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50 Tips for Hitting Your Longest Drives Ever!

Coaching points based on science, technology, and my experiences with the worlds longest hitters.

By Steve Pratt www.hititlonger.com

50 Tips for Hitting Your Longest Drives Ever! By Steve Pratt www.hititlonger.com

Introduction In my nineteen years of experience teaching golf, I have learned that almost all golfers want to hit the ball longer. Most of them express the desire to do this without expending any more effort than they currently do. While gaining clubhead speed is a great way to increase distance, many golfers do not wish to work this hard or strenuously. In these cases, I would strive to make them more efficient - less effort, more results. There are many ways to do this, as you will see in the tips below. Luckily, I learned the science of the perfect golf swing from legendary long driver Mike Austin. Mike set a world record with a drive of 515 yards in a professional golf tournament.

Unbelievably, Mike was 64 years old at the time. Mike could hit the ball precisely at well over 150 mph of clubhead speed, achieving 400 yard bombs in the 1930's with old 'technology.'

Even in his late 70's, Dr. Austin could swing faster than Tiger Woods in his prime. This speaks highly for his technique in terms of speed, but also for longevity.

Mike lived from 1910 to 2005, and received degrees in nearly all applicable sciences. His record drives were not an accident, but the result of extreme athleticism combined with precise science. He was truly a genius, and one of the smartest men to ever walk the planet, in my opinion. Technology is finally catching up to Mike's coaching, as the Trackman Pro golf launch monitor is now on every tee on the PGA Tour, taking accurate measurements of club delivery and ball flight. So far, Trackman is backing up everything that Dr. Austin taught me back in the early 90's. Over this time span, I have developed many techniques and approaches that will help golfers at all levels hit the ball farther. I have coached some of the longest drivers on the planet - golfers who regularly hit the ball over 400 yards. The variance in size and strength of these long hitters is just further proof of Mike Austin's credo that hitting long drives, 'has little to do with size and strength, but instead supple quickness.' I have seen golfers pick up nearly 100 yards of distance in 10 minutes, while others work tirelessly for weeks to eke out a 10 yard gain. So needless to say, 'your mileage may vary.' My own educational background in Kinesiology drives me to keep up to date in the latest scientific developments in sport and golf training. Most of the tips are either scientifically proven or are based in science - physics, physiology, psychology, engineering, or motion.

The following are my 50 best tips for driving the ball longer. Longer drives, for most, means lower scores, proven scientifically. Longer drives could mean reaching all the holes in regulation. Longer drives might mean reaching par 5's in two and putting for eagles! And long drives impress your buddies and enable you to win bets with them. Oh, and the saying 'chicks dig the long ball,' - this is so true.

I hope a few of these tips strike home for you and get you where you want to go with your driving. If so, please feel free to write to me with your successes and exploits, at Steve@hititlonger.com.

50 Tips for Hitting Your Longest Drives Ever!

1. Grip the club across the base of the fingers. In the left hand (right handed golfer) it will feel quite similar to the way you hold a hammer. You will achieve the quickest, most powerful snapping of the wrists through the ball this way. The right hand will also sit at the base of the 3rd through 5th fingers, while the thumb and forefinger gently pinch the sides of the grip. Gripping in the palm greatly curtails the snapping motion we need for great clubhead speed, and furthermore interferes with our control over the squareness of the clubface.

2. Bend at the hips, not the knees. This will allow the shoulders to turn up and down on the plane that the ball is on. Swinging the torso on the proper plane will ensure the proper path into the ball and the best chance of hitting the ball solidly.

3. Narrow up the stance. Too many golfers who wish to hit longer think that a super-sized stance makes them more powerful. We do everything powerful and in balance when our feet are underneath our hips. Look at a boxer making a knockout punch. We walk and run with our feet under our hips. Keeping the feet shoulder width is a very popular mantra in golf today, and it has no basis biomechanically. Wide feet cause the bodys center of mass to get stuck in the middle, not allowing an effective weight shift and therefore reduce our sense of balance during the swing. At 62 with narrower hips, my ideal stance width on a driver is 14 inches from heel to heel. Yours may be wider or narrower, but always keep the heels under the hip bones.

4. Setup with the shoulders square to the intended line of flight with the rear shoulder slightly lower than the left. This will encourage the proper under, up, and out track of the clubhead into the ball. The best way to achieve this is to subtly push the navel ahead of the chin while kicking in the right knee. Most golfers line up with the right shoulder too high and the shoulder line open, leading to downward impact on the driver than cuts across from outside in. You will lose much distance setting up and swinging this way.

5. Take the club away low to the ground on an inside arc. To hit the ball straight, the clubhead must follow an arc to the inside, and return from the inside as well. There are no straight lines in the golf swing - only planes and arcs. Try placing a couple of tees around 24 inches behind

your teed up ball, well to the inside of the target line. Imagine this is your 'gate' that you must swing through in both directions.

6. Always strive to swing faster on the downswing, not harder. Thinking 'swing hard' often translates into an attempt to be 'strong' which in turn leads to rigid muscles. Swinging 'fast' changes the image to one of supple quickness, like when you crack a whip or swat a fly. It takes a quick explosive burst of muscle contraction to power the club down into impact. How quickly you can go from contraction to relaxation in the hands and forearms greatly influences what clubhead speed you can attain.

7. Better technique will almost always provide the most substantial gains in distance. Always strive to practice a better golf swing. I have worked with golfers who drive nearly 400 yards, who can squeeze out more yardage by making their motion more efficient. Efficiency is king. I believe that Mike Austin had the most powerful and efficient swing in history, but Nicklaus, Snead, and Nelson were not far behind. On page 15 I pasted a swing sequence of Mike Austin.

8. After technique, a comprehensive flexibility program will net you the most gains in speed and distance. Stretch all the golf muscles daily, or even twice a day, for 15 minutes. Hold the stretches for at least 30 seconds for a more permanent lengthening of the muscle. Strive for normal range of motion at all the skeletal joints. Being hyper flexible is not required to hit long, but being extremely tight muscled often leads to shorter hitting.

9. After flexibility, speed training will provide a decent boost in clubhead speed and eventually distance. Practice swinging your driver without a ball as fast as you can 5 to 10 times in a row without stopping. Purposely go beyond what feels like 'control' into 'reckless abandon.' Perform 3 or 4 sets of 5-10 swings about three times per week. You should see gains of 5-8 mph of clubhead speed in about 6 weeks. As you get closer to the elite level of clubhead speed, gains will start to diminish.

10. Weightlifting, in many cases provides only small gains in clubhead speed and golf power. Additionally, it takes weeks or months of hard work to see these gains. This is especially true at the elite level, where technique, ball contact, and supple quickness usually win. Untrained

beginners and senior golfers do get a nice benefit out of a comprehensive resistance workout program, which may also boost overall health as well! But overall lifting weights will take longer time for fewer gains compared to technique, flexibility training, and speed training.

11. Your longest drives will usually be hit under control. Smooth rhythmic tempo and balance give you your best chance of striking the ball squarely and solidly. This often trumps high clubhead speed. Watching many golfers on the Trackman launch monitor, it seems as though most golfers have only a slight difference in speed between their all-out swing and their smooth fast swing. Sacrificing 2 or 3 mph of clubhead speed can often lead to gains of up to 10 or 15 mph of ball speed through better contact and timing.

12. Swing into the ball from the inside out. The difference between swinging 5 degrees outside in and 5 degrees inside out is approximately 25 yards at 90 mph clubhead speed. Your clubhead should cross the target line through the impact zone. Most golfers are outside in, cutting across the ball. If your pattern of driving is slicing and pulling, you are most likely outside in.

13. Most golfers who swing on an outside in path do so because they don't release the clubhead with their hands, allowing the face to square up with the target line. Since they slice often with an open clubface, they start to adjust to this by swinging around to the left more (right handed golfers). Combining an inside out path with a proper release, I have seen many of my students pick up 60-80 yards in distance quickly.

14. Take a deep cleansing breath before walking into your setup position. This will relax the muscles of the body, allowing you to be suppler, and as a result, quicker.

15. Stay in motion until you finally draw the club back to swing. Standing over the ball still for more than a second or two will cause the body to tighten up and the muscles will act more rigid. Once you walk into a shot, employ at least one waggle before pulling the trigger, just to keep the body loose and the muscles responsive.

16. Allow the wrists to quickly re-cock in the early follow through. Aim to have your right forearm and club shaft form a 90 degree angle by the time the forearm reaches 2 O'clock as you look from face on. Holding a straight line between the club shaft and hands on the follow through requires rigid muscles that do not allow full and free acceleration of the clubhead.

17. Train with a lighter driver for overspeed. From cheap components at Golfsmith or online, you can build a driver that is about 10-15% lighter than your normal driver. If you swing a club with a 65 gram shaft, look for a 55 gram shaft for your training club. Even 45 gram shafts are widely available nowadays. Lighter heads are available as well - 185 grams instead of the standard 200. Add a lite grip and you have a great underweighted training club. Do your fast speed training swings with this club, and your speed will increase more rapidly. Swinging a driver upside down will not work well, as it is too light and lacks the specific balance of a real driver.

18. Train with a heavier driver for resistance. You can also build this training driver from heavier components, like an 80 gram shaft and leather wrap grip. Another great alternative is to use an old persimmon or laminated headed wood with a steel shaft to practice swinging fast with. If you don't have one in the garage, check on EBay, or at a used sporting goods store near you. Swinging two clubs or some of the heavy training clubs will not work well, because they are too heavy and not specific enough to your motor program for hitting a ball. They also greatly increase your risk of injury. I talked to a long driver several years ago who had injured

himself with a heavy training driver. After a more sensible training regimen, he won the world championship.

19. Keep your sternum centered between your feet from takeaway until the rear arm reaches horizontal on the follow through. This is the primary fulcrum in your golf swing, the center of the whole swinging system. The more centered this point is throughout the swing, the more leverage you can create, and the greater likelihood you will strike the ball in the center of the face.

20. Release from the top! Consciously trying to lag or delay the release causes most people to be late with the release. This is the number one myth ever created in the golf world. In most cases this will result in many heel hits with a slice bias. Sometimes a late releaser will learn how to flip the club over abruptly through impact to square the face, bringing a duck hook into play. Golfers who release the driver late will have a much harder time catching the ball on the upswing. Since the face of the club is often open, effectively more loft is being used, and spin rate is often excessive. Releasing on time from the top is the best way to hit the ball with a square face on the upswing. A square face will backspin the ball much less than an open face.

21. Contact the ball 5 degrees on the upswing. Trackman has shown that optimal angle of attack for the greatest distance is slightly upward. Your best chance of reaching an optimal angle of attack is to 1) have good ball position at address, 2) position the navel several inches in front of the chin at impact, creating a spine tilt of about 20 degrees, and 3) release the head of the club on time. Using a traditional left instep ball position or worse, middle of the stance will make it nearly impossible to achieve a +5 degree AoA. Trying to keep the spine vertical by limiting lateral hip motion or swaying the head towards the front foot as you shift weight into impact will also make it nearly impossible to get an optimal upward strike. The most common source of error in angle of attack is releasing the hands late. The club shaft must catch up to the left arm by the time they reach the left shoulder. Trying to delay the release of the clubhead will all but ensure you of a poor angle of attack. If you have the ball position slightly ahead of this point, you will achieve the optimal angle of attack.

22. Most swing aids sold in stores and on TV have no basis in the science of physiology or biomechanics. Save your money and steer clear of heavy clubs, power fans, or anything that doesn't resemble a real driver. They may say that they will add distance to your game, but there is no good scientific proof behind their claims. Usually any distance gains are anecdotal, or fall under the category of 'practice effect' or 'warm-up effect.'

23. Copy someone with a powerful and efficient golf swing. Watch them on TV and study their swing on the internet as often as possible. Watch the swing over and over and try to 'absorb' the timing and sensations in your own muscles and joints. I highly recommend copying the swings of Fred Couples, Payne Stewart, John Daly, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Bobby Jones, Byron Nelson, and Mike Austin. All of these golfers can be found on Youtube.com. However, it could be your local pro or just the 16 year old wonder who hits the ball out of sight at your course. The best golfers to copy are always the ones that hit the ball long with the least amount of perceivable effort, staying in rhythm and balance.

24. If you are experienced in baseball, imagine the golf swing in baseball terms. A proper golf swing will feel like hitting the baseball between first and second base with the clubface pointing at second base at impact. If you are a slicer, you may need a more radical image: Try swinging the clubhead towards first base with the clubhead pointing at third base at impact. Left handers would reverse this.

25. If you are experienced in tennis, imagine the golf swing in tennis terms. A proper golf swing will feel like hitting a slight topspin forehand a little bit cross court. If you are a slicer, you may need a more radical image: being in the corner against the doubles alley on the left side of the court (right handed player), hitting an extreme cross court topspin lob over an opponent at the net. Andre Agassi often attempted this shot.

26. The tricep on the rear arm is a key muscle for gaining great speed. Contracting it causes the elbow to go from bent to straight. The rear elbow should be bent about 90 degrees at the top of the swing. In a powerful swing, it rapidly straightens in a snapping motion as soon as the downswing starts, becoming fully extended about 30 inches past impact. The quicker you can straighten the elbow, the faster the clubhead will go.

27. Start the swing on a two foot balance. Arrive at a rear foot balance at the top of the swing, and a front foot balance at the end of the follow through. A true one foot balance can be tested by simply picking up the other foot. If you fall, you weren't on a true one foot balance. A true weight shift like this will create a wonderful brace to hit against for great power.

28. Finish your swing with your chest and belt buckle facing down the fairway. Since the rotation of the hips and torso does provide some speed, any less than this and your clubhead speed will suffer. Any more than this and you may put your lower spine, vertebral discs, and front knee at greater risk of injury. In a proper powerful golf swing, overturning the torso like the young players on TV is unnecessary in creating great clubhead speed.

29. Tee the ball up higher than usual. Since we now know the optimal angle to attack the ball is 5 degrees upwards, we will need a little extra room to get our club underneath the ball. You may need to buy a few of the higher 3 1/4" inch tees if you have a bigger modern driver.

30. Use the new golf tee technology now widely available. Tees that reduce friction are proven to allow longer drives, and can be found at nearly all golf stores now. While this may only amount to around 2 yards for the average golfer, it all adds up!

31. Tee the ball up more forward than what has been standard practice. A left heel ball position will make it more challenging to catch the ball on the upswing enough. Go ahead and move it up to the big toe or even the middle toe of your front foot.

32. Get fitted properly for a driver. If you get fitted by someone at a golf supermarket while hitting into a net will be hit or miss, most likely miss. The best way to get fit is on a Trackman golf launch monitor outdoors with a pro who is knowledgeable with the machine, the equipment, and the new ball flight laws. Just like an auto mechanic, find a fitter who you trust, and stick with him/her. I have personally seen golfers gain up to 35 yards of distance immediately when switching to a properly fit driver. In my experience I would estimate that

nearly all golfers would pick up between 10 and 25 yards by being optimally fitted for their swing.

33. A new swing will require a new driver. Be open to this. Once you are hitting from the inside, and upwards into the ball, you may be launching it too high with too much backspin. An efficient golf swing often requires a lower lofted club with a stiffer shaft to see the greatest benefits of your new techniques.

34. Most of the major golf club companies produce drivers that help the average golfer get the ball up in the air. They do this by playing with how they weight the head and the overall center of gravity. Better golfers and powerful swingers generally don't need this help. Instead, they need help keeping the ball down. The drivers of the major companies often have too much loft, and proper lofts for better players are not widely available. If you would like to hit long drives, you may need to ditch the major companies for companies that specialize in long drive equipment.

35. While the 'hotness' of today's driver clubface has been capped at a COR (coefficient of restitution) of .83, shafts have not yet been restricted by the rules of golf. Although aftermarket shaft upgrades can be expensive, some have been proven to more efficiently kick the clubhead into the ball, creating more speed. Additionally, better quality shafts have lower degrees of torque, or how much the shaft twists as it comes into the ball. Indeed, shafts can also add accuracy to your game as well as more distance. If you are looking to take advantage in every way, seriously consider a better shaft than often comes standard stock with a driver.

36. Teeing the ball up on the correct side of the tee box is one subtle way to gain distance on some holes. If a hole doglegs to the left, for example, you probably want to tee up on the extreme right hand side of the tee box to straighten out the hole a bit. This will give a straight drive the best chance of finding the fairway and getting a good roll. Also, if your drive normally curves, favor the side of the tee box that it curves towards. This would be the right hand side for a right handed golfer whose drive commonly curves left-to-right.

37. Mental imagery can be very powerful. Practice visualizing hitting your best drive on your favorite hole. Imagine as much detail as you possibly can, down to the chirping of the birds and the swaying of the trees. See the flight of the ball, rocketing past your all time record and bouncing down the fairway. When you get up on the tee, recall this imagery and let your body absorb the sensations of that daydream.

38. Clubhead speed is not everything. Just because one golfer can swing much faster than another does not mean he will outdrive the other. Instead, focus on creating faster ball speed with a properly timed solid strike that launches and spins optimally for the best carry and roll. You may be able to keep right up with that 'long knocker' with your smooth swing. Ive seen this happen at the highest levels of long drive. Find a Trackman in your area to practice on, as it will be able to tell you how efficiently you are hitting.

39. Find an empty football field, park, or open space. Make sure no one is around. Take an old club that you can afford to lose or break. Practice throwing it as far as you can, making it fly end over end like a helicopter. A football field works great because you can measure your record distance and strive to break it. You will notice that you will have the urge to throw the club upwards to get the most distance. This is the feeling we want while hitting a golf ball as well - hitting up.

40. The movement of the navel is the key to an efficient weight shift. For the best shift of weight, the navel should swing back to the big toe of the rear foot at the top of the swing, and then over to the big toe of the front foot by the time you reach impact. If you can do this while keeping the head centered, you will create additional leverage for longer drives.

41. Choose a golf ball that best matches your swing speed. Nowadays we have technology to maximize distance for everyone. Just because the players on TV play a certain ball, doesn't mean that it fits you. There are now golf balls that respond more efficiently to a medium or slower speed swing. If you are an average golfer, you will get more distance out of these models than you would from a tour type ball. Tour model golf balls are generally made for golfers swinging over 105 mph and up. They have multiple layers and a golfer must compress these layers to reach the harder inner core. If you don't have the speed to reach the core, the ball will not respond properly, and you will lose distance.

42. Every golfer has an optimal launch angle that will give them the most distance. Too high and you will lose roll. Too low and you will lose carry. The faster you swing, the lower your optimal launch angle will be. For example, a golfer swinging 80 mph may require a launch angle of 15 or 16 degrees to get the most distance out of their drives. A golfer swinging at 130 mph needs a launch angle closer to 9 to 11 degrees to achieve their longest hits. If you have no access to technology, a good rule of thumb is a medium to medium high drive visually is best for long distance.

43. Optimal launch angle for your longest drive will also depend on wind and ground conditions. Hard ground, associated with hotter dry climates can be taken advantage of by hitting slightly lower drives as the ball will roll a long ways. To adjust for this type of drive, either switch to a lower lofted driver, or move the ball position slightly back to create, in effect, a lower lofted driver. Reverse these instructions for tailwind or softer ground.

44. Rate of backspin is crucial for hitting your longest drives. Too much backspin is often the bane of long drivers, as the ball will balloon up in the air and drop to the ground steeply without much roll. Too little backspin and your ball will knuckle, tumbling through the air and not getting enough carry. The faster you swing the less backspin you need. For example, an 80 mph clubhead speed may require 4000 rpm of backspin to create distance. A 130 mph swinger will hit his longest drive with a spin rate of 1800 rpm. The best way to find out your average spin rate is to hit on a Trackman golf launch monitor outdoors. Except for high speed video (which is the gold standard), other methods fall well short in reporting backspin with reliability. Achieving the right rate of backspin is both a function of proper technique and well fit equipment. Optimizing backspin rate can improve your distance as much as 30 yards or more all by itself.

45. Do NOT stretch immediately before teeing off as stretching dulls the explosive response of muscles for a period of time. To prepare for your longest drives, instead warm up the body with movement similar to the golf swing - trunk twists, warm up swings, sidearm throws, etc. Develop and follow a consistent warm-up routine, and allow time enough before you tee off to perform it without rushing.

46. A body that is warmed up properly will always respond more powerfully to one that is cold. Muscles are a bit like rubber bands - the warmer they are, the more elastic they become. Cold rubber bands, like muscles, stretch less and are apt to snap or tear. A good rule of thumb for being warmed up for best athletic performance is if you are breaking a sweat. Basketball players and boxers already have beads of sweat on their foreheads when their contests begin so should you if you wish to hit your longest drives. Obviously, proper clothing plays a key role in warming up and retaining heat. Light layers do well to retain heat. On colder days, go with function over form - that knit ski cap may not be fashionable on a golf course, but it will sure keep you warm!

47. Clubhead speed is ultimately a function of how well you can whirl, whip, or snap the clubhead around the wrists freely and supply. Most of the speed in a good golf swing is generated by the wrists and forearms, not the shifting and turning of the torso. This is easily proved by seeing how fast you can swing standing on one leg without rotating the body. Quick and supple hands are the key, combined with moderate rotation of the torso. Practice getting your snap looser and quicker every day.

48. Trying to consciously control the head or face of the club is total folly. The club moves much faster than the eyes and conscious brain can keep up with, and trying to keep up with it will just slow you down. The more you can feel a loss of control in your downswing, the more control you will actually have as your turn the swing over the gravity and centrifugal force. Your fastest swing will be the product of a reflex action, like automatic pilot. The less thinking you do the better.

49. Finish your swing completely up on the toe of your rear foot. Many golfers I coach never get off their rear instep. Fully on the toe, our foot can only support 5 to 10 pounds of force before the toes feel ready to break. Finishing a golf swing with the toe in this position ensures that the abundance of your body weight has been transferred over to the front foot. Comparatively, I can stand with all my body weight on one instep - not necessarily in balance, but definitely supported. Finishing with your rear foot in this position cannot guarantee that you have shifted weight properly.

50. Practice and play in good golf shoes. Many types of shoes that I have seen golfers play and practice in do not have enough support for proper footwork. Tennis shoes, sandals, and even the lower end 'comfort' type golf spikes can create poor patterns of weight transfer and not allow you to hit your longest drives. Nowadays, it is challenging to find a golf shoe that is both comfortable and supportive. Generally you will have to pay a little more. You are looking for a style of shoe that you cannot easily fold in half with your hands. It should be on the stiffer side. Shoes with good support and stiffness will allow you to freely roll up onto the rear toe for a complete weight shift every time.

Bonus Tip #1: You will hit your longest drives at an optimal state of physical arousal. Not pumped up enough and you will not be explosive enough to hit your longest. Too pumped up and you will make tense, overly fast swings that aren't in proper rhythm. Physical arousal can be controlled by breathing, self-talk, and mental imagery. Top athletes in every sport have learned to control their state of arousal. It may vary for certain tasks within the same sport for example, a free throw in basketball or a putt in golf. To perform your best, either in long drive, or golf, you must learn how to achieve and adjust your state of physical arousal. For most this takes years of practice, as it must become an automatic reflex at the time of performance rather than a conscious task.

Bonus Tip #2: When you step to the tee, you will perform you best if you get yourself locked into your target with a very narrow focus. The smaller the target to focus on, the keener you will lock on. Pick out a patch of discolored grass, or a tree in the distance. Clear your brain from all unnecessary conscious thought. Picture the ball flying and landing on the target, in third person, then step up and do it.

I hope you enjoyed reading my top 50 tips for hitting your longest drives, please feel free to email me with your comments and questions at Steve@hititlonger.com. Also feel free to visit www.hititlonger.com for the latest in news, equipment reviews, swing analyses, and more helpful tips!