Of the many lesson requests that I receive, none do I get more than the request to hit the ball further, especially off the tee. Golfers have always been infatuated with the long ball. But it seems that even more now, with the construction of bigger golf courses and the claims of equipment companies to promise more yards, hitting it further has become an obsession. I will admit, there is no disadvantage that I have found to hitting it further.
Speaking specifically to the driver, how does the average player get more distance. The obvious answer is to create more clubhead speed. In my experience though, more speed hasn’t necessarily translated to longer drives for most players. What I have found, especially through the use of a launch monitor, is that most players can find significant gains in yardage through optimizing their launch conditions. By creating the ideal launch and spin conditions for your individual ball speed, you can maximize the clubhead speed that you already have.
The number one distance killer that I have observed is an improper angle of attack. Unlike the irons, where we must hit down on the ball to create launch, the driver is better utilized when the clubhead is swinging up at the ball. When the angle of attack becomes too steep, the ball either launches low, thus not maximizing our carry, or worse yet, contacts the crown of the club and pops up. In either case, the spin rate of the ball increases. In this screenshot both shots were hit with a 98 mph clubhead speed. However, one had a downward attack producing a carry of 197 yards while the other had a upward attack producing a carry of 247 yards.
To maximize our carry, yet launch the ball with low enough spin that it still rolls when it lands, we have to hit the ball on the upswing. In order to get the club ascending as it approaches the ball, the low point of the swing has to occur prior to impact. Feel as if your head remains behind the ball as your lower body shifts forward in the downswing, creating a tilt in your spine away from the target (1). If your upper body moves toward the target in the downswing you will be sure to hit it too steeply (2).
Try my drill of placing a ball on the ground 6-8 inches in front of your teed up ball. If you are swinging up you will miss the ball on the ground, if not, you will get instant feedback that you are swinging too steeply. Remember, high launch and low spin is the goal!
Written by: Brandon Smith, PGA