Driving The Ball

Written by Gary Buffington, Jr., 20 year Manager of Edwin Watts Golf Shop, Tampa, former academic All-American Golfer at University of West Florida, and former Professional Mini-Tour Golfer offers specific advice and drills for game improvement directly related to what is learned from the Statistical Outputs of the Golf Addiction Statistics Mobile App

A Change in Thinking Never Hurt Anyone

When most players think of driving, the only thing they think about is fairways hit. How many times does a player hit it in the short grass? It is easy to see why; golfers are constantly bombarded by magazines, television, and infomercials about hitting more fairways. Every week there is a new “move” or swing thought that will produce more accurate drives. But, technique is only part of the problem. One of the big problems is how players think! Driving the ball is not all about how many fairways a player hits; it is mostly about how many playable drives a player can hit!
This is where the change of thinking takes place. Rather than judging a good or bad driving day based off of the number of fairways, try to judge your rounds off of the number of playable drives. By “playable” we mean drives that have a clear shot to the green or pin depending on the situation. A drive into the water, out of bounds, the trees, bushes, or usually a bunker is not considered playable. It helps to know your course. If you are playing at the U.S. Open where the rough is extremely thick, it might be less playable than a country club where the rough is mown to just a few inches. If you are great from fairway bunkers, then these may be playable positions for you. But, this is where it helps to know both yourself, and the course. But, as a general rule the fairway is the easiest place to approach the green. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t many other playable areas to hit from.
So, next time you are on the course, don’t get frustrated when you miss a fairway. Access the situation. Is this a playable spot? If so, you have done your job off the tee! The time to get frustrated is when you are losing shots because you have not driven the ball into a playable spot. With just this little change in mindset, players will become more confident off the tee and free themselves up to have more fairways and playable drives.

Take a Second and Think

For many players thinking is the major struggle that they face in the course of a round. But, a lot of thoughts can race through a players mind as you stare down a shot, particularly a tough shot. For most tee shots, there is always some amount of difficulty to be faced. There can be out of bounds, water, bunkers, and trees. But, by adjusting your thought process you can limit your misses and miss the ball in better places. To adjust your thinking, do the following:
  1. Stand at the tee and analyze the hole.
  2. Identify first where the trouble is and what places you cannot reach the green from. You should rank them in order from most penalizing to least penalizing.
  3. Now that you know where you don’t want to go, identify where you do want to go!
  4. Pick the easiest shot to get the ball to where you want.
  6. Hit!
By adjusting your thinking to this process, many players do something they might never do during a round. The players that think this way plan for a missed shot. This allows them to have playable drives even after they hit a poor tee shot. Just by identifying where you don’t want to go, the mind now knows what the ball should do. This thought process is not negative thinking, it is smart thinking! Negative thoughts would mean thinking only of the O.B. or only of the water. But, we get out of the negative and end by worrying only about the playable spots! By doing this more drives will end up in play, and scores will get lower.

Get Specific

If I had a nickel for every time I have heard a golfer say I am aiming at the pin or toward the fairway, I’d be rich! Too many times golfers just aim at the fairway or towards the flag. But that is not good enough. What if a player is misaligned to the left center or right center of the fairway? Their margin of error just got smaller. In order for players to hit the best shot possible, they have to get specific with their target. They should pick out a tree, steeple, house, window, bunker, or a patch of grass to aim at. By narrowing your focus down to a smaller target, the amount of error decreases, and more shots are on line. Just by aiming at a specific target or spot, players can hit better shots and lower their scores.

Two Ball Worst Ball, a Drill for Driving

This is a great drill for improving driving accuracy and developing a feel for missing shots in a good place. The next time you go out and play a round of golf, test your driving! You will need two golf balls for this drill. On each hole, hit two tee balls. Pick the worst drive and play from there. For the rest of the hole you should only play one ball. The second ball is only needed on the tee!
Once you have played a few holes, you will be able to see the many benefits of this drill. For starters, the extra drives give you extra practice. But, if the first drive is good, you won’t want to hit a bad second tee shot. This extra pressure will help the drill resemble tournaments, matches, anything that might make you nervous over the tee shots. Lastly, if you can complete the drill and not increase your score very much, then you can have a lot of confidence in your ability to place your tee shots. Try it for yourself! Did your scores increaseby playing your worst drive? If they didn’t you are driving it great!!