Stripe It! : Who says you can’t hit it far and straight?

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On the PGA Tour, they call it “Total Driving.” That’s the stat that ranks players according to how far and straight they drive the ball. Currently, Bo Van Pelt is the Tour’s best all-around driver, but there are a number of top-ranked players on his heels, including Zach Johnson, K.J. Choi and this year’s Northern Trust Champ, Steve Stricker (see the sidebar at the end of this story for more on Stricker’s excellent driving). Each man loves to hit his second shot with a short club from the short grass. Then again, who doesn’t?

In this article, I’m passing on my 10 favorite distance and accuracy tips. Some are old stand-bys, others are ones never before published in Golf Tips, but each one is easy to do and yields immediate results. Practice them and I guarantee you’ll hit the ball the farthest and straightest ever.

Swing In Sequence
Long hitters transfer energy from their body to the clubhead in the proper sequence of actions. Short hitters move all the same body parts, but in the wrong order.

Good downswings unwind from the ground up, through your body: hips, shoulders, arms, hands and then finally the clubhead. Ben Hogan referred to this sequence as a chain reaction that multiplies your clubhead speed so it’s moving the fastest at the last possible moment.

Notice here how my hips already are starting to unwind, my shoulders still are turned back, and the clubhead remains where it was at the “top” of my swing. I’ve just started to unwind, but you can see that what I’m doing is athletic and utilizing all my power.

Zachary Allen’s Stats
Driver: 9° Cleveland Launcher DST
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana (stiff flex)
Clubhead Speed: 107 mph
Average Driving Distance: 289 yards
Golf Ball: Srixon Z-Star

Find Your Grip…Halfway Back
To drive it as far as possible, it’s vital to create and maintain lag in your downswing. Great drivers, from Ben Hogan to Sergio Garcia, have done this remarkably well. Still, most golfers don’t realize that to have a lot of lag, you first have to have the proper grip—one that’s in your fingers, not in your palms.

To find the proper grip, hold the club in your right hand and take it halfway back. Now, place your left hand on it, holding the club in your fingers, with a slight bend in your left wrist. This helps you feel the right amount of lag and leverage. Now you’re ready to release it into the back of the ball.

Now, just return the club to address with your hands on it the right way and start hitting shots.


Narrow Your Focus
Accurate drivers see precisely where they want their tee shot to go, whereas wayward drivers see fairways as huge expanses with hazards all around them. That’s why, even though the average fairway is about 40 to 50 yards wide, they’re still difficult to hit.

Take a cue from all those trouble situations you’ve found yourself in, like punching out from behind a tree. I bet you’ve hit your best shots when you’re “stymied.” That’s because you narrowed your focus and your field of vision, and created a clear, precise picture in your mind. With little to work with, your body responded accordingly and reacted better with this detailed focus.

As you can see in the picture (right), I’m doing it the wrong way. What I call the “lazy-chair slouch.” Everything’s turned, and my body isn’t properly engaged, I feel no torque or coil and have picked the club up.
To hit more fairways, you must be precise with your aim. Stand behind the ball and pick out the smallest target visible (in this case, the tip of the upper limb on the far-right tree). Once you’ve chosen that target, hold the image of it in your mind’s eye as you swing. Now split the fairway.

Keep Your Base Wide
To really beat the ball, you have to create resistance in your lower body early in the backswing. This stores energy in your core and produces torque, in much the same way you twist a wet towel.

A simple drill that will help you accomplish this is to place a large object between your legs. (Here I’m using an impact bag, but you can use anything, as long as it’s about stance width.) Then, just hit some shots. As you do so, try to keep your base as wide and grounded as possible. You’ll find that this helps your initial takeaway feel wider and slower, and that you’ll store energy in your backswing. Too often, in an effort to hit it farther, a lot of golfers get everything turning—their knees, hips, core and shoulders. Doing that only results in a quick, sloppy swing.
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