I figured it made sense to get this fortnight long segment off by starting with the club that people place most importance on, have the most trouble with and something I am known the most for.
I thought a lot about this and went back and looked at the ESPN telecast from when I won the National Long Drive Championship and I was reminded of what I was thinking.
Let me digress by stressing the importance of something that comes very natural to me. In hitting a driver straight and far, I can’t say enough about the importance of balance. My winning swing had too much arm swing, was off plane and I had a huge lateral move. However, I was in perfect balance, which allowed me to hit the ball straight under the immense pressure and very high club head speed.
This brings me to my second point of what I was thinking when I hit the winning drive and it goes along with my stance against “just swinging easy.” I had just hit my third ball in play and took the lead. There was one hitter left and I wanted to get one way out there to make it tougher for the last guy to beat me, so I was going to swing as hard as I could. I had one thought and one thought only.
“Let the club set before you change direction.” I thought back on every great drive and every bad drive I hit under pressure and there was a common factor. The good ones had good tempo where I set the club…the bad ones had bad tempo where my change of direction was poor.
This is on the subject of tempo. You can swing as hard as you want as long as your swing is in tempo. Tempo doesn’t mean a slow back swing (which I find horrible). Good tempo just means your swing has a rhythm to it. It can be fast or slow, but an ultra slow back swing usually creates bad tempo as the transition at the top is too fast.
Each individual must find the proper tempo that works for them. Ultra slow back swings and “just hit it easy” down swings cause terrible tempo and too much control of the club with the hands. You will all need to find your own pace, but I like to use the 1-2 beat of a grandfather clock pendulum.
To prove my point about slow back swings and “just hit it easy” down swings being bad, just look at all the PGA Tour players with the best tempo.
Off the top of my head, Fred Couples, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen have beautiful tempos. None of them have ultra slow back swings and all three of them take a good hard swing at it.
To sum up. You can swing as hard as you want at driver as long as you have two factors. Good balance and good tempo. Good tempo doesn’t mean a slow back swing or an easy down swing. It means a good transition form back swing to down swing.
Balance and Tempo are the big ones, but setup issues can be an issue as well. Many, many people setup with bad posture. Bad posture will not allow you to turn properly. There are three main ones you need to check in the mirror. One, You want your spine to be fairly straight and not rounded. In other words, you want the back of your head and your tailbone to be almost a straight line. Two, you don’t want your shoulders to be too rounded like they would be if you reached too far for the ball, nor do you want them up in your ears. Roll them back and down and you will be able to turn better and you won’t be as sore after playing golf. Three, because of the way you grip the club, one hand is lower than the other on the club. If you are right handed, the right hand is lower on the club, so to be in a neutral position, your right shoulder needs to be lower at address. A large % of golfers address the ball with shoulders that are parallel to the ground (The above paragraph pretty much applies to all clubs except putter).
I have had ball position issues the last few years, playing the ball too far back in my stance. That is a band aid that I am not alone in using. It is my opinion that somewhere between the instep and heel is the proper place to hit driver.
I also see issues with people trying to help the ball in the air and don’t turn their shoulders level. Go back in the archives of “instruction and advice” on the right side of the page and find the posts on level shoulder turn. Not having a level shoulder turn is the biggest physical mistake people make in trying to hit driver.
Oh yea and read the posts on releasing the club properly, that is the one thing I am working on right now.
The last and most important thought. DO NOT work on all of these things at once. Working on one thing at a time is how you get better at golf. Start with balance, move on to tempo, then worry about moving on to setup and swing changes.