While iron shots should be struck with a descending blow to increase backspin, the opposite is true for tee shots with the driver.
A swing path that delivers an ascending strike – in other words, hitting the ball on the upswing – takes spin off the ball and increases distance.
While the optimum launch angle and spin vary for each golfer based on clubhead and ball speed, the average golfer gets the most distance with a launch of 13-15° and spin in the range of 3,300-3,600 RPM. You'll need a driver with the right amount of loft (an online fitting at www.thomasgolf.com can help), but making major swing adjustments isn't necessary.
Achieving an upward blow with the driver is all about the address position. Try these tactics when setting up:
1. Tee the ball so that at least half of it is above the top line of the clubface.
2. Stand so that the insides of both feet are as wide as the outsides of the shoulders.
3. With the left toe flared out slightly, position the ball in line with your left heel.
4. Place about 60 percent of your weight on the right foot and make sure the right shoulder is a little below the left.
A normal swing from this address will produce higher drives that spin less and travel farther.
Attack on the Upswing for Longer Drives
For the majority of the swings you make throughout a round of golf, you are going to want to hit down on the ball. Hitting a full iron shot from the fairway? You should be hitting down through impact. Hitting a basic chip shot from around the green? Again, hitting down is essential. However, when you put the ball up on a tee to launch it down the fairway with your driver, that story is going to change. Instead of hitting down, it is crucial that you hit up through the ball in order to optimize your launch angle and maximize distance.
It is true that hitting up on the ball can help you to squeeze extra yardage from your drives, but there are actually many more benefits than just pure distance. As you will see as we work through the content below, you can actually improve on the accuracy and consistency of your driving as well when you hit up properly. With the ball on a tee, hitting up is really the only way to put your body in a fundamentally sound position at impact. If you are hitting down, you are going to have to be making some kind of mistake on the way toward the hitting area. Putting the focus on hitting up is going to force you into good positions with the rest of your body, and you should notice a dramatic improvement in your driving as a result.
You should know right up front that this is likely to be a challenging change for you to make if you are currently hitting down on your driver. Your body is going to have to be in an entirely different position at impact if you are going to switch from hitting down to hitting up, so don't expect to see immediate results with this tip. It is going to take time to get on track with this kind of ball striking from the tee, but the rewards will be more than worth it in the end. Very rarely does any significant improvement come quickly or easily in golf, which is what makes this game go difficult for so many people. It is not impossible to improve, but you do have to dedicate yourself to the process if you are going to see real results.
It addition to the importance of hitting up, you should also take notice of another word that was used in the title of this article – 'attack'. You should have the mindset of attacking the ball through impact when you are hitting the driver (and most of your other clubs, for that matter). Many golfers fall into the habit of decelerating through the ball at impact, and they lose out on potential distance as a result. You can't 'guide' the ball into the fairway, so there is no sense in holding back through the hitting area. Turn the club loose and hit up on the ball with everything you've got (while staying on balance, of course). Those players who are willing to attack the ball with the driver are the ones who will find their drives farther down the fairway than the competition.
All of the instruction included below has been written based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
The Advantages of Hitting Up
As was mentioned above, there are a number of potential benefits that can be experienced when you start to hit up through impact with your driver. Most of the best players in the world use this method at impact, which should tell you all you need to know about its effectiveness. If hitting up with the driver is good enough for most of the top players on the PGA Tour, it should be good enough for you as well.
Below is a list of potential benefits that can be enjoyed when you hit up through impact with your driver.
- Added distance. This is the main point, and it is the one that is going to most likely motivate you to work on learning how to hit up properly. When you hit up through impact with the driver, you will be able to find an ideal launch angle – and you will also be taking spin off of the ball at the same time. The combination of a better launch angle and a lower spin rate is almost always going to lead to added distance. Backspin might be great for wedge shots that you want to stop quickly on the green, but it usually is counterproductive on driver swings. To have your ball carry through the air and then bounce and roll when it lands, the combination of high launch and low spin has proven time and again to be the best option. Hitting down on the ball is the best way to produce backspin – which is exactly what you are trying to avoid in this case. Save that downward hit for your wedge shots and move the driver away from the turf through impact to achieve your longest-ever tee shots.
- Staying behind the ball. In order to hit up through the ball, you are going to have to stay behind the ball at impact – which is something that can benefit your swing in many ways. By staying back, you will avoid the dreaded slide to the left in the downswing, which is an error that robs countless amateur golfers of valuable distance. The downswing should be all about rotation rather than lateral movement. The only way to stay behind the ball is to rotate rather than sliding, so focusing on this essential element will make it easier to make solid contact time after time. Golfers who slice frequently with their driver usually get past the ball at impact, so you should be able to steer clear of the slice as well when you stay back. Once you understand the right fundamentals and positions for hitting from behind the ball, you will be amazed at how powerful your swing can feel.
- Easier to create a draw. Most golfers prefer to play a draw from the tee – assuming they are able to produce one, that is. If you would like to hit a draw with your driver but you have always struggled to turn the ball from right to left, working on hitting up at impact may just be the change you need to make. This point actually relates to the point above, as staying behind the ball is one of the keys to creating a controlled, tight draw. With your center of gravity slightly behind the ball at impact, and your head holding its position nicely, you should be able to strike from the inside through the hitting area. It will take some time to get used to hitting a draw when a fade is your usual pattern from the tee, but the change should lead to a more powerful, more penetrating ball flight when all is said and done.
- Finding the sweet spot. As you should already know, it is important to hit the sweet spot as frequently as possible with all of your clubs. Hitting the sweet spot is going to allow you to maximize swing speed, and it will also help you hit your targets as well. Since the head of your driver is so large (likely 460cc's), and the ball is up on a tee, you are going to want to swing upward slightly in order to place the ball in the right spot at impact. Of course, you will never hit the sweet spot with every swing, but using an upward path will help you find it as often as possible.
As you can see, there is plenty of motivation to learn how to hit up on your driver off the tee. Sure, you are going to have to do some work on the range to learn how to make this technique work for you, but it is almost certain that you will be happy with the outcome in the long run. As long as you have the patience to see this through the end, you should walk away with some of the best drives of your life.
Setup to Hit Up
The biggest part of the process that will lead to your ability to hit up through the ball at impact is your setup. If you can setup to the ball properly before the swing even starts, it will be rather easy to hit up nicely. On the other hand, a poor setup can make it nearly impossible to hit up through the ball, and you will be 'fighting yourself' to get into the right impact position with the driver. While it might not be that much fun to work on your setup position during your upcoming practice sessions, that work will pay off in a big way going forward.
To address the ball properly while holding a driver, make sure you hit on the three points below –
- Evenly balanced at address. Your weight needs to be nicely distributed between your two feet as you stand over the ball. It is common for amateur players to be leaning in one direction or another at address, and this kind of a start for your swing is only going to lead to trouble later on. Since you are going to be trying to hit up on the ball, you might be tempted to place a little extra weight on your right foot in the setup – but that would be a mistake. All golf swings should be as well-balanced as possible, and this one is no different. Set up with your weight perfectly in the middle of your stance and keep it there throughout the swing.
- Ball near the front of your stance. This is what makes it possible to hit up on the ball while remaining nicely balanced throughout the swing. When the ball is near your front foot at address, you will have time and space to let the swing 'bottom out' and start to move back up again prior to impact. If you were to play the ball near the middle of your stance, as you would do with most of your iron shots, it would be basically impossible to hit up on your driver. Line the ball up with the inside of your left foot and set your hands slightly behind the ball prior to starting your swing.
- Off of your toes. There is a tendency among some golfers to lean out onto their toes at address. This is a problem, and it can lead you to make a steep downswing with your #driver if you get too far out over the ball in the downswing. You don't want to be back on your heels at address, but you don't want to be on your toes, either – ideally, your weight will be nicely centered in the middle of your feet as you stand over the ball waiting to start the swing. Even if your weight is only slightly on your toes at address, that problem is likely to get worse once the swing goes in motion, so this is a problem you need to 'cut off at the pass'. Don't allow any degree of leaning onto your toes to take place at address and you should be able to keep your body nicely positioned throughout the rest of the swing leading into impact.
Believe it or not, simply being able to check off these three points prior to starting your swing will take you most of the way toward hitting up on your driver successfully. The address position that you use for any shot is critically important, and it will say a lot about the success or failure of your swing. Pro golfers spend countless hours working on their address positions, and you should follow their lead. At the very least, make it a priority in each practice session to spend a few minutes working on your stance. Apply yourself to this crucial part of the game and you will be swinging up nicely with your driver in the near future.
Now that you are set up correctly over the ball, most of the work is actually finished. If you were to just make your 'normal' swing from this proper address position, you should find that the club is moving up when you impact the ball. However, there are a few points that still need to be made related to the mechanics of the swing itself. As you might imagine, it is possible to ruin a good stance by making mistakes in the swing, so you will want to follow the tips below carefully to make sure nothing goes wrong along the way.
- Hold your head in position. Controlling the movement of your head is a great way to make sure your body remains in position throughout the swing. After all, if your head is in place, it is physically impossible for your shoulders to be past the ball. As you swing both back and through, make sure your head is holding in place nicely while your body turns around it. Keeping your eyes on the ball will make it easier to hold your head steady, so keep that in mind while you swing. Also, although you do want to have your head hold steady, you do not want it down into your chest, as that will make it difficult for you to achieve a full shoulder turn. Keep your chin up while you swing to permit your left shoulder to get all the way back without any problem.
- Hands lead the way. This is a tip that is important for all of your swings, but it is particularly crucial here because you are not going to hit up properly if you release the club too early. On the way down, be sure to 'hold off' the release of the club by having your hands lead the way into impact. Take your hands down to the ball as quickly as possible while allowing the head of the club to lag behind nicely. The release will happen naturally as the force of your swing causes the angle to be lost between your leading arm and the shaft of the club when impact approaches. It is not easy to learn how to hold this angle properly, but those who do are rewarded with impressive distance and control.
- Keep the backswing short. Sure, you want to make a full backswing in order to allow yourself to build up speed for a powerful drive. However, if you let the backswing drag on too long, you will wind up losing your balance and it will become difficult to hit up as intended. The length of your backswing should be determined by how far you can rotate your shoulders without losing your balance – and that last part is critical. If you have to let your balance get out of whack in order to make a long swing, you should shorten up right away. A long swing will do no good if it costs you your balance, so turn only as far as you can while staying controlled with the rest of your body. If you are able to make a controlled turn, it should be easy to hit up when you get back down to impact.
In the big picture, all of these tips are points that apply to the rest of your swings just as they apply off the tee. However, they are particularly important when you are trying to learn how to hit up, so keep them in mind while you practice. If you can hit on these points in addition to maintaining your commitment to the points in the setup section, you will be in a great position to succeed with your driver.
Understanding Tee Height
Teeing the ball up seems like one of the few points in golf that you don't really have to think about – just push the tee in the ground, place the ball on top, and swing away, right? Not so fast. Even with a point as basic as teeing up the ball, there is still a degree of forethought that needs to be taken into consideration. How high are you going to tee the ball above the ground? Does it matter?
Well, yes, it certainly does matter, as the height of the ball off the ground is going to determine exactly where on the club face impact is made. If the ball is teed too high, you will hit the shot off of the top of the face, and distance will be lost. Likewise, if the ball is teed too low, it will hit the bottom of the face and the shot will fail to gain the elevation necessary to carry long distances. Either way, you will be harming your drives if you don't tee the ball up at exactly the right height.
For most golfers, the ideal tee height is one that has half of the golf ball resting above the top of the club at address. In other words, the top line of your driver should be lined up with the equator of the golf ball as you are getting ready to swing. This setup gives you a little bit of room to swing up while still hitting the sweet spot. Of course, you can experiment with this positioning until you find a spot that is perfect for you, but starting from this point should lead to good results.
Hitting up on your driver is a great way to maximize distance while also improving your ball flight and your control over the trajectory of your drives. You still want to hit down aggressively on most of the rest of your clubs, but spend some time learning how to hit up on the driver from the tee and your game will improve over time.