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How to Hit a Driver Correctly

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how to hit a driver

Are you spending your rounds of golf hunting for your ball in the woods? Or perhaps you’ve mastered the art of hitting provisional balls from the tee? Maybe you’ve even locked your driver away and now hit off the tee on the par 4s and 5s with an iron?

If so, don’t despair! Most golfers, at some point in their golfing careers, have been in the same situation as you. And they’ve come out the other side of those driver frustrations, now hitting the fairway 60 to 80% of the time.

Here at The Golf Experts, we will show you exactly what you need to do to become consistent with the short stick and how to hit a driver. Want drives that actually hit the fairway? Tick. Would you like some extra distance? Tick. Want to get rid of the dreaded slice? We’ve got you covered for these and loads more.

Difference between Driver and Iron swings

It’s important to understand that there are a lot of differences between hitting an iron and hitting a driver. In fact, you could say that the driver is a specialty club.

The Driver is a longer club

Your driver is a much longer club than your irons. Driver lengths range from 43 to 46 inches in length. Whereas a regular 4 iron is only 39 inches. A longer club means more distance between you and the ball. And more chance of something in your swing going wrong.

What is an attack angle I hear you say? Well, it’s the angle at which the club face strikes the ball in relation to the ground. Let’s use the putting stroke as a baseline. You take the putter back and through the golf ball, perpendicular to the ground. This means the attack angle is 0 – not striking up and not striking down. Imagine you had a fit of madness and decided to pick your putter up and chop down on the ball. This would be a negative angle of attack – striking down. To summarise, hitting down equals a negative angle of attack. And hitting up on the golf ball equals a positive angle of attack.

So what does it all mean?

Well, take a look at one of the irons in your bag. And in particular, the loft of the club face. Irons have a lot more loft than drivers. Because of this extra loft and negative angle of attack, the club naturally makes the ball fly up into the air. Even when you stripe a fairway wood, you’re doing so with a small negative angle of attack.

But, when hitting a driver, we recommend that you do so with a positive angle of attack – hit up on the ball. Why did you think you hit off a longer tee when using the driver? It’s not so you miss the ball. It’s so you can hit up on the ball. Hitting up on the ball with a driver will launch the ball higher and create less spin. Less spin plus height equals more distance. Striking the ball with a negative angle of attack will produce much more spin and less distance.

So I need a completely different swing to use the driver?

No. Golf is hard enough without needing a separate iron/wedge swing and driver swing. To hit the ball with a positive angle of attack, you need to make a few setup adjustments. This leads us nicely to the next section.

The correct setup for a driver swing

The driver is a much longer club. It has less loft and you need to hit up on the ball. Because of this, you need to make some setup adjustments

Ball position off the front foot

When you hit a driver, the ball position should be slightly inside your left heel. This is so you can hit up on the ball. Think about it, the club bottoms out under your lead shoulder. This means it will be moving up as it strikes the ball which is in line with your left heel. Hitting up on the ball creates less spin, resulting in more distance.

how to hit a driver

Widen your stance slightly

Stance width is also another important fundamental to get right. You must set up with the correct stance width. If you don’t, your head will move all over the place as you swing. You are also going to struggle to shift your weight, which is so critical in producing a decent swing. There is a misconception that your stance width should be the width of your shoulders. Or you should be nice and wide to create stability. None of these are correct! You should be looking at your hips to determine how wide your stance width is

  1. Find your neutral alignment, this is where the center of your ankles, knees, and hip stack up over each other.
  2. This is when your legs are straight up and down under your hips
  3. Then move your legs a couple of inches outside of this neutral line.
  4. This will give you a stable base for rotating back and through and allow you to shift your weight to the left better.
  5. For the driver shot, you can add an extra inch outside of neutral

Tilt your upper body away from the target

You should always be set up so that your upper body has a slight tilt away from the ball. This helps you have a better angle in your downswing which will promote a more in-to-out swing path. It will also stop you from getting into the dreaded “reverse pivot” at the top of your backswing. Here is how to apply the correct amount of tilt:

  1. Get into your swing position and grip the club with your lead hand only.
  2. Take your trail hand and slide it down your trail leg.
  3. Grip the club with your trail hand.
  4. You’ll know you’ve slid down enough if your trail hand lines up just underneath your lead hand and you can still grip the club in the correct way
  5. You will have more tilt with a driver than you will with an iron. Don’t overdo it!

Distance from the ball

One of the most common mistakes amateurs make is not setting up the correct distance from the ball. So make sure you set up the correct distance from the ball using these tips:

  • The butt of the club should point at your belt buckle
  • It should be approximately 6 inches away from your belt buckle

Standing too far from the ball can cause the following issues:

  • Loss of balance when striking the ball
  • Toe shots lead to snap hooks and pushes
  • Loss of distance

Standing too close to the ball can cause the following issues:

  • Heel strikes – leading to shanks and slices
  • Very armsy downswings which lead to loss of distance and control

Wide takeaway and backswing

Look at any pro, and you’ll notice how wide their arms are during the takeaway. During the takeaway and throughout the backswing, swinging wide allows your body to complete a full turn. Your core muscles stretch out more when completing a full shoulder turn. This allows them to store more energy to unleash in the downswing.

Most amateurs have a narrow swing during the backswing. They tend to only move their wrists and arms up which does not create any leverage or recruit any muscle fibers. This is a crucial aspect of the backswing. Not using the correct body parts will lead to a weak and armsy downswing. That will not create any power and not produce any distance.

To swing wide you must first shift your weight to the rear leg and rotate your shoulders, core, and hips. All the time you’re doing this, the club should follow along for the ride and point in front of your chest.

how to hit a driver

Club face angle at top of the swing

You should try to avoid a cupped lead wrist at the top of your swing. A cupped wrist means the club face is wide open and will lead to a slice if not corrected. This happens to so many golfers and most don’t understand what causes it and how to fix it. A cupped wrist goes hand in hand with a flying trail side elbow – your elbow has elevated away from your body. This forces your trail wrist to flatten out and causes your lead wrist to cup.

The good news is it’s easy to fix, the bad news is that it won’t feel comfortable at first.

Solution? Take your trail hand off the club. Swing back to the top. You’ll notice that the wrist wants to naturally flatten out and bow due to gravity and the weight of the club. Practice this movement to get the feeling of a flat wrist. Then, when you’re comfortable doing that, start bringing back your trail hand at the top of the swing to support the club. You’ll notice that the trail wrist will arch back and not cause your lead wrist to cup.

Turn your body correctly

The backswing for a lot of golfers is where the swing starts to break down. There tends to be a lot of confusion as the wrong parts of the body are being used to move the club. The core of your body is like the engine of the golf swing. It’s where all movement comes from. It is the rotation of the core that moves the upper torso and your shoulders. This, in turn, moves the arms, which move your hands, which will then move the golf club.

A lot of high-handicap golfers tend not to rotate around their core. They instead move their arms independently of the body and set the wrists. This usually results in very little core or shoulder turn. Swings started in this fashion will lead to a downswing that is all arms. And will cause fat shots and shanks as you have to throw your arms at the ball to generate any power.

To turn correctly, engage your trail side oblique muscle (Obliques are located where your love handles are!) and feel like you’re rotating around your core. You’re effectively just rotating around your spine. As you rotate around your core, your hips will start to engage and rotate too. Never restrict your hip movement! Every golfer can get a 90-degree shoulder turn using this method. Try practicing this without a club. Cross your arms around your chest and get the correct feeling for rotating around your core. Once you can do this correctly, add the club. The same movement applies, but your trail arm should remain straight for as long as possible as you go to the top of your swing. Keeping your trail arm straight will force you to turn that shoulder back more.

Driver downswing

The downswing is much easier once you can correctly turn your body and get a full shoulder turn in the backswing.

Take your time when transitioning to the downswing

This is such an important point. So many beautiful-looking backswings get wasted when the transition is rushed. Give yourself time, even a microsecond. Time to just shift your weight from your trail leg to your lead leg. Amateurs tend to get to the top of the backswing and then try to decapitate the ball immediately. Don’t do this. Get to the top and shift your weight. This leads us nicely to the next point.

Shallowing out your shaft angle when starting down makes hitting the driver far easier

A shallow club will produce a nice in-to-out club path. Allowing you to release the club easier. It also allows the club to rotate over resulting in a nice square club face at impact. Shifting your weight effectively shallows the club for you.

You must first shift your weight back to your lead side and keep those shoulders back or closed. As your weight shifts, and assuming your arms are passive, the arms will naturally drop down into the slot. When the club is parallel to the ground, you should expect your hands to be in front of your rear thigh. From here, you just need to release the club.

Maintain body shape

As you swing down and rotate into the ball, it is important to maintain your body shape. This includes keeping your upper body tilted away from the ball. This will allow you to stay behind the ball at impact and strike the ball with a positive angle of attack. The opposite of this is when you start the downswing with your shoulders and upper body. This will cause you to lose your upper body tilt and use your arms too much. Hitting the ball with your arms, without any lower body engagement, will lead to a negative angle of attack. And a sliced shot because you’ve struck left across the ball too much.

Allow the driver to release/rotate over

A lot of amateurs tend to leave the club face open through the shot. You need to get the sensation of allowing the toe of the driver to rotate over as you come through the shot. You can achieve this by feeling that your right forearm is crossing over your left forearm. It’s important here to not confuse your forearms with your wrists. Crossing over your wrists will lead to scoopy shots that go high and do not travel very far. Have a look at the pros. Their forearms have crossed over when the club is at lead arm parallel (or 3 O’Clock). You can see the fingers of their lead hand and the lead hand is underneath the rear hand. This notion of letting the toe rotate is also referred to as releasing the club.

how to hit a driver

Driver swing tips

Here are some of our favorite tips when it comes to hitting the driver

Grip it lightly to remove tension in your arms

Tension in your golf swing is a real distance and contact killer. A loose grip with the correct muscle tension is critical when improving your golf ball striking. Applying the correct grip tension will let the clubhead rotate and square itself up at impact.

A great golf drill to learn the correct amount of tension is to pick up two clubs and grip them both lightly.  Because there are two clubs, they will feel heavier in your hands. This extra weight, when used with a soft golf swing movement, will create momentum. It will also prevent over-gripping of the golf club.

Stand with your feet together and swing the two golf clubs with a half-height swing. Hip high to hip high, you will notice the feeling of momentum and a relaxed grip after 30 repetitions or so.

Once you have the feeling of a relaxed and loose swing, put one of the clubs down and make the same movement with one golf club. Feel like you’re holding the club in the back two fingers of your right hand.  Try to prevent excessive thumb pressure. The goal is to feel the club bottoming out at the same spot with every golf swing.  Remember to have a light grip pressure so you can properly release the golf club.

Hit it in the sweet spot

Striking the ball from the driver’s sweet spot is very important to hitting long, straight drives. Hitting from the toe or the heel massively affects the distance and direction of the shot.

Striking the ball with the toe of the driver will cause a right-to-left ball movement. And in some cases, a pretty severe snap hook. It will cause reduced spin, lower ball flight, and reduced distance. Striking the toe of the driver will cause the driver to “kick” back.

Striking the ball with the heel of the driver will cause a left-to-right ball flight, aka, a slice. Again, it will cause lower spin and less distance. A lot of amateurs tend to hit the ball towards the heel or even worse, the hosel of the club. Hitting the hosel will produce the dreaded shank.

You could have a straight path and a square face as you strike the ball. But if you’re striking the ball from the heel, you will hit a poor shot. One that feels slappy and weak and produces a slice-shot shape.

Knowing where you strike the ball with the driver is fundamental in hitting bombs. Athletes foot spray is your friend here. Spray it on your club face and it’ll leave a white mist. Take your practice shot, you’ll notice that a dimple-shaped mark will be where the ball contacted the club face. Are you hitting too close to the heel? Are you already shallowing the club with an in-to-out swing? If so, you might be standing too close to the ball. So try moving back an inch or so.

Don’t swing so hard!

On the golf course and out of nowhere you start to kill the ball and lose your rhythm? I doubt you go up to the ball and think I’m going to smash this as hard as I can. You probably go up to the ball and think of making a nice smooth swing. Before you know it, you’re slashing at it and the ball is going off in every direction possible. You then spend the next 3 / 4 holes trying to work out what’s going wrong.

To combat this, you must understand the pace of your swing. All the best players in the world have the same pace for every shot, be it a 100-yard pitch, 20 feet putt, or 300-yard drive. The pros all have their own individual pace – Mcilroy and Finau will grip it and rip it. Whereas SungJae Im has a slower, more deliberate backswing. But they will use the same pace for each shot. Find your perfect swing tempo. Use a metronome app on your phone and try to aim for the golden 3:1 ratio. The backswing should be 3 times as long as the downswing.

How do I hit the driver more consistently?

The simple answer is practice! Use the drills, tips, and setup instructions from this guide. You should start seeing your driver shots go straight. You should also start seeing an increase in your distance too.

Once you have the direction and improved distance, you should start adding an element of random practice to your practice sessions.

Random practice is changing the shot you make every time. Change your target, the club you are using, or even the shot shape. But make sure you do so for every shot. Your random practice should involve changing the target and shot shape.

This is important because most players avoid this form of practice. It requires you to be more disciplined. And is a lot harder than pounding ball after ball. This pounding of balls is referred to as block practice. It is useful for learning new swing movements but is not transferable to the golf course.

Because random practice is more difficult, it means you will learn new movements fast. It is also more realistic to what you would do out on the course. Would you go out on the course and pound 50 7 irons in a row to the same target? No, of course you wouldn’t. Using random practice means you’ll have a higher chance of your new swing movement transferring to the golf course.

Here is a great video on how to hit a driver

The Cut line

If you can consistently hit your driver straight, avoid hazards and out-of-bounds sections. And be as close to the hole as possible for your second shot, you will score well. That is a fact. So get out to the driving range and start hitting straight bombs. And don’t forget to put in place some random practice so you can transfer your driving skills to the course.

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AUTHOR

Tommy is a confirmed golf fanatic. He's been playing golf for 20 years and just loves everything about the game. His dad used to play golf a lot and watch the PGA and European Tours, so Tommy started watching too. Now he knows a lot about golf and loves to coach people and help them play better.

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