Written by Brendon Elliott
Golf is broken up into several different components, or areas of concentration, which, when combined, equate to having what would be considered a complete game. These areas include, from the green and back to the tee, Putting, Chipping, and Pitching; Bunker Play; Distance Wedges, Short, Middle, and Long Irons; Hybrids and Fairway Woods; and the Driver.
We could break down all these different areas statistically and broadly among all golfers and develop a list of their importance toward a golfer becoming a more complete player.
However, in reality, each area has its own level of significance for the individual golfer and their ability to be the most complete player they can be.
The importance of working on specific aspects of the game for each individual golfer will solely depend on them and their personal strengths and weaknesses.
While most golfers only hit the driver up to 14 times in a round, far less than, say, a putter, which could be used as many as 40 times (but let’s hope not), there is just something to being able to hit that one club well.
Call it a psychological thing or a confidence thing; being able to hit a drive well off the tee is of significant importance to most golfers.
With that in mind, I want to share five tips to help you be better and more consistent off the tee. From strategy to technique to equipment and mindset, these five tips will help you hit more fairways and have more opportunities to score better as you play.
Tip #1: Practice Your Pre-Swing Fundamentals…They Are IMPORTANT!
I often go back to the pre-swing fundamentals with almost every tip or suggestion I have for a golfer because these are the areas that even the professionals on the PGA TOUR and LPGA Tour go to when they are off a bit. Here is why:
Grip: Your grip is your only connection between the club and your body. More specifically, your hands will control the face of the club. Without the hands working together, rather than fighting against one another, you have little chance of being able to square the face at impact consistently. If you can’t do that, you will have a tough time consistently hitting the fairway.
Posture: How you set your body up to the ball has everything to do with how you can move it once you start the swing. I have written many times recently about how the old, and still often used, method for getting into a correct posture is wrong.
Too often, we think of good posture as something where our forward bend from the hips, must be down significantly, and a slight arch in our lower back. This is sometimes thought of as an “Athletic Posture” and is not at all a correct way of setting the body at address. This very restrictive setup will not allow the hips and body to rotate correctly.
You want to have less forward bend and keep your lower back flat. Additionally, you want to keep your shoulders more aligned with where your toes meet your foot. This will create a slight rounding of the shoulders look at setup. The following video is a fantastic look at getting into YOUR best posture.
Alignment: The last point is alignment, an area many golfers struggle to perfect. I see two main reasons that cause alignment issues, or a golfer’s perception of how they are aligned to their target, being off.
First, when you check your alignment, when you are over and addressing the ball, you are not getting a proper visual of how your body lines are actually set up. You must get your alignment checkpoints for your body and target line from behind the ball. I will touch on this more in my next tip, where I address a consistent pre-shot routine.
Secondly, what many golfers perceive as correct alignment is incorrect; with good alignment, you are looking at two things. First is your target line, or what I prefer to call your start line. This imaginary line runs from behind your ball, through it, and down your intended start line for the ball as it travels toward its final destination. It is essential to understand that this “start line” may only sometimes be your target and, in fact, will very often not be.
We all have a specific shot shape we hit. Some hit some degree of a fade, and others hit some degree of a draw. To get the ball to reach that final destination, you must have your start line compensate for your ball flight tendencies.
Once you have your start line, you need to get your body lines, which include your toes, knees, hips, and shoulders, to run parallel left (for righties) of your start line. That is important. Having a correct marriage between your start line and body lines will help dictate the path you swing the club on.
Tip #2: A Regular Routine Off The Tee…That You Stick To
Routines are critical in golf. In order to start hitting more fairways, you need to be sure that you are consistently locked into a routine. One of the things that the best drivers in the world all do is get so locked into a consistent and repeating routine that you could set a stopwatch by it.
One of the biggest reasons why a routine is so essential is that it sets you up to focus on the task at hand. It keeps you in the moment. Those are significant attributes that all good drivers of the ball have across the board.
Beyond the positives it brings to you from a mental and emotional standpoint, a solid routine helps you align and visualize. Those are two key points to being a better driver of the ball. During your routine, and in whatever style you want to construct it, you need to include a few things:
- Assess the hole. Look at all obstacles and find your best landing area.
- Look at the wind direction, speed, and any other weather conditions, such as rain, heat, or cold, that could influence your shot.
- Are the fairways firm or wet?
- Once you have gathered all the information needed, you will start to formulate a plan of attack (see next tip).
- Visualize the shot you want to execute.
In my next tip, “Forming a Strategy Off the Tee,” I will expand on how your routine is the execution part of putting your strategy into play.
Tip #3: Forming a Strategy Off The Tee…That You Stick To
Part of the pre-shot routine is formulating your strategy. However, this pre-shot routine aspect deserves its place within my five tips.
Formulating your strategy for your tee shot is partly based on the observations you made in your pre-shot routine and part on picking a correct start line for the shot you want to hit.
Picking the start line, rather than picking a target, is something to break down. Your Target is where you want the ball to end up. Your Start Line is where your ball must start after it leaves the clubface, based on your standard or intended shot shape, in order to hit your end Target.
Your Target and Start Line may be the same, but that is rarely the case, as most golfers do not hit the ball perfectly straight. As you assess setting your Target and Start Line, you should also consider your miss window. If you tend to miss on the right side of the hole more often than the left, consider that into the equation as you set your start line.
This concept comes from an overall groundbreaking game management philosophy called DECADE Golf. To learn more about this, check out https://decade.golf/.
Tip #4: Getting Your Mind Right
Golf is very much a game where our thoughts, emotions, and mindset play a massive part in our success. It has never ceased to amaze me when my students roll off a few good holes in a row and then start easily hitting fairways and smashing drives. Once they are in a great headspace, everything seems more effortless, and anything is possible (positively).
Conversely, something we all know to be true and often find ourselves fighting is when things fall off the rails a bit. This routinely creates a snowball effect on our performance, and bad things continue to happen.
As you see in the following video from the DP World Tour, the best players in the world all have one or two swing thoughts, are confident, and then execute. There is no second guessing or creeping thoughts.
Interestingly, this video shows that the few players that hit not-so-good drives have either too many thoughts or a negative one…such as Ian Poulter saying, “Just don’t top it.” That comment, likely said in jest, is something many of us probably tell ourselves regularly.
Tip #5: The Proper Driver For You: How The Driver You Are Playing Can Hurt You
I recently went to a full bag, three-hour fitting with one of my students at a PGA TOUR Superstore. What was very interesting to me, and something I actually knew but don’t often think about, is the length of a driver. The gentleman doing the fitting said that the average length of a driver on the PGA TOUR was 44.75″ long. The average length of a driver off the rack for the everyday golfer is between 45.5″ – 46.5″. Drivers upwards of 2″ longer than a tour pros driver have no business being in the hands of any amateur golfer.
The longer the club, the less control you will have, whether professional or amateur. So, do yourself a favor; don’t try to look for more distance from a longer shaft; look for more accuracy with a shorter one.
Wrapping it Up
You know that old saying, “Drive for show, putt for dough”? While there may be a bit of merit to that idea, no matter how long you can drive a golf ball, aren’t you better off hitting your approach shot from the fairway?
This article was focused on helping you become a better driver of the ball, and to me, that means keeping the ball in play more often and helping you find more fairways. When you can do that, I assure you that you will be well on your way to playing better golf, and without even a mention of hitting the ball longer.
PGA Professional Brendon Elliott is a multiple award-winning Golf Professional based in Central Florida. He is the 2017 PGA of America’s National Youth Player Development Award Winner and is the recipient of more than 25 other industry awards with a focus on Coaching & Education. He is considered by his peers as an industry expert on topics ranging from Jr. Golf Development to Operations to Industry Sustainability. He is the founder of the Little Linksters Golf Academies and the Little Linksters Association for Junior Golf Development, a 501c3 nonprofit also based out of Central Florida. Brendon is also a freelance golf writer for PGA.com, Golf Range Magazine and several other golf websites and blogs. He is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America. You can learn more about Brendon at BrendonElliott.com and Little Linksters at littlelinksters.com.