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Many golfers, especially amateurs and beginners, struggle with driving the golf ball. This is important to get right because a poor tee game will start you off on the wrong foot and virtually guarantee a high score.
The three most common issues related to hitting driver are being overly anxious, consistently hitting a slice, and failing to make solid contact with the ball.
Even though these may seem like easy problems to overcome, they often aren’t. Nevertheless, with the right technique, hard work and persistence, you can go a long way in mastering the use of your driver.
In this article, I will walk you through what is generally accepted to be the “correct” way on how to drive the golf ball, giving you sound techniques and guidelines to help you become as consistent as possible. This could benefit every golfer out there, even if you already consider yourself an expert.
Of course, when it comes to hitting driver (and hitting any other club for that matter), there are no absolutes and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. It’s important to understand the foundations of hitting your driver, but at the end of the day, you need to settle into something that works best for you.
The Importance Of Hitting Your Driver Well
You may have heard the expression “drive for show, putt for dough” before. This suggests that driving performance doesn’t really matter much.
While this may be more or less true for professional golfers playing on certain courses, it’s not true for most amateurs. For the typical golfer, driving is just as important as the short game, and in fact, it’s required to even have a chance at shooting a low score.
If you hit your driver poorly, you put yourself out of position right off the bat, whether you end up in thick rough, in a water hazard, or out of bounds. Having a sound, accurate driver technique will ensure that you’re in good position to attack the greens as often as possible.
How To Drive The Golf Ball
Before you even make a swing at the ball, there are a few things you need to make sure are in order.
The general consensus of golf’s best teachers and coaches is that you should tee the ball up about 1.5 inches when hitting the driver.
This is the highest out of any club in the bag because drivers have the least amount of loft, making it very important to “hit up” on the ball.
A good rule of thumb is that when the ball sits on the tee, it should just “peek” above the crown when the sole of the driver is resting on the ground. Be careful, though, not to set the tee too high, as this can greatly increase the likelihood of hitting sky balls.
The Ball Position
You might think that it’s natural and best to put the ball in the middle of your stance when hitting driver. However, this is not the case.
A good rule of thumb is that the ball should be positioned just inside the left heel at address (for a right-handed golfer). This would typically line the ball up with the logo on your shirt.
If you position the ball too far forward in your stance, it encourages an out-to-in swing path and body movements that lead to a slice. On the other hand, putting the ball too far back in your stance will cause you to hit “down” on the ball and not get it airborne.
To achieve the ideal posture, bend your upper body slightly towards the ball and keep your back straight without slouching or bringing your head too far back. Slightly bend your knees and avoid getting too tense.
When set up with your driver over the ball, your feet should be roughly shoulder-width apart with your weight distributed equally over both. Your shoulders, hips and feet should be parallel to the intended target line.
When it comes to distance from the ball, you should stand with the driver in your hands such that the butt end of the grip is about six inches from your body.
This stance is best for hitting a straight shot. To draw (right to left for a right-handed golfer) or fade (left to right for a right-handed golfer) the ball, you can do the following to your stance:
- Draw: aim the clubface slightly right of the target and align your body a little bit farther to the right relative to the clubface.
- Fade: aim the clubface slightly left of the target and align your body a little bit farther to the left relative to the clubface.
There are several different grip styles in golf that have proven to be effective for golfers, and it may take you a while to figure out what type you feel most comfortable with.
The three main grips in the game are the ten-finger grip, overlap grip, and interlocking grip.
Having a close resemblance to the grip used in baseball, this is also called the baseball grip.
It is perhaps the most basic grip used in golf and probably the best to start off with if you are a beginner because it’s quite easy to remember.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on adopting this grip assuming you are a right-handed golfer (if you’re left-handed, it’s the inverse):
- Place your left hand at the very bottom of the golf club (opposite the clubhead).
- Close your fingers in such a way that the club is primarily in contact with your fingers as opposed to the palm.
- Point your thumb directly towards the club head.
- Place your right hand right above your left hand so that your right pinky is touching your left index finger.
- When you close your right hand, your left thumb should be touching your right palm, and your right thumb should be pointing slightly to the left.
It can be argued that this is the preferred grip among professionals. Due to requiring a stronger finger contact than the ten-finger grip, the overlap offers better stability.
- Start with a ten-finger grip.
- Instead of resting your right pinky above the left index finger, bring it over the left hand so that it rests between your index and middle fingers.
This is my personally preferred grip style that is most comfortable and gives me the best results.
The interlocking grip offers the most stability. Because it actually involves a lock-type position of the fingers, the idea is that it helps keep the club in a steady position throughout the swing.
This grip is often ideal for people with small hands.
- Start with a ten-finger grip.
- Place your right pinky between your left index and middle fingers; similarly, place your left index between your right pinky and ring fingers.
In addition to the grip styles above, there are also types related to hand position known as weak, neutral and strong grips.
Essentially, a weak grip is achieved when you rotate your hands to the left, and a strong grip when you rotate your hands to the right. We go over these grips in detail in this article.
Tip: If you’re slicing (slices will be the most pronounced with the driver), try turning your hands slightly to the right to make the grip stronger. This should encourage more of a draw shape.
In most cases, I don’t recommend using a weak grip when hitting driver because of the potential for an open clubface and slice.
Now that you’ve got the tee height, ball position, stance and grip figured out, it’s time to swing your driver.
Swinging a driver isn’t all that different from swinging woods or irons. It can be divided into three main parts: the backswing, the downswing, and the follow-through.
There are a ton of different ways to make a backswing that work — just watch the diverse set of golfers on the PGA Tour and you’ll know what I mean.
However, the general idea is this: rotate your shoulders, torso and hips away from the target while shifting your weight to your back foot.
Try to keep your left arm as straight as possible and lift the driver over your head so that it’s pointing roughly in the direction of the target. You may not have the flexibility to rotate enough so that the club ends up parallel to the ground, but that’s okay; just lift it back as much as you can.
When making a backswing, you should imagine a vertical plane that is aligned with the ball and target, and try to keep your arms in line with that plane. Keep your arms away from your body enough to avoid an inside-out path, but keep them close enough to your body to avoid an outside-in path.
The downswing is essentially all about unwinding the backswing.
When initiating the downswing, you should immediately start to rotate your hips towards the target and shift weight to your front foot. As you do this, let the club drop down from over your head in an arcing motion and strike the ball with your arms in an extended position.
One of the main things to avoid during the downswing is changing your spine angle. Stay in your posture, keep your eye on the ball, and don’t stand up or bend over — this will lead to topping the ball or hitting it fat.
In the ideal downswing, the club lags behind the arms and the arms lag behind the lower body. This generates more speed which translates to more distance.
Once you impact the ball with the driver, let your body naturally carry the driver through, up and over your head on the other side.
After impact, your arms should naturally fold and your hands should end up directly over your left shoulder, pointing left of the target.
It technically doesn’t matter what your follow-through looks like because once the ball is gone, it’s gone. However, developing a good follow-through allows your body to release the energy generated by the swing in a way that minimizes the strain on your body.
That’s pretty much it! Now watch the ball as it hopefully sails down the middle of the fairway.
Tips For Driving The Golf Ball
Whether the issue is slicing, hooking, not getting the ball airborne, not getting enough distance, or not hitting it straight, it’s very common for golfers to struggle with hitting their driver.
Here are a few tips that will hopefully help you to improve your results:
1. Block out distractions and stress.
If you’re experiencing issues in your personal life or something is otherwise bothering you, you should try to address it as soon as possible.
Barring that, you should do your best to block out negative thoughts on the golf course as this can make you tense and negatively impact your focus.
Not only that, but stress can make it more likely that you’ll get frustrated after a poor shot, potentially spiraling into a disastrous score. Stay in the moment, focus on the shot you need to hit, and try to enjoy your time on the course.
2. Get rid of tension in the swing.
Tension kills golf swings. It causes all sorts of problems including:
- interfering with the free release through the impact zone
- creating a more “armey” swing that engages the lower body less
- making it more likely that you’ll come out of your posture before impact
Tension can be caused by negative thoughts as discussed above, but another common cause of it is trying to hit your driver too hard (i.e. ‘kill the ball‘).
When setting up over the ball, you should keep enough grip pressure to have firm control over the shaft while keeping excess tension out of your arms and upper body. A good way to do this is to lightly bob the clubhead or waggle it before starting your swing.
3. Use more loft.
If your primary issue with the driver is not being able to get the ball sufficiently airborne, try using more loft.
For example, if your loft is 7°-9°, consider increasing it to 11° or more. This typically works best for golfers with slower swing speeds, but many professionals use a lot of loft in their drivers as well.
Modern drivers are also packed with the latest cutting-edge technologies that not only increase launch, but also increase forgiveness across the clubface and improve energy transfer from the club to the ball.
There are other things you could do to increase the height of your shots such as teeing the ball up higher or moving the ball more forward in your stance so that you hit it at a higher point on the swing arc, but these measures come with some negative side effects.
4. Increase your club head speed.
Despite the fact that it’s getting easier and easier to drive the ball farther due to continued advances in golf equipment technology, for many golfers, the problem isn’t so much the direction the ball goes as it is the distance the ball travels.
If you don’t hit your driver far enough, you put yourself at a major disadvantage since you need to hit longer, less accurate clubs into greens and miss out on opportunities to reach par 5s in two.
Just over 4% of golfers can drive the ball over 300 yards, while the average driving distance of amateur golfers is about 220 yards. If you want to hit your driver 300 yards or longer, you’ll need to increase your club head speed. Some of the best ways to do this are:
- strengthen your golf muscles (core, flexibility, etc.) with practice and working out in the gym
- create more lag in your swing by cocking your wrists
- lead the downswing with your lower body
- use a driver with a better aerodynamic profile
- turn your lead foot outwards so that your hips can more easily rotate through the ball
Another important thing to note is if you want to generate more power with your driver, swing faster, not harder.
How To Drive The Golf Ball Straight
Driving the golf ball is one thing, but driving it straight is a whole other matter entirely.
As with other clubs in the bag, if the driver face is not square at impact relative to the swing plane, sidespin will be imparted on the ball which will result in a shot that curves (hook, draw, fade, slice). Moreover, if the swing plane isn’t aligned with the target, the ball will not go straight.
And because the driver moves so fast during the swing, any minor deviation from the center of the face magnifies the unwanted effect and can lead to a massively off-line result.
The techniques you can employ to achieve a square clubface at impact relative to the swing plane and target line depend on your natural swing tendency which is causing the problem.
Case #1: You tend to fade or slice the ball.
A slice is caused when the clubface is open relative to the swing path. This is the most common driver issue for beginners and amateurs.
The goal is to square the clubface, and you can do this by:
- strengthening your grip by rotating your hands to the right
- addressing the ball with more of a closed clubface
- ensuring that your feet and shoulders are square and parallel to the target line
- moving the ball back in your stance
Case #2: You tend to draw or hook the ball.
A hook is caused when the clubface is closed relative to the swing path. You can square the clubface by:
- weakening your grip by rotating your hands to the left
- addressing the ball with more of an open clubface
- moving the ball forward in your stance
Case #3: You hit the ball straight but it doesn’t start on your intended line.
This means that your swing path is not aligned with the target. To address this, make sure that your shoulders and your feet are parallel to the target and that you’re swinging on-plane.
If you are aligned with the target but the ball isn’t starting on your intended line, a quick fix is to change your alignment to compensate. For instance, if you hit it right, aim more to the left.
Along with putting and short game, driving is one of the most important aspects of your game that you need to focus on. A good drive off the tee instantly sets you up for success on any given hole.
This guide is meant to give you a rock-solid foundation for driving the golf ball. If you’re a beginner, I recommend following everything as presented here (tee, ball, stance, grip, swing) and making adjustments based on what works for you.
As you gain experience with hitting the driver, you will not only become more consistent, but gain distance as well; this will go a long way towards shooting lower scores.
At some point, though, you’re going to want to take things to the next level. In my opinion, one of the best ways to do this is through The Long Game Mastery Program by Jeff Richmond.
This affordable step-by-step program containing 34 lessons will teach you not only how to increase your distance by another 20-30 yards, but also how to eliminate slices and hooks, develop a more effortless swing, and become super accurate with your irons.
I highly recommend checking it out because it could be a game-changer for you.
Good luck on the golf course!
Thanks for reading this guide. How is your driver game coming along? Are you having any problems hitting driver? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.