those who are actually focused on what they are doing. So, next time listen close to all those birds chirping, partners yakking, or clubs jangling with a welcoming ear, instead of an instinctive complaint.

While these practices can really help you start understanding what to do if you want to become an actual champ, learning a few lessons from the foibles of some of those would-be champs can be helpful as well. When Palmer melted down in ’66, it was because he got over-confident and began firing at pins in an attempt to break Ben Hogan’s Open scoring record. As things started to unravel, though, he got tight, surly, and uncharacteristically dour in the effort to get things under control.

When Norman’s bid for his first green jacket began to fall apart like the proverbial cheap suit, he too got tight, making one uncharacteristically poor decision (and swing) after another in attempt to get things under control. When Rory McIlroy collapsed, he approached the entire day of the final round differently then he did typically, thinking he needed to be more serious and stoic in his quest to nail down his first ever major and it backfired.

And for Van de Velde, the succession of agonizingly poor decisions, beginning essentially on the 18th tee of the final hole, was actually his attempt to not do anything different when common sense dictated he should have. When asked about it in an interview fifteen years later he said,

“What do you want me to say? I should have played it differently? I believe that…with what I do and the way that I do it, day in, day out… that I played it correctly. I hope that people learned that it’s a game and there’s bigger things in life. Winning with grace is pretty easy. Losing with it is a lot harder.”

Quite a profound statement form someone nearly unequally qualified in the game to make it. Bravo Jean. You may not have ended up a champ, but you certainly won’t find me calling you a choker.

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