Dial Back with Driver to Get Ball in Play - Golf Tip

Golfers are obsessed with distance off the tee, always searching for the secret swing key or hot new club that will add yards to their drives. But there are times when accuracy is paramount, and the driver is a better option than a shorter club.

When facing a tight hole lined with hazards or thick rough, most wise golfers will reach for a fairway wood, hybrid or iron for that added measure of accuracy. But what if you need to hit the ball a little farther than those clubs allow – to reach the corner of a dogleg, for example, or to hit the ball as close as possible to a crossing hazard without going too far?

That's when you should approach the driver the way a tennis player hits a second serve. Take a little something off it, sacrificing a little distance for accuracy. Follow these steps:

  • Tee the ball lower than usual: The top of the ball should be level or slightly above the top of the clubface.
  • Grip down an inch or two: This shortens the shaft and gives you better control over the club.
  • Play the ball back in your stance: If your normal ball position is off the left heel, play it an inch or two right, toward the middle of your stance.
  • Make a smooth, abbreviated swing: Because you've gripped down, your backswing will be a little shorter than usual. You're not looking to overpower the ball, so swing easy and make a three-quarters follow-through.

The ball will fly a little lower than normal and may roll a bit more, too, so expect a total distance of 80-90 percent compared with your average tee shot.

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Dial Back with Driver to Get Ball in Play

Dial Back with Driver to Get Ball in Play

It is easy to fall in love with distance on the golf course. The feeling of sending the ball rocketing off into the distance is addictive, and hitting long drives also comes with the benefit of shorter approach shots. Unfortunately, everything is a give and take in golf, and you will often have to sacrifice control in order to gain power. Many amateur golfers are willing to make this trade – but that is a mistake. You should always prioritize control in your golf game, as power without accuracy is completely useless on the course.

Often, when you read golf instruction about hitting more fairways, the tip will be to simply use less club. And, to be fair, that is a good tip. When possible, you can use something like a three wood or hybrid club to place the ball in the fairway with far greater consistency than a driver. However, you don't want to leave your driver in the bag all day long. With that in mind, this article is going to discuss dialing back your driver in order to keep the ball in play while still using the big stick.

When done properly, you can dial back your effort with the driver to improve accuracy, without actually losing too much in the way of distance. Most golfers are surprised to find how much power they are able to maintain even while making a softer swing. Despite feeling like you are only swinging with a fraction of your potential power, your swing speed will likely only be reduced by a few miles per hour. That reduction is going to cost you at least a few yards, of course, but it's not like your driving distance is going to be cut in half. Some of the lost speed will be made up for by the fact that you should be hitting the sweet spot more frequently. In the end, you are left with drives that still cover plenty of yardage while landing in the fairway with greater regularity.

To get started with this strategy, you could just head to the driving range and start making swings with less than 100% effort. You may have some success with that plan, but we think you will be more successful if you read through this article first. By reviewing the tips we have provided below, you should be able to find satisfactory results in a shorter period of time. As you will see, it's just quite as easy as just swinging softer and hoping for the best. To give yourself a good chance to succeed, you are going to want to make a couple other adjustments along the way, in tandem with your softer swing. By the end of this article, you should have a clear picture of how your softer driver swing should work.

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 This Works

Why This Works

On the surface, it might not make a lot of sense that swinging softer would help you keep the ball in play. After all, your mechanics aren't going to change dramatically simply by using a bit less effort, so wouldn't a softer swing just result in shorter shots that go the same direction? Not necessarily. Using less effort can help you in a few different ways. While those benefits might be subtle, they add up to a game that is easier to control as you make your way around the course.

To give yourself the proper motivation to get out and work on this concept, please review the following points related to why this can be successful.

  • Stay on balance. This is the big key to the whole idea, and this is why you should strongly consider swinging your driver with less aggression. When you swing softer, it will be easier to stay on balance – and balance is one of the top keys to the entire game. A balanced swing isn't automatically going to be a good swing, but it certainly is a big step in the right direction. Countless amateur golfers swing as hard as they can in an effort to launch the ball down the fairway, but many of those players lose balance in the process. By swinging with less effort, you should be able to keep your balance most of the time. With better balance comes better ball striking, and with better ball striking comes improved control. Next time you watch golf on television, take note of the way the players remain balanced after their swings. Even when hitting a driver more than 300 yards in the air, pro golfers manage to stay beautifully balanced throughout the swing – and even after the swing is over. Prioritize your balance by swinging softer and it is a near certainty that your results will improve.
  • Stay in rhythm. In addition to losing your balance, swinging hard can also upset your rhythm. Ideally, you would like to swing the club with the same rhythm over and over again, regardless of which club is in your hands. Of course, that is easier said than done. You may find that you get in a rush when you hit the driver, as you are trying to send it as far as possible into the distance. By focusing on dialing your swing back a bit, you can settle into a nice tempo which will help you hit fairways. Not only will you be more accurate this way, but you will also be maintaining consistency from your driver on to the rest of your clubs, which may help your performance across the board.
  • Reduce backspin rate. One of the underrated benefits of making a softer swing is the fact that you can reduce your overall spin rate when you swing softer. This can be a tremendous help off the tee, especially if you are able to flatten out your ball flight. A drive with a high backspin rate is going to climb way up into the sky, meaning you will have a harder time controlling it by the time it comes back down. Taking some of that backspin out of the equation is going to lower your overall flight, giving you a better chance to land the ball in the short grass. In the end, you are looking for a nice balance between height and control – you want enough spin to hold the ball up in the air and achieve good distance, but not so much that you lose control over your trajectory. With a softer swing, you just may be able to find the balance you need on this point.

Many golf teachers get frustrated when they try to tell their students to swing a little easier with the driver – because those students often don't listen. Rather than being stubborn on this topic, do your best to open your mind to this idea and give it a try for yourself. Of course, you could always go back to swinging harder if you wish, so think of this as an experiment if nothing else. In the end, we bet you stick with it because of the impressive results you are likely to see. Playing golf while hitting long drives is nice, but playing golf from the middle of the fairway hole after hole is even better.

Minor Adjustments

Minor Adjustments

You are not going to change your swing dramatically in order to dial back your effort with the driver. It would be a mistake to significantly change your technique just to use this strategy, as major swing changes in golf are difficult and time consuming to complete. Instead, you are just going to tweak your current swing mechanics slightly in order to have them work nicely with your reduced level of effort. If you can bring together the changes below with your commitment to dial back your swing, impressive results could be soon to arrive.

  • Choke down just slightly on the grip. Many golfers are resistant to choke down on the club unless they are hitting a low shot for some specific reason. You might be surprised to learn that plenty of professional golfers actually hit their full shots this way. By coming down just slightly from the end of the grip, you can improve the control you have over the club, and you can tighten up your swing as well. If you are trying to swing your driver with a bit less effort overall, choking down on the grip is a good choice. Even moving your hands down by just a half-inch or so can be enough to change the way the club feels as you swing. You might find that this small tweak is so helpful that you wind up applying it to the rest of your clubs as well.
  • Stand with your feet slightly closer together. A wide base is generally a good thing when swinging the driver because it helps you to stay on balance. Remaining balanced is certainly important, but this kind of stance can actually become a problem if you feel so balanced that you start to swing harder and harder as time goes by. When trying to make a softer swing, narrow your stance a bit to encourage yourself to focus on control rather than power. We aren't talking about a big change here – just bring each foot in an inch or so and see how that feels. You can experiment with different stance widths until you settle in a spot which is comfortable and leads to good results.
  • Relax your grip. Sometimes, all it takes to fall into the trap of swinging too hard is a grip which is too tight around the grip at address. Before starting your driver swing, make sure that you are using a light grip pressure. You should be doing this anyway – with all of your shots – but it is particularly important when trying to make a controlled, modest swing with the driver. Tension in your hands and wrists is only going to lead to a swing which tries to force the action, and there is nothing good about trying to force things in golf.

As promised, you aren't going to need to do much to your swing in order to dial back your effort with the driver. The swing you make while using less effort should look almost identical to your previous swing in nearly every way. In fact, someone watching you hit drives probably won't even be able to tell that you are trying to do anything different. And this is a good thing. You want to keep the continuity in your game from club to club while using just a bit less effort in order to improve accuracy with the driver.

Noticing Changes in Ball Flight Pattern

Noticing Changes in Ball Flight Pattern

When you think about making a softer swing, you probably think first about the distance you will potentially lose. That is part of the equation, of course, but it shouldn't be considered the whole picture. In fact, you may notice that the bigger element is the change you see in your ball flight as far as a draw or fade is concerned. When you take some of the effort out of your swing, you may notice that the ball suddenly flies in a different way to what it did before the adjustment. To turn your controlled drives into lower scores, you will need to adapt to this new ball flight as soon as possible.

The logical place to start, of course, is to watch the ball fly down the range as you practice. Does your ball flight look the same as usual, or are there some changes? While judging your ball flight on the range is not a perfect science – due to the fact that range balls are not the same as 'real' golf balls – you can get a sense for whether or not anything is different. If your ball flight seems the same, you can safely ignore this point and move on. However, if there is a change, you will need to pay close attention to that change when you get out onto the course.

You aren't going to be able to know for sure whether or not your ball flight has changed until you get back onto the course. For the first few holes, don't make any drastic changes to your aim – just plan on your normal ball flight, and hit the shots. Do watch those shots carefully, however, and observe how they move through the air. If a pattern starts to develop which is different from your usual shot shapes, it will be time to alter your aim as necessary. Pick targets off the tee which make sense given your new flight and your chances of hitting the fairway will be greatly improved.

It is one thing to find out that your ball flight has changed a bit, but it is another thing entirely to get comfortable with that flight. You will have to go through a period of using this new flight before you have confidence that the ball will perform as expected shot after shot. Do your best to trust the new ball flight in the early stages and you will soon come to trust it just as you trust any other pattern in your game.

Clubbing Down on Occasion

Clubbing Down on Occasion

There is a lot to like about the idea of using a softer swing with your driver to improve accuracy while still maintaining most of your distance. However, as nice as it is to use this method, there are going to be some situations where the best choice is to just leave the driver in the bag. As you gain experience in this game, you will get better and better at deciding to set the driver down while reaching for a safer option.

One of the best things you can do for your golf game is to realize that every hole is not a 'driver hole'. Golf courses are designed intentionally to test the player in a variety of ways, and some holes are meant to test whether or not you are willing to put down the driver. Golfers who force the action by hitting driver even when it is not the right choice are making a mistake. It is easy to waste several strokes in a single round just by hitting your driver too often. Learn to play the smart shot from the tee when necessary and your game will instantly improve.

So how do you know when you are playing a hole that would be best handled with a shorter club off the tee? Watch for the following points.

  • Not enough room. This should be one of the more obvious signs that you shouldn't be hitting a driver. If the fairway runs out at a certain distance – it disappears into a water hazard or a big bunker, for example – you need to compare that distance to the yardage you can get out of your driver. If the fairway ends at 250 yards, and you usually hit your driver around 240, that might be too close for comfort. Instead of taking the risk, consider clubbing down to your three wood to keep the ball safely short of the trouble.
  • An uncomfortable angle. Many golfers have a ball flight with their driver which is different from the rest of the clubs in their bag. For instance, you may hit a nice draw with your driver while the rest of your clubs usually fade from left to right. When trying to decide which club to play off the tee, keep the angle of the hole in mind. Is the fairway turning left or right, and how does that compare to your driver flight? Are there any hazards you need to be careful to avoid? Do your best to pick the club which is going to match up nicely with the angles involved in this particular shot.
  • Slopes are important. One of the biggest mistakes made by amateur golfers from a course management perspective is playing the ball onto a steep slope in the fairway. Sure, you might have hit the fairway, but you will have an extremely difficult second shot thanks to the fact that you are standing on uneven ground. If you can see the slope from where you are standing on the tee, you can take steps to prevent your ball from winding up in that spot. When it seems like your driver is likely to put the ball right on the slope, think about backing off the driver to use a shorter club instead. A longer approach shot from a flat lie will usually be preferable to a shorter shot off of a severe slope.
  • Respect deep rough. Most golf courses these days keep their rough mown pretty short in an effort to improve pace of play. However, you will encounter a course with long rough from time to time. When that happens, consider playing it safe off the tee even if you don't have any problems with angles, distances, or anything else. Just putting the ball in the short grass should be enough motivation to sacrifice some distance. Even with modern equipment, playing approach shots out of long rough is never an easy task.

Dialing back your level of effort with the driver is a step which proves you are ready to make real improvements in your game. Countless amateur golfers prioritize distance above everything else in the game – and it should be no surprise that those players really never get any better. To make progress, you need to set your ego aside and work on hitting the fairway rather than simply trying to maximize your distance. Use the information in this article to help you adjust to a softer swing off the tee. With a little bit of work on the range, you can be using this technique to great effect in short order. Good luck!