I have always hit the ball pretty long, wild, but long. Not long drive type long but longer than most people I play with in my age group. But as I've aged and worked on my game the last few years I've noticed my drives were not going as long. I have to consider I'm 54 years old so there may be some slowing down but I was convinced that wasn't the entire story. So began my journey to gain back more distance with my driver. Spoiler alert - the conclusion is I gained back my lost yardage and then some.
Quest for More Distance off the Tee with the Driver
I've worked a lot the last few years on accuracy. Last year (2021) was actually a solid year for lowering my handicap and managed to get it below 9 but I noticed last year the drives were a little shorter. This year I practiced a lot over the winter hitting into a net but mostly chipping and half wedges. When I came out this Spring (2022) all fired up I was horrible and I had lost like 15 to 20 yards! WTF. I have a Garmin G80 as well which will tell you ballspeed data and my swing speed was down to upper 90s to low 100s. I thought it must be wrong when I was using the G80 on the range but apparently it was correct as I pumped out 240 yard drives. Here is what I found and hopefully what you can use to hit longer drives
I started out remedying the golf swing with a little golf instruction from a teaching pro while on vacation. Sometimes you need a PGA teaching pro to take a look, especially when you've been tinkering all winter in isolation. He took a look and right off he noticed my golf swing was way to far inside on the backswing and incomplete (no full backswing or turn). I had gone from a very free swinger to a guy who was afraid to turn. I am guessing this happened because I had practiced all winter keeping my arms connected and trying to keep my forearms from rotating too much. The risks of hitting into a net without any ball flight data I guess. (I've since bought a Skytrak and it is awesome - although confirming of my loss of swing speed initially). I then went online and started researching long drivers and PGA Pros and teaching pros to see how to hit a golf ball farther. This is good stuff and I'll include the videos and resources below.
How to Hit It Longer Off the Tee - Step by Step (ranked easy fixes to harder fixes)
Tee the golf ball higher - Almost every video I reviewed from long drivers to Rory McIlroy driving tips talked about hitting up on the ball or said another way hit the golf ball with an ascending blow. Teeing it higher forces you to hit more up on the ball. Rory and other PGA tour pros hit up on the ball 4 or 5 degrees. Amateurs are often descending hits to the ball which just adds spin and takes off distance. Spin is not your friend with the driver. Too much spin will reduce your drive distance greatly. So tee it higher
Move the ball forward in your stance - much as tip 1 is meant to promote an upward attack angle on the golf ball this tip helps accomplish the same thing. It is also common for long drivers to have a wider stance as well which also promotes this upward contact and helps you stay behind the ball. With this setup you are almost forced to tilt back about 8 - 12 degrees in order to reach the golf ball. With that tile that means you will be hitting up on the ball! Try it.
Use a Stronger Grip on the Golf Club - Long drive champions, again like Kyle Berkshire, have very, very strong grips. They will turn the left hand way left on the club and match it up with a strong right hand. I have found that I already had a strong enough grip and have left it as is for the most part but generally all good drivers seem to have a strong grip. That being said Bryson DeChambeault has a weak left hand grip and a stronger right hand grip which definitely works for him but may be straining his body and wrists a bit too much if his recent injuries are any indication.
Take a Full Turn - This is where I apparently failed. I had lost my shoulder turn and hip turn in my swing in the hopes of hitting it straighter. The results however were less distance and less accuracy. You need to get your hips to at least 4 o'clock (if 12 is straight ahead) and get your shoulders to 90 degrees. If you can't get as close as you can. Focus on the turn and not just pinning the arms closer to your body and faking a turn. See below videos for tips on where you should be on the end of your backswing.
Get Your Hands High - don't have a low flat takeaway. That is an accuracy and distance killer. Kyle Berkshire - long drive champion - explains how he never got over 150 MPH swing speed (YIKES) until he started focusing on getting his hands high and away from his body. So don't bring your hands back low and tight to your body unless you want to hit 190 yard bunts down the fairway. See two videos below, both from long drive champs, who explain the reasoning for this.
Shift the Weight To Right Foot in Backswing - OK. This one I wasn't expecting. I've spent the last few years focusing on not swaying and to a certain extent keeping weight almost 60% on my left foot at all times in the swing. Well it turns out this kills your distance. Check out Kyle Berkshire in the videos below to see his routine. He rocks from foot to foot to ensure he moves to his right side. If you want a good example of a PGA Tour pro who does this think Henrik Stenson who moves off the ball and onto his right side very deliberately on the takeaway of his swing. I also would note here that the wider stance at address will allow you to move to your right side without swaying. The head should still stay pretty centered.
Throw your Hands Freely Like You Are Skipping a Stone - Let it fly. Once you have all these setup issues sorted out before you swing the driver and you take a full turn on the ball just let it go and come through with that right arm and elbow like you are skipping a stone and just let the driver fly through the ball. A lot of distance loss is due to being tentative as you try and guide the ball down the fairway. That never works. Let er rip.
Get The Hands High - move the handle of the club high and as far away from the ball as you can on the takeaway. The more width the better. The basic science is that the farther the club handle (and hands) are away from the ball at the end of the backswing the more speed the driver club head can pick up by the time it makes it to and through the ball. See Kyle Berkshire videos attached and also see the Josh Koch videos on the arms on the swing to maximize speed.
That is it. Doing the above I've been able to get my swing speed back up to 110 to 113mph. 113 mph club head speed and 158 ball speed is my max these past two weeks but that is light years ahead of where I was even a month ago. And the good news is all I have focused on is technique, I've done no additional training on weights or speed training so it is only going to go up. I've been getting it back up to the 290 - 310 yard range which is where I want to be but more is always better. I'll keep you posted on my progress.
Here are the YouTube golf instruction videos that I found key in gaining driver distance off the tee aka hitting bombs.
Kyle Berkshire - Analysis of Kyle Berkshire's Swing
Pure power. Obviously swinging like Kyle Berkshire may lead to a stray ball or two on the golf course but incorporating some of these tips into your swing will definitely lead to distance. I find the higher hands and slight shift to the right inside foot is key.
Reduce Driver Spin with your Driver - By Clay Ballard
Clay Ballard is a top online youtube golf professional under the top speed golf YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/@TopSpeedGolf) along with his website. To lend even more credibility Clay has recently joined some elite golf pros at the Golf Pass group. He is as solid as it gets for online coaches and he has a ton of free content on Youtube.
In this video Clay describes to you how to hit your drive with as little as spin as possible.
Great video and will help you reduce the spin (and increase the distance) on your drives.