Poor driving isn't golf's most frustrating malady – that distinction belongs to the shanks or the yips, depending on who you ask. But if you can't consistently get the ball in play off the tee, you'll have a mighty hard time scoring well.
What's truly maddening is a driving game that's solid one round, so-so the next. Why is it so difficult to hit it well off the tee from round to round? Consider that the driver is the longest, least lofted club in your bag. That means your fundamentals must be spot-on to make good contact time after time. Because of the club's length, maintaining those fundamentals requires constant vigilance.
When your driver goes off track, examine these checkpoints to bring it back in bounds:
To check your ball position, simply tee one up and take your address, then drop the club straight down. The grip end should point at your left heel. If not, adjust accordingly.
This video will guide you through the steps to a correct pivot:
While there's no right or wrong tempo, there is a tempo that works best for you. It might be slow and easy, like Ernie Els, or super-quick, like Nick Price. Whatever your tempo may be, achieving consistency requires at least a little bit of practice between rounds. These simple drills are all you need:
Consistent driving, like everything in golf, is grounded in fundamentals. Always assess your basics first whenever you're struggling to find the fairways.
How to Correct Inconsistent Golf Drives
Consistency off the tee is one of the best things you can possess as a golfer. If you are able to send the ball down the middle of the fairway on a regular basis, you are going to make the rest of the game far easier than it has ever been before. Are you ever going to be able to hit 100% of the fairways that you face? No - there is no such thing as perfect in golf. However, if you apply a quality swing and sound strategy you certainly can improve your fairways hit percentage gradually as the months and years go by. With hard work and the right plan, hitting fairways is something that you can do at a high level - and your scores will reflect your accomplishments off the tee almost immediately.
The focus of this article is going to be the consistency of your game from the tee. With that in mind, we are going to focus on both physical and mental tips which can help you to hit more fairways. Despite what you may believe, hitting the short grass from the tee is not all about your physical technique - although having good technique certainly helps. In addition to solid fundamentals, you also need to have a good plan in place before the club ever goes in motion. Only when you can mix a nice swing with a solid plan are going to find your ball in the fairway time after time. The are plenty of golfers who can check one of these two boxes - either the technique or the plan - but few can check off both of them on a regular basis.
Have you ever noticed that professional golfers often use something less than a driver when teeing off on a par four or par five? Sure, they hit plenty of drivers as well, but their club selection is far from automatic even on the longest of holes. So, how do they get away with hitting less than driver when playing courses that total well over 7,000 yards? They 'get away with it' because golf is a game that is always about accuracy more than it is about raw distance. Power is nice, and it can help, but it will never replace the ability to control your ball. If you are playing from the fairway all day long, it will be hard to shoot a bad score - even if you have longer approach shots than some of your competition.
One of the things that you are going to need to quickly get over as you work to hit more fairways is the obsession that many golfers have with distance. Somewhere along the way, the ability to hit the ball a long distance almost became more important than the actual objective of the game - to get the ball in the hole is the fewest number of strokes possible. It doesn't really matter how far you hit the ball, as long as you are able to make your way around the course effectively. Yes, long hitters can have an advantage on some holes, but they can also have a disadvantage when the course gets narrow and accuracy is put at a premium. If you are serious about posting the best scores you can in each and every round, you need to immediately drop any obsession you may have with hitting the ball as far as possible off the tee.
All of the instruction below has been written from the perspective of a right handed golfer. If you are a left handed player, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Tuning Your Technique for Consistency
First up, we are going to address the physical technique you use to hit your drives. Specifically, we are going to highlight some points that you should focus on during your practice sessions if you would like to work toward improved consistency. Each of the points found in the list below plays an important role in producing the same ball flight swing after swing. In the end, that is really what consistency in golf is all about - being able to produce the same shape on your shots from the first hole on through to the last.
- Choke down slightly on the grip. This is a basic, yet important, adjustment that you can make in order to gain control over the club - and the ball as well. Before starting your swing, or even taking your stance, choke down by an inch or so on the grip of your club. Doing this is going to effectively shorten the length of the club that you are using, which will make it easier to find the sweet spot at impact. Sure, you might give up a few yards of distance when employing this method, but the trade off will be more than worth it if you are regularly able to hit the fairway. Many professional golfers use this plan to gain control over the club, as they know that sacrificing a few yards of distance is a good choice to make if it means hitting more accurate shots.
- Slow down your transition. Another way you can add control to your driving game is by slowing down the transition that you make from backswing to downswing. When the club changes directions, it is natural to want to rip it down into the hitting area as fast as possible - as that kind of move feels like it will lead to a powerful swing. That isn't the case, however. Instead, you want to allow the transition to take time to develop, as a smooth and patient transition is going to lead to longer and straighter shots. Most pro golfers do a great job of taking plenty of time at the top of the swing, so you should consider following their lead.
- Keep your feet flat on the ground during the swing. Do you allow either your right or left heel to come up off the ground during the backswing or downswing? If so, you are adding an unnecessary variable to your swing - one which is going to take away from your consistency. Ideally, you will be able to keep both of your feet completely flat on the ground throughout the backswing and downswing, only allowing your right heel to come up when you are moving into the follow through phase of the swing. Letting the heels come up off the ground is another move that is regularly associated with power. Some golfers believe that they will be more powerful if they use this kind of footwork, but that is almost never the case. Stay down in the backswing and downswing and you should be able to locate the sweet spot at impact far more regularly.
- Keep your eyes on the ball! Okay - so this is a pretty basic tip, but it is one that gets overlooked as players focus on more and more complicated techniques. No matter what else you are doing in your swing, make sure you keep your eyes on the ball until it has been launched into the distance. It is easy to fall into the trap of looking up early to see where the ball is going, but that is only going to harm your technique. By keeping your eyes down, the rest of your upper body should stay down in the shot nicely - meaning your mechanics will hold together until the ball is gone.
None of the points on the list above are particularly complicated or difficult to understand, but they are important. Work on each one, one at a time, until you are confident that you have improved your swing. By making these minor changes to your technique from the tee, the accuracy of your shots will improve and your fairways hit percentage should begin to climb almost immediately.
Basics of Course Management from the Tee
With some basic points on technique out of the way, it is time to get down to business with the mental side of driving the golf ball. This is really where you can stand to make big improvements, as most amateur golfers simply don't take a very intelligent approach to the game. The concept of 'grip it and rip it' on the tee is far too prevalent in the game, and it leads countless players to waste shots each round. If you are willing to take a smarter, more patient approach to your game on the tee, you will quickly rise above your competition.
While course management is a topic that can easily fill up several books in its own right, we have collected some of the most important tips that relate to hitting fairways - and those tips are listed below. Use these tips to guide your decision making and you will be off and running.
- Find the widest section. This should go without saying, but sadly, many golfers never even think to take this approach to hitting tee shots. Rather than simply trying to force the ball as far down the fairway as possible, instead you should think about playing to the widest part of the short grass. Most fairways are not consistent in width from tee to green, so there is likely a section that will offer you more forgiveness than the rest of the hole. Pick out a club that is going to place the ball in the appropriate section of the fairway and you will instantly have maximized your chances of putting the ball in the fairway.
- Take a big mistake out of play. While it would be great to hit as many fairways as possible, you already know that you are going to miss them from time to time. That is okay - even professional golfers miss fairways. What is not okay, however, is missing into spots that don't allow you to recover. For example, missing a fairway into a deep bunker is a big mistake, and you will almost certainly have to spend an extra shot or two because of it. When picking out your plan on the tee, decide on a shot that will take the big mistake out of play - or, at least, limit the likelihood of putting your ball in a bad spot as much as possible. When you do miss fairways, you want to miss them in places that will allow you to still attack the green with your next shot.
- Set up a reasonable approach. Rather than thinking about hitting the longest drive possible, do some math and decide on where you can leave your ball in order to set up a reasonable approach shot. On a 350 yard par four, do you really need to blast your driver? Probably not. If you can hit another one of your clubs even just 200 yards, you can set up an approach from 150 - which will give you a great chance to hit the green and be putting for birdie.
- Play to your strength. Do you hit a draw better than you hit a fade, or vice versa? If so, use your favorite shot pattern as much as possible. Even if the hole is not bending the same direction as your preferred ball flight, you still may be able to fit your shot in to find the fairway. It would be nice to draw and cut the ball on command as you move around the course, but doing so requires a high skill level and plenty of practice. Instead of trying to be something you aren't, stick with your trusted shots and execute consistently time after time.
If you are willing to follow the tips listed above, you will be well on your way toward hitting more fairways. Again, just as with the previous section, these tips aren't particularly complicated or complex. However, they are effective, and you will almost certainly hit more fairways if you can just put these points into action.
Putting the Blinders On
In horse racing, the term 'blinders' refers to a piece of equipment that is worn by the horse in order to prevent them from being distracted by other horses in the race (or the fans, or anything else). This concept, minus the actual equipment, applies perfectly to the way you should play golf. When hitting your drives, you want to have imaginary blinders on in terms of ignoring what is being done by the other players in your group. Peer pressure is a powerful force in golf, and it can lead you into making some rather poor decisions.
For example, imagine you are standing on the tee of a medium-length par four, and you have already decided that you are going to hit your three wood. You noticed that the fairway is widest where your three wood is going to land, and you know that you will have a comfortable approach distance even without hitting your driver. However, you are not first up in the group, so you stand to the side while one of your playing partners blasts a driver right down the middle of the fairway. The drive travels 280+ yards, and it sets up a short wedge approach shot.
So, should you walk back to your bag to reach for the driver instead of your three wood? Absolutely not. The drive that was hit in front of you has no bearing on the strategy you have decided to use. You can certainly congratulate your playing partner on their impressive drive, but that shot should in no way affect what you are going to do. If you liked your plan before you watched this drive, you should still like your plan when it is your turn to play. All golfers are different, and you have to be willing to stick with your own strategy in order to post good scores.
When given this piece of advice, many golfers decide that they just aren't going to watch the shots of their playing partners when they hit off the tee. After all, if you don't watch their shots, you can't be tempted to copy their strategy, right? Well, that might work in some circumstances, but it is a bad idea in the long run. For one thing, you want to watch the other shots because they can give you bits of information about the course that will be helpful. Did the ball take a big bounce when it landed, or did it stop quickly? Did the wind appear to affect the flight of the shot? These questions can be answered by watching other people play, and the info that is gained can help you execute more effectively.
Also, you should watch other player's shots in order to be able to help them find the ball, if necessary. This is just a basic part of standard golf etiquette. It can be difficult to see the ball from time to time, so having more eyes watch the shot is extremely helpful. Your playing partners will likely provide you with this courtesy, so you should return the favor.
The Importance of Practice
It should go without saying that practice is a critical part of being able to produce consistent drives out on the course. If you fail to spend any time on the driving range working on your swing, how can you expect to hit the ball well during your next round? You can't. Practice is essential in golf, just as is the case in any other sport. Sure, you could hit a few good shots here and there during your next round without practicing, but that success is going to be short-lived. Unless you are a regular visitor to the practice area at your local course, you will never be able to achieve the kind of consistency needed to play great golf.
When you do decide to practice your tee shots, you need to make sure you are replicating the on-course process that you are going to use as closely as possible. Too many golfers just get up on the driving range line and start swinging away without any plan at all - and that is a mistake. You should be going through your pre-shot routine on every shot, and you should be working with a variety of clubs. Also, be sure to pick a specific target so you can accurately evaluate the quality of the shots you are hitting. The driving range is great for building confidence because it is so wide and forgiving - but you want to have a good understanding of how well your swing is actually working. Select a specific target on each swing and then do your best to hit that target.
One way to make practice more interesting is to 'play' one of your favorite courses in your head. For example, you could pretend that you are playing all 18-holes of your favorite course as you work your way through a bucket of balls. The first shot you hit will be the tee shot that you would hit if you were actually playing the first hole of that course. Next, hit the club you would expect to hit for an approach, and then move on to the second. This practice plan will require you to hit a variety of different clubs and shots, and you will be better prepared when you do actually get out to the course.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of standing on the tee knowing you have a great chance to hit the fairway. You don't want to be hoping that your ball will land in the short grass - you want to feel sure of its ultimate destination. By using the advice included in the article above, you should be able to hit more fairways as soon as your next round. Thank you for taking the time to read, and play well!