Just over a year ago I posted a thread and suggested everyone re-evaluate "hitting up with the driver."
I take my own advice to all of you to heart, and I've spent - off and on - the past year re-evaluating this advice myself. And after a year more of instruction, consideration, and thought, earlier this week I proposed to Dave that we stop teaching people to hit draws with the driver and allow for perhaps a bit more of a fade pattern - a straight fade pattern.
I know I've helped make popular these charts showing that the average PGA Tour player hits down on the driver 1.3°, but the average PGA Tour player hits the ball 285 yards or so. The average golfer doesn't, and the numbers are undeniable - players who swing up slightly hit the ball farther with the driver. Their launch conditions - both launch angle and backspin rate - tends to improve.
Now, many of you know that the stock shot from a neutral alignment and a swing that's perfectly on-plane (this isn't just S&T here) with an iron is a push-draw stroke (or a push stroke) because when a ball is struck before low point, the clubhead is still moving slightly outward. That's why S&T prescribes a "push-draw" from a perfectly neutral setup - if the club is swung perfectly on plane, or "in-line," and the baseline of the plane is pointed directly at the flag, and you catch the ball before low point, then the path will be forward (duh), down (duh again), and slightly outward.
If you're having trouble imagining this, imagine holding a plate on about a 45 degree angle. The low point is where the plate sits on the table. That's the deepest part of your divot. Notice that any tangent prior to this low point is still traveling outward, and any tangent afterwards is traveling inward.
Anyway, the takeaway is this: for any swing, any ball struck before low point will be struck with a club traveling outward relative to the base line of the plane, and any ball struck after low point will be struck with a club traveling inward relative to the base line of the plane. Thus, for a base line oriented at the target, any downward angle of attack will result in a clubhead path to the right, and any struck upwards will result in a clubhead path to the left (that's a good chunk the entire D-Plane concept in 10 seconds, by the way).
Now, you can manipulate things, of course. If you orient the base line five degrees right, you can swing up on the ball five degrees and still have a clubhead path that's roughly 2.5 degrees right (the clubhead path is roughly 1/2 the angle of attack). And you can play a fade by shifting the baseline eight degrees left and coming down on the ball eight degrees too (clubheadpath would be four degrees right of baseline, so still four degrees left of target). But that's neither here nor there... I want to talk about an inline or on-plane swing.
Here's a picture of Charlie Wi (I could have used virtually anyone, but he illustrates my first point as he draws every driver he hits).
What you'll see in this image are three lines.
The red line shows his ball position.
The blue line shows the center of his swing arc, or the low point in his swing.
The green line shows a point at which he could position the golf ball to catch it slightly on the upstroke.
Note: low point can be anywhere in a golf swing, but to keep things simple low point is going to be shown off the left shoulder, as it's almost always really close to the left shoulder in a good golf swing. It can move a little forward or back, but for all intents and purposes, "low point is straight down from the left armpit or shoulder socket" isn't going to get you into any trouble as a general rule of thumb.
If Charlie swings perfectly on-plane, with this ball position, he'll be swinging ever so slightly to the right. If his clubface is slightly open to the target and closed to the path, he'll hit his stock push-draw. If it's square to the path, a straight push, and open to the path a push-fade.
If Charlie's ball was teed up at the blue line, he'd be hitting the ball perfectly level. A clubface pointed directly at the target would result in an awfully straight shot.
If Charlie's ball was teed up at the green line - just inside his toes or his left heel - Charlie would be sending the driver slightly to the left. A clubface closed to the target and open to the path would produce a pull-fade. A clubface square to the target and thus open to the path would produce a straight-fade. And the third, a push-fade, you can figure out.
Here's a circle that illustrates this further. Let's consider that the clubhead swings in a circle (it doesn't - wrist cock/hinge changes the radius) with the center point being the left shoulder. The dots in this image correspond to the image above of Charlie:
Note that this diagram serves a double function. We can consider this as an overhead view OR a face-on view. In either view, the blue dot is the low point (face-on) as well as the outermost point (overhead) on the circle. The red point is prior to low point (like an iron shot), and you can see it's struck while the clubhead is still descending to low point (face-on) and moving outward (overhead). Conversely, the green point is struck while the clubhead is ascending (face-on) and moving to the left, or inward (overhead).
So, circling back (no pun intended) to our students, two things are true.
1. We don't want to teach two wildly different swings to people. The conditions are different for each - a ball on a tee versus a ball on the ground - but if the swings are really different, we want to avoid doing that.
2. Our students - and all of us - aren't on the PGA Tour. Distance is perhaps the biggest advantage you can have in golf, and we want to do all that we can to maximize driver distance for our students.
So What are we going to do? We're going to start teaching students to hit the ball on the upswing.
::shock:: ! ::horror:: !!!
How? Simple. Same swing - ideally an inline, on-plane swing - with a ball position that's slightly forward. This will produce an angle of attack into the ball that's level, +1, or +2 degrees. Maybe +3 (shoulder width, width of stance, any upper-body movement in the swing, etc. all play a role).
Since this means the clubhead will be moving roughly 0 to 1.5 degrees left at impact, the stock driver shot we'll teach will be a straight fade or a push-fade (the path is going so little to the left that we'll likely default to a push-fade, because a straight fade aimed up the left side won't take a clubface more than one degree too closed to produce a baby pull or pull-draw).
Now, it's important to note that this is a very slight change. People who talk about "staying behind the ball" and "hitting up on the ball" and all that tend to do a few things that are bad for their swing. First, and foremost, they'll drop their head down and backwards. This will lead to a number of problems, including a path that's too far left and too far up (ever drop-kick a driver?). Players will tend to flip and have a higher rate of closure, which will make the shot tough to time. This faking of the secondary axis tilt will prevent their weight from going forward, which can double up on these issues.
No need for that - you can still pre-set the hips a little farther forward, your chest can still be roughly in the center of your stance, the ball can be inside your left toes and near or just forward of your left heel (your left arch, roughly), and you can push the hips forward, keep the head stable, catch the ball on a +1 or +2 degree upswing, achieve great launch conditions, and play a nice tight fade with the driver.
If you want to hit a draw, by all means, move the ball back to Charlie's position.
P.S. Not that he's the best example of anything relating to the driver, particularly back when this video was filmed when he was hitting down three degrees with the driver... but consider this image:
P.P.S. Was I wrong? Sure, if you want to say so, I was. I consider this more an adaptation to how I teach, how we teach, but if you want to think I'm wrong, go for it. I never want "admitting I was wrong" to hold me back from changing something for the better. Nothing changed about my geometry... I just think that, for the average golfer, we can allow for a slight upswing contact and a fade rather than a slight downward angle and a draw with the driver, because distance is so important in the game and if this gives someone another 5 or 10 yards, so be it.