Instruction tips that will add fireworks to your drives

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Practice drill: (Left) Place a lower tee 1/4" high in front of a higher tee; Practice swinging in an upward motion over the lower tee while hitting the higher tee with a glancing blow.
July 03, 2013

By Todd Jones, Master Instructor, TOURAcademy TPC Sawgrass

One of the neat features of the new TOURCaddie app (www.PGATOURcaddie.com) is that it can track the distance of each drive you hit.

This way, after several rounds, you’ll have a fairly good idea just how far you hit your driver (1W) on average. No more guesswork — TOURCaddie constantly refreshes your average driving distance and posts it on a screen to help you with strategy off the tee.

Now, some of you might be afraid to see these numbers. You may have lost a few yards over the years or maybe you’re struggling mightily with a slice. Perhaps you’re just not making solid contact on a regular basis. You’re not alone. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t like to add 15 or 20 more yards off the tee. So in honor of the Fourth of July holiday, here are a few tips to add some firepower to your drives.

GET YOUR SHOULDERS SQUARE

With the forward ball position (opposite the left shoulder), it’s very easy to rotate your torso to face the ball, which not only levels out your shoulders, but points them well left of the target. This is what is referred to as “open” to the target. In this open position, your upper body is no longer behind the ball at address, which is where it needs to be in order to shallow out your angle of attack and hit the ball on the upswing. If the shoulders are open, your angle of attack is likely to be too steep.

At address, set your shoulders square, or parallel, to the target line, which should drop your right shoulder slightly below your left. This will help move your upper body behind the ball and put you in a good position to hit up on the ball. To check that your shoulders are square, set up to the ball and then hold the shaft across your shoulders, so it’s matching the plane of the shoulders. When you look back at the trail end of the shaft, or the grip, it should appear to be slightly lower than the clubhead.

And when you rotate your head to the left, toward the target, and look down the shaft past the clubhead, it should appear as if you’re looking down the target line. If the shoulders are open, the grip end will appear higher and your eyes will track to the left of the target line.

TEE THE BALL HIGH

And when I say high, I mean really high. The longest drivers tee the ball up so that most of it (about three-quarters) rests above the topline of the clubface. What this does is allow you to catch the ball higher on the clubface, on the sweet spot, which launches the ball higher with less spin. That’s how you get maximum distance — with high launch and low spin. The lower you make contact on the face, the lower the ball launches with more spin. 

Now, when you tee the ball higher, you need to address the ball a little differently -- more off the toe of the clubface -- because when you lift the clubhead off the ground to meet the center of the ball, the head moves up and out. In other words, as the clubhead elevates it moves farther away from your body. So if you ground the clubhead at address, you want to make sure you sole it with the ball favoring the toe, and not the center of the clubface. If you don’t adjust for this higher tee height, you’ll more than likely hit the ball off the heel of the club and the gear effect will send it spinning to the right. Also, from a visualization standpoint, if you favor the toe it encourages you to swing on the correct path, from the inside, with a slightly ascending attack angle.

SHALLOW OUT YOUR ANGLE OF ATTACK

That brings us to the last point, which is you have to shallow out your angle of attack so that you’re hitting slightly up on the ball at impact. The longest hitters have a positive attack angle of 1.5 to 3 degrees — they’re not hitting down on the ball. This is how they get the ball to launch high with less spin. To help shallow out your angle of attack, try the following drill on the practice range. Stick a 2-3/4-inch tee halfway into the ground and then place a second tee in the ground about ¼-inch in front of it (closer to the target). The second tee should barely penetrate the surface — just enough so it’s secure in the ground. With no ball in place, set up to the back tee and swing. The object is to swing over the back tee and just clip the forward tee so it’s leaning slightly toward the target. Once you can consistently repeat this motion, add a ball to the forward tee and repeat.

On the course, elevate the clubhead a few inches above the ball and make a few practice swings in mid-air, missing the ball entirely. This will give you the sensation of a rounder, flatter swing, which you then want to transfer to your real swing.

For more help with your game and to get real-time distances and hole-by-hole 3D flyovers to more than 40,000 courses worldwide, download the new free TOURCaddie App for iPhone and iPad users at the App Store or www.AppStore.com/PGATOURCaddie. As an in-app upgrade for $9.99, you also gain immediate access to more than 175 on-course tips from the TOURAcademy instructors.

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