To hit the ball farther, legendary Scottish instructor Seymour Dunn said to “keep a third of your strength in your pocket.” This is great advice even today. Big hitters like Ernie Els and Vijay Singh don’t make the golf ball explode by swinging all-out; they routinely hit their longest drives at about 75 to 80 percent effort, and look smooth doing it.
When you want to launch one, swing easier, not harder. This makes the club’s acceleration more efficient, so it reaches maximum speed at the most desired moment — impact. Learn how to do that, and you’ll be hitting it strong with effortless power.
- Set up to sweep Inch the ball forward in your stance so that it’s opposite your left heel, or armpit, and tee it high. You want at least half of the ball sitting above the topline of the clubface. These adjustments encourage a shallower angle of approach, which allows you to hit the ball on the upswing. Impact will be higher on the clubface for less spin and more distance.
- Get the club swinging Start your takeaway from the ground up: Move the clubhead first, then your arms and, finally, your shoulders. The hands should remain in front of your chest as you turn from the ball. Many amateurs turn their hips first, which gets the arms and club out of sync with the body. Begin with the club swinging first and you’ll be able to build power on the way back.
- Accelerate Gradually Come to a complete stop at the top — as if waiting at a red light (below). As you start down, proceed with caution, accelerating so the club reaches maximum speed .at impact, not before. Instead of forcing the club down, which puts it on a steep, .out-to-in path, let the speed develop. .The longer you wait to release the energy, the more of it you’ll transfer to the ball.
The more stretch you get in your shoulders turning back, the more power you’ll be able to dish out at impact. Here’s a great exercise to do before the round to increase your range of motion. Grab both ends of your driver and hold the shaft directly over your head. Then slowly pull the club behind you as far as you can without bending your arms (below). This will stretch out your chest, shoulders and triceps, promoting a fuller turn behind the ball.
High launch, low spin. Write it down, because this is the magic formula for hitting your drives out of sight. To get it, you must contact the ball high on the clubface, just above the center of gravity on today’s large, deep-faced drivers. This produces a “vertical-gear effect” — the ball launches quickly and then flattens out due to less spin, so it tumbles forward upon landing. A drive with too much backspin tends to fall straight down as if it ran into a brick wall.
According to Larry Bobka of Titleist, the ideal launch angle is between 10 and 14 degrees. Anything less and the ball will have too much backspin; anything more and it will launch too high, reducing the tumble effect and the amount of forward roll.
Equipment: a lofty choice
If you’re in the market for a new driver, consider buying one with plenty of loft .(10 or higher). The more loft there is on the face, the greater the likelihood of launching the ball in this 10 to 14 range. With an amateur’s average swing speed, it’s much harder to produce that kind of launch angle with a 7.5 or 8.5 driver.