Lesson Date: Mar 21, 2014
After 2 consecutive sessions on putting, it’s time to finally pull out the driver.
You might have noticed that I haven’t really placed too much emphasis on the one club most of us amateurs seem to be obsessed about. Like everyone else, I want to hit it long and straight as well. I also have a philosophy that as long as your drive is in play, you might lose one stroke from having to chip out sideways. However, I’ve long learned that I can easily turn a birdie chance into a bogey on the green. I can turn a simple green-side up and down into a double with a bladed chip. And as of yesterday, I still have to warn/announce to my buddies “Okay guys, watch out, heads up, I’m going into the bunkers…”
Having said that, I’ve really struggled with the driver in previous years. I ended my season two summers ago by putting my driver away because I kept mishitting it and couldn’t get off the tee box with it. They were nasty tops or super pop ups that only moved me only 30 yards up, maybe past the next tee box if I’m lucky. It was this experience that taught me I can lose one stroke off the tee and still score my average as long as I have a decent day around the short stuff. Last summer, I started really gaining some distance with my drive. First, I corrected my mishit problem by being alot more meticulous in my setup routine so I’m lined up properly. I discovered I was just standing a hair too far away from the ball and it was causing havoc in trying to return the club face back to the ball. I also toned down my ugly snap hooks simply by not swinging my arms around behind my body on the backswing and developed what felt “more up than around” backswing to get the ball closer on line. This combination gave me some real confidence and instead of occasionally hitting the perfect drive to send the ball 230y the year before, I was now getting closer to average 240y, with an occasional bomb or two 260+ in the right wind and hole conditions. My real issue then is just trying to hit center fairway. At times, I couldn’t figure out whether this drive will go left in a big hook or go right in an ugly slice.
Okay, so of course, I never told my coach what a headcase I was. I just told him I’m pretty happy with my driver distance for my skill level but really need some help on directional control. I also noted that I have a really high ballooning ball flight and I really have trouble playing in the wind with this.
He had me swing and as usual, within 5 swings, he spots some issues right away.
- Address: My body was too open
- Club Face at address: This is news to me- apparently, my club face was wide open at address. Just like the putting lesson had shown, what I see as “square” from my point of view is simply not. I used to let the club sit on its sole and grip; but when Rob corrected my club face, it looked a lot more closed than what I was used to
- Path: He has no problem with my path.
- Club Face at impact: Okay, this was the problem. It’s all over the place. From Flighscope, we saw that it was either way open or 10* closed at impact that caused serious control issues!
- Body Slide: I had excessive slide to the target side that moves my whole body too far forward in front of the ball. This was what was causing me to hit down on the ball instead of up and causing the big pop ups or balloon shots into the wind.
- Ball flight: Rob also wasn’t concerned with my distance- he commented that one solid strike went out 261 on Flightscope. (Heehaw!) But the majority of the shots where “into the tree” slices or probably OB hooks. (Yikes!)
The Set Up
First thing he did was adjust my driver face to be alot more “closed” so that it sits square down the target line. He also had me in a slightly stronger grip which makes it for a much less manipulated face at address. He also had me address the ball with the club a few inches behind the ball so the club is more aligned to the middle of my sternum instead of my left arm pit to close my shoulders back to a more square position.
For my swing, he wants me to “hang back” on purpose. This was really hard for me to do. I really have to fight this instinct for me to kind of lunge towards the target line to get speed and momentum into the hit. His instructions were simple – “Get to the top, then just post up on the left leg and turn right back down.”
I pretty much just couldn’t do what Rob wanted within the 45 minute lesson. My club face at impact was all over the place still and I left the lesson feeling even more worried about the state of my driver. However, the new club face position was easy to adapt and I figure I would just continue to play with what I’ve got and try to fight my natural instinct to lunge as the season wore on.
Mid Season Progress/Update
Watching myself on video, I know Rob is absolutely right. I drive hard towards the target at the top of my swing and have a hard time getting my arms to catch up to me. My head definitely move up ahead of the ball that creates a descending strike creating very excessive spin numbers resulting in high shots with almost no roll out. This was my swing from December, still in my “anti-hook” days before my lessons in March.
With the summer here, I haven’t been back to the simulator to capture stats again. However, after half a season of golf since my lessons, I feel pretty good about my driver today. My ballflight is noticeably lower now and I have much better results playing into head wind. I know I haven’t eliminated my hip slide yet but I’ve managed it by doing a couple of things.
To start, I now line the entire head to the target and not just the face. Instead of just just casually sitting the club on its sole, I physically bisect the top of the club head in half and imagine a line running from the ball, through the middle of the club face, to the back of the club head and exiting in the middle of it. I think this has fixed my face alignment problem and helped me convince myself I’m pointing in the right spot before anything else happens.
Also, I make sure I take my club back properly with my shoulders and leave the club in front of my chest. Whenever I start hooking again, I pay attention to whether I started the backswing with my hands and arms instead of my chest and shoulders. I almost have a feeling of the club head, shaft, and my left arm are in a single line all the way to the top of the swing and bring it back down the same way.
Finally, I’ve slowed down my transition and swing in general. I find that I’ve been able to hit alot more fairway this year simply by not “stepping on the gas” right at the transition. I find I haven’t been able find those occasional 260Y drives too much this year but I’ve found alot more fairway from 220-240Y out which has given me much more confidence with my driver as a goto instead of a 3W or 3Hy that I don’t hit often enough to be confident with on courses where the landing area is a little tighter.