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 teaching 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.
But in my opinion, the one aspect of the game slightly more important than sinking putts is not only bombing drives 300 yards, but being able to hit them straight and get in play.
So, how do you hit your driver straight?
Hitting your driver straight in golf requires a few key elements: a good takeaway; keeping the club as close to ‘on-plane’ as possible; and excellent clubface control. You should also work on hitting up more on the ball, rather than down. Combining these swing elements will straighten out your flight.
I’m a firm believer that driving the ball long and straight is far more important than being a deadly putter, which goes against the teachings of many professional instructors.
The reason is this: what’s the point of rolling in one-putts for double bogey, when you’ve already wasted two or three shots as the result of a wayward drive?
USGA data proves that the longer you hit your driver, the lower your handicap is likely to be; imagine how low you could go when you start getting the big stick in play more often than not.
In this article, I’ve provided some simple advice that can help you start hitting your driver straighter and get you lowering your scores in no time.
How to hit your golf driver straighter
To hit driver straight, you need to ensure your address position is correct, and that your club path and club alignment at impact match up in order to send your ball towards your intended target. A poor set-up; 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.
Get your posture and set-up right
One of the biggest things stopping amateurs hitting driver well is how they address the ball at set-up.
Often, average players will have the ball too far back in their stance and teed far too low, and their head positioned in front of centre.
What this encourages is a steep, descending blow that will cost you distance and likely see you cut across the ball, causing a slice.
Instead, try teeing the ball higher and moving it to the inside of your lead foot, while keeping your head behind the ball.
This will promote a more in-to-out swing and higher launch, which will work together to straighten out your flight.
Monitor your strike location
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.
Improve your clubface alignment
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.
Aim for a neutral club path
Frustratingly, even if you strike the ball with the clubface pointed perfectly at target, your club path can still cause errant shots.
If your swing comes too far from the inside, you may be prone to hooks or draws.
A club path that is too ‘out-to-in’ will likely clause slices.
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.