Be Precise when Aiming Your Driver

The fairway is a pretty big target, and just about any tee shot that finds the short grass will do.

If that describes your thinking with the driver, you're probably not driving the ball very accurately. And you're leaving yourself tougher shots to the greens when you do not hit the fairway.

Think about where and how you aim your tee shots. Do you: a) Casually point the clubface toward the middle of the fairway? B) Aim somewhere left of center to account for your slice, or vice versa for a hook? C) Pick a specific target, then carefully align your club and body?

If you answered “c,” feel free to move on to the next tip – you don't need this one. If “a” or “b” describes your method, stay right here and keep reading.

Sloppy, half-hearted alignment can hurt you in several ways. For one, your body and clubface are likely mismatched, causing shots to curve excessively. For another, you're unlikely to swing with the same focus if you're “aiming” for a 30-yard swatch of grass, rather than a 5-yard window. Finally, the larger your target, the worse off a miss will be.

And those times when you do hit the fairway, your next shot may be poorly positioned to attack the green.

Rather than line up nonchalantly, take these steps for more accurate drives:

  • Identify the best spot for your approach shot: Strategy means always thinking one shot ahead. The greens on many par 4 and par 5 holes are angled to be more receptive from one side of the fairway. You may have to carry hazards or rough from the “wrong” side of the fairway, where an approach from the proper side is trouble-free. Determine the ideal approach angle and, if you're confident in reaching it with your drive, aim right at it.
  • Choose a precise target: One you know where you want the drive to finish, find a tree in the distance, a mower line in the fairway, an out-of-reach bunker or other landmark aligned with your target. The idea, of course, is to hit your drive directly at your spot. If you miss by a few yards, you should still be in the fairway.
  • Account for shot shape and roll: Every golfer has a natural shot shape, or a shot they rely on more often than not. Let's say your drives tend to fade (curve left to right, for a right-hander). Because they hit the ground moving to the right with a touch of rightward sidespin, they'll roll in that direction. Thus, to finish in the center of the fairway, choose a target slightly left of center and set up accordingly.
  • Here's a simple way to line up every shot with precision: Best Method for Correct Golf Alignment
  • Hitting fairways may not be all that important to the pros, but unless you routinely pound drives 300 yards and have the strength to gouge the ball from the rough, it's a critical part of the game.

    Precision aiming gives you more margin for error and will position you for easier approach shots.

Be Precise When Aiming Your Driver

Be Precise When Aiming Your Driver

Everything you do on the golf course is based on the idea of aiming at a target. If you aim poorly, it won't really matter how well you swing the club, as the ball is going to be headed in the wrong direction. For some reason, the skill of aiming at your selected target is one which is commonly overlooked in this game. Golfers will spend countless hours working on the mechanics of their swing, and not think once about how to aim correctly. If you hope to make real progress with your game, you can't afford to make this mistake. Prioritize aim during your practice sessions and you will be rewarded on the course.

In this article, we are going to talk specifically about aiming your driver. Aim is particularly important when hitting a driver from the tee, as these are likely the longest shots you will hit all day. Hitting long shots means that you have to be particularly precise with your aim, as even a small mistake will be magnified as the ball continues to fly through the air. Think about it this way – a shot which is aimed just one degree to the right of the intended target will be twice as far off line on a 250-yard drive, as compared to a 125-yard approach shot. To be sure, the skill of aiming with your driver is one you can't afford to overlook.

One of the common problems seen in the amateur game is the idea of aiming for the 'middle of the fairway'. When the average golfer stands on the tee, they simply take their driver from the bag, aim down the middle, and swing away. That might seem like a good strategy, but it is far too general to be successful. What are you really aiming at? What do you mean by the 'middle of the fairway'? Without a specific aim point, you swing is likely to lack purpose and direction, and you will just be hoping that the ball lands in the short grass. Don't take such a casual approach to your aim from the tee. By picking very specific targets for your driver, you will make better swings and experience better results.

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.

Make No Assumptions

Make No Assumptions

When you walk up to the tee of a par four or par five, it is tempting to assume that the best course of action is to aim right down the middle of the fairway. Unfortunately, doing so may be a mistake. There are a number of factors you will want to take into consideration before actually taking your aim and making a swing. Sure, your target might end up being near the middle of the fairway, but you can't assume as much before taking a closer look at the layout of the hole.

To make sure you are thinking through the target selection process properly each time you hit a tee shot, keep the following points in mind.

  • Watch for hazards. The first step in picking a target for your driver is checking the layout of the hole for any hazards which must be avoided. Obviously, you will want to pay special attention to out-of-bounds markers, and water hazards are a serious concern as well. Even fairway bunkers, while they might not look that intimidating from the tee, should grab your attention right away. Don't take any hazard on the golf course for granted, as you can easily waste a stroke or two if you play your ball into the wrong position. Once you identify the hazards that are in play off the tee, keep them in mind while picking your final target. You'll obviously want to give yourself some margin for error away from these spots, as aiming near a hazard is just asking for trouble.
  • Length of the hole. The total distance that needs to be covered between the tee and the green should be considered when deciding on your target line. If you are playing a long par four, you will want to take an angle off the tee that cuts off as much distance as possible (unless the hole is perfectly straight, in which case this won't matter). However, if you are playing a short hole, you will know that you have the flexibility to play into a wider part of the fairway, even if that means making the hole a little longer. It isn't a big deal to add 10 yards to a par four which is only 350-yards long in the first place. You should still have no trouble reaching the green with your second shot. On the other hand, if the hole is 450-yards long, adding 10 yards due to the angle of your tee shot is a big deal.
  • Slopes are important. If the fairway in question is perfectly flat, you won't have to think about this point. However, many fairways slope in one direction or the other, and those slopes may be quite severe in some cases. Needless to say, you don't want to have to hit your approach shot from a steep slope, so pay attention to this part of the design of each hole. If possible, aim your tee shot for a flat section in order to setup an easier approach. In fact, you may even choose to hit something less than a driver from the tee, in order to lay up short of the worst parts of the slope. This is a piece of course management strategy which is overlooked by nearly every amateur golfer, so you can get a big leg up on the competition when you learn to watch out for uneven ground.
  • The shape of the fairway compared to your ball flight. Depending on your standard ball flight pattern, some holes are going to setup better for you than others. For example, if you play a draw naturally, you will likely be more comfortable when the fairway turns from right to left. On a hole with a left to right dogleg, you'll usually feel like you are going to run out of room while turning your drive back toward the dogleg. You won't have to worry about this point if you are able to turn the ball in either direction on command, but most golfers have not developed that skill. Assuming you are only working with one ball flight when hitting a driver, you will want to pick safer lines when playing holes that don't fit your eye.

In the end, you might settle on a target that does have you aiming right down the middle of the fairway. That point should not be assumed, however. It is quite common to aim down one side of the fairway or the other, depending on the circumstances at hand. In fact, you might even aim into the rough from time to time. It is never a good idea to assume you know what your target is going to be in this game, as the course and the prevailing weather conditions will always have some surprises in store for you. Be flexible, keep an open mind when walking onto the tee, and pick out a target that makes sense based on all available information.

Finding Your Target

Finding Your Target

It can be quite difficult to pick a target when standing on the tee, if only because there might not be much out in the distance to use as an aim point. When hitting an approach shot into the green, you always have the flagstick to use as a target, if you choose to aim right at the hole. If not, you can usually use the edge of a bunker, or another feature around the green, as you aim point. Depending on the type of course you are playing, and the topography around the course, you may or may not have a supply of targets you can use for your drive.

To help you pick out something in the distance that can be used as a target for your tee shots, we have listed a number of possible options below.

  • Trees. When playing a tree-lined course, you should have no trouble finding a target. As you stand on the tee, think about where you would like your ball to come to rest in the fairway. Then, look up from that point, and find a tree in the distance which is on an extension of your ideal line. Just like that, you have a built-in target, ready to go. To hit your shot, use that tree as your aim point and do your best to send the ball perfectly in that direction. Obviously, you are planning for the ball to come down well before it ever reaches that tree. The tree in this case is simply used as a visual aid to make it easier for you to line up properly on the tee.
  • Fairway bunkers. Depending on the design of the hole you are playing, it may be possible to use fairway bunkers to orient yourself on the tee. You could aim for part of a fairway bunker that you are planning to hit over, or you might be able to aim at a bunker that you know is too far away to reach with your driver. If you are going to use this plan, double check your yardages to make sure that you aren't accidentally going to send your ball directly into the sand.
  • Buildings. When playing in an urban environment, you might be able to use buildings off in the distance as aim points. These could be commercial buildings, or more likely, they could be houses. Courses with houses located along the perimeter of the property will often provide you with an opportunity to use windows, roof lines, and other prominent features as a way of aiming your shots. A lot of people avoid playing courses with houses, but playing on these kinds of layouts will provide you with ample target-selecting opportunities.
  • Other random objects. If you are playing a course which is set out in an open environment, you might need to get a bit creative in terms of picking targets. There might not be much off in the distance to use for a guide on your tee shots, but there will usually be something if you look close enough.

It is hard to hit accurate tee shots without having a specific aim point in mind when you set up for your swing. If you have been getting by to this point on the idea of just aiming down the middle and hoping for the best, you will be surprised to see just how much your driver game can improve when you learn to use specific targets. Practice this technique on the driving range and use it out on the course as soon as possible.