Driving – Going from Good to Great

Sun, Jan 15th, 2023
Driving - going from Good to Great Driving - going from Good to Great

In tennis, a server has a variety of serves. In cricket, the bowler may bowl 6 different types of balls within one 6 bowl over. It’s similar with a baseball pitcher – so how does this relate to golf?

Over the last decade, there has been an increased premium on driving at Tour Level, with driving proportionally being more important relative to the final score than 25 years ago. The focus has been on increased distance, popularised by Bryson deChambeau’s transformation during COVID and competing successfully in World Long Driving Contests. But the fact is, Brysin is scoring consistently worse than before his current long driving prowess.

To be a great driver of the ball, there are 5 key ingredients. One of them is distance, and I have written about this previously and I would recommend anyone who is interested to know more about concepts and drills to accelerate your driving distance to visit my friend Lee Cox’s website (www.leecoxgolf.com) who has some wonderful information.

Driving – Going from Good to Great

But the key ingredient I would like to outline today is to build a VARIETY OF STOCK SHOTS. I recount a story of when I was coaching former Ryder Cup Player Oliver Wilson during the 2013 and 14 seasons. Oli had been really struggling with his game and had not made a cut in 8 months prior to our partnership and was on a strong downward spiral over the previous 3-4 seasons. The first 2 tournaments I was with him he scored in the 80s, and he was really struggling with the driver with a 2-way very destructive miss. Oli had never been a strong driver of the ball, but was good at getting the ball in play, and then was a good iron player, excellent short game and good putter, which had enabled him to him be no 35 in the World in 2008 as well as playing in the Ryder Cup. But his bad play from the tee had infiltrated his whole game. I said to him, we had to devise a tee shot that would get the ball into play, so then at least the rest of his game can begin to shine again, and we can build some positive momentum after 3 -4 years of negative momentum. I asked him, if you had to get the ball onto the fairway to ‘save your life’ what would you do? He instantly said ‘play the ball off the deck which would take out the left miss’. For the next 12 months Oli did exactly that (actually playing off a grass tee made by his wedge), and hit a low slider off the ‘deck’. After 2 months, he did not miss a cut for the following 8 months, and went on to win the 2014 Dunhill Links. Interestingly, Oli secured his second victory on the European Tour in 2022, and what did he do on the final tee shot? He hit his driver off the deck!

Build and Practice a Variety of Stock Drives

Here are some examples of ‘Stock Drives’ you can develop:

The SLIDER – this is a low fade when you want to guarantee the ball will not tail left. Oli used to hit this off the deck, just making a grass tee; using his wedge. Laura Davies often used this shot as well throughout her career.

THE HIGH RAKER – this is a high flighted strong draw, which maximizes distance. It is ideal for use on long Par 4s or Par 5s, or when the wind if behind and right to left.

The LOW BULLET – this is a piercing ball flight, usually right to left, deal for into the wind tee shots.  The mistake some people make is that they then start hitting ‘down’, which would be a mistake. You can tee the ball a little lower, but still look to hit up on the ball with low dynamic loft.

3/4 BANKER – I was introduced to this shot by 28 time Tour Winner Australian Player Peter Senior. This is an invaluable shot whereby for him, he grips right down the club and plays a normal swing, The shortening of the grip induces a shorter more ¾ swing naturally, and he feels as though he swings at the same speed. The ball may go 20 -30 yards less distance, but increases probability of hitting the fairway. When I was in Saudi last year at a tournament, Patrick Reed recounted how he has exactly the same shot which he uses on tight tee shots.

The STOCK baby Fade/Draw – This is standard trajectory, with either a small fade or draw, whatever your preference is. Practice this by putting your golf bag in front of your practice station on say the right side if you are practicing a fade, so you guarantee the ball starting direction. Imagine a wall going all the way from the bag to your target and practice the ball starting away from the imaginary wall, and then fading back to the target.

With all these shots, look to ‘INVITE the shot shape in your set up, then maybe have one swing feel to further ‘guarantee’ the shot. Of course, first practice this on the range, then practice this under pressure through competitive practice games, and finally build your confidence on the course, so then during the cauldron of competition you can become a great driver of the ball – not because you are necessarily the longest, but because you can execute the right shot at the right time –  an essential ingredient of going from ‘Good’ to ‘Great’. 

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