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Play the "right" way—or ditch the driver?


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Man you and i are so similar! my driving game is my worse stat and the positions it leaves me in kill my other stats. i would grind and figure it out since it is valuable. i played the winter with a DI instead of a driver (and couldn't hit 3w well either) and i always had super long approches in, which is not fun to play.  Mark Broadie and his SG analysis say always play the longest club you can within reason of the hole. This is a road many of us struggle with because it is such a different swing than anything else in the bag. Once you find the secret let me know, in the mean time i will grind with you!

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I have sort of the opposite problem. Not that I am awesome hitting a driver (just decent), but I fear hitting anything else off the tee. Fairway woods and hybrids have a chance to either be topped or some sort of thin line drive. Even if i hit a 7 iron off the tee, there is a good chance of weak toe push or OB left as a compensation

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Strokes gained has clouded the way we think when we play golf. The idea of hitting it as far as you can is godd, but the second part of it is where you can play your next shot. The gaining of .3 or so strokes is greatly outweighed by the full stroke lost punching out of the woods, or even worse 2 strokes by going OB. So it seems to me the 3w would actually gain strokes for you in a round. 

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I go through this all the time.

 

today. I hit a 3 wood 277.  My drives were going like 223… I switched balls, and lifted up because I was launching lower than I wanted… HUGE mistake.

 

Henrik Stenson won The Open hitting 3 wood.  I played a whole season without a driver… finally started hitting it well, then decided I needed to change my swing… 🤦🏼‍♂️
 

The right way is to get the ball in the hole with the least amount of strokes.  If that is using the 3 wood… then it is using the 3 wood… I do have a 12° Callaway Mini Driver I could part with…

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Dumped my driver this week.  Least consistent club in my bag....sick of trying to adjust to it.  Brought out the ole aeroburner mini driver (14deg)...don't know why, always hit it pretty consistently.  Consistent contact leads to confidence....SO much more enjoyable!  Also...even if it's a little shorter (and maybe not)....I am not relying on that 1 in 10 chance of really catching it with the driver.  I am just sick of mishits.  

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I played 2 years of JUCO golf without a driver in the bag. I was hitting last in almost every group I played in so I wasn't "losing" per se but Obviously being able to hit the driver would have been a benefit. 

You spend enough time on your game to understand what you need to do to play your best, you also have spent time developing your game.

My question is what is the difference between the two? Do you tee up the 3w? Is the intent different? Have you taken a step back and objectively looked at what is the issue? Take all those with a grain of salt as I don't struggle to hit driver, so I can't really relate it just seems that you hit the 3w very well and the driver shouldn't cause you such pain. 

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13 minutes ago, THEZIPR23 said:

I played 2 years of JUCO golf without a driver in the bag. I was hitting last in almost every group I played in so I wasn't "losing" per se but Obviously being able to hit the driver would have been a benefit. 

You spend enough time on your game to understand what you need to do to play your best, you also have spent time developing your game.

My question is what is the difference between the two? Do you tee up the 3w? Is the intent different? Have you taken a step back and objectively looked at what is the issue? Take all those with a grain of salt as I don't struggle to hit driver, so I can't really relate it just seems that you hit the 3w very well and the driver shouldn't cause you such pain. 

I don't know this absolute certainty, but my best guess is this: even with a 3w on a tee, I think my AoA is slightly negative. When I tee a ball up for a driver, I think I'm still hitting down on it. Best case scenario, I catch it slightly high on the face, so it launches reasonably well, though with too much spin. All too commonly, I catch it very high off the face of the driver.

48 minutes ago, Shankster said:

The right way is to get the ball in the hole with the least amount of strokes.  If that is using the 3 wood… then it is using the 3 wood… I do have a 12° Callaway Mini Driver I could part with…

Hmmm. Stay tuned here.

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3 minutes ago, GolfSpy MPR said:

I don't know this absolute certainty, but my best guess is this: even with a 3w on a tee, I think my AoA is slightly negative. When I tee a ball up for a driver, I think I'm still hitting down on it. Best case scenario, I catch it slightly high on the face, so it launches reasonably well, though with too much spin. All too commonly, I catch it very high off the face of the driver.

Hmmm. Stay tuned here.

This kinda leads into what I was thinking. Are you fighting your AOA with the driver trying to hit it properly? I think the average on tour is still negative for driver AOA. We try so hard to do it the right way but if we continue to fight our natural tendencies then the struggle will continue. 

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I think the biggest thing people get confused about with driving and SG off the tee is that the stats do not know or care what club you are hitting off the tee box. Sure in theory you should be able to hit the ball further with your driver than a 3W but look at the actual results you are gaming on the day. If your 3W is constantly 240-250 off the tee and your driver is all over the place from 180-280 then you will produce better results with the 3W. Everyone gets so wrapped up in the "hitting it further is better" portion of SG off the tee but what people fail to realize is that also comes with the caveat of keeping it on the planet. You should be trying to hit it as far as possible but not at the deficit of being all over the place hitting it OB and into hazards. On days like this one I would shelf the driver for the round then take it out on the range and put some serious work into getting it sorted. If you can't get it sorted on your own then go take a lesson to get pointed in the right direction. The choice to not play driver ever again would be missing out on additional yardage and ultimately hurt your game but smacking it 220 yards into the woods certainly isn't helping either. 

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2 hours ago, GolfSpy MPR said:

So what would you do: keep grinding on the driver, or switch to making the 3w your main tee club?

If your goal is to score lower on average then you will need to put some work in at the range or take a lesson to get the driver sorted. In the mean time use the 3W off the tee, plenty of people get around just fine "only" hitting their driver 240 yards. 

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2 hours ago, GolfSpy MPR said:

I don't know how to hit driver. My driving fails the eye test. And even more, it fails the Arccos data test (Driving is almost always my worst SG category for every round, and I'd contend that a good chunk of my negative numbers in SG:Approach are from recovery shots from bad drives).

At the end of my last 18 yesterday, I decided I was done fighting it. The last three holes, I hit my Mavrik SZ off the tee. On each hole, I was either on the fairway or just right, with a tight draw, about 240–250 yards. The first two holes, my positioning was not ideal; slightly obstructed by trees down the right. The final hole, I couldn't have placed my tee shot any better (though I proceeded to blade a SW 130 over the green, missing a seven-foot putt that would have been for an up-and-down).

I was 1-over for the three holes.

3ws.jpg

Contrast this with my driver performance during this round before I switched to 3w:

  • 184: snap hook into trees
  • 249: in the fairway
  • 268: best strike of the day, but failed to note the shortness of the dogleg; ran through the fairway into major tree trouble
  • 183: high on the face
  • 125: full skyball
  • 223: high toe, through the trees
  • 219: thin but safe
  • 236: fine
  • 241: way right in the trees
  • 172: even way righter over the woods

I really, really struggle to hit the ball off a tee.

With so many other aspects of the game, playing the "right" way is something of a fool's errand. Whether it's hitting a specific shape shot or having your swing look a certain way, chasing method over results normally indicates odd priorities in golf.

But here, I'm torn. If I could just keep hitting 245-yard tight draws into the fairway with my 3w, my driving stats (and my scoring) would likely improve by 3-4 strokes per 18. But this decision isn't one of aesthetics: if I could figure out how to hit a driver, I don't think it's crazy to think it would be worth an extra 15-25 yards over my 3w on each hole. I'm objectively giving something up by not hitting driver.

So what would you do: keep grinding on the driver, or switch to making the 3w your main tee club?

Been there; done that.  When I started playing, I could not hit my driver.  Shot 63 on average for 9 hole league.  At the 3-club tournament using a 5i, 9i, and putter, I shot 45.  But that was not how I wanted to play.  Now my driver is one of my favorite clubs; wish my swing speed was what it was 25 years ago!! 

To score the best right now, you have to play to the fairway... whatever club that is.  Granted, your 3W can get out there far enough on most holes, but the driver can give you approach shots with shorter clubs which should lead to lower scores.  

However, instead of grinding on the driver, figure out what your swing issue is.  Chances are it's a similar problem as the swing that bladed the SW over the green or other mishits you have on the course.  Lowest scores come from getting the ball closest to the green... in play... and that should be the driver.

 

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Unless you're playing an awfully long course sick with the 3 wood until you have confidence in the driver. Hitting it 240-250 and in play should be able to get you around any course from the middle tees.

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Short term solution, play the 3w.  You have a better chance of being reasonably long and in play.

Long term solution, figure out how to hit the driver.  The extra yardage to have in your back pocket will do nothing but help.  

If you decide to play 3w and you are having trouble with most approaches being too long, just move up a tee box and have fun.

Also on a quick side note...If your good shots are slightly high on the face, and your bad shots are really high on the face, have you tried teeing it lower?

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52 minutes ago, GolfSpy MPR said:

Best case scenario, I catch it slightly high on the face, so it launches reasonably well, though with too much spin. All too commonly, I catch it very high off the face of the driver.

It’s spins less high on the face but does launch high. Lower launch and more spin low on the face…but usually ball opens for some because of the added spin.

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Strategy off the tee should always be hit the ball as far as you can but avoid "penalty" shots.     Based on your description it sounds like you spend more time in recovery mode when you play the driver and you are relatively successful with the 3w.   The answer is simple when playing use the 3w and work on your driver.   Seems the general guess is that you are hitting down on the ball.  Put a driver cover about a foot in front of a teed up ball and avoid hitting the cover when hitting the driver.   If you hit the cover you have a descending angle of attack/

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2 hours ago, TheProfessor02 said:

If your goal is to score lower on average then you will need to put some work in at the range or take a lesson to get the driver sorted. In the mean time use the 3W off the tee, plenty of people get around just fine "only" hitting their driver 240 yards. 

This is issue number one: I have no place to practice hitting drives. The nearest range is an hour away. And my garage ceiling maxes me out at my 4 hybrid. Though I really want to move my net outside and do some practice in my driveway (while hoping dearly not to sky a ball over my garage into a neighbor's house).

1 hour ago, hckymeyer said:

Also on a quick side note...If your good shots are slightly high on the face, and your bad shots are really high on the face, have you tried teeing it lower?

This is a bit of catch-22. I'm teeing it up (not crazy high, but typical driver height) to try to catch it on the upswing. Teeing it lower might keep me from skying a ball, but I suspect it only encourages my tendency to a negative AoA with a driver.

 

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2 minutes ago, GolfSpy MPR said:

This is issue number one: I have no place to practice hitting drives. The nearest range is an hour away. And my garage ceiling maxes me out at my 4 hybrid. Though I really want to move my net outside and do some practice in my driveway (while hoping dearly not to sky a ball over my garage into a neighbor's house).

This is a bit of catch-22. I'm teeing it up (not crazy high, but typical driver height) to try to catch it on the upswing. Teeing it lower might keep me from skying a ball, but I suspect it only encourages my tendency to a negative AoA with a driver.

 

Any corn fields near by?

It worked for Lee Trevino.

As far as the tee height. Im almost positive that my AOA is level or down.  I tee the ball much lower than I used to, just barely sticking up over top of the driver at address.  Hitting the middle of the driver is key, and it moved my strike from high on the face to middle, makes a big difference.

 

you’ll know right away if it is too low, you’ll likely catch the bottom of the driver, especially if you have a + AOA.

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I'd worry more about finding the center of the face first.  Worry about the AoA later as that is going to take a swing change.

FWIW there are plenty of pro's that still have a negative AoA.  Yes we all know that you need to get to positive to really max out your driver distance.  But as long as it's not hugely negative you can absolutely play it and be successful.  

Also please take all this with a HUGE grain of salt.  I don't even know how to manipulate my own swing let alone somebody else's 🙂

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