lesson teeOctober 29, 2009

Drive It Great

How to add power or control the power you have

FEEL THE WEIGHT: Make practice swings with a broom to get a sense of how to support and release the club.

FEEL THE WEIGHT: Make practice swings with a broom to get a sense of how to support and release the club.

If I handed you a broom and asked you to sweep a pile of sawdust, would you stick your right elbow out and cast the broom head at the pile? You wouldn't.

Try swinging a broom like a golf club. You'll instinctively support the broom's weight at the top (1), let it lag on the downswing (2), and balance it in the finish (3). But get a club and ball involved, and suddenly there's the urge to lift the ball in the air, and that's where a lot of players lose the power we're all trying to find.

My goal here is to take that confusion away, and to give anybody -- regardless of athletic ability or talent -- a better way to take longer walks between shots. And if you already hit it long, like my friend Gary Woodland, I'll show you how to stop stepping off your 300-yarders one fairway over.

TIPS PLUS: See A Video On This Lesson

1. ADDRESS

The right spine tilt gets your body working from the beginning

We all know that trying to lift the ball does bad things to a golf shot. To relieve the impulse to lift, improve your spine tilt at address with the driver. With the ball opposite the inside of your left heel, hold a club to your sternum and lean your shoulders until the bottom of the club is pointing at the ball. This produces a flatter, sweeping swing path that launches the ball higher automatically. You're also in a position that makes it easier to coil your upper body during the backswing. Think of it as coiling "downhill." When the shoulders start too level, you have to turn "uphill" -- the left shoulder moves down, the club goes straight up. That steep angle is what causes power-sucking slices.

[Y] With your ball position inside your left heel, tilt your upper body until the club is pointing at the ball. From there, you can coil behind the ball, and launch it.

[N] When the shoulders start too level, you can't coil well, and that produces a steeper, over-the-top angle of attack.

CASE STUDY:When I started working with PGA Tour rookie Gary Woodland in 2005, during his junior year at Kansas, he could hit it 380 yards -- but not always in the right zip code. He can generate 200 miles per hour of ball speed! But he needed to harness that a little so he could use his gift more effectively. The main project with Gary was to keep him from putting on his Superman cape. When he really goes after it, he transitions so aggressively at the top that his arms get trapped behind him and he has to try to save the shot with his hands. Those 380-yard hooks and pushes translated into double bogeys. With a more controlled, stable transition, Gary still hits it 320 off the tee, but he can find his ball -- and he got his 2009 PGA Tour card at Q school.

2. GOING BACK

Make a full coil, and don't get fooled by a false turn with collapsed arms

The secret to a powerful backswing position is to turn while keeping the club as far away from your body as you can -- but with your wrists cocked and your lower body stable. Many players know they need to make a "full" backswing, but they don't turn the chest, and they let the arms break down, or they let the lower body lurch back to increase their turn. It's not how far back you get the club; it's how you move your body that counts.

[Y] How close you get to parallel is not what determines power. It's how you retain your coil and leverage. My left arm stays extended, giving me room for the downswing.

[N] The club is in almost the same position, but I've collapsed my arms. I'll have to sling it around my body coming down.

3. COMING DOWN

Unwind all that great new coil, but in the correct order

The goal on a good downswing is to get the big, powerful muscles in the back and legs to help generate as much speed as possible, and then get out of the way. By creating that space between the club and the body in the previous set of pictures, you give yourself time to let the lower body start unwinding first. The arms follow, and the clubhead comes through last. When you throw the clubhead toward the ball first, the right elbow is actually moving in the opposite direction, away from the target. That's like trying to drive fast by shifting into reverse. Start your downswing by shifting your left hip toward the target, giving you room to turn your right hip toward the ball.

[Y] The right hip turns toward the ball, and your right elbow should then move down and plant itself right on the hip through the downswing.

[N] When the clubhead moves first from the top, the right elbow shoots out in the infamous chicken wing, wasting all your speed before impact.