More often than not, hitting a driver long and straight relies less on timing and more on solid mechanics. Statistically speaking, a straight and long drive significantly impacts scoring for professionals and even more for amateur players. On average, pros hit their drivers around 160 yards, with a minimal lateral error of just about 3.4º, translating to almost double the yards and half the error the average golfer can accomplish.
So, how can you build on your current driving to start hitting straighter and longer? This article seeks to walk you through the basic swing technique(s) of how to hit a driver and cap it off with a few advanced tips to think and practice. However, it is worth noting that this guide is written under the assumption that you already have solid grip and posture fundamentals.
1. Setup Changes with your Driver
Ideally, you want your driver to hit the ball on your upswing instead of striking down. While it's possible to make a few adjustments in your in-swing, it's substantially more efficient to tweak around your driver's setup prior. This ensures that you get the ideal impact ball position with the driver while also helping you to initiate a superb backswing.
For starters, the golf ball should be positioned slightly inside your front foot when you want to hit a driver well. Subsequently, you should place a little extra weight through your back foot. This has a knock-on effect, creating a slight amount of spine tilt away from the target.
Additionally, it's equally effective to tee the ball high in such a way that approximately half of the ball is visible above the driver head as you set up. Low tee shots create a steeper angle of attack, which can potentially impede you from correcting releasing the club head.
2. Wide Takeaway with Driver Swing
The next step is creating a wide takeaway. This involves turning your body and moving the club head away from your target. This step ties up the large muscles around your hips and trunk while simultaneously shifting a bit more weight onto your back foot. The goal is to already start shifting your weight towards the target by the time you're at the top of your swing.
Shifting your weight early also helps you to create a sturdy foundation for the remainder of your backswing. It is also worth noting that while modern coaching focuses on a big body turn, this ultimately depends on your physique. As such, you should simply aim for a turn that feels coiled and powerful enough to you.
3. Top of Backswing with Driver
When you're approaching the top of your swing, your wrists ought to be fully hinged, preferably after your left arm moves past 9 o'clock. Furthermore, you must continue rotating your body until you finish the backswing.
To achieve a strong and powerful ball flight, the clubface angle should ideally be square. If not, it must be slightly closed to your forearm angle at the top of your swing. Nailing this position means you have minimal work ahead in your downswing to square up the driver face. This also makes it fairly easy to hit a draw.
More so, getting this right is a combination of good grip, fully hinged wrists and proper forearm rotation during the backswing. If you tend to slice your driver frequently, you can always consider creating a more neutral club face at the top of your swing. Whatever the case may be, you should never attempt to change your clubface angle at the top of your swing. For the best results, create your ideal position mid-way back as your wrists are setting.
4. Starting the Downswing with Driver
This is arguably the most confusing bit for amateurs. The trick is to shallow out your shaft angle as you start down consistently. Following the steps outlined above makes this move far easier, especially since you'd do it early enough in their backswing. As soon as you have created a solid backswing, making this transition becomes far more straightforward to execute. Ultimately, you have to consider that this move revolves around the driver, hands and arms falling as the shaft angle shallows.
This move also requires a firm grip and/or an open club face at the top. It would be best to first build consistency in those before you get to master the downswing. Just as important, learn to take your time as you move from backswing to downswing. Slower movements translate to better angles and more club speed at impact.
5. Pre-Impact Square Club Face
At this point, you are well into the beginning of hitting stunning drives. As the club comes down parallel to the green, you encounter a significant checkpoint. If the driver head covers in line with your hands and the club's toe is pointing straight up, you are pretty much set to hit a driver straight.
While at it, you also have to pay enough attention to degrees. A 3-6º open or closed club face to your swing path at impact translates into a solid fade or draw. This matters a lot to your performance since even minimal discrepancies from the range can result in wild drivers. However, if you have built a sound backswing and start down well, the pre-impact position comes almost naturally, and you edge close to accurate drivers.
6. Unwind through Impact When Hitting a Driver
This next step equally comes easy when you have a superb pre-impact position. The key is to unwind your body through contact. A golfer with solid mechanics finds it that the harder they unwind their body through impact, the more straight they end up hitting their driver. Unlike what beginners might lean towards thinking, you really don't need to roll your wrists or actively rotate the club head. But this requires you to prime the club face to hit the ball straight pre-impact.
7. Balanced Follow Through
We all marvel at the elegant finishes we see from professional golfers. And mind you, they are also hitting the driver pretty hard. Finding a balanced finished position is always a combination of several factors:
- Great sequencing.
- Efficient power delivery through impact.
- Remaining balanced throughout the swing.
It follows then that getting an exquisite finish relies heavily on nailing the steps that come before. This can certainly be practised and refined over time. You can start with a couple of smooth swings, where you try and hold your finish until the ball lands. Once you get the impression that a balanced finish is building up, amp up your practice by building your swing speed to see if you can still maintain it.
Most people are naturally inclined to gripping the club harder when they are learning a new move. However, you'll soon find out that gentler grips and relaxed arms deliver more speed and accuracy. In case you find yourself tense during your pre-shot routine, try to relax your hands and arms, the muscle, i.e., before you pick up the club.
For context, the ideal grip pressure should be equivalent to the same pressure you'd apply if you were holding and swinging a banana. Not too loosely that it flies out of your hand, nor too tight that you mash it into a paste.
Great Launch for Driver
The ideal launch angle with a driver hinges on the club head speed. The average speed for PGA Tour players lies around 112mph, leading to an 11.2º launch angle. This shifts down towards ~14º as the speed reduces to 95mph. The key takeaway is, the lower the club head speed, the higher your launch angle has to be to get maximum driving range and distance.
Ideal Impact from hitting Great Drives
Accuracy comes with consistency. Therefore, you need to routinely create a swing path and club face combination that always delivers the ball to your target. Ideally, this should be a square path and a parallel square club face for a straight ball flight.
Advanced Driving Tips
Taking your performance a notch higher relies on more than just perfecting your golf swing positions. You should also consider:
Pick up and build a stock shot: This means finding an action that might not particularly be the best, but it still gets the ball down the fairway and hardly ever puts you in trouble. This is an incredibly personalised skill that you'll develop through practice on the golf course on your range. To become an exceptional driver in all situations, you certainly have to devote enough time to build your own stock shot.
Cutting one side of the golf course: The reality is, you won't always aim and hit your drives straight and long. As such, it's preferable if you aimed slightly left or right to allow for bad shots on the occasions you're struggling.
How to Hit a Driver in a Nutshell
We certainly hope that this guide provides you with more insight into how to hit a driver remarkably well. However you approach it, solid, consistent swing mechanics and utmost focus on your club face with minimal rotation through impact are inevitable. Becoming a great driver ultimately requires a fine balance of proper technique, performance practice and impeccable decision-making in play.