There’s one thing that every golfer wants more of… DISTANCE!
Learning how to increase driver distance not only makes you look awesome in front of your playing partners, but it also makes the game a whole lot easier.
There is nothing more rewarding then stepping up to the tee box and knowing that you are going to launch the ball down the middle of the fairway.
Driving the golf ball straight and long is an important skill that every golfer should develop.
Golf is a game of confidence and nothing builds confidence faster than hitting a beautiful draw long and straight down the middle of the fairway.
It leads to shorter approach shots, more greens in regulations, and better golf scores.
Have you ever wondered:
What are the key elements that lead to longer drives?
What is the most effective way to train for speed?
How big of a role does driver technology play with distance improvement?
In this article we are going to answer these important questions and, show you step-by-step how to increase your driving distance.
Let’s dive in!
The Art of the Long Drive
Have you ever watched the World Long Drive Championships?
It is amazing to watch the fastest, most powerful men and women in golf smash the ball amazing distances.
While the vast majority of recreational golfers will never come close to matching these athletes in terms of clubhead speed, there are certain elements of their swing that you can apply directly to your own swing.
Watch any long driver of the golf ball and they will absolutely be doing the following four principles in their setup:
1. Ball Height
As a general rule, the equator of the golf ball should be directly in-line with the top of the clubface at setup. Your primary goal when using a driver is to “hit up” on the golf ball and teeing the ball this height will encourage an upward strike.
2. Wide Stance
The driver is your longest club in the bag and therefore the club you can swing the fastest.
If you are going to be increasing your speed you need to make sure you have the proper golf stance, and a solid base to maintain balance. Too many times amateurs will set up with their feet too narrow which leads to sloppy, unbalanced swings. To ensure your body has a solid base, set up with the outside of your shoulders extended down to the inside of your feet.
3. Forward Ball Position
Many amateurs make the mistake of placing the ball too close to the middle of the stance as if they were preparing to hit an iron shot (see image below).
Many problems occur when the ball position is too close to the center of the stance. Notice how the clubhead has been de-lofted as a result of this improper setup.
In fact, this is one of the most common mistakes amateurs make with their driver. When the ball is placed in the middle of the stance it affects how a player’s shoulders are set at address and changes the path of the club.
Players with a ball position too close to the center will strike down on the ball, the exact opposite of what we are trying to do. A downward strike with a driver puts excess spin on the ball, resulting in a ballooning shot that goes very high but travels a very short distance.
In order to maximize distance, you must strike up on the ball. Place the ball on the inside of the forward foot to help insure your clubhead bottoms out earlier in the swing and you can hit the ball on the upswing (see proper stance below).
4. Spine Angle
At setup your upper body (specifically your spine) should be slightly tilted away from the target.
What does this mean?
This means for the right-handed player, their left shoulder should be slightly higher than their right shoulder at address.
The best drill to feel the correct amount of tilt is to setup and place the grip of the driver at your sternum with the clubhead resting directly between both knees. Tilt away from your target, until the clubhead touches your lead leg. This small amount of movement represents the correct angle to tilt at address.
Use this drill to ensure you are tilting the correct amount as too much tilt will restrict your turn in the backswing. The tilted spine is again important as it puts your body in a powerful position to strike up on the golf ball.
3 Important Factors That Influence Distance
Clubhead speed has a direct correlation to your potential distance off the tee.
If you want to increase your distance off the tee you will need to increase your clubhead speed, however notice how we wrote “potential distance”.
Increasing your clubhead speed is not always the fastest and most effective way to increase distance. For example, if you currently have a 25-yard slice with your driver, increasing your clubhead speed will only increase your slice (learn how to fix a slice here). There are three important elements that we should address before learning how to train for speed. Let’s examine them now:
1. Centeredness of Contact
The easiest way to increase your distance is not by increasing your speed, but rather striking the ball closer to the center of the clubface.
How important is it to hit the center?
Let’s assume a 20-handicapper hits his average drive a modest 200 yards off the tee. Given his handicap, he most likely is striking many shots away from the center of the clubface resulting in an immediate loss of distance.
A one-inch off-center hit translates into an approximate 12% loss of distance.
By consistently learning to hit the ball in the center of the clubface this player could immediately gain 20-25 yards off the tee by changing this one single element.
What’s the best way to strike the ball in the center of the clubface?
Swinging in balance.
Practice a proper driver setup with your feet as wide as your shoulders and take some practice swings while focusing on completing your swing and finishing in a balanced follow through position. Most off-centered golf shots are a result of a loss of posture. If you can swing in balance and hold your finish, you will start to strike the ball closer to the center of the clubface.
2. Angle of Attack
Thanks to launch monitor companies like Trackman, golf professionals now realize the most efficient way to strike a golf ball is by using more loft and having a positive attack angle (hitting up on the ball) at impact.
Justin Thomas, the 2017 PGA Tour Player has one of the highest launch angles with his driver, with an average 14.11 degree of launch at impact. Considering Thomas uses an 9.5 degree driver, this means his is hitting up almost 5 degrees at impact.
So how does this apply to your game?
Simply put, you need to have an upward strike on the ball with your driver in order to maximize distance.
Review the 4 elements of a proper driver setup we discussed earlier one more time. I can’t stress how important this setup position is to create a positive attack angle and more distance off the tee.
3. Face Angle
Delivering the club into impact with a square clubface is also very important.
An open clubface at impact leads to a slice which is the most common problem amateur golfers suffer from.
The best way to control your clubface is to ensure your hands are placed in a powerful position on the club.
While there is no perfect grip in golf, a stronger grip is almost always better than a weaker grip for the average amateur golfer. A stronger grip encourages the proper release of the clubface and will help you increase distance.
Ensure that you can see between 2-3 knuckles of the left hand at address. This puts your left hand (the controller of the release) into a powerful position.
At least two knuckles of the glove hand should be visible at address (red dots), while the lines created by the thumb and forefinger should be parallel and point to the right shoulder.
The Most Efficient Method To Train Speed (& Increase Distance)
Sometimes people classify golf as a boring sport that is “too slow” and non-athletic. If you’ve seen any of the young players of today’s generation, you know golf is anything but slow and boring.
Golfers of this generation are athletes, trained to unleash sudden bursts of power and energy when swinging the driver. These powerful bursts of energy come from the fast twitch muscle fibers in our body that are specifically trained by moving both heavy and lightweight objects in a fast motion.
One of the best exercises you can perform to train your clubhead speed and increase your driver distance is to swing a combination of both heavy and lightweight clubs.
Best Drill To Increase Speed (& Driving Distance)
Begin this exercise by grabbing an alignment stick and swinging it 5 times as fast as you can with your normal stance.
After completing these swings, grab one of your irons and make an additional 5 swings with your normal stance.
Repeat this exercise a total of three times on both sides (right handed and left handed) while focusing on accelerating your club through the impact area and hearing the “swoosh” of the club well past impact.
Swinging an alignment stick is a powerful exercise that trains the fast twitch muscle fibers of the body.
How Does Equipment Effect Your Driving Distance?
Over the last few years golf equipment companies have been criticized for releasing products too often, forcing golfers to upgrade their sets a couple times a year to stay current with the latest technology.
While advancements in the game are always being made by R&D teams, the reality is that a sound golf swing with proper technique will help you improve your distance much faster than upgrading your equipment.
One of the best examples of this is the European Tour golfer, Lee Westwood. A loyal PING ambassador throughout his entire career, Lee Westwood used his PING G10 driver for over 6 straight years. As PING debuted new technology advances with the launch of its G15, G20, and G25 lines of clubs, it wasn’t until PING released its G30 line that Lee finally upgraded his driver. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Lee has always been a premium ball striker and consistently hit his driver over 300 yards. Why would he need to upgrade?
Another example is Henrik Stenson, the 2016 Open Champion. Henrik is famous for using his 3-wood off the tee and in fact prefers it over his driver. Henrik has used his current Callaway 3-wood for over 7 straight years! Once when asked why he doesn’t upgrade his woods, Henrik simply replied, “If you hit your 3-wood 300 yards would you change it?”.
I had the pleasure of spending a week with Henrik Stenson and learned all about serious golf power.
It important to note that we are not discrediting the amazing work equipment companies do each and every year to keep improving.
We are simply stating that you don’t necessarily need to upgrade your equipment to see results. The vast majority of golfers can improve their distance off the tee by improving their swing mechanics and training to improve speed.
Start Increasing Your Driving Distance Today!
Learning to hit the ball farther is a process that involves many different elements.
Our goal with this article is to educate you on some of the most important factors involved (the 4 key elements of a great driver setup for example) and some of the common problems you can immediately fix to improve distance.
Once you have improved your setup and are starting to swing in balance and find the center of the clubface more often, begin training speed and you will start to see some amazing transformations in distance off the tee.
No more excuses.