There are plenty of times when you want to launch a drive at maximum height to get the most possible carry distance.
For example, when hitting downwind, attempting to carry a hazard or reach the top of a hill, or when soft conditions reduce roll in the fairway.
The first steps to a soaring flight are to tee the ball up slightly higher and to play it off your left (lead) heel, which will help you catch it on the upswing and maximize the club's loft. Another simple step is to stand a little closer to the ball. This will put the club in a more vertical or upright position at address and during your swing, producing a path that boosts your loft.
This is also a good way to curb or cure a hook, and to set up for a left-to-right fade. Experiment on the practice range by varying your distance from the ball at address, as well as tee height and the ball's position in your stance.
With patience, you'll find a combination that delivers optimum ball flight, power and accuracy.
Stand Closer to the Ball for Higher Drives?
Every golfer would love to hit the ball farther from the tee – and often, hitting the ball farther means hitting the ball higher. Countless amateur players hit drives which remain extremely low to the ground as they fly, limiting the carry distance on the shot. Even if you have a reasonably high swing speed, you could be stuck with low drives simply because you are not achieving an ideal trajectory. By moving your ball higher up into the sky, you will be able to keep your drives in the air longer, and their overall distance will be improved.
One possible way of hitting the ball higher with your driver is to stand closer to the ball at address. While this will not work for all golfers, some will find that the ball will naturally fly higher as a result of the swing changes promoted by standing closer. The position that you place your body in next to the ball as you swing is incredibly important, and it can have a powerful impact on the trajectories you create. Standing closer to the ball has the potential to create higher shots, just as standing farther away is likely to bring your ball flight back down closer to the ground. In this article, we will address the pros and cons of standing closer to the ball in order to hit your drives higher. By the end, you should have a good idea of whether or not this method is going to work in your game.
It does need to be noted that hitting higher drives is not always a good thing. You can certainly reach a 'point of no return' when it comes to adding distance by hitting the ball higher. In other words, at some point, adding height to your drives is actually going to subtract distance. To maximize your distance, you really need to find the sweet spot – the height where the ball will carry its maximum distance down the fairway without ballooning and coming down short. If you already hit a reasonably high ball with your driver, it would be a mistake to try hitting the ball even higher. If you do so, it is almost certain that you will lose distance in the end.
Of course, even if you do determine that you need to hit the ball higher, standing closer at address is only one of many possible courses of action to make that happen. It is important to look into all of your various options for producing a higher flight to make sure you are picking the method that is more likely to succeed in your swing. At the end of this article, we will have a few quick points on other ideas you can try when pursuing a higher trajectory off the tee.
All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Why It Works
At first glance, it might not be entirely obvious as to why standing closer to the golf ball would enable you to hit higher drives. However, a closer look will bring this concept into clear view. The first thing you need to understand is that standing closer to the ball is naturally going to force your swing onto a more upright path. The shaft is going to be more upright at address, and you will have to swing along that path going back (and coming down) if you are going to make clean contact. Making a flat, shallow swing while standing close to the ball is nearly impossible, so you can expect to be swinging through on a relatively upright plane.
Knowing that your swing will be upright, you can start to think about what that means for the way your club interacts with the ball. Swinging down from an upright plane is going to impart a great deal of backspin on the ball – and it is that backspin which will help your shots to get up off the ground. Compared to a similar which comes in on a flatter plane, the upright swing is almost always going to impart a higher rate of backspin. The backspin you add to the ball provides lift, that lift causes the ball to rise up off the ground as it flies, and you are left with a high tee shot which hopefully flies down the middle of the fairway.
Adding backspin to your drives can actually be helpful in a couple of ways. First, of course, is the additional distance mentioned above. If you have the right amount of backspin on your ball, you can keep tee shots high in the air as they soar down the fairway. Also, when you up your backspin rate, you typically take sidespin off of the ball – meaning your drives should fly straighter as well. The combination of long and straight is something that every golfer would love to find, and you can take a big step in that direction when you move a little closer in order to increase your backspin rate.
It is probably not a surprise to learn that most professional golf swings fall into the upright category. Sure, there are some top pros who use a flatter swing, but most are on the upright side of this equation. Pros, of course, are able to generate high rates of backspin, and they rarely put much sidespin on the ball at all. Using an upright swing makes it easier for the best players in the world to create long and straight shots, so it certainly has the potential to help your game as well.
If you do decide to move closer to the golf ball at address with your driver, be sure to pay careful attention to making solid contact at the bottom of the swing. Your new stance position is only going to help you create long drives if you actually strike the ball in the center of the club face – miss-hit shots are never going to provide the results you desire. As you practice, pay attention not only to the location of your feet, but also to where on the club face you are striking the ball with each swing. Stand closer while making an upright swing that finds the sweet spot and you just may be in store for the longest drives of your life.
It would be unfair to highlight only the potential gains that you could see from this change without touching on the downsides as well. There is a give and take element to every adjustment you make in your swing, and the good adjustments are those with positives that dramatically outweigh the negatives. Consider the list of potential problems below as you think about the big picture of this potential swing adjustment.
- Lack of lower body rotation. If you wind up standing a little bit too close to the ball, you may find it difficult to rotate through fully toward the target. The lower body is the main source of power in the golf swing, so you don't want to take that away as you inch your stance closer. After all, you are trying to hit the ball higher in order to hit it farther, so this move would be counterproductive if you lose swing speed along the way. Make sure to stand in a position which will allow you to aggressively turn your hips through the hitting area on each and every drive.
- Creating too much backspin. You need enough backspin to hold your ball in the air as it flies down the fairway, but too much backspin is going to lead to a 'ballooning' ball flight which comes down well short of its potential. Standing closer is going to make your swing steeper, which can be a good thing – until it gets so steep that you start to produce an unacceptably high rate of spin. Again here, it is all about finding a balance. Your goal is to find a stance which is neither too close nor too far away. At that point, you should produce a proper spin rate and your trajectory should be perfect.
- Blocked shots to the right. Some players feel a little bit 'crowded' when they stand closer to the golf ball at address. If you feel that you are crowding yourself by moving in closer to the ball, your release through impact may suffer. Without a good release, the club face will be left hanging open relative to the target line, and your shots will miss badly out to the right. If this starts to happen, back up slightly until you regain the ability to achieve a free release through impact. Not only will a full release allow you to hit your shots on line, but that release is critical for achieving maximum distance as well.
Obviously, the list of problems above should cause you to think carefully about this potential adjustment before you decide how to proceed with your swing. Even if only one of these problems makes its way into your game, that issue could be serious enough to undo any gains that you make by hitting the ball higher. For instance, if you hit the ball higher but also block it out to the right most of the time, you won't be very happy with your 'progress'. Only when you can add height without sacrificing any other important elements will this change really be one that benefits your game as a whole.
The only way to know what is going to happen in your swing after making this change is to take yourself out to the practice range for a driver session. You may think you know what to expect as you move closer to the ball, but that would only be a guess. Rather than guessing, you can hit a few balls while standing closer and see the results for yourself. There is nothing on the line out at the driving range, so a few poor shots will be no big deal at all. Even if this method doesn't wind up benefitting you in any way, you will have at least given it a try. By consistently experimenting with new ideas during your practice sessions, you are likely to stumble into one or two adjustments which actually work.
Making the Transition
As is often the case in golf, you will probably head to the driving range with high expectations for this adjustment. In your mind, it is simple – you take your driver from the bag, stand a little closer to the ball, make a swing, and the shot flies high into the sky. After just a couple of shots, you expect to be comfortable with this new stance, and you will be off and running. It's just that easy, right?
Well, of course not. If you have any experience at all in this difficult game, you should know better. Nothing comes easy in golf, not even a seemingly minor adjustment such as this. You are going to have to work at adapting your swing to your new stance positioning, and you should expect to hit some rough patches along the way. It is certainly possible to improve in the long run with the help of this change, but you should never expect anything in golf to happen quickly.
The best way to get started is simply to hit a few drives on the range while closely monitoring the results. What does the ball flight look like? Are your shots flying higher? How does the swing feel? Be honest with yourself at this stage of the process, and don't tie any great expectations to the outcome of these shots. Even if the first shots go well, you can count on being in for a long transition before you have a high degree of confidence in this swing.
For most golfers, standing closer to the ball is going to mean more effort will have to be applied to the release through impact. When you stand farther away, the release happens automatically for the most part. The round shape of your swing causes the club face to square up at impact, so you don't have to think much about releasing the club with your right hand. The story is different as you get closer, however. Standing closer to the ball means you need to actively release the club through the hitting area in order to reach a square position.
If the first few shots you hit while standing closer to the ball all hang out to the right, think about using your right hand more aggressively at the bottom of the swing. It is important that your right hand only gets involved at the bottom – if you use the right hand at the top of the swing, you will 'cast' the club over the top and a slice will be the likely result. Hold on to the angle between your arms and the club shaft for as long as possible, and use the right hand to release that angle when impact finally arrives. It will take some time to master the timing of this move, but the results will be powerful when you get it down perfectly.
In addition to the release, there is one other problem that you may find when you start to stand closer to the ball – confidence. For however long you have been playing the game of golf, you have been standing in pretty much the same place with your driver (most likely). By changing that positioning now, you are going to alter the way everything looks in your stance. When you look down at address, the ball will not be where you expect to see it – and that subtle change can have a major impact on your confidence level as you start each swing.
The best way to get over this problem is simply to practice. By spending as much time as possible on the range hitting drive after drive, you will gradually build up confidence in this new positioning. The results won't be immediate, of course, but you should notice that your comfort level improves a little bit with each subsequent practice session. By putting in at least a few practice sessions before you take this new stance to the course, you should have all the confidence you need when you step up onto the first tee.
Other Options for Added Height
Standing closer to the golf ball may help you successfully move your drives higher into the air. However, this is only one piece of the overall trajectory equation, so we need to hit on some of the other points before this article concludes. As you think about ways to improve your trajectory from the tee, be sure to think about some of the following pieces of the puzzle.
- Finding the right shaft. You need to have the correct shaft in your driver if you wish to optimize your ball flight. Finding the right shaft is about more than just picking the correct flex – the weight of the shaft, kick point, and more will all influence your drives. To make sure you are playing with the right equipment, consider going for a professional club fitting at your local course. A club fitter will be able to help you locate the right shaft for your swing, and you should notice an improvement in the height of your drives as a result.
- Move the ball to the left. In addition to standing closer to the ball, consider also moving the ball to the left in your stance (closer to your left foot). This adjustment will cause you to make contact with the ball slightly after your swing has bottomed up, meaning the drive will be moving upward at the point of impact. For many players, placing the ball forward in the stance will lead to a flat, penetrating trajectory which allows the ball to carry well down the fairway. Experiment with different ball positions until you find one which seems to maximize your distance potential.
- Tee the ball higher. This is a simple point, but it is actually one which can help a vast number of golfers. Most amateur players tee the ball too low at address, as they are afraid of popping the ball up off the top of the club. That is an unlikely outcome, however, so tee the ball high and give yourself plenty of room to hit up through impact. You will need long tees to make this happen, so be sure to equip yourself properly before heading out onto the course. As a good rule of thumb, try to tee the ball up at a height which places the center of the ball even with the top line of your driver at address.
- Add flex to your knees. You might not immediately form a connection between your knees and the height of your drives, but you should have an easier time creating elevation when your knees are flexed throughout the swing. A player who stands over the ball with straight legs is likely to 'smother' the ball at impact, hitting low shots which often are pulled to the left. Don't make that mistake. Sit down farther into your stance, maintain knee flex throughout the swing, and turn the club loose aggressively at impact.
Hitting higher drives is certainly a worthy goal, but it is not one that will be achieved easily. Whether you are able to get the ball higher in the air by standing closer or making some other adjustment, expect to spend some time on this point before you see significant results. As always, test any changes on the practice range before you attempt to put them into action on the course. Hopefully, your efforts will result in higher and longer drives in the not too distance future. Good luck!