Play Your BestFebruary 13, 2019

The key to bigger drives? It's not what you think

Avoid these pitfalls for bigger drives
Grayson Zacker
Photo by Dom Furore

When it comes to cranking a drive, your instincts are good and bad. The good? You intuitively know to put more effort into your swing. The bad? You intuitively know to put more effort into your swing. What I mean is, thinking about putting more into the strike can lead to bigger drives. But that same thought can cause you to make a tense, poorly timed and off-balance swing. You’ll end up hitting it shorter and more crooked than if you used far less effort. The first lesson to hitting the big drive is to relaaaaaax. Not only before you swing but during the swing. Let me walk you through the other things to avoid if you’re looking for extra yardage. —with Ron Kaspriske

Photo by Dom Furore

Turn like you mean it

▶ Players looking to hit the ball farther often make a short, rushed backswing, because they’re focused on creating speed in the downswing. I’ll spare you the lecture on making a full shoulder turn going back and feeling like you’re loading up. You know that’s important. What you might have forgotten is another key to power: gravity.

A great swing thought to have as you’re nearing the completion of the backswing is to get your hands up high like you see here (above). When you extend the club away from your trunk, you put yourself in position to let gravity help increase your speed down into the ball. The pitfall I see a lot is a collapsed look of the arms in the backswing with the shaft dropping down by the shoulders.

If you extend it, you’ll boom it.

Photo by Dom Furore

Stay behind the ball

▶ Getting back to instincts, many amateurs feel like their entire body needs to lunge toward the target in the downswing to generate a bigger hit. I get it: Moving all that mass in one direction feels powerful. But it’s a trap. If your upper body gets out in front of the ball, you’re going to have a tough time hitting the ball flush on a slightly in-to-out swing path. You want your lower body to shift toward the target at the start of the downswing—that’s good sequencing, which will help you transfer all the speed you’ve created with your swing into the clubhead right before impact. But try to focus on keeping your upper body back until the club meets the ball (above). Do that, and you can apply a lot more energy into the drive. One pitfall here is leaving your weight on your back foot. Shift into your front foot, but keep your head back.

Photo by Dom Furore

Get off your toes

▶ Another swing flaw inspired by the desire to hit the ball farther is shifting your weight toward the tee as you swing down. As the club is approaching the ball, you’re moving about 25 pounds of weight away from your body, so you have to counterbalance with good footwork—especially if you want to swing into the ball on the ideal path for power, which is upward and from inside the target line. It’s just physics. A good drill to help improve your footwork is to make practice swings with your toes slightly raised (below). What you want to feel is that your body isn’t lurching toward the ball in the downswing. Then set your toes back down and transfer that feel into your real swings.

If you try to maintain the spine angle you created at address, you’ll give the club plenty of room to swing from inside the target line and sweep the ball off the tee.

Photo by Dom Furore

▶ Try this: Raise the club above the ball and swing around your body through the air (above). If you keep your grip pressure light—and that’s something you should never ignore—the arms almost always fully extend and the wrists and forearms release just like they should if you were swinging at a ball on a tee. Remember how that feels when it’s time to hit a drive. In fact, you can even make the air swing your rehearsal before you tee off. Then all you have to do is bend forward from the hips until your clubhead is soled behind the ball. When you swing, the driver should move around your body in a circle just like it did in the drill. The only difference: It’s on a 45-degree angle. You’ll find it corrects a lot of bad habits by tapping into your natural biomechanics. There’s nothing like a freed-up swing.

Grayson Zacker is based at the Jim McLean Golf School at The Biltmore, Coral Gables, Fla.