Richard is a good golfer (about a 1 handicap) and is having problems with his driver. Interestingly he is “nailing” all of his other shots. It sorta doesn’t make sense that you would be hitting all other shots well but struggle with one club. The more I learn about learning the more I realise that when it comes to humans, nothing really surprises me. We’re a strange bunch that’s for sure.

When he called Friday I gave him some ideas to help sort out his issue. I’m sure they will help but also realised I probably left a few things off the list – I’ve had a dose of the Man Flu and my brain isn’t functioning that well. Here’s a more definitive list that can help everyone drive better from the tee.

[headline_tahoma_small_left color=”#000000″]Change Club[/headline_tahoma_small_left]

If you’re convinced that you’re doing everything correctly and hitting a vast majority of your other full shots well then I’d get rid of the current driver. If you don’t like a club, if it annoys you, has an ugly look or feel then change it. The prices of clubs these days are cheap as chips. Plus there are plenty of options for finding good quality second hand stuff (Ebay for example). If you’re serious about your golf and don’t mind forking over some cash, then change your driver. I bought a new driver a few weeks ago and was staggered by the low cost – not sure how the club manufacturers/retail outlets are making a profit. It’s definitely a buyer’s market.

Disclaimer: Changing your driver should not be your first option. Give the current one a fair go – changing for the sake of it is lazy and not in the spirit of Automatic Golf.

[headline_tahoma_small_left color=”#000000″]Don’t go too stiff[/headline_tahoma_small_left]

Richard made the same call. Don’t go for a really stiff shaft. Unless you have a tour swing speed (around 112 mph+), stick to something softer. Stiff shafts tend to be about ego and the decal that’s stuck on the side of the shaft. It really should be about being able to hit the ball in play most of the time. If this means a seniors flex (or even ladies) who cares? Go with what is right for you.

[headline_tahoma_small_left color=”#000000″]Understand the issue[/headline_tahoma_small_left]

Most golfers who slice the ball actually start the ball a long way to the left and then see the ball tail off to the right. If you ask them about the shot they will swear black and blue the ball starts right and slices further right. If you’re not processing the cause correctly you’ll struggle to improve. Get someone to stand behind you and swing away. They’ll tell you exactly what the ball is doing (without any bias) and it may surprise you. Once you know what is happening you can do something about it (see the exaggerate drill below).

[headline_tahoma_small_left color=”#000000″]Be honest about fear[/headline_tahoma_small_left]

Are you swinging with fear? Are you worried about missing fairways? Have you got the yips?

These are all things that could be holding you back. To really get to the heart of the problem will take some honesty – like, yes, I’m not really committing to the driver swing. I’m scared of hooking it so I’m making a half-hearted attempt.

If this is the case then simply recognising it is part of the problem. The next step is to man up and fight through the issue. What’s the worst thing that could happen?

[headline_tahoma_small_left color=”#000000″]Exaggerate your miss[/headline_tahoma_small_left]

If you are hitting a block fade/slice (this was Richard’s problem) can you hit the opposite shot? Sometimes you have to dig deep and ask,

“If my life depended on it, what would I do to hit the ball to the left?”

You are going to break your swing habits doing this. You are going to learn something new. When you go back to automatic, your swing will have shifted. You will see a change. So many of us are too scared to break habits and explore the unknown – what’s really holding you back? Again, some honesty is needed.

If you slice the ball >> hit a hook shot
If you hit it high >> hit it low
If you top the ball >> hit it high
If you hit the toe >> hit the heel

[headline_tahoma_small_left color=”#000000″]Tee the ball correctly[/headline_tahoma_small_left]

There’s nothing wrong with playing with a preferred shot shape. In fact I encourage it. Most golfers slice/fade the ball but have little idea on how to tee the ball correctly. And I’m not talking about the height, I’m referring to the position you place the ball inside the tee box.

If you’re right handed and play with the fade/slice then you should always tee the ball to the right hand side of the teeing ground. Why? Because you then have the best angle to start the ball to the left and let your natural shot shape bring the ball to right. Anything else can cause you some issues,

– you may hit the trees on the left hand side of the tee box
– you are fighting mother nature and “your” golf swing
– it probably won’t feel any good

I can’t begin to tell you how much more confidence you’ll have with your driving when you learn to tee-up correctly. Gives you an instant boost to your swing.

[headline_tahoma_small_left color=”#000000″]You don’t always have to hit the driver[/headline_tahoma_small_left]

Get the ball in play should be your first priority. For a long time I’ve been telling golfers to get the ball “between the trees”. Yep, most of the time the rough is OK (and even bunkers) – the fairway is a nice bonus. OOB, foliage and water are the biggest issues and cause your scores to soar. Oftentimes this means not hitting driver. You may need to leave the ego in the car and not worry about your manhood. Golf is not a long drive competition and if you can accept that your driving will improve. With better driving comes improved scores – this will give your ego a nice pat on the back.

Like many things I teach, learning to take a more conservative approach when necessary gives your golf game a hit of confidence. I’m convinced your subconscious knows when you should take the 3 wood (or the iron) but for some reason you keep taking driver. If you’re not driving the golf ball well then this part of your game would be one of the first I’d look at. If in doubt take a conservative club from the tee and swing fully and freely.

[headline_tahoma_small_left color=”#000000″]Go with your shot[/headline_tahoma_small_left]

This is probably my all time favourite way to help golfers drive the ball better. As mentioned, most of us play with a preferred shot shape and this should be your “go to” shot time after time. And I don’t care if the hole design doesn’t suit you, man up and find a way to play the hole that works for you. Almost always, learning to tee the ball correctly gives you an advantage. Sometimes you may need to change clubs, other times you might need to get inventive.

One of the best drives I’ve ever hit came in a golf final on the 15th hole. I was 1up against a very good player and wanted to put some heat on him. The hole was a tight left to right dogleg (90 degrees). The layup wasn’t that easy plus but I didn’t want to leave a long shot in. My favourite shot with the driver is a right to left fade (I’m left handed) – but this hole just didn’t suit the shot at all until I found a way.

I spotted a gap in the trees to the right of the tee. I teed my ball right, aimed further right and then hit a big fade/slice that missed the trees and then curved back into the fairway. The shot came off a treat and I ended up making birdie. Here’s a dodgy diagram showing the shot. (see earlier post about my artistic skills)

It was a memorable shot because of the situation but more because I played “my shot” under the heat of competition. If you have a natural shot shape you should go with it whenever you can. There has to be a very good reason for you to stray too far from the tree.

Driving is a very important part of the game. The old saying, “drive for show and putt for dough” is fine if you’re able to hit the ball in play. But if you’re constantly in trouble after your 1st hit then you’ll always be pushing it uphill to get the job done. A little more focus and a change of strategy just might be what you need. I hope this helps and gives you some ideas to improve your golf driving. Let me know your thoughts.