One of the oldest sayings in golf is ‘drive for show, putt for dough’. But is this popular phrase actually selling short how important it is to find fairways first?
Most pros will tell you that instead of obsessing over the big stick and spend hours working on their tee shots, amateur golfers should devote more time to their short game to stop duffing chips and three-putting every second hole.
Golf coach Dan Whittaker puts this in perspective when discussing the issues many golfing prodigies have when moving from the amateur circuit to the big leagues, describing how players have all the skills, yet when it comes down to “three footers for your dinner”, many of the best up-and-comers fall apart.
But in my opinion, the one aspect of the game slightly more important than sinking putts is not simply bombing drives 300 yards, but being able to hit them straight and get in play.
For example, if a golfer reads greens well and is super consistent with the flat stick, that’s fantastic.
However, what if he plays a tight course and finds the water off of the tee or sprays drives out of bounds regularly?
Sure, the putting will help recover from these situations, but if he’s rolling in 20 footers for double bogeys, then he’ll always be mediocre at best.
My point here is this: it is not important to be a huge hitter and while driving 300 yards is showy, sinking putts off the back of these drives is just as crucial.
What is vitally important, though, is being able to put the ball in the fairway as much as possible, even if you don’t drive it a long way or have to resort to hitting a hybrid or driving iron off the tee.
Essentially, it doesn’t matter so much how far you hit driver, but you really need to learn to hit it straight.
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How do I hit my golf driver straight?
To hit driver straight, you need to ensure your club path and club alignment at impact all match up in order to send your ball in a straight line towards your target. Open or closed clubfaces, and club paths too far from the inside or outside, can all lead to wayward shots. Having a higher lofted driver (12 degrees or more) will also help you find more fairways as they are more forgiving.
There are so many factors that contribute to a straight ball flight with driver; let’s break them down one at a time.
Where you strike the ball on the face of the driver will play a large part in determining if the flight is straight or curved.
Shots out of the heel are more likely to curve off to the right or slice, while shots out of the toe are often going to result in a draw or nasty hook.
During practice, try and hit more drives out of the centre of the clubface as this will be more likely to promote a straight ball flight.
If you are having difficulty working out where your strike is on the face, try using some foot powder spray.
I know it sounds odd, but if you spray a thin layer on your clubface before hitting each shot at the range, the mark left will tell you exactly where the ball struck the clubface.
Even if you strike your driver dead centre every time, you can miss shots left or right of target if you have poor face alignment.
A clubface that points to the left at impact can lead to a pull or draw, while a clubface pointing to the right can cause a block or slice.
To get an idea of where your clubface is pointing, magnetic club face alignments will give you the perfect visual feedback you need.
By sticking them to your club and completing some slow practice swings, the rod will point in the direction your club is facing; if this isn’t straight at target at impact, you know you have a problem to work on.
For many golfers, poor face alignment comes from incorrect grip: too strong can cause misses left, too weak can cause misses right.
Purchasing a cheap grip trainer will help you get this simple factor right and ensure it isn’t the reason behind your not-so-straight drives.
Frustratingly, even if you strike the ball with the clubface pointed perfectly at target, your club path can still cause errant shots.
A simple drill to work on your club path is to place alignment sticks either side of the ball to create a ‘channel’ that points to your target.
Work on bringing the clubface to meet the ball through this channel without cutting across the inside or outside alignment stick.
If your clubface is straight, your path is correct and the strike is central, you should be seeing a nice straight ball flight as a result.
Another great way to practice controlling your clubface, especially with irons, is through using an impact bag (check out our top picks here).
How do you hit driver straight as a beginner golfer?
As a beginner, it is important to master grip, club path and face alignment to hit driver straight. To assist with this, it can be helpful to use a driver that is highly forgiving, as a driver designed for better players – like the many low lofted, low spin models on the market – will make it very hard to hit the ball straight. A high lofted, 12-degree driver with a centre of gravity towards the back of the clubhead is best.
Another issue many beginning golfers face is a slice, hence why so many draw biased – or at least weight adjustable – drivers have been developed and entered the market.
Drivers like the Ping G425 SFT or Wilson Launchpad both have high loft options (the Ping adjustable to 12 degrees and the Wilson coming with a whopping 13-degree version) and built-in draw bias to help beginners find more fairways.
I’d strongly recommend starting out with a driver with some of these features, and the Wilson Launchpad has a very attractive price for those new to the game (we’ve listed our top drivers for beginners and high handicappers here).
How do I hit my driver farther and straighter?
Hitting driver farther and straighter requires finding the best balance between swing speed, loft and shaft stiffness. Some players will find extra loft helpful, but too much could reduce distance. Likewise, swinging harder could lead to more distance, but less fairways hit. Ultimately, finding your comfort zone is needed to hit the ball as straight and as far as possible.
While some players may feel like swinging within themselves makes it easier to hit the ball straighter, others will feel as if giving things a rip actually helps the clubface and path to line up, adding more distance with it.
As a general rule, a driver at around 10.5 degrees of loft with stiff shaft, swung at about 90 percent of all-out speed is where most amateur golfers with a decent level of ability will find the best combination of accuracy and distance.
Best drivers for a straight and forgiving ball flight
When assessing drivers against the above traits (importantly adjustability and loft) I’ve narrowed down four drivers on the market that will aid in your pursuit for accuracy off the tee.
Ping g425 SFT
The Ping G425 SFT incorporates draw-biased straight-flight technology and is adjustable up to 12 degrees. A lighter swing weight combined with deep centre of gravity will assist golfers in hitting it farther and straighter.
The Wilson Launchpad comes in a 13-degree lofted option – quite possibly the highest lofted driver on the market. This, accompanied with a draw bias weighting, makes it a fantastic, forgiving option for golfers of a lesser skill level.
Callaway Epic Max
The Callaway Epic Max Driver (pictured above) has a deep centre of gravity, high loft option and draw bias, the perfect recipe for a golfer looking for optimum forgiveness. It is high launching to give golfers with slow-to-medium swing speeds every chance of getting the ball high into the air for maximum carry.
TaylorMade Sim 2 Max D
The TaylorMade Sim 2 Max D is adjustable up to a forgiving 12 degrees and boasts a 24g tungsten weight in the rear of the clubhead, creating a high-launching driver offering plenty of help to the average golfer. The asymmetric Inertia Generator will assist golfers in upping their swing speed without losing their shape.
Why is hitting a driver so hard in golf?
Hitting driver is so hard compared to other clubs due to the low loft, fast swing speed and the distance the ball travels. As the driver swing is so quick, many golfers find it challenging to match up clubface and path to create a straight shot and the lower loft can be unforgiving. Additionally, a strike 2-3 degrees open or closed can have dire effects over 250 yards when compared to shorter clubs, such as wedges, that could still hit a green with a poor strike.
One of the reasons we make hitting driver so hard for ourselves is due to our belief that we can some how emulate the pros with both the equipment they use and the outcomes they expect.
I would argue that hitting driver like a tour player is the hardest part of the game where we could hope to match them, so the fact many players use 9-degree drivers with extra stiff shafts and swing out of their boots is making it a way harder club to hit than it should be.
Unfortunately, many people care far too much about their image on course and would feel embarrassed swinging slower and gaming a high-lofted driver in order to find more fairways, but this is precisely what some people should be doing in order to improve their accuracy (or use hybrids or fairway woods).
Once you get better at golf, you can absolutely crank up the pace, dial down the loft and play with stiffer shafts, but if your game isn’t ready for this yet, you’ll find this just makes hitting driver harder than it should be.
How far should a beginner hit a driver?
A beginner should expect to hit a driver anywhere from 170 to 220 yards, but it will depend largely on the golfer’s age, strength and skill level. 200 yards is a good distance for any golfer, and plenty of low handicappers and scratch players will only hit the ball around 200 yards off the tee, yet be supremely accurate.
As discussed above, we hold so many misconceptions about hitting driver due to the constant access we have to watching tour players hit bombs over 300 yards.
These guys are athletes and spend years working on their craft, so the expectation to hit the ball like they do is ridiculous.
According to the USGA, the average driving distance for an amateur male golfers was 217 yards in 2019, so if you are anywhere near this mark when starting out in golf, you’re well and truly getting off the tee far enough to shoot low scores.
While there might not be a perfect recipe to hitting the driver dead straight every time, there are certainly a few factors that have an impact.
Suitable equipment such as high-lofted, draw-biased drivers will suit many people and assist players to get their club path and face synced up more often than not.
While gear will help, it won’t replace practice, so experiment with path, swing speed and loft in order to find the perfect combination for your swing.
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