The older you get, the more you need to make the ball run for you off the tee, to eke out those few extra yards. The key is to shape your tee-shots with a raking draw. Let me show you how I flight the ball with a piercing right-to-left shape with the driver.
The secret is in the set-up
Standing with your feet more or less square to the line of your target is, of course, the way to play the majority of your full shots. But with the driver (and when going for maximum distance, with the fairway woods), I often set up to the ball with my stance slightly closed - i.e. with my feet pointing slightly to the right of my target. I take care to aim the club face down the middle of the fairway, and also try to maintain square alignment with my shoulders, but my feet, as you can see, point to the right of centre.
Turning inside the line
...and here's the proof. As my upper body turns on the target, and my weight flows across on to my right side, notice the way in which the club is drawn inside the ball-to-target line (below). This happens naturally, without you having to think about it. Once you have created a slightly closed stance, all you have to think about is swinging on the line of your toes, and completing a full coil of the upper body.
At the same time, look at how easily (and how comfortably) the left shoulder is turning under the chin as my upper body turns away from the target. This winding up of the upper body over the hips and legs is a terrific source of power. I don't think much about the wrist action; as long as you have a good grip and maintain a light pressure in the fingers, the wrists will hinge correctly in their own good time to set the club on a good back swing plane.
Above all, I find that the slightly closed stance serves to enhance my hip and leg action which, in turn assists the rotary motion of the upper body. I am conscious of the fact that my left heel rises an inch or so as I make my back swing; that little 'lift' enables me to get fully
coiled behind the ball.
Get across the line at the top
As a result of the slightly closed set-up position - and the fact that I have made a full turn into my right side -you will notice that I have swung the club 'across the line' at the top (i.e. the shaft is now pointing to the right of my target, just like the line across my toes). From here I feel that I am on track to attack the ball from the inside, and as a result hit a low, raking draw - so long as I trust the mechanics of my swing and release the club head with total commitment.
Starting down: Let your arms and the club fall into the hitting position
Looking at the swing from this angle highlights the simplicity of the transition, the all-important movement at the start of the downswing. If I am asked to describe the feeling of the transition, I explain it in terms of the arms and the club falling into the slot. As I near the top of my swing (and keep in mind that you don't have to reach parallel to hit the ball a long way), my left heel has risen and my weight is on my right side.
Then, as I reverse my momentum, the left heel is replanted on the ground and my weight shifts back towards the target, which triggers the downswing. The reverse in the momentum invites the arms and the hands to shallow the plane of the swing quite noticeably, and in that split-second the outcome of the shot is decided.
Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine
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