By the time you read this, I will have played my 10th consecutive U.S. Women’s Open (I first qualified in 2007, as a 12-year-old), and will be in the gauntlet of the Olympic Games. What a summer it has been! You can bet I’ll be leaning on my driver to give me an edge—it’s the biggest weapon in my bag. My swing is pretty simple, but there are things I do at setup and throughout my motion to help boost power. If you’re short of my 281-yard driving average (I’m closing in on the all-time LPGA Tour record), then follow my lead. Explosive tee shots are just a few moves away.
Feel Firm, Stay Loose
I learned long ago that tense muscles react more slowly than relaxed ones do. So I ease into my address position, taking a few deep breaths as I step to the ball. I flare both feet—my secret for delivering the club from the inside, making it easy to hit a power draw. The best advice I can give you is to grip the club firmly, but in a way that lets your arms dangle freely, without tension. “Firm hands, loose arms” is my power mantra.
Avoid a Pause, Crack a Whip
Power your takeaway with your hands, letting them turn your shoulders and, eventually, your hips. No, it’s not a one-piece motion, but it instills good rhythm and makes it easy to keep the club on plane. At the top, maintain a solid hold on the handle, as you did at address. I’ve gone past parallel here (and almost always do), but my wrists are firm, and I still have a nice, 90-degree angle between my left forearm and the clubshaft. Weekend players get way too loose at the top, either by collapsing their wrists or bending their left arm too much. It’s no wonder you fight a slice.
Some players pause at the top before starting down. I don’t recommend it. It’s a rhythm buster that robs you of speed. Just before my hands reach the end of my backswing, I start to unwind my hips. My hips fire and my arms “snap” down as a result—it’s like cracking a whip. This move lets you pound the ball without swinging out of your spikes.
Use Your Hands, Hit a Draw
On iron swings, I often delay the release of the club, and I point the face at the target for as long as possible after impact. (It works—I’m hitting greens at an 80 percent clip this season.) I’ll do the same with driver if splitting the fairway is a must (and I’m willing to sacrifice some distance). But when I need to bomb one, I release the clubface like crazy. By “release,” I mean I rotate my right hand over my left so that by the time my hands pass my left hip, the shaft and my right arm form a straight line (photo, below). Tension only hurts you. Here’s where firm hands and loose arms are your friends. Trust me—you can’t release the clubhead too fast! Picture this: Get the face on your wristwatch pointing behind you after impact. Not only will you nix your banana ball—you might launch a nice, big draw.
Make a Play for Straight Power
When I practice, I hold my finish position for a few counts—the club wraps behind my neck, my torso faces the target, and my body is perfectly balanced. It’s a powerful learning tool—reach these positions on real swings, and you can’t help but nail the sweet spot. Swing speed aside, center contact is the power source.
My moves will make you longer and straighter. I’m hitting 70 percent of my fairways this year, which would put me in the top 10 on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy. To put these tips to the test, practice on the narrowest hole on your home course (or create a 20-yard-wide corridor in your mind’s eye when you’re at the range). The challenge will make you straighter— and you’ll still be pounding it.