I’ve had a successful PGA Tour career, including a pair of wins, by keeping things as simple as possible. Yet, in the numerous pro-ams I play, I notice everyday golfers tend to make things more complicated than they need to be, and their games suffer. One area to simplify is off the tee. For amateurs, it's the most critical part of the game to avoid big numbers. Keeping it uncomplicated will result in better consistency, which allows you to pay more attention on your approach shots and short game. Here's your first tip: Swing with the thought of putting the clubface on the back of the ball. This will help keep your body from lunging ahead of it, which causes those toey slices no matter what club you're using. Read on for more. — With E. Michael Johnson
GET READY FOR TAKEOFF
If we've learned anything over the past decade, it's high launch with low spin is key to maxing driver distance. Most everyday players, however, have a negative angle of attack, with some hitting downward several degrees. That causes a low, spinny tee shot—not great for producing distance. Here's a simple fix: Adjust your tee height. The people I play with in pro-ams tee the ball too low. You can't possibly hit up on the ball if it's only an inch off the ground. Tee it so two-thirds of the ball is higher than the crown of the driver (above), and adjust the ball's position so it's in line with the big toe on your front foot. Now drop your right shoulder slightly at address. You can see (below) how this helps get it in the proper position at impact. These simple adjustments at address will automatically improve your tee shots, and they're so easy to make.
“IF YOU CAN’T FIND THE CENTER OF THE FACE AT LESS THAN HALF SPEED, YOU HAVE NO CHANCE FULL THROTTLE.”
GROOVE THE RIGHT PATH
Swinging on an in-to-out path in relation to the target line is something most amateurs really struggle to do in the downswing, but it's vital to making solid contact. I'm a big fan of the Orange Whip training aid to help with this. With its weighted end and flexible shaft, the Orange Whip keeps the arms and body moving in the proper sequence for that desired in-to-out path. For me, it's not about where the club is at any given moment. It's about feeling the proper motion. Another key is getting your chest behind the ball during the backswing. If your chest hovers over the ball, you'll likely pitch forward on the backswing, eliminating any chance of being in the proper sequence on the way down. To help, set your lead shoulder so it's pointing a little right (closed) of your target line at address. It gives you a head start for an in-to-out downswing.
GO SLOW TO FIND SOLID
The biggest problem I see amateurs have off the tee is, they don't make solid contact very often. In trying to squeeze as many yards as they can out of their tee shots, they lose control of the swing. Their hands and legs are moving all over the place, and there are too many motions going on to find the center of the face. You need to back it down. A great drill is to swing a 7-iron at 30 percent of your max speed, and keep doing that until you're hitting solid shots most of the time. Then increase to 50 percent, 70 percent and eventually full speed. This builds the feeling of controlling your swing. If you can't find the center of the face at less than half speed, you have no chance full throttle. You can do this drill with any club, and I think you'll be surprised to find how far you hit it without swinging out of your shoes. Better tee shots are as simple as that.