It’s a great feeling to stride off the first tee knowing you have hit your ball straight down the middle of the fairway. It’s a huge boost to your confidence and any self doubt you may have had immediately disappears. It’s a given that when you hit it straight from the very start you set up great momentum for the rest of your round.
Hitting it straighter generally means less trouble and not surprisingly this is why we strive to master this shot. With straight drives and iron shots comes a new found confidence. All of a sudden you are no longer second guessing where you may or may not hit it, instead you know exactly where your ball will land. It’s a great feeling and one we continually try to replicate on the course.
Learning To Hit The Ball Straight
Today you will be taught exactly what to check for in your swing if you are struggling to hit the ball straight with your driver or irons. By reading this article and taking the initiative to add straight shots to your repertoire you can be assured of seeing a significant improvement in your scoring.
Maybe to date you have put up with the inconsistencies in your game, but now is the time to address the key problem why you often lose out to much shorter but straighter players. We all know the low handicappers in our clubs that whilst they may not be as long as us they do score lower by virtue of being much straighter. It’s even more frustrating when a number of these players are a good few years older than you and whilst they wouldn’t beat you in a long distance driving competition they are the ones that consistently sign for lower scores. Admittedly it may be down to superiority in other areas of the game but certainly being straight is a massive confidence booster and definitely keeps them out of trouble.
We all want the belief we can hit a straight drive when we need to, that we are almost robotic, able to repeatedly make the same swing. In reality though it’s unlikely even when everything is in sync we will hit the ball dead straight with no deviation. Whilst we may desire perfection in actual fact this isn’t at all easy to do. In fact Jack Nicklaus is quoted with saying “any straight shot with a long club is a fluke”, and as a consequence a professional tends to play a controlled fade or draw.
Is It Better To Play A Draw Or Fade?
Consider this, if a European Tour or PGA Tour pro hits about 70% of fairways that is considered very good. Thus if the elite aren’t hitting it straight down the fairway every time, you can guarantee the rest of us are going to struggle to perform anywhere near that statistic. It’s fair to say that in the majority of cases the professional golfer has worked out they are better off playing a draw or a fade. Aiming to hit the ball straight down the middle leaves the player with half the fairway as room for error on each side. If they decide to deliberately to draw a drive from the right side of the fairway or fade in from the left side they have immediately given themselves the whole fairway width as their landing area. Altogether this is a classic lesson in scoring well by understanding your individual limits.
Furthermore whilst we may be adamant we want to want to be able to hit the ball straight, shouldn’t we also be looking to control the ball flight movement in a similar way to the professionals. It’s definitely worth considering as we improve, though it’s unlikely to happen without some error along the way. Whilst a professional can play for a fade or draw, to find the centre of the fairway, your same intentions can sometimes see a ball aimed off the left side of the fairway for a fade turn into a lazer straight shot into the left hand side rough. This unfortunately happens because high to mid handicap players sometimes swing too much across the line by not rotating their shoulders, rather than down the line.
Generally if you are a low handicapper you are currently successfully drawing the ball and less likely to be too concerned about hitting the ball straight. You appreciate the extra length you get with a drawn shot and on the whole you can control it. On the other hand if your handicap is in double digits it’s likely you have less control of the ball off the tee and in the main slice your drives. Typically though the habitual slicer will settle in their mind for nothing less than the perfect straight shot, not appreciating the exact mechanics and precision required to do this. There are simply too many variables to control time and time again. The reality is that the ball flight will curve even if it is miniscule.
Thus it is only fitting that the next section describes exactly what has to happen in a fraction of a second for you to produce a dead straight shot, it may surprise you!
The Mechanics Of Hitting The Golf Ball Straight
So you may be asking “why do I struggle to hit the ball straight, particularly with my driver?” The answer is simple in so much the longer the club is the harder it is hit it straight. As a result it is rare to go a whole round hitting every fairway with your driver. Let’s face it, it’s incredibly difficult to consistently hit your driver straight drive after drive and you may well benefit from adopting a more shallow swing, using one with greater loft or using more forgiving clubs like the 3 or 5 wood. As for shorter clubs it gets a little easier, particularly if you acknowledge these two key fundamentals to help you hit the ball straight.
These two specific things need to happen simultaneously in a few milliseconds as you strike the ball, but before we discuss them it is important to explain these 2 terms:
The ball to target line is the line you want the ball to travel to reach its target in one straight shot.
The path the club head has to follow from the start to impact and then to follow through is known as the swing path.
Firstly at impact your clubface must be travelling straight along the ball to target line on the swing path and secondly it needs to point directly square at the target.
So let’s take a closer look at each of these points and why it can be challenging to achieve the two together.
The clubface must travel straight along the ball to target line
For the ball to be hit straight the club head needs to be travelling along the ball to target line. Having said this you might find it difficult to imagine how this actually happens with a circular swing path because the club head is only momentarily travelling towards the target. The clubface doesn’t travel on a straight line but instead it travels around our body in a circular motion. The flight and direction of the circular club head path determines the type of swing plane. All players swing around their body on varying swing planes but unless your plane is in to straight to in the club head will not be travelling along the ball to target line.
We can look at this in even more detail, almost as if we are zooming into that very moment the clubface contacts the ball and starts to compress it. We have all seen the slow motion images of the golf ball contracting and expanding and it’s true to say when a player swings inside to the ball and then carries on inside the clubface is even closing slightly during impact.
That being said it is far easier to imagine the clubface travelling along the ball to target line a couple of inches before and after where the ball is positioned at address. Afterwards the player continues to follow through and continues on an inward plane.
Consider Jim Furyk with his looping swing as clarification that it’s what happens at impact, those couple of inches before and after that really counts.
The clubface must point directly square at the target
Secondly in order for you to hit the ball straight you need to make sure the he club head must be square to the ball to target line. Being square is so important because the angle of the clubface determines the type of spin imparted on the ball. The clubface needs to be vertically square because the loft on a club makes it spin upwards and horizontally so as the ball isn’t sent left or right. Ideally your straight drive will have little backspin.
Earlier we referred to how difficult the driver can be to hit straight and you may forgive yourself for struggling when you understand that the shape of a club is designed to spin the ball. The toe of the club shapes the ball to the left and the the heel of the club shapes the ball to the right.
Tips And Drills To Help You Hit A Straight Shot
Realistically speaking it’s a fallacy to think you can hit dead straight golf shots all of the time. The explanation above highlights the technical expertise required on a consistent basis to achieve this feat.
Before you can set out to hit it straight you must first determine whether your swing plane is suited for the job.
To date you may be struggling with a slice and these articles “Golf Slice Correction – How To Fix Your Slice” and “How To Fix A Slice” will help fix this problem. They address how to correct your open clubface and your outside to inside golf swing in full detail. One tip to implement straight away is to ensure you slow your swing down. Coming down too quickly will increase the chances of you moving off plane. If it is open you will typically hit it to the right and if it is closed the ball will go to the left.
Assuming you have control of your swing plane and aren’t too prone to slicing or to hooking the ball the following tips and drills will increase your chances of hitting a straight shot. Remember the essence of performing drills is to concentrate on one swing improvement tip until you can incorporate it into your swing without any conscious thought. You need to be comfortable with one swing change before you move onto the next. Essentially you need to reinforce these techniques until you can trust your subconscious mind to hit the ball.
Try to avoid being too tense
Work on removing tension from your wrist and forearm muscles and learn instead to swing freely. A cluttered mind will always add tension and therefore start to improve by reducing the number of different swing thoughts in your head. It is far easier to release the club through impact without tension because a relaxed muscle is faster than a tense one. In addition less tension tense makes it far easier to rotate your shoulders and hit the straight shot you are looking for.
Remember feeling uptight with the driver, namely the club with the longest shaft and most flexible shaft, never bodes well for a smooth swing.
Hit with a neutral grip
The key to hitting it straight comes from maintaining a neutral grip, one described fully in this article “How To Grip A Golf Club Correctly”. It’s recommended reading and focuses on some of the key check points including counting the number of knuckles you can see when you address the ball. Ideally you will see only two knuckles on your left hand, anymore and you are likely to hook the ball. Equally check the number of knuckles visible on your right hand, you should see no more than three, anymore and you are likely to slice the ball. In conclusion the right hand controls the swing path and the left hand controls the angle of the clubface.
Set up correctly to the ball
Line up your feet, hips and shoulders parallel to the ball to target line at address. In lining up square to the ball to target line, make your life easier by picking a spot about six feet out in front of the ball to represent this imaginary line. Check that your left shoulder faces the target, perhaps the flag stick on a par 3.
Let the clubhead do the work for you
It’s important to let the speed of the clubhead do the work. Do not rely on trying to hit the ball hard, this is a recipe for mis-hits and far from straight shots. Making a quick upswing or lunging at the ball on your downswing will not serve you well. Your actual clubhead speed only matters in the foot or so through impact and in actual fact achieving maximum club head speed comes from having complete control and developing good tempo. Concentrate on your core fundamentals and rely on your hips and legs to generate the power and don’t hit from the top with your arms. In essence you will be well served by a good swing where you naturally put a solid controlled descending blow on the ball.
Learn to control your tempo and balance
Hitting a straight ball comes from keeping your downswing controlled and balanced. It is all too easy to change your angle of attack and swing plane by speeding up your downswing. This drill will help improve your tempo. Set out 2 parallel rows of 8 tees, each row should be about an inch apart. The rows need to about 8 inches apart. Then place a tee in the middle of the 2 rows. Practice swinging between the 2 rows with your driver and learn to consistently and smoothly swing through without touching the tees. Finally move onto hitting a ball for real keeping an even tempo and copying the technique you used practised without the ball.
Check the direction of your divots
Check your divots to determine whether you are hitting the ball with a square clubface. Your divots will clearly tell you he angle at which you struck the ball. If they aren’t pointing directly at the target you need to go back to basics making sure your feet and shoulders are lined up properly.
Determine the correct ball position for each club
The bottom of the swing arc represents the spot that the clubface is square to the ball to target line. It varies for each club and therefore it is critical you set up your ball position correctly at address. For pitching wedges and short clubs the ball should be positioned in the middle of your stance. For longer clubs the bottom is more towards the left foot. The clubface will be open if you play the club back in your stance and closed if played forward and past the bottom on the arc.
Only start your downswing when you have fully completed your upswing
Don’t attempt to start the downswing until you have completed the upswing as this can lead to open shoulders at impact. In this unfortunate position the club cuts across the ball creating a slice. Furthermore make some practice swings and assess whether your shoulders are parallel to the ball to target line at impact. Finally ensure you follow through letting your hands release naturally.