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Re-Examining Advice: Hitting Up with the Driver  

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 

If you've been around golf you hear the advice to hit up on your driver. One of the magazines did a recent article on it, too, and talked about how hitting up on your driver can add 732 yards or whatever to your tee shots.

Yet the majority of PGA Tour golfers hit the golf ball with their drivers coming into the ball flat or on a slight (typically 1-3 but 4 to 5 degrees maximum) downward angle. Very few hit up on it as much as the magazine article wanted you to do (five degrees IIRC).

PGA Tour players depend on their golf games for millions (or tens or hundreds of thousands) of dollars - so perhaps there's something to it? I think this is one of those "old" pieces of advice that I think has had its day and needs to be re-examined.

I think the old "stay behind it" and "hit up on it" leads to bad things in the golf swing. The only real way to hit up on the driver is for the left arm - which I think we can all agree should be reasonably straight at impact - to be behind the golf ball at impact. If it's even with the golf ball you get a flat approach into the ball. If your left shoulder is slightly in front of the ball at impact, you're hitting down on it a little. To hit up on it five degrees the ball would have to be several inches outside of your left shoulder.

OK, so you're thinking "But I want high launch and low spin, right?" Sure. But you can get that with a level or very slightly downward strike of the golf ball. The primary determinant of spin on a driver is not angle of attack, but rather effective loft at impact. Your wedge will still spin a lot more than your driver even if you tee it up and swing up on it five degrees... So why add loft to your driver by swinging up at the ball? A 9° driver swung up five degrees becomes a 14° driver as far as launch goes. Sure, you've got your high launch, but not necessarily low spin.

The thought of hitting up on the driver can cause all sorts of problems. It can cause your upper body (your left shoulder) to fall back throughout the downswing. It can cause you to flip at the ball. It can cause other problems too.

I do think hitting up on the ball can undoubtedly help some people, but these are people who need more launch angle and are too stubborn to go buy the 12.5° with the senior flex shaft that their 78 MPH swing speed says they should have. And I'm only being slightly sarcastic there...

So I think it's time to drop the thought of "hitting up" on your driver. Worst case, re-examine the issue on your own. Discuss it here.

post #2 of 45
Thread Starter 

Re: Re-Examining Advice: Hitting Up with the Driver

BTW, http://www.butchharmondubai.com/blog...2f2%2fAdam.pdf clearly shows Adam Scott's attack angle into the ball as -0.7, -3.4, -2.5, -2.9, and -4.2 degrees. Average of -2.7. Now, Adam's got some issues in his swing, but his attack angle isn't one of the things he's working to fix.
post #3 of 45

Re: Re-Examining Advice: Hitting Up with the Driver

 
Originally Posted by iacas View Post
BTW, http://www.butchharmondubai.com/blog...2f2%2fAdam.pdf clearly shows Adam Scott's attack angle into the ball as -0.7, -3.4, -2.5, -2.9, and -4.2 degrees. Average of -2.7. Now, Adam's got some issues in his swing, but his attack angle isn't one of the things he's working to fix.


Bubba Watson, J.B. Holmes, Dustin Johnson, Brett Wetterich, Robert Garrigus. They all hit pretty level. They're not +5 or 6. They're the longest guys on the PGA Tour.

The trick to hitting good drivers is to combine hitting the ball flat or with a slightly downward angle of attack along with what the S&T people are calling "pouncing" or jumping. It's almost a literal jump except your feet don't leave the ground (though they can - think back to video of Tiger when he was longer and his left and right feet would literally be off the ground at impact).

post #4 of 45

Re: Re-Examining Advice: Hitting Up with the Driver

I agree with this 100%. When you see a Long Drive competitor tee the ball up to the point where the ball is almost completely above the head of the driver, it appears they are going to try and catch the ball on the up swing. But this does not happen. Instead, their hands are so far in front of their body at impact, the club head is well above the ground and the sweet spot is level with the ball. They may think and feel they are hitting up on the ball, but they are hitting it quite level.
post #5 of 45

Re: Re-Examining Advice: Hitting Up with the Driver

Is this train of thought a holdover from the days when a tour driver had 7.5* of loft and was made of wood?

Or maybe it's because great drivers like Greg Norman (greatest all around driver for a period of time) recommended teeing the ball way up when using a driver (ahead in the stance and high off the ground) and hitting the ball with an ascending blow. If we looked at some video, I wonder how much of that advice was really what he did at impact* - or was it more of a swingthought. I tried Greg's technique (or at least, his advice) a few times without much success. A level or very slightly descending swing has always produced more consistent results.




* I read somwhere that Ben Hogan described his weight distribution during the swing as up to 80% on one foot or the other. In fact it was much closer to 50:50 (I read that somewhere too, but I digress).
post #6 of 45
Thread Starter 

Re: Re-Examining Advice: Hitting Up with the Driver

Originally Posted by sean_miller View Post
Is this train of thought a holdover from the days when a tour driver had 7.5* of loft and was made of wood?
It may be. It may also be the simplest fix dumb golf instructors have found for students who are hitting low pull-slices. If you think swing path determines the initial starting direction of the ball, that applies to loft, too. Those golfers are hitting low pull-slices because the clubface is closed relative to the target, which is de-lofted.

So Dumb Golf Instructor sees a guy hitting these low slices and says "swing up at it." The student tries by flipping at it or whatever and the ball goes higher. Then they move on and try to fix something else while likely having caused more problems by "fixing" the first thing.

Originally Posted by sean_miller View Post
If we looked at some video, I wonder how much of that advice was really what he did at impact*
The more I study the golf swing the more I realize how far off a lot of pros are in what they think they do. Phil Mickelson thinks he hits up at the driver. I can't find the clip I thought I remembered seeing but this one works too:



(Oddly, I wonder if Butch copied the names from that URL... and plumdog69 is Andy Plummer...).
post #7 of 45
Originally Posted by iacas View Post
I don't really want to get into it - it's off-topic (I'll start another topic on this), but that's simply not true. I didn't use Tiger as an example, but if you want one, here: Sergio strikes down with his driver and he's one of the best drivers out there. Note that Sergio will often scuff the turf in front of his tee when he's driving the ball well, and you'd have to hit down on the driver slightly as low as he tees the ball or he'd be drop-kicking every other tee shot. His tee height keeps gets lower as his driving improves.
OK. What is your point? To be right? That you can have a slightly decending strike with the driver and be a good driver of the ball. I would say most who have high handicaps usually breaks there tee every drive, is way too steep and drives the ball like S**t. The only thing that matter to be a good driver of the ball is speed and a pure strike? That just isn't true. I know from personal experience, all my golf knowledge that I have acquired to carry the ball as far as possible you want to launch it pretty high with minimal spin. If you have tour ball speed then around 12-13 and 3000-4000 RPM. To tell people in this forum it doesn't matter it you hit down on the ball with the driver is ok isn't good advice.

I have personal experience with this myself. My main golfing buddy is an ex pro baseball player, very strong, been fit at the Taylormade institute down at Reynold's Planation, swings right at 112 MPH with a driver. I have also been measured and I swing my driver right at 105. I consistantly drive the ball the same distance as him. He suffers from hitting the ball too high dispite using 1 degree less loft and constantly doesn't get his potential distance. I have worked hard on having a very level swing or slightly ascending strike and have good launch conditions. We both hit it right around 260 under normal conditions, good swings, good balls. Tell me why he isn't hitting it farther. With the swing speed he has he should be flying it at least 15 yards longer than he is.

Maybe I blind, retarded, I don't know, but to you it looks like phil is hitting down on that? I watched it 3 times and the club reaches its low point before impact. That sure didn't seem to be a "downward" strike.
post #8 of 45
Thread Starter 

Re: Re-Examining Advice: Hitting Up with the Driver

Originally Posted by Leftygolfer View Post
OK. What is your point? To be right? That you can have a slightly decending strike with the driver and be a good driver of the ball.
Calm down. My "point" is just what I've stated: that you don't need to and that it may even be detrimental to try to hit the ball on the upswing. My "point" is that I'm trying to help people by having a discussion and learning.

Originally Posted by Leftygolfer View Post
I would say most who have high handicaps usually breaks there tee every drive, is way too steep and drives the ball like S**t.
I don' t mean this to sound rude, so please don't read that into it: what you "would say" is fairly irrelevant. The science and what we see from the best players in the world matters more to me than what you "would say." Admittedly we're on the threshold of "fact" vs. "opinion" here, but I think we're leaning far more towards this being a discussion in which facts can take center stage.

I'm not relying on my recollections of the people I've seen hitting golf balls, and I'd ask that you not either.

Originally Posted by Leftygolfer View Post
The only thing that matter to be a good driver of the ball is speed and a pure strike? That just isn't true.
Nobody's said that??

Originally Posted by Leftygolfer View Post
I know from personal experience, all my golf knowledge that I have acquired to carry the ball as far as possible you want to launch it pretty high with minimal spin.
And, as I said, adding loft is the easiest way to add spin.

And "minimal" has a range. Hit a ball with 100 RPM and the ball's not going very far at all.

Originally Posted by Leftygolfer View Post
To tell people in this forum it doesn't matter it you hit down on the ball with the driver is ok isn't good advice.
It is okay. In fact, if we look at what the majority of PGA Tour players do, it's actually better.

Originally Posted by Leftygolfer View Post
Tell me why he isn't hitting it farther.
Huh? There are twelve other things going on. You're not hitting it just as far as he is with only two changes: positive angle of attack and 7 MPH less clubhead speed. There are a dozen other things different between the two of you.

Originally Posted by Leftygolfer View Post
Maybe I blind, retarded, I don't know, but to you it looks like phil is hitting down on that? I watched it 3 times and the club reaches its low point before impact. That sure didn't seem to be a "downward" strike.
It's downward. Just a degree or so, but he clips the grass after the ball. Plus, y'know, it was posted by "Hit Down Dammit!"
post #9 of 45

Re: Re-Examining Advice: Hitting Up with the Driver

Originally Posted by Leftygolfer View Post
Maybe I blind, retarded, I don't know, but to you it looks like phil is hitting down on that? I watched it 3 times and the club reaches its low point before impact. That sure didn't seem to be a "downward" strike.
I think it's after impact. As I see it....

Impact:


Launch:


Bottom (the ball is gone and the club head is going through the turf...which it wasn't at impact):
post #10 of 45

Re: Re-Examining Advice: Hitting Up with the Driver

How does this affect the overall flight of the ball ?
When I'm hitting my driver well, I usually have 2 overall ball flights (or what I'm able to see).
1) My ball goes out about 1/3 of the way (piercing), then seems to rise and peak, then come down.
2) The ball just seems to go straight to the peak (without the rise) and then comes down.

Does this suggest that I'm hitting slightly down or level in scenario 1 and slightly ascending in scenario 2 ?
post #11 of 45

Re: Re-Examining Advice: Hitting Up with the Driver

Originally Posted by iacas View Post
To hit up on it five degrees the ball would have to be several inches outside of your left shoulder.
Thank you!!! I had a long discussion with a salesman at my local who tried to tell me that by hitting up on the ball I'd decrease my spin. I'm looking at my ball position thinking, "WTF guy, should I cast the clubhead through or what?" I think my numbers were about -3 degrees at impact or something similar...

While I realize that decreasing spin is key to maximizing distance (to a point), I have always wondered about how to truly "hit up" on the ball with any reliability...
post #12 of 45

Re: Re-Examining Advice: Hitting Up with the Driver

Really...To much spin wouldn't cost you 20 yards with the driver?? I don't feel like researching. There has to be test out there with launch conditions and carry yardages.

Every magizine and article in the entire golf world is wrong. The eternal golf wizard mr erik knows the truth. Hitting down on the ball is a great way to hit drivers. I guess I will play the driver in the middle of the stance and try to take a divot.

I know what a good flight looks like and I already have one playing it off my right foot and "trying" to hit it just past the low point in my swing. Do I know with 100% that I hit the ball with an ascending strike. No, I know what I try to do and when I do it well I drive it very well for my skill level and get good distance for my swing speed.

If that is the example you got of show how the pros hitting down is a good idea you need better proof. That was almost perfectly level through the ball. The face of the club is pretty much on the turf before the ball is gone, preimpact. The second frame posted is impact, not the frame before.

You should play with some poor players. I do all the time when I add on to groups. Watch them hit driver. It is a fact that a big problem is getting to steep with the driver for less skilled players. Watch them come over the top, hit these horrid high weak slices. They are coming into it too steep along with not from the inside.

Have great weekend,

Brian
post #13 of 45

Re: Re-Examining Advice: Hitting Up with the Driver

All I can say is that when I try to hit up on the ball, one of two things happens. Either I hit a pull slice, or I hit a straight pull or pull hook the ball. I have never been able to hit a straight drive when I'm trying to make contact on the ascent. I hit my good drives with a descending blow and I don't break tees. That seems to fly in the face of Lefty's theory.

That may be why I'm also quite good at hitting driver off the deck. No way you can hit an ascending blow from the fairway.
post #14 of 45
Thread Starter 

Re: Re-Examining Advice: Hitting Up with the Driver

Originally Posted by Scott_K View Post
Does this suggest that I'm hitting slightly down or level in scenario 1 and slightly ascending in scenario 2 ?
We can't really say. Could be your timing that day and how the shaft is loading, could be the temperature, could be the ball you're using... or any combination of those and ten other things.

Originally Posted by upah View Post
I think my numbers were about -3 degrees at impact or something similar...
Those are probably pretty good. If anything you might want to shave a degree off that, but a degree is an awful small amount. If you feel differently the next day it might change by two, y'know?

Originally Posted by upah View Post
While I realize that decreasing spin is key to maximizing distance (to a point), I have always wondered about how to truly "hit up" on the ball with any reliability...
Yeah, I don't think people realize that hitting up increases spin because it increases loft.

Think of that one this way: a club with 0 degrees of loft swinging into a ball perfectly level will have no spin. A driver 10 degrees of loft, a vertical shaft, and a perfectly level impact will have 10 degrees of spin. Lean the shaft forward so you can swing up into the ball and now you have a strike of - let's say - +4 degrees but your driver loft is 10 degrees. Best case you're not changing the spin at all. Worst case the driver is ascending less than the loft is increasing, so you're adding spin. The only way to reduce spin is to get closer to 0 degrees. You can do that one of two ways (using the same driver): a) lean the shaft forward so that your 10 degree driver becomes 9 or 8 degrees, or b) swing up more than you add loft to the face. Good luck with b!!

Here's another video showing Phil hitting down better than the other video:



I hesitate to use Phil because he has twenty other things wrong in his golf swing, but he's pretty typical of PGA Tour players in hitting down with the driver.

Now, as to WHY, I'm not claiming that hitting down will get you the most distance. I think it's probably the best blend of distance and control, however.

Some other quick thoughts:
  1. Most people flip when they try to hit up. Their left shoulder goes back, they lean away, and flip their hands to try to hit up at the ball.
  2. Most people who hit down at the ball do so because they're coming over the top. Ideally, you want a level strike or one that's slightly descending, but still coming from the inside or fairly square to the ball.
  3. Again, I'm not saying you'll get the "most distance" this way. I would bet most people will get the same distance with better control, though.
  4. Optimizing spin ends up being rather pointless in the grand scheme of things. Yeah, you can gain four yards by dropping your spin 500 RPM or whatever, but 500 RPM is a lot... Launch angle and ball speed (i.e. not only how fast the player swings but how well they contact the clubface with that particular driver head/shaft combo) make up 95% of driver clubfitting. So we can talk about spin all we want but it's a relatively minor thing in the scheme of things.
post #15 of 45

Re: Re-Examining Advice: Hitting Up with the Driver

Originally Posted by Fourputt View Post
All I can say is that when I try to hit up on the ball, one of two things happens. Either I hit a pull slice, or I hit a straight pull or pull hook the ball. I have never been able to hit a straight drive when I'm trying to make contact on the ascent. I hit my good drives with a descending blow and I don't break tees. That seems to fly in the face of Lefty's theory.

That may be why I'm also quite good at hitting driver off the deck. No way you can hit an ascending blow from the fairway.
My experience as well (except for the bit about being able to hit driver off of the deck - fuggedabaudit in my case ..), but maybe I'm exaggerating the "hit up" action. I recently read an article making the argument that Erik is presenting and I'm going to try teeing the ball a bit further back than I usually do, i.e. maybe a few inches behind my left foot instead of level with the middle of it or even further forward than that. I think I'll make a more solid, controlled hit but we'll have to see what my launch angle is like then. Mind you, the variability of my launch angle is still basically shot-gun (a.k.a. all-over-the-blasted-place) so this parameter is going to hard to monitor. Same goes for the rest of my driver swing come to think of it ....

Superb post Erik (#14). I think I'm a flipper with driver to some extent (as you suggest is common with up-hitters) and often hook or else overcompensate and end up pushing it. I'm not too concerned about my distance off the tee - it's good enough for the courses I play - but my control just isn't anywhere near where it needs to be. Hope springs eternal - I'll try teeing it back a bit and hitting it lower.
post #16 of 45
Thread Starter 

Re: Re-Examining Advice: Hitting Up with the Driver

Originally Posted by Leftygolfer View Post
Really... To much spin wouldn't cost you 20 yards with the driver??
You're the only person who has said "20 yards" (well, prior to me typing it just there), so I'm not even sure what you're talking about.

I will say it's incredibly rare to be able to gain 20 yards by reducing spin. You'd need to find someone spinning the ball 5000 RPM more than they should (or more) to do that. Spin typically sorts itself out...

Here are some notes I have on how you fit a driver.

Source: Fitting a Driver
a) Find the shaft and head combination that the golfer hits with the best ball speed, the best consistent contact on the sweet spot, the best subjective feel, the best swing path and clubface angle, etc.

b) Try out the combination with a variety of lofts. Get the longest distance, either on a launch monitor you trust or on a range with visible, marked yardages.

c) That's it. You'll gain a yard or two if you can tweak the spin, but that's it. And since tweaking the spin might mean changing the shaft or clubhead, you're violating a and b. Maybe you can tweak it slightly by changing ball position, but it's really not worth worrying about.



Originally Posted by Leftygolfer View Post
Every magizine and article in the entire golf world is wrong. The eternal golf wizard mr erik knows the truth.
Drop the tude, dude. And Bobby Clampett says to hit down on the golf ball.

"Every golf magazine and article" has you at a 10.5 index, apparently, and the average golfer not breaking 100. Besides, "Every golf magazine and article" has been wrong in the past: swing path determines the ball's initial direction? Bzzzzzzt. Nope. They're just now starting to get that right, and even that change will take a few more decades.

And if I wanted to pose your words in a way that went against what you're trying to say, then I guess every PGA Tour player who hits down slightly on the golf ball is wrong too.

Originally Posted by Leftygolfer View Post
Hitting down on the ball is a great way to hit drivers. I guess I will play the driver in the middle of the stance and try to take a divot.
Look, now you're just being obnoxious. If you don't want to actually have a discussion, then don't.

Originally Posted by Leftygolfer View Post
That was almost perfectly level through the ball.
Uhm, what do you think 1-2° down looks like? It's "almost perfectly level."

Originally Posted by Leftygolfer View Post
It is a fact that a big problem is getting to steep with the driver for less skilled players.
Because they come over the top. You said it yourself. They need to come from the inside more - we agree. But that's not the topic here.

Originally Posted by Fourputt View Post
That may be why I'm also quite good at hitting driver off the deck. No way you can hit an ascending blow from the fairway.
I'm a big fan of that shot too. Great for the windy days. Nowhere to play that shot at Whispering Woods though - I'm gonna miss it.

Edit: BTW, I wasn't always a believer in this too, but I've studied it since posting this (not full time or anything, but off and on) and presently I believe what I believe now.
post #17 of 45

Re: Re-Examining Advice: Hitting Up with the Driver

Didn't they use like an iron byron to test the launch angles and it yielded the most yardages on a 5degree attack angle? It's kind of like saying when you come in to out, you hit the ball further than down the target line and out to in.
post #18 of 45
Thread Starter 

Re: Re-Examining Advice: Hitting Up with the Driver

Originally Posted by skagen View Post
Didn't they use like an iron byron to test the launch angles and it yielded the most yardages on a 5degree attack angle? It's kind of like saying when you come in to out, you hit the ball further than down the target line and out to in.
Yeah, they had people with even 120 MPH speeds giving up 35 yards by going from -5 to +5° angle of attack. There's no way PGA Tour players are leaving even five yards on the table, though, and they didn't really talk about their test methods. Was the shaft leaning back five degrees in each case? What balls were used? We don't know...

Look, it's called "re-examining" for a reason, too. I'm not 100% sold on this, but it's compelling evidence the way PGA Tour players play golf and I'm definitely leaning this way. The physics make sense to me too - left arm = low point and all that...
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