If you have ever read any golf instruction on the topic of hitting more fairways, there was probably one point highlighted over and over again – using something less than your driver to keep the ball in play.
This is a common point repeated by many golf instructors across the country. By using a three wood or hybrid club from the tee, you will increase your percentage of fairways hit almost immediately.
Of course, these teachers are not wrong. Clubbing down is a great way to put the ball in play, and it is the right choice in a variety of situations. However, that cannot always be the answer.
For instance, if you are facing a par four which has a fairway guarded by bunkers and trees – but is also 430 yards long – clubbing down really isn’t an option. At some point, you have to be able to step up to the tee with your driver and blast one right down the middle.
Your driver needs to be an ally if you are going to shoot low scores, and keeping it hidden in the bag is not the right way to use it to your advantage.
It Starts with Balance
To hit more fairways while still using your driver, one of the first things you should do is pay attention to your balance. Many golfers get into bad habits when swinging the driver, as they try to swing the club as hard as possible each and every time. If you take this approach, you are never going to hit a high percentage of fairways.
Yes, you want to hit the ball long distances with your driver, but you need to stay balanced and in control at the same time.
During your next visit to the driving range, work on hitting driver shots while staying perfectly balanced. If it helps, try to pretend that you are swinging a pitching wedge while actually hitting drives down the range.
Simply using the mental image of making a wedge swing is enough for many players to fall into a nice tempo with excellent balance. Once you see how effective a controlled driver swing can be, you will be unlikely to fall back into the habit of using your aggressive, out-of-control technique.
Manipulate Your Tee Height
The height at which you tee the ball is a variable that receives little attention from amateur golfers. This might seem like a minor point, but it actually has a lot to do with the drives you produce.
When teed high, the ball is likely to soar up into the air – but it is also more likely to stray off line. On the other hand, a low tee height will help you to maintain control over your drives, as the ball is less likely to have a high rate of sidespin from this position.
As you move through your next round, you can adjust your tee height based on the hole in front of you. On a long par five with a wide fairway, feel free to ‘tee it high and let it fly.’ When you find a narrow fairway that requires a deadly accurate driver, tee the ball lower and make a solid swing.
You may not hit your driver quite as far when it is teed lower, but the accuracy you gain will be more than worth it.
Pick a Smart Target
To hit a lot of fairways with your driver, you need to be comfortable with your ball flight pattern. Most likely, you tend to curve the ball in one direction or the other when you swing a driver. Knowing which way the ball is likely to curve, plan a shot that gives you the best possible chance of finding the short grass.
For the purposes of an example, let’s imagine that you tend to hit a fade with your driver (as a right-handed golfer). Knowing you are likely to hit a fade, you should aim down the left side of most fairways in order to give that fade room to work.
If you were to aim down the middle, you would really only be playing with half the fairway.
Set up so that your shot is aimed down the left side and swing away. If the ball fades as expected, you should be in the middle of the fairway. Even if the shot holds straight, you should still be okay as you didn’t aim so far left as you put yourself in trouble.
Choke Down on Occasion
When a shot comes up that requires the best of your accuracy, but you still want to hit your driver, consider choking down on the grip of the club. Even moving down the grip by just an inch or two can go a long way toward improving your accuracy.
This will take a little bit of distance off of your drives, which is why it should only be used in certain circumstances. Before you try this method on the course, be sure to practice it on the range to confirm that you can execute your swing properly while using less than the entire club.
Choking down on your driver is also a good method when you need to play a tee shot into the wind. The speed of your swing will be reduced when you choke down, which means your spin rate should be reduced as well. You need to keep spin rate down while playing drives into the breeze, so this is the perfect adjustment to make.
Obviously, you aren’t going to hit the ball into the wind as far as you would hit it without wind. As long as you are accurate, however, you should be able to handle the hole in front of you without much of a problem.
Don’t Give Up on Your Driver
It is possible to emphasize accuracy off the tee without putting down your driver. There is still a time and place for using a three wood or hybrid from the tee, but don’t automatically skip over your driver when you face a narrow hole.
Always think through your options and pick the shot which gives you the most confidence in a successful result.
Here’s to plenty of fairways hit and a few birdies in your next round!