Good driving rounds are amongst the most enjoyable days we can spend playing golf. We have all wanted to hit a great drive on specific hole to set up a birdie opportunity or just because it has an inviting fairway. The problem is that sometimes we can get caught up thinking a good drive means hitting our longest drive that can often lead to it being our worst drive just when we need our best. The alternative is to go for position over power and to do this we need to follow a plan to hit it. Below is an example of when we are looking to set ourselves up with a good tee shot and how we can go about it.
SHORT PAR 4s
You are faced with a short par 4 and the instinct is to get as close to the green as possible, so you take a swish. That can work for some players who can reach and who are skilled with a wedge in their hand even if they have short sided themselves. Others need to look more at the shot there are likely to leave themselves so if you're playing a short par 4, aim to leave yourself with your favourite full wedge shot rather than a half shot to a small green (that is usual on shorter par 4’s) or deep front bunker (another common feature on short par 4s) where you can easily drop a few strokes to par.
An example of how well this can work was with a student who had a 5 handicap with his grip it and rip it style of golf. There was one short par 4 that he could reach the green with his drive and his strategy was to always try. Over 5 rounds he had dropped 5 strokes to par with 1 eagle, 1 par, 1 bogey, 1 double and a quad. I then asked him to follow a what I call a cautiously aggressive strategy because after being more cautious with his tee shot it meant he could be more aggressive with his approach. Over 5 rounds this resulted in 3 pars (after good birdie chances) and 2 birdies leaving his total for the 5 rounds at 2 under par and a 7-shot improvement just on one hole.
UPHILL TEE SHOTS
When you see a fairway rising steeply in front of you and more carry is required, what do you do? If you play the ball way forward in your stance, lean away from the target, flip the club upward with your hands or a combination of all three, it’s not the most reliable technique that often results in a topped drives and hitting the ground before the ball.
A more reliable technique is to take your normal stance and then widen your stance by a few inches moving just your back foot. This will move your centre a little more behind the ball and naturally encourage you to strike more upward on the ball. This will create more dynamic loft at impact and produce the higher launch required for a greater carry.
HIT IT BETTER AND NOT HARDER ON LONG HOLES
At the beginning of this post I explained that going for the green on a short par 4 might not be the best option but some long par 4 and 5 holes may require your longest drive to set up a chance of making a good score. When you are faced with a hole like this, there are more reliable ways to increase distance that don't expose you to wild miss.
The best way to avoid a big miss when you want to strike a longer drive is to focus on increasing clubhead speed whilst maintaining control so that you strike your shot from the sweet spot. To do this, stay relaxed, allow time to complete your backswing before changing direction. Stay smooth in your transition moving from the ground up accelerating the clubhead through the hitting area to achieve the speed you need.