Congratulations, you have gotten much better at golf in 2021! But now it’s time to take this off-season one step further. That’s right, we’re talking about that magic number most golfers set their sights on: a score in the 70s. Here, in our eight-step guide to breaking through the 80s, we talk to experts, pros and more to create the perfect plan for you to take your game to the next level.
Step 1: How to ruin your lap before teeing off
Step 2: How to Stop Wasting Your Range Warm Up
Step 3: How do you play the right tees for you?
Step 3: How do you play the right tees for you?
When I was playing golf most often and most seriously, I quickly realized that keeping the ball in play from the tee is essential for competitive golf. The only problem is I was never really good at it. But that was before I took advantage of the network of brilliant minds that exists at golf dot com. And while I don’t spend a lot of time writing how-to articles, I do read them — and I’ve picked up some gold nuggets in the process. Here are 10 tips on straighter drives that I compiled from that research.
1. Bend it less!
For at least seven or eight of these tips, I expect you to start with a moan or some variation of “Yeah, no s-!” But hopefully we can get over that together and gain some insight. This is according to a study conducted by golf data guru Mark Broadie, who wondered whether it is more effective to dial in a large swinging ball or have it start straight and keep it straight. The straight-ball hitters won convincingly. Here’s Broadie:
“To see the relationship between curve and accuracy, I calculated the correlation of these values between players. Guess what? The correlation was 40 percent negative, which in plain English means players who curve their drives hit more fairways! ( For the stat nerds out there, the negative correlation result holds even after controlling for driving distance.) For example, the big curvers, Andrew Putnam, Phil Mickelson and JB Holmes, hit eight percent fewer fairways than the field.
“The group with the least curve of Armor, Furyk and Reavie hit 13 percent more fairways than the field, a significant statistical difference between the two groups.”
You can read the rest of Broadie’s piece here.
2. Own your ball flight.
Hopefully this doesn’t sound like I’m contradicting myself already. But just because you want to hit the ball straight, according to tip #1, doesn’t mean it’s the reality available to you right now.
“Most players have a dominant stroke form (draw/fade) and should use that throughout the round,” says GOLF Top 100 teacher Joe Plecker.
“You have to go with your stock shot,” adds top 100 Brian Manzella. Doing this will help you attach to the shot and choose a good target point.
3. Touch the driver.
For decades, conventional wisdom has dictated that players must club off the tee to keep the ball in play. Not so, says Plecker. For starters, your driver’s face is bigger than any other club in the bag. Also, you’ve probably hit the big stick more than any other club on the driving range. Take advantage of that practice!
“Most players have hit a lot more drivers than 3-woods from the tee in their practice sessions, so making a gentle swing with a rarely used club is a recipe for disaster,” says Plecker.
4. Use the line.
This one seems mind-numbingly simple, but maybe that’s the beauty of it. Many golfers use the line on the side of their ball to make sure their putts are going in the right direction. Why not do the same on tee shots? Bryson DeChambeau believes it helps. Maverick McNealy feels the same way:
“I use the line on the tee to make sure my eyeline is square and my alignment is right,” McNealy told GOLF.com. “Many tee boxes are not always aligned. Some are oriented to the left; some are well aimed; if your body alignment isn’t right, that’s a big miss.”
All it takes is a Sharpie and a split second. Worth a try in the new year at the very least.
5. Use the tee box to your advantage.
Where you drop your ball may seem like a relatively unimportant detail, but you can slightly increase your chances of keeping the ball in play by using the corners of the tee to your advantage. If you prefer a right-to-left trajectory, our Luke Kerr-Dineen recommends that you store your ball on the left side of the tee box and aim to the right so your trajectory will work back into play . (Read more here.)
6. Aim small.
Top 100 teacher Brian Mogg subscribes to the theory that you should select a very specific target for your tee shot – giving you maximum margin of error.
“If you absolutely must hit the fairway, aim for the smallest target or object you can find. You have to be specific in your mind about what you’re pursuing and what you’re committing to,” says Mogg. “Fairways are usually 35-40 yards wide and there’s plenty of room for your ball to find it.”
7. Don’t obsess over fairways.
Fairways aren’t everything. We tend to focus on the binary whether or not we’re driving there in the short grass, but being just off the fairway with a shot on the green is decidedly different from being in the rough behind a tree – or, worse… , in the water. You don’t always have to aim for the center of the fairway if that means taking unnecessary risks, points out course management expert Scott Fawcett, who regularly designs courses for Tour professionals. Here’s how he feels about the spread of a player at number 3 in Augusta National:
That same logic means you don’t have to sacrifice much distance from the tee to hit a few more fairways, Fawcett adds.
“You just won’t hit your 3-wood in the fairway much more than the driver. Falling back is giving up 30 yards on 100% of the tee shots to hopefully hit 5-8% more fairways; that’s a bad decision,” he says.
8. Double-check the boring stuff.
If you’re a good player who suddenly isn’t feeling well, chances are you’ve inadvertently changed something in your setup. Check your grip. Check where your feet, strokes and shoulders are pointing. And check your ball position.
“Always check your foundations,” says LPGA veteran Lizette Salas.
9. Think Positive Thoughts – And Engage!
If you’re faced with a high-pressure tee shot because of an issue or situation, work on a positive mindset.
“Focus on what you want to do rather than what you don’t want to do,” says Top 100 teacher Kevin Sprecher. “Visualize the shot you want to hit, make it your most reliable shot. You can even visualize a shot that resembles one you hit on a previous hole or range. Get a good mental picture.”
Then, he says, bet. No prices for now.
“Make an aggressive swing. It’s never a good idea to swing easily under pressure.”
10. Check your clubs.
If you’re battling a hook or slice, adjustable technology can help – you can adjust the loft, weight and angle of view of many modern drivers.
But many golfers simply don’t play the right gear for their swing speed, as we are often reminded by the club fitting folks at our sister company True Spec. They’re right – if you play the wrong shaft in your driver, for example, it will be much harder to straighten the clubface at impact, making you more prone to the Big Miss. Get those clubs checked.
My last tip is personal: try not to think about all 10 of these tips at once, while standing over a tee shot. You could burn.
Have fun swinging!