Well, before we get into this thing I'd like to start off with begrudging congratulations to the New England Patriots. Although they certainly aren't my favorite team to cheer for it's impossible to deny how good they really are.
Now down to business. Anybody who has ever seen me play can easily attest to the fact that I am by no means a professional golfer or golf professional, but I can help you improve your game without even watching you swing.
The following are five proven methods to help players of all ages and abilities hit longer drives. The best part: no overpriced gimmicks and no practicing involved.
1. Shorten Your Driver
Method one is the simplest yet most effective way to improve your driving ability. All you need to do is shorten your driver. The fact is with lighter weight graphite shafts on the market manufacturers now are making their drivers longer and longer. From the late '90's the average driver length for a men's golf club has increased from 44" to almost 45 ½" today. The problem is we haven't grown taller since then, wider maybe, but not taller.
To many players shortening the shaft seems counter-intuitive to hitting longer drives. After all, the longer your driver shaft is, the more club head speed you can generate. While this fact may be true it won't necessarily lead to more distance.
The main reason that a shorter shaft will give you more distance is because you will make better contact with the ball. This is why the majority of professional golfers use a driver that is 45" or less. It is easier with a shorter shaft to keep the club head on plane throughout the swing and also to hit the centre of the clubface with more consistency. This leads to drives that have less sidespin, fly straighter, and carry farther.
2. Swing at 80-85%
This is another one that seems somewhat backwards until you take a second to think about it (if you're a lefty you can take two seconds). The understandable tendency for golfers when they want to hit the ball a long way is to swing as hard as they can. Most players only have one speed with the driver and that is all out.
If this is you do yourself a favor and try to swing the club at 80%. It will feel pretty effortless and won't seem like the ball is going anywhere, but try it out a couple times. Chances are you will be surprised to see your drives traveling just as far if not farther than before.
The reason is simple and very similar to number one. No one, not even the best players in the world can stay in perfect balance if they are swinging as hard as they possibly can. When your balance is gone, so is your golf swing. All of a sudden your club head is once again traveling off plane and once again it becomes more difficult to make contact with the centre of the clubface.
Try holding your finish at the end of your swing for five seconds. If you can't do it it's because you are swinging too hard and losing your balance. Start swinging lighter and lighter until you are able to hold your finish at the top for five seconds. This is how hard you should be swinging.
3. Use More Loft
I can't count the number of times that a customer has come up to me looking for a 7.5 or 8.5 degree driver because they think they need to hit the ball low and let it run to get any distance. This is just not true. When companies talk about clubs that produce a flat, penetrating ball flight they are talking about clubs that are designed for the better player. Generally better players, because of their high ball speed and spin rates, create very high trajectories and therefore they need clubs designed to bring the ball flight down. This gives them better distance control and shot-shaping ability.
For the average player the opposite is true. With the new equipment available on the market, golf balls spin way less. This means that there is less backspin on a golf ball in flight and you don't have to worry about the ball ballooning. In general, the higher you can hit a golf ball with less spin, the farther it will go.
Have you ever wondered why you hit your 3-wood so much better off the tee than a driver? It's because it has a) a shorter shaft, and b) more loft. Some studies have shown that the ideal loft for an average swinger is over 15 degrees. Remember, as technology changes we have to be prepared to adapt with it. This means that just because you used an 8 or 9-degree driver six years ago doesn't mean that same loft will work for you now.
4. Tee the Golf Ball Higher
This method is another one that is very easy to try plus it won't cost you anything except maybe a new bag of tees. There are two reasons that teeing the golf ball higher will give you more distance.
The first is related to method number three. By teeing the ball up higher you are forced to make contact more on the upswing. This again promotes a higher, lower spinning ball flight and more carry distance. A good rule of thumb is to tee the ball up so that the equator of the ball is level with the top of your driver. This means that half the ball is above the crown and half the ball is below.
The second reason why teeing the ball higher will give you more distance has to do with spin. When a golfer tees the ball too low they are forced to make a steeper swing in order to hit the ball before the ground. When a player does this the club is forced to come from the outside in. This creates side spin and will give you that big ugly slice that loses distance and misses the fairway.
5. Change Your Golf Ball
The number one selling golf ball in the world is the Titleist ProV1. The ProV1 golf ball is designed for golfers with club head speeds of about 97 miles per hour plus. Only about 2% of golfers have a club head speed that is over that. There's a problem here. Those kind of numbers mean that there is a lot of people out there who are spending an awful lot of money on a golf ball that is not suited to them.
Nothing against the ProV1 which is a phenomenal golf ball but even Titleist reps will be the first to admit that it is not suited for the average player. The idea of the ProV1 is that the core reacts with higher swing speeds to produce greater distance. The higher the swing speed the more the core compresses and the further it goes. If a player is not generating enough swing speed to compress the core than they will actually lose distance.
If your average drive travels between 180 and 230 yards you should probably be using a low compression" ball. This would include the Maxfli Noodle, Titleist DT So/Lo, Precept Laddie/Lady, Dunlop LoCo, and many others. These golf balls are designed with softer cores that will compress at a lower swing speed thereby creating more distance.
If your average drive is between 220 and 270 yards you would probably want to consider a two or three piece ball along the lines of the Titleist NXT or NXT Tour, Callaway Big Bertha, Hogan Hawk, or Nike Power Distance. These balls are designed to accommodate most golfers and there are many varieties of spin, distance, or all around performance balls to meet your needs.
If you average over 270 (and I'm talking consistently, not just that one-day when you really got a hold of one) then you are probably safe to look at the ProV1, Callaway HX, Bridgestone B330, Nike One, or others. Only players in this category will actually be able to appreciate the overall performance of one of these balls.
As a golf retailer I certainly won't complain about you coming into my store and spending $50 on a box of golf balls but you could probably spend half the price and find a ball that works even better for you. But that's just an idea.
The Bottom Line
We all like to hit the long ball and watch the long ball. For some reason there is something really exciting about watching a big drive. Hopefully with s
ome of these ideas you too will be able to hit the ball longer and enjoy yourself a little more on the course.
If you try all five of these methods and still find you aren't gaining any distance off the tee then it's time to spend some money and go see your local pro. He can probably help you get that extra distance quicker than any $400 golf club ever could.