Hit more fairways with one simple change
January 07, 2010
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 to see why you need to play the ball off your left heel.
With the ball in good position, in line with the left heel, 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. 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.
A good takeaway sets up a complete turn at the top, where your left shoulder gets behind the ball -- 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.
From a good windup, you can move through impact with the clubhead traveling on a relatively flat path to a slightly upward strike. 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.
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.
Watch out for the elbow buster
At the end of the chain reaction that starts from a bad ball position, you look like this: Weight is on your back foot, your upper body is moving farther back, and there's no upper-body rotation. The elbows separate into an awkward position, and the ball starts high and right or you smother it into a duck hook.
Check your stance width
Your build determines how wide you can comfortably set your feet with the driver, but a good rule to follow is that the insides of your heels should line up with the outsides of your shoulders. To check, measure your heel width with the driver shaft, then hold the club up in front of your shoulders.
Get the most out of your big driver
Large driver heads are designed to launch the ball on the upswing. Get that technology to work for you by teeing the ball higher. Almost half the ball showing above the face is a good start, but go as high as you need to until you find the sweet spot–where you don't feel a sting at impact.