Golf Digest editors picks

Hit more fairways with one simple change

September 2008

When I walk down the range before an outing, I'll see 40 people banging drivers, warming up. And at least 30 of those players will have the same fundamental flaw in their setup: a ball position that's way too far back. It's an issue that starts a chain reaction of accuracy-wrecking, power-stealing swing mistakes. It kills your score, and worse, it wastes all the advantages those high-tech 460cc drivers have built into them. Trust me: If you're not breaking 90 and regularly hitting fairways, you aren't playing your ball far enough forward with the driver -- no matter how far up you think it is. Check out the sequences below to see why you need to play the ball off your left heel.

ADDRESS

With the ball in good position, in line with the left heel (see lead photo above), your left side should feel stretched -- a preview of the extension you want through impact. When the ball is too far back (left), your left side collapses, your shoulders get too level, and you have a tendency to aim your shoulders right of the target, which just exaggerates a slice. Also, be sure to set up with the ball centered on the middle of the driver face, not on the heel.

When your shoulders tilt slightly away from the target at address, the driver moves back and around you, and it's much easier to turn your upper body (see lead photo above). When your shoulders start too level (left), you tend to lift the club straight up in the takeaway, with no upper-body turn. Your weight stays on your left side, and the clubface immediately closes. The body responds by trying to compensate to get some lift on the ball.

TOP OF THE BACKSWING

A good takeaway sets up a complete turn at the top, where your left shoulder gets behind the ball (see lead photo above) -- even if you aren't the most flexible person. With the ball too far back in your stance, the negative chain reaction continues. When your swing gets steep and narrow on the backswing (left), you don't have any way of generating clubhead speed. You don't have time to rebuild your extension and leverage at this point in the swing.

DOWNSWING

From a good windup, you can move through impact with the clubhead traveling on a relatively flat path to a slightly upward strike (see lead photo above). You'll turn into your front foot without even thinking about it. From the bad position (left), the club feels like it will come crashing down on the ball, so you fall back in a reverse pivot and scoop with your hands to avoid hitting a grounder. You'll miss a lot of fairways that way, mostly pushes and hooks.

BONUS PRACTICE TIPS

Swing to this position

The primary benefit of a forward ball position is that it encourages you to wind up and swing through the ball and out to the target. The arms extend and speed up naturally, and then pull the upper body into an uncoiled, balanced finish position. Focus on getting there when you practice.

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