The Driver,

It is NOT hard to hit a golf ball with your driver. However, it is hard to hit the ball hard. 

Working with hundreds of students over the past 10 years, it is clear to me that the driver is the most misunderstood, poorly used, ill fitted and ill-suited club in the average golfer’s bag. I cannot recall more than a few students that were satisfied with their driver or their ability to use it.

In many a golfer’s bag you can find an assortment of irons, woods, wedges and putters that are often hand-me-downs or bargain purchases. Sitting in the midst of that hodgepodge is a very expensive driver. Most likely purchased because of its adjustability, its claims of being longer or straighter, or because it is used by the best golfers in the world. Often, I see a $300 driver in the bag with a $30 putter!

The driver should be the easiest club in the bag to use. The ball sits high on a tee. The ground the golfer stands upon is almost always level and well manicured. The face of the driver is often two or three times larger than the face of any other club in the bag.
So why is that club the source of such abundant frustration, anger, hype, hyperbole and mystery?

Let me try to cure some of that for you. First let yourself believe that the “DRIVER” is not a required tool in your bag. Understand that the driver is the least likely club to lower your score and the most likely club to raise your score. Believe me when I tell you that the driver is not more important than any other club and has the same purpose as every other club.

So, what is the purpose of the driver (and every other club)?

The game of golf is all about going from A to B in the least number of shots, repeated 9 or 18 times. Logically then the first shot is intended to make it easier to get to B with the 2nd shot and so on and so on. If the first shot ends up making it more difficult to get to B, that first shot was a waste. Down the middle, down the middle, chip and a putt for par, next hole.

Standing on the tee box of that tough par four it is very unlikely that the goal of your driver swing is to put the ball in the hole. Therefore, distance is not the issue unless and until you are within reach of the hole (B) with an easy shot. Direction is the key. I am not telling you to give up on your driver, I am suggesting that you use it like any other tool. Choose the tool to fit the job at hand. That is called course management.

The likeliness of the average golfer discarding the driver for another more useful tool is remote. So let’s find a way to make your driver a better tool, and you a better craftsman with that tool.

Just as not all hammers are the same, not all drivers are the same. Getting even more specific not all basic claw hammers are the same. They may all have the same basic design, look and functions but they can be so different. In the hands of a master craftsman the claw hammer is a tool of precision and grace. Gee, kind of like a driver!

When buying a hammer ask a few questions:
  • 1.      What is it going to be used for?
  • 2.      Who is going to use it?
  • 3.      How much will the hammer get used?
  • 4.      How many and what kinds of other hammers and tools does the user have?
  • 5.      What is the skill level of the user now and into the future?

Same questions should be asked when buying a driver.

Let me try to help you with your driver by focusing on just three key areas.
  • 1.      What is the right driver for you.
  • 2.      What is the correct technique for using the driver.
  • 3.      What you can do to become more suited to using the driver.

Step 1: Picking the right driver. 

First understand that price should not be an issue. The most expensive and least expensive can be equally suited to you. My grandfather loved to work with wood, his favorite saw was a little jig saw that I had as a kid. He made the most beautiful little shapes with that “toy” saw.

When choosing your driver look for certain key elements.
·         The built in design bias of the club.
o   Loft
o   Weight (the swing-weight of the club)
o   Balance (rotational and longitudinal)
o   Shaft stiffness
o   Shaft length
o   Grip
o   Materials
o   Quality and type of construction
o   Adjustability (perhaps the least important)
·         The esthetics of the club.
o   Shape
o   Color
o   Overall appearance (used clubs especially)
o   Do you like looking at it?
o   The sound it makes
·         Look at yourself
o   Why do I want a different driver?
o   What am I expecting the driver to do for me?
o   What am I willing and able to do to be better with the driver?
o   What do I know about drivers?

With the first group of items; a good and honest fitter, golf instructor or sales person can help you. The second group is all about you. That third group can be tough. Use honest self-inspection and open curiosity to allow discovery. Just as a good carpenter is a student of hammers, you can become a student of drivers and all the other tools in your bag.

Once you have taken the time to honestly and completely answer the questions I have listed earlier, it is time to make the decision. Prioritize the items and create your own personal “cut-line”. The driver you ultimately choose must fit the criteria in every question above the “cut-line”.

Step 2: Your personal technique.

With that shiny new driver in hand it is time to hone your technique. You do have a clearly defined technique you are trying to master, don’t you? Clear steps, written down, memorized, rehearsed and corroborated?

Break your technique description into 6 steps
  1. Pre-shot. 
  2. Set-up. 
  3. Take away.
  4. Impact. 
  5. Follow through. 
  6. Finish

Consistency comes from making each step easily repeatable. Just as the musician learns a song note-by-note so the song can be plaid as a unified tune, the golfer must learn the swing technique bit-by-bit to make the driver swing a unified single motion. Play the song not the notes. The good musician can practice by beginning at any point in the song, the golfer should be able to practice from and to any point in the swing.

Below is a description of the technique for one my students. The list is just for one student. Each student creates their own unique and personal list. Words and phrases that mean something to one person may not ring true to another. Write your own list, it may be shorter or longer, it most assuredly will focus on different things than this golfer’s list. Make it personal, make it profound to you.

  • ·         Pick the target.
  • ·         Pick the starting point.
  • ·         Visualize the ball’s flight
  • ·         Walk slowly to the ball and create the set-up. 

  • Head behind the ball, the longer the club the further behind the ball.
  • Right foot 90' to the target line left foot slightly open.
  • Stacked to attack little to no weight on the heels.
  • Hands neutral for the short irons, progressively stronger for the longer clubs, palms parallel.
  • Left arm higher than the right.
  • Right elbow tucked into the body.
  • Shoulders and hips slightly right of target line.
  • Spine bent forward between 30o and 40o or 1 to 2 O’clock.
Back swing:
  • Stay connected.
  • Keep the feet solidly planted.
  • Take the club back by taking the left elbow straight back.
  • Insure that the club head is staying outside the hands and target line.
  • Begin setting the wrist hinge when the club is parallel to the ground and still in front of the toes.
    • right wrist back
    • left wrist up
  • Turn the left shoulder down and past the golf ball.
  • At the top the club should bisect the shoulder at the shirt's sleeve-shoulder seam.
  • The wrist should be fully hinged (for a full shot) by having very relaxed forearms.
  • The back of the left hand and wrist should be flat.
  • Hesitate at the top to feel in balance, controlled, coiled and relaxed.
  • Weight should be fully transferred to the inside of the right foot.
  • Bump the left hip out by moving the left knee out over the toes.
  • Feel a little bit like you're falling down to the left.
Down Swing:
  • Turn the hips left swing out to the right.
  • Think left shoulder down a bit then up and back, drive the right shoulder to the ball.
  • Keep the left foot solidly planted.
  • Butt stays out (behind you), feel like you are doing a crunch shifting the butt to the left on the way down.
  • Let right foot roll to the inside and turn onto the big toe
  • Just prior to impact feel like you are throwing the head of the club out and through the ball to the right.
  • At impact hips are open 30' shoulders square to the target line.
  • Lead into the impact zone with the hands.
    • Back of left hand to the ground.
    • Club head lags behind.
    • Shaft leaning forward.
  • Do whatever it takes to get the weight moving to the lead side so 90% of weight is on left foot at impact.
  • Right foot fully rotated onto the big toe.
  • Rotate the right hand aggressively over the top of the left.
  • Accelerate to a full finish.
  • Finish in a balanced position with the head, right shoulder, right hip, and right knee stacked straight up and down.
  • Finish with the right shoulder slightly lower than the left.
  • At finish the club head is below the hands.
Sound like a lot, but probably has fewer notes than even the “Minute Waltz”!

Step 3: You! The engine of the swing.

You are the source of power, precision, and grace in the golf swing. To be able to execute a wonderful golf swing the golfer must develop and marry certain mental and physical attributes.
  • ·         Balance physical and emotional.
  • ·         Concentration targeted and specific.
  • ·         Strength of body and mind.
  • ·         Courage to chance and fail.
  • ·         Imagination for positive possibilities.
  • ·         Forgiveness of self and circumstance.
  • ·         Flexibility of body and choice.
  • ·         Effort and desire to succeed.
  • ·         Speed in motion.
  • ·         Grace in winning and losing, success and failure.

I seriously doubt than anyone has all of those traits in abundance and definitely never more than is needed. To be a great driver of the ball you must have enough of those traits, so you are noticed for them.
You, alone, can never expect to develop into the type of person that exemplifies all of these virtues. You, with the help of friends and professionals, can expect to have a wonderful journey down the fairway.