Driving Consistency

Driving is such an important part of the game. The research into statistics show that it is even more important than we first thought – and the old adage of “drive for show, putt for dough” was false.

Who doesn’t want to drive the ball longer AND straighter? How about more being more consistent with the big stick?

While achieving all of the above may sound like a pipe dream, there is actually one simple way that will get you closer. Improving your face strike.

Distance

While most amateurs believe that going to the gym to improve their swing speed is the only way to increase distance (it can help, for sure), it would take a hell of a lot of work (plus responsive genetics) to pick up 10mph or more of clubhead speed.

Luckily, I see that the vast majority of amateurs are leaving a boatload of ball speed on the table simply by having a poor strike efficiency. We measure this by a parameter called “Smash Factor” (Ball speed / clubhead speed).

Many amateurs I measure have smash factors of around 1.35-1.4. Compare this to a fully efficient strike of 1.5 and we can see that an amateur might be leaking 15 points – equivalent of around 23 yards!!!

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Striking here will kill your distance – yet many amateurs are not even aware they are doing it!

Also, many amateurs hit out of the heel of the club (due to a concept called diagonal strike). The heel of the club is not only moving slower than the rest of the clubhead (due to the fact the clubhead is rotating through impact), but it also tends to increase spin rate, as well as launching it lower and with more slice-action.

This is a recipe for much shorter drives – easily rectified by an improvement in strike quality.

Direction

During a lesson, when an amateur hits a wildly offline shot with their big-dog, they often report that they “came over the top”, or some phrase that signifies they made a completely different swing.

However, when I show them the video of their swing, we often see an almost identical movement between the good drive and the offline shot.

In a lot of cases, a player has simply struck a different part of the clubface. Due to the modern clubs being so big, something called “gear effect” is maximized, and the ball can toe-hook, or heel-slice.

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While a lot of amateurs may try to fix their offline shot by changing their gross movement pattern, the answer may simply have been in the quality of strike – something less apparent on a video, but something we can certainly improve via skill drills, better conceptual understanding, and better awareness.

Consistency

When we are constantly hitting different parts of the face, results can get inconsistent – even if what WE are doing is consistent (or consistently poor).

For example, I have seen players with a consistent heel/toe biased face strike pattern who can create every shot conceivable, depending on how far offline their strike bias creeps.

Once again, the answer to consistency is often via improvements in strike quality – but there is more to it than that. The type of thoughts we have as we are performing the golf swing will have a dramatic effect on our ability to strike the face consistently. This is known as Locus of Attention, and I describe it in-depth in The Practice Manual.

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Our thoughts can have a dramatic effect on coordination – improving it or reducing it.

 

Much of the science shows (and thousands of hours of coaching experience informs me that) external focuses improve our coordination and consistency more than internal focuses. For example, focusing more on where you strike on the face can improve consistency more than focusing on your shoulder turn, for example.

This is not always the case – there are many examples of players who perform better with a technical cue. I describe in The Practice Manual how to determine the best focus for your game based on a simple testing procedure.

How far can you hit it?

I wasn’t blessed with genetics for speed – I was always slow in races, and 14-year-old girls can throw a golf ball farther than me. Through years of training, my swing speed is around 100-106 mph, which is very low for a professional golfer (they average 115mph on tour).

However, due to improvements in strike quality, and a highly efficient launch and spin rate (which is also affected by strike location), I am able to keep up with them. In fact, with a measly 102mph average, I can still fly the driver over 270 yards, topping out over 290 (and sometimes 300).

I say this to give you all hope. Not everyone will have the clubhead speed of a tour pro, but almost everyone can improve their distances.

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Driving is certainly the best part of my game, and I have made it this way by a dedicated focus on strike quality. I know that Mark is also an advocate of players placing more attention on improving this single variable – and rightly so.

Find out more

Adam is the author of the international best-selling golf book “The Practice Manual”, and creator of The Strike Plan. To find out more about how to improve your strike quality, visit www.AdamYoungGolf.com/The-strike-plan

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19 comments on “Driving Consistency

  • John Holmes says:

    i’m 6’2″ nearly 17 stone and should be able to generate speed which happends infrequently. Much is I think trying to drive too much power that starts thye right hand side of the body moving too quickly and altering the flow of the swing from the get go to an out to in path. a more steady initiation of the swing process typically works better but feels as if always doing thye shot injustice. Most of this is in the mind and getting advice on a good swing mechanism that can be practiced to overcome the emotikon of the game will help tremendously.

    Reply
  • Johnboy250 says:

    Great book, learned a lot about face to path and impact on ball direction etc.
    When I’m striking the ball well ,it goes up to 260 up the middle but when I’m heel striking it’s more like 220 and all over the palce .
    I bought the face tape from the States, tried the footspray, but personally I prefer using a rymans white board marker- just put a dot on the ball before you hit it on the range- and I think you can mark your ball before you start on the course (is this true)?
    If you don’t hit 2-3 X week and keep checking it – strike does wander- mine always goes back towards heel.
    the book made me think about and practice draw and fades, great for going around that tree.

    Reply
  • @Mark Please have Adam back for more articles. As someone who has watched a truly embarrassing amount of your vlogs and instructional videos AND who has read Adam’s book and returned to it often, I’m stoked to see you guys link up here. Great stuff, all of it. Keep it up. #cheersbruhs

    Reply
  • Martin short says:

    Mark, what advice could you offer me? I have a cack handed grip so a lot of club pros will not entertain giving me solid advice. I suffer from fading the ball, not quite a big slice but a big fade, I am counteracting this by aiming left but not always possible on some a lot of holes. I know I am hitting toward the heel which creates the fade and losing distance but on an average round I am hitting at least 5 drives well over 300, this is not a boast, simply factual figures and would love to be able to control this to create more consistent drives and possibly more distance. Please help!

    Reply
  • Paul Thomas says:

    I have always hit the ball off the heel with driver and suffered from shanks for years even though I play off 8 handicap. I recently noticed that my head was moving towards the golf ball (about 4″) during the backswing. I think this is due to my left knee bending too much towards the ball with a slight reverse pivot. I’ve seen a lot of instruction about head movement up and down or back and forth on the target line but no instruction covering the head moving towards or away from the golf ball. This may be something you could cover on one of your videos as it might help with getting centre face strikes?

    Reply
  • Strike in my opinion is king many variables involved in good striking. Getting a good strike is even more important with today’s technology. Played three days ago and averaged 235 yards with about an 85 mile an hour swing speed but almost all were hit on the up swing an hit the club face fractionally high middle towards toe. Played today and could not get my body to respond and for some reason kept hitting low heel shots absolutely dismal game score suffered tremendously so I say yes driving is in fact very important and as Mark talks about a lot knowing about strike and where it’s happening is one of the biggest keys.
    Thanks Mark for all your video matches, instructional and all others
    It has brought laughter and joy to my family who by the way all golf.
    Cheers Bro keep up the good work.

    Reply
  • I have had this achilles heel problem for a long time. I seem to lose all feel with the big head. Put a low lofted hybrid in my hand and it feels like an iron. I can sense the weight in my hands. Driver though I could hit one 270 then 200 then 245. Such a huge spread in flight and distance. I certainly feel that strike quality is the issue not swing mechanics especially when I get consistent iron and hybrid distances.
    Something I perhaps need to teach my brain to learn where the sweet spot is.

    Reply
  • Ray Endacott says:

    Hi Mark, l am interested how I would change my strike pattern from heel to centre/ toe area. Just the basics, I am a 15 handicapper, but was a good 12. I am very confused after having many pts lessons at my local club but have not covered this aspect!

    I would really appreciate a coaching lesson with you and will travel from Hertfordshire to do so regardless of the wait or costs etc before I throw the towel in ??cheers Ray

    Reply
  • Hello Mark, Big Fan.
    Inconsistent driver with my big miss is a banana slice, but irons and 3 wood straight to slight fade.
    I strike my irons pretty well.
    Currently have a SLDR driver with 9.5 degree loft.
    Can I help my slice if I get a driver with a higher loft?

    Reply
  • Hi Mark,

    I’ve been playing over 51 years and have a handicap of 8. I’ve always had a problem with heel strikes with the driver and shanks or slightly thin shots with irons. I’ve now solved this at last:- At the start of my downswing, my weight was moving towards my left toes (attempting to “bump” my hips towards target) with my left knee vertically above my left toe at impact (collapsy left leg). This literally blocked my hips from turning and caused the club to move to much in to out causing pushes and shanks. The solution was to get to the top of the backswing and focus on moving my weight towards my left heel before swinging down. This allows the hips to naturally turn out of the way and a much squarer swing path and better ball strikes.

    Reply
  • Edward Baker says:

    Hi. Please can I enquire about costs and availability for lessons with Mark
    Ideal looking to come down for 2-3 sessions each for half a day (3-5 hours perhaps)

    Reply
  • BRIAN BARRETT. Almouj Golf. Muscat, Oman says:

    Hi Mark,
    In Jan 2014 at Teignmouth Golf Centre you were giving Matt a coaching session on his driving. The aim was to give him a higher ball flight with less shots going off to the right. You showed him the method or ‘feeling’ he should have to get better extension from the top of the swing.Yesterday, I watched the video three or four time & tried it today on the range. It works ! Straight away I got a higher & better ball flight. Not all shots were spot on but, this is work in progress. Would it be good to use this ‘feeling’ for my irons also ?
    A few years ago I had a couple of lessons with you at Clifton Hill …never been the same since…
    Also bought Cleveland RTX wedges from you…love them. Thanks for all the videos tips etc. during the past few years. You deserve the success !!!

    Reply
  • Hi Mark, I watched your latest video lesson regarding the left shoulder up and left and decided to try it on the range this morning. My normal shot is a slight fade but I found using this technique I was pulling straight left maybe 15/20 metres. Within 20 shots I had corrected this and went on the course to see if it was possible to replicate. Thankfully it was and I shot a very good score on 9 holes. Thanks so much for your insight and keep up the good work. Please don’t forget you are welcome to visit us here in Poland any time you like, and I will ensure you have courtesy of the course. Sand Valley Golf Club is exceedingly difficult from the back tees!

    Reply
  • The problem most golfers have is not a lack of information about how to hit further, nor is it a lack of proper equipment, the reason most golfers his the distance they do is because their training to gain distance involves swinging pretty hard at a bucket of balls and thinking they found a secret.

    As the article says correcting a poor strike is the fastest way to pick up yards, but to push the parameters of your swing towards longer maximum drives you need to gain speed, it is not actually that hard if you are an average hitting golfer and you COMMIT to swinging faster.

    I would highly recommend THE LONGDRIVE BIBLE by Sean Fister (You can find it on Amazon).

    I am under 6 foot tall (Just) and at my fastest I could swing a 48 inch driver at 141mph on a Trackman. It was not by accident, yes i was blessed with good distance to begin, but i added a full 15mph to my swing speed, which is 40 to 45 yards over a period of around 20 months
    (Kept a diary, yup i am quite focused!) 141mph was the fastest I ever got to, on other devices stupidly high readings over 150mph were a regular occurrence, but most of these readings are juiced to some degree, i was never even close to that!

    You want power? Buy that book and thank me later

    Or THANK ME NOW, visit my site by clicking and win free golf

    Reply
  • Hi Mark
    I saw a clip from Mr Rick S (sorry) about miss hits with the driver followed up with some dry ball data from each shot and was horrified by the lack of carry, 25% to 30% in some cases, especially as in my eyes the shots still looked fairly centred (maybe 10-15 mm towards the hell or toe)
    Can you please do some testing with a selection of todays top drivers and concentrate on the miss hit data rather than the good strikes, i think it will really get the message home on STRIKE is KING and how narrow the sweet spot really is
    Mike G

    Reply

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