Getting More Out of Your Driver

I know that in the past I have made it known that it is okay to hit down on the ball with the driver.  This was primarily due to the fact that the PGA Tour average for attack angle (hitting up or down) was 1.3 degrees down.  I have since come to learn that the vast majority of us could greatly benefit from an upward strike with the big stick.


Research has shown that the most efficient way to strike the driver is to impact the ball from the inside and with an upward/ascending direction (the clubhead must travelling away from the ground).  This encourages a higher trajectory, reduces spin and leads to more roll once the ball comes back to earth. Ever heard of high launch, low spin? How can you incorporate these two important keys into your tee shots?

Let's start at address:  In order to move your swing plane to facilitate an in-to-out path drop your back foot and shoulder inside the target line - basically set up with a slightly closed stance

Face On Set Up

 Tee the ball high and make sure it is not too far back in your stance.  You should have a sense that you are behind the ball and are preparing to "swing uphill" as you get set.

 In the swing you will need to feel that you are staying behind the ball with your upper body as you aggressively drive the hips and weight over onto the front foot.  This is where the "uphill" sense comes from - as the hips drive the head stays back you create the body motion that allows for the clubhead to move up into the hit. I like to refer to this as body curve.

Believe it or not when you hit 5 degrees from the inside, coupled with 5 degrees up on the ball the clubhead is travelling straight at the target at impact (assuming you aligned correctly of course)!  A fantastic recipe for long and efficient tee shots.

If you cannot seem to get the sense or feel for hitting up on the ball it could well be that your are working your body incorrectly through impact.  It is very common for golfers with tight hips or general flexibility problems to overuse the upper body and try to muscle the hit with their arms.  This will always result in a downward, spinny strike on the ball.  You may also need to consult with a golf specific fitness trainer to help you become more physically able to get your body into the correct position.

Remember - this can be overdone! We are only looking for the clubhead to be moving a few degrees from the inside and a few degrees up so take it easy and go slowly.  I have had startling results this summer just by getting golfers to execute these two simple keys with the driver.  One golfer actually gained over 50 yards! I'm sure we could all benefit from a few extra yards....not to mention 50!

Understanding Swing Plane and Club Path

There are important differences that occur at impact when a golfer hits either down or up on the ball (attack angle).  I have always espoused that golfers hit down on all clubs, the driver included, but my research with Trackman has convinced me otherwise.  The ball should be struck with a subtle downward blow with all shots off the ground (irons, hybrids and fairways), but the driver should ideally be hit with an upward strike for optimal trajectory and spin patterns.  I will attempt to explain the differences in the direction the clubhead travels (relative to the target line) as it moves both down, and up, into the ball.

Firstly, it is important to understand the difference between swing plane (also referred to as swing direction) and club path, because too many golfers believe they are one and the same.  Let's view swing plane as the hula hoop in the pictures below - it is the angle upon which the arc of the swing travels.  Club path is the direction the clubhead is travelling in, relative to the target line, at the moment of impact.

Hitting down on the Ball:


PGA Tour golfers hit down on a 7 iron with an average attack angle of slightly more than 4 degrees.  You should be able to tell to what degree you hit down on the ball simply by analyzing your divots - too much dirt being moved and you're more than likely 8 degrees down, no divots would mean a flat or neutral attack angle.

When a golfer hits down on the ball with a neutral swing plane (straight at the target) notice how the pencil (used to illustrate club path) points right of the target. The table's edge indicates the target line.

Hitting down...

Down with a neutral plane...

This means that with a straight plane/swing direction, when the clubhead travels down, it is also travelling from in to out relative to the target line.

Left swing plane for neutral path...

In order to neutralize the club path, the swing plane must actually be rotated to the left.  Thus, with a descending attack angle, in order to create a straight club path, the swing plane must be rotated to the left of the target line (for right handers).

Hitting up on the Ball:


Better drivers of the ball tend to hit up on the ball - anywhere from 1-5 degrees up.  This reduces the amount of spin on the ball and increases the launch angle - thus increasing both carry and roll distance.

When a golfer hits up on the ball with a neutral swing plane (straight at the target) notice how the pencil (club path) points left of the target. 

In this example, with a straight plane/swing direction, when the clubhead travels upward, it is also travelling from out to in relative to the target line

This out to in path can be neutralized by rotating the swing plane/direction to the right (for right handers).  Notice how the pencil (club path) is now straight.

So if somebody ever asks you if the swing with the driver and the irons is the same, just smile and say, "No, not really!"

Any thoughts?  Questions....