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


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6 hours ago, 2puttbogey said:

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. 

I think this is pretty spot on, and most strokes gained gurus would probably tell you that strokes gained really pushes you to hit it far but in order to maximize your strokes gained it has to be IN PLAY and hittable. Strokes gained stats are useless on a lost ball. Play whatever you can play to get it out there as far as you can while still being playable. If that mean sitting the driver for awhile, why not?

 

2 hours ago, GolfSpy MPR said:

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.

How's your ball position? Could something in your setup be a bit off with driver? I am by no means a swing guru but just trying to brainstorm ideas of things you can look at which might be a worse can of worms...

 

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I will +1 the tee it lower. I find better contact when I don’t try to swing up, but think line drive and let the ball position make me catch on upswing instead of swing for the fences

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11 hours ago, GolfSpy MPR said:

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.

The lower fee height would do that and even more so if you have the ball to far back in your stance. There’s also a diminishing return if teeing too high if you end up catching it low on the face and getting the high spinning ball.

Go back to the fundamentals of grip, setup, stance, ball placement. Use mirror and/or video from face on and down the line. Ball should be off the left armpit and no further back than logo on your shirt. Unlike with irons where arms are hanging under the shoulder the driver will have them slightly out in front.

Do drills with the short green band attached near the grip of the driver like Martin shows in his videos.

11 hours ago, hckymeyer said:

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 🙂

Keep in mind that the tour guys with negative aoa aren’t hitting 3-4* down like most ams and don’t have a huge ott or out to in swing and therefore are generating distance losing spin and ball flight that’s a slice rather than a small fade. While working on face contact is a good idea it’s possible to hit center of the face with a negative aoa and ott move. Where if focusing on the swing and controlling the club face is a better approach.

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20 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?

240-250 average off the tee would get you around a HCP of 0 according to Shot Scope data, seems like a reasonable compromise until you figure out driver. Honestly, anything 220+ and straight will allow you to play good golf on a course up to 6300-6500 yards. 

On the flip side, you only hit 1 drive past 250 and it wasn't even in a position to play to the green and you averaged around 220 ignoring the skyball. So I wouldn't focus on giving up 15-25 because it wasn't there this round or with your current swing.

If you are on the tee box concerned about where driver is going, it's not going to end well very often. You need to commit and let it fly or shelf it. I was in a similar position and then saw that I had 2x the number of penalties off the tee with my 2H than driver from "playing safe". 

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16 hours 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.

 

Start with the ball teed up 1" above the ground so that even if you hit down on it that it will strike close to center of the face. Then slowly work up towards 1.5" and possibly 1.75"... Even with negative AoA this should center the strike on the top half of your driver face and may lead to some surprising results and consistency from not trying to alter your swing so severely by swinging up. Should also eliminate issue #2 for practice at home to at least get some reps in. 

An AoA between 0 and -2 struck on the top half of the face will likely have better launch conditions than something off the bottom or heel of the face hit with a +2 AoA

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17 hours 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.

 

I worked on my angle of attack by placing my driver head over slight ahead of where a tee with the ball would be positioned. Try swinging and missing the head cover. If you can it’s a positive angle of attack if you hit the head cover it’s negative to neutral.

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In addition to the many helpful posts here, there is something else you might want to consider.

I notice in your list of drives/results, you hit an (at least) Ok drive, but was in bad position (thru a dogleg, etc.).  I would suggest instead of automatically pulling driver on the tee, pick a target.  Then decide what club gives me the best chance to hit that target.

Your target might be determined by the hole layout (corner of the dogleg, before or over a cross bunker or creek, wider part of fairway), and also consider where you want to hit your next shot from, what is your best layup.  Is it 150? 125? 100?  What distance will get you there?  Then determine what club I have that I have good confidence to get me there?

Playing a smart strategy might help a lot more than just pulling the big stick and chase it wherever it goes.  That might give you a better perspective on playing "the right way".

Edited by mharr
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23 hours ago, GolfSpy MPR said:

On each hole, I was either on the fairway or just right, with a tight draw, about 240–250 yards.

If you can hit your 3-wood consistent 240-250 and your biggest drive was what 265? There is almost no gain to hitting your Driver. If you had 300+ distance on your driver that is a little different. Stick with the 3-wood.

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Only thing I can add here is this: What, historically, has been the performance of the 3 wood off the tee? Is this question and change in strategy the result of recency bias?

I went through this last year, only hitting driver on a handful of holes and electing to hit irons or hybrids everywhere else (at 6,100 yards I can get away with it). The reasoning was that I'd rather be 150 away in the fairway than 75 away but blocked out by a tree. Sounds great in theory, and it worked for a bit, but I ended up finding over the entire season that I was just as inaccurate with hybrids and mid-long irons as I was driver. But when I hit a bad shot with the shorter clubs, I was now 150+ out behind trees instead of 75. Not only that, from 150 yards out hitting the green isn't a given either.

Four of your 10 drives were in play and safe. If you took 10 shots with your 3 wood, I'd be curious to see what happens.

Three straight good shots with the 3 wood certainly is something to build off of. Confidence plays such a huge role and if you are instantly more comfortable with the 3 wood in hand, it's probably the better play for now.

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I had a somewhat similar situation I would hit 3W off tee really well but driver didn't go well .. so I choked up on the driver a little to simulate my 3W length it helped in the short term during a round I was playing. 

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For me it depends on what tees I am hitting from. While I am fairly good with the driver now, I used to hit with less than driver when playing from the whites. As I got better hitting driver from more forward tees wasn't really fun. I cant imagine not using driver from further back tees unless it was for specific strategic purposes. I would say dont use driver until you can consistently hit the fairway with the other clubs then maybe try incorporating the driver. You'll probably have to use driver as you progress to the back tees unless youre Henrick Stenson but most of us here are not. 

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I rarely pull the big stick - my 7 - yes 7 wood - consistently goes 230 ish, usually out-driving playing partners hitting driver.  Play around 6,000 yards, so not usually an issue.  Sometimes wish I could smoke a driver on the par 5's, but then I'm not usually good enough to go for the green in 2 anyway!  So a nice layup to wedge distance is what the doctor orders.  Of course the driver is ALWAYS great on the range...just can't bottle it up and take it to the course!! 🤣

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Hit driver on 8 or 9 holes.  Try shorten driver shaft 1/2 inch.  Try counterweight driver shaft, company called Tourlock makes weights. This will drop you driver swingweight from say D-1 to C-8.  And yes like Ariyah Jutanugarn try a new driving iron for the more dangerous 3 or 4 holes. 

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Obviously there isn’t one answer that’s better than another, rather different perspectives on what your end goals are. Lower scores, hit a driver 300 down the middle, hit a driver straight… so many different aspects here but what works for me is this. I hit the ball further than most so I don’t get the big dog out that often, so I look at each hole and decide a few things before choosing a club. Yardage to different trees, bunkers, hazards, etc. then understand my bailout points and distances, meaning if I slice one to the right, what does my next shot give me to the green, what would my possible distance be from that tee shot, what if I hit it too far, what’s to the left and so forth.  Once I am comfortable with the distances and bailout points I choose my club, typically I’m going to hit a 4 iron because that gives me shot shaping control and about 250 in distance. I can typically play any par 4 with that club. Now when do I get my driver out, really if a course suits my eye and my shot. I play a bit of a power fade (DJ inspired) so if I’m playing well and scoring well it’s in my hand, if I’m struggling a bit or the ball tends to roll out more on the fairways I’m putting the big dog back in the bag. I want to give myself the best opportunity to score well and this is what I have found that works for me. 
 

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I ditched the driver a while back only use it on Long Straight par 5s. When I’m on its 270+ but I’m off more than on lately. I mostly use my 3 hybrid less damage and penalties and can get 220 to 240 off the tee. 

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Were you fitted? If so, go back to the fitter. If not, go to Club Champion or a pro shop (not a big box store).

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Keep hitting the 3 wood off the tee for the time being. Practice with the driver on the range. Figure out what is different about yoiur 3 wood swing and your driver swing. Copy your 3 wood swing with your driver. Stop trying to hit up on the ball with your driver. Instead, swing level with the ground through the ball. That usually leads to way more consistency. I have read that testing shows most tour pros swing level through the ball, not up on it. Swinging up on the ball makes it difficult to keep a consistent left wrist position at impact. It collapses and opens the face one time. The next time it rolls over and you hit it left. Swinging level through the ball should stop or minimize that.

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I say go with your gut.  One summer in men’s league, I lowered my GHIN handicap by 3 strokes playing only irons.  Kept in play, got it on or close to green and chipped and putted. Bogie generally the worst score. With driver, its not un common for me to have 2-3 holes of +2 or worse, but may have 1 or 2 birdies. Maybe bag it until you work out kinks and can keep it in play.  Maybe one day I will take my own advice again!

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At 75,  when I have issues with any part of my game, I still go see my teaching pro.  Within a few minutes he normally can figure it out and after a small bucket of balls or less I am in the middle of the fairway.  We have four teaching pros at our course and I can get help from any of them when needed.  I play with a teaching pro and he is there when I need him.  My usual problems with my driver is about position over the ball and tempo.  My driver is a Titleist TSi3 set at 10.75* and has a Fujikura Speeder 661 TR S shaft and when hit solidly eats the middle of the fairways.    I use both during my rounds of play, my TSi3D and my TSi2F.  All depending on the length of the hole.   Alignment, position of the ball, tempo are the three things that my teacher looks at for me.  With respect and good luck.      

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So I have had the same battle off and on for awhile. I finally took some lessons and adjusted the settings on my driver to where I prioritized in the fairway over distance. I also moved to a set of tees where I have a 7i or below for most of my approach shots. I have also prioritized enjoying the game over my ego. Whichever way you go just remember it's your game, your swing, have fun.

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