10 Rules To Hit It Huge
1. You Probably Need More Loft
My wife, Angie, is a good athlete who played pro basketball with the WNBA's Charlotte Sting. When she started playing golf seriously, six years ago, she used a driver with 9 degrees of loft and could carry the ball about 170 yards. Just before she played in the Bob Hope Classic pro-am earlier this year (a fifth-anniversary gift from me), she switched to a driver with 13 degrees. She instantly increased her carry distance to 215 yards with the same amount of roll she had before. Angie isn't much different from most male amateurs in that the quickest shortcut to more distance is getting a driver with more loft. And don't stop there; get a light, properly fitted shaft, too. You should use every bit of technology available before taking the leap of overhauling your swing. A custom-fit driver can easily give you 20 yards overnight; changing your swing can take months, or longer.
2. Utilize Your Best Physical Trait
Long hitters are long for different reasons. J.B. Holmes has a thick, strong, corn-fed kind of build. He's very powerful from the elbows down, with strong, fast hands. Dustin Johnson is sort of skinny, with tremendous speed in his hips and torso. Me, I'm tall with a wide arc and long swing. People have different physical assets. It might be strong thighs, broad shoulders, a strong core, whatever. Find your strong point physically, and take advantage of it. And be careful that an instructor doesn't try to build your swing around a part of you that isn't your strongest point.
3. Try A Shorter Shaft
Twice I've been offered a spot in the Re/Max World Long Drive Championship, and both times I turned it down. It was nice to be invited, but I thought altering my swing specifically to get more distance for that one event might wreck my game. But I did toy with the idea, and even had Ping build me a driver with 5.5 degrees of loft and an extra-long, 48-inch shaft. The longer shaft, which many people assume is an automatic trick to generating more clubhead speed, didn't work at all. It threw my timing off, and I didn't hit the ball much farther even when I nailed it. I did much better with my standard 44½-inch driver, simply swinging a little harder.
Trying a longer shaft is a popular suggestion these days, but most players should, if anything, try a shaft half an inch shorter than what's in their driver. (The average, off-the-rack driver shaft today is 45½ inches.) Tiger Woods at his longest used a relatively short 43½-inch driver, with a steel shaft to boot. You'll find it easier to hit the sweet spot with a shorter shaft, and you can go after tee shots without losing much control.
4. Learn To Hit A Draw
Learn to draw the ball If you slice, you're not paying as high a price as players used to with the older equipment. That's because modern drivers don't spin the ball as much, and the ball doesn't spin as much, either. But the lesser penalty for a slice has lulled a lot of amateurs to sleep. The best way to really boom the ball out there is to swing from the inside and turn it over. You'll compress the ball more, and the shot will bore through the wind better. And if you find the right driver, you'll carry the ball farther with a draw than you would with a fade -- another result of modern equipment.
5. Accept Days When You Don't Have It
I started the last day of Bay Hill in 2008 in a five-way tie for the lead. For the first 10 holes, I hooked almost every shot, even when I consciously tried to hit a big fade. I was hitting the ball so far off line it cost me not only accuracy but distance. I fought that darned hook the entire time, and after a while it was too late to recover. I finished tied for eighth. If I had it to do over, I would've just accepted my natural ball flight that day instead of wrestling with it. There are times when you'll wake up with a certain ball flight, or you just don't feel as strong or flexible as you normally do. Roll with it. That's what separates great players from the rest of the field.