Like many of you, the thought of hitting shots 20 or 30 yards farther led me to make changes to my swing that turned out to be more trouble than they were worth. I gained some distance, yes, but I lost a lot of accuracy, and my scoring suffered. I've since gone back to the way I swung the club in 2011, when I was No. 1 in the World Ranking. Now I feel like my ball-striking is pretty close to the way it used to be. The things I'm working on now with my coach, Pat Goss, are fundamentals I'm sure can help you, too. It starts at address. Feel like you're bending forward from your hip joints but staying tall with your chest (above). Resist the urge to tilt too far forward or sit back in your heels—I see both mistakes. Improve this part of your swing, and the other ones I'm about to show you, and you'll put yourself in position to play your best golf. —with Ron Kaspriske
A GOOD START IS KEY
To get into a great position at the top of the swing, which sets up a proper downswing, the secret is the takeaway. For me, it's about keeping the club from moving too far to the inside and the face closing from the start. I want a blended movement, where the club stays in front of my chest as my hands hinge it upward (below). It feels a lot different than trying to make a big, deep turn away from the target, like I was doing to hit it longer. This takeaway makes it easy to hit solid shots, which is why it's a good one to copy.
Pat also gives this move to amateurs who whip the club quickly to the inside. From there, they typically re-route the club on an out-to-in path coming down and hit a slice. If you start the backswing like I'm doing here, you'll create plenty of room to swing down and hit the ball from the inside.
STAY TALL TO THE TOP
When I was chasing extra yards, my upper body would drift several inches away from the target during the backswing. I was really loading up. Unfortunately, that made it harder to get the club back to the ball without some last-second adjustments. An issue for me was my head would dip as I made that big move. Think of how your body drops when you wind up to throw a punch. If you squat down during the backswing, you have to straighten up before impact to get the club back to the right spot.
A more consistent way to get into position at the top is to feel like you're maintaining your head height as you rotate away from the target. There's no drifting. Feel like you're turning inside a tall cardboard box. You'll generate ample energy, and more important, you'll improve your chances of making center-face contact—which should be your No. 1 goal.
SWING IT LONG AND LOW
Tour pros can hit a 7-iron 200 yards because they deloft the clubface so much through impact, it essentially turns the club into a 4-iron. Again, that's great if you're after maximum distance, but the results of trying to deloft the club can be very inconsistent. Instead, I've been focusing on returning the club to the ball with its proper loft. The reason I carry 14 clubs is that I want each one to hit the ball a specific distance. That's why I'm working on swinging the club into the ball with very little shaft lean at impact (below).
I want the clubhead to track through the impact zone "long and low," meaning my swing arc stays wide and skirts the ground. A good swing thought for distance control is to try and get the shaft in line with your left arm at impact. It's OK if the shaft is leaning a little toward the target, but the more it leans, the less control you'll have over how far the ball goes. In the end, routinely hitting a ball pin high is going to help you a lot more than an extra 20 yards off the tee.
Luke Donald has won five PGA Tour events and seven European Tour events and was No. 1 in the world for 56 weeks in 2011 and '12.
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Luke Donald demonstrates how better backswing will help you hit better shots.