Hitting the driver should be like hitting the 7-iron

Western NY PGA Tips
Steve Latimer

Every golf group has the one guy who just can’t hit a driver. He spends entire rounds using 3-wood or even iron off the tee.

That guy might even be you. If so, Steve Latimer is the guy you want to see.

The head pro at Genesee Valley Golf Course comes equipped with one the area’s sweetest driver swings. He says many driver fails happen because players are trying too hard.

“They’re trying to make (it) go super far,” he says. “It’s already 45 inches long with very little loft. The natural swing with the 7-iron is going to produce the results that you want to get.”

Overswingers tend to have an outside to inside target path. That creates the dreaded slice and it’s the biggest problem Latimer sees in most amateur driver swings. The goal is, of course, to swing right down the target line.

Latimer prescribes practice swings with an empty range bucket or an empty box just outside the ball (needs to be something soft). If you can hit the ball without hitting the bucket, then your swing can be corrected to a more proper path.

Ball position is also important. Latimer likes to play his ball about even with his left, or front, heel. Another common flaw from amateurs is positioning the ball too far forward. It will also promote an outside to in swing path that results in a slice.

Players will also sway their body incorrectly. Latimer will jab an iron into the ground so that the handle of the club sticks straight up. If a player can turn without touching the club, it provides the proper base to push off and drive forward through the swing.

“If you think about pitcher and the rubber or a sprinter in the starting block, now we have a position to create speed towards the target,” Latimer says. “If we’re going to concentrate on one turn, it’s the turn that goes toward the golf ball.”

A shorter backswing that still creates speed towards the target can hit bombs. More effort creates more clubhead speed, but makes it harder to make contact with the sweet spot of the face. Missing the sweet spot means more curve and less distance.

Practicing a driver should actually involve practicing many other clubs as well. Latimer says he will not take more than three or four swings in a row with the driver while on the range.

“A lot of people, they’ll come to the driving range and they’ll only bring their driver,” Latimer says. “I want to maintain that super rhythm I have with the 7-iron. I will take a driver swing, If I don’t like it, I will take a 7-iron or a wedge.”

The idea is to practice the rhythm with different clubs and transfer that rhythm to the driver.

You don’t need to swing the driver hard. You do need to hit it flush, just like every other club in the bag.

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