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How Much do You Prioritize Driver Practice?


Hugh Jars

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(edited)
1 hour ago, Shindig said:

I'm glad you see the virtue of distance over fairways.  The latter are overrated, and as your full swing improves (good on you for focusing on full swing with 65% of your practice, that's about the right fraction), you'll get those fairways, too, as your dispersion will decrease, even with the longer shot ... and that's ignoring that your driver is probably more forgiving than your fairway woods. 

I do want ask something about the fourth paragraph.  Since you're practicing driver, I would bet your iron shots are improving too, even more than the 15% practice time you're putting in (since you're still working on full swing 65% of the time, and that's assuming none of your "short game" practice is full swing mechanics).  Are your misses getting better, relative to where they were from the same distance in the recent past?  I'll bet they are.   I would also bet that as your full swing improves (and as you're closer to the green on your second shot than you were when hitting non-driver off the tee), you're getting better at missing the green in a preferred spot.  

Congrats on the first sub-90 round in competition.  That's always a special moment.  

Andy has this figured out -- which makes us all happy.  Anyone else reading this far that isn't sure what I meant about practice time, please check out the thread linked in the second post of this thread (the "65/20/15 rule"). 

My approach play has never been better. Its actually surprising me at the moment. Another thing I've been working on is choosing smart targets and making better club selections, again all backed by data. I'm doing things consciously like aiming for the middle of the green rather than pin hunt, and clubbing up on approaches, referring more to the back of the green yardage to dictate club selection and swinging easy. Its making a massive difference.

I'm a big fan of Golf Sidekick - I find his videos enjoyable to watch but his whole mantra of clubbing down off the tee and finding fairways, laying up to a 'comfortable' distance - believe me I've tried it and its done absolutely nothing for the progress of my game.  Its all backed by just anecdotal evidence, not facts and stats. This new approach has clarified so much in my mind what I need to be focusing on, I will have horrible rounds still, but I'm not going to waver from it.

Edited by Andy Capped
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41 minutes ago, Andy Capped said:

My approach play has never been better. Its actually surprising me at the moment. Another thing I've been working on is choosing smart targets and making better club selections, again all backed by data. I'm doing things consciously like aiming for the middle of the green rather than pin hunt, and clubbing up on approaches, referring more to the back of the green yardage to dictate club selection and swinging easy. Its making a massive difference.

I've found this to be helpful too.  I use the pin as a starting point, and for a general green (so, this doesn't apply to #6 at my main course, as there's O.B. behind the green, for example, or #14 which is a very wide green but not very deep), I add a bit.  I used to add +5 for front and -5 for back, as was suggested at a Newport Cup a few years ago.  I recently switched this;  I now add 15 for front pins;  if I find myself playing a course (or just a green) where I really do want to "leave myself an uphill putt," I'll revise this for future playings of that particular hole/course.  So don't look for me to implement this strategy in the 2023 Masters!  Similarly, if I'm between clubs for a middle pin or back, I'll pick the longer club.  Of course, I don't use the pin to decide start line or target -- it's just to tell me how far to hit the ball.    But that's the #DeadCenter thread, which I assume you're familiar with.

54 minutes ago, Andy Capped said:

I'm a big fan of Golf Sidekick - I find his videos enjoyable to watch but his whole mantra of clubbing down off the tee and finding fairways, laying up to a 'comfortable' distance - believe me I've tried it and its done absolutely nothing for the progress of my game.  Its all backed by just anecdotal evidence, not facts and stats.

I can't say I know which videos are his.  But as you've discovered, clubbing down off the tee isn't the right general move.  Do it if hitting driver brings trouble into play (which brings us back to the actual topic of the thread), but if that's a lot of holes at most courses you play, prioritize the full swing practice to get a better shot zone for the driver.  Or develop a "second driver swing" -- one you can use on more narrow holes, maybe shorter or a 3/4 swing or something.  And I say trouble, not 'fairway' -- fairways are overrated unless you're sailing.  And getting comfortable with all distances between "greenside" and "full (shortest club you hit a full swing with)" takes an afternoon and some maintenance.   Either I love laying up to 30 yards or I always go for it in two and never get there, take your pick.

1 hour ago, Andy Capped said:

This new approach has clarified so much in my mind what I need to be focusing on, I will have horrible rounds still, but I'm not going to waver from it.

That's very wise.  18 holes is a small sample size, no matter what.  Small sample sizes are great fun in a lot of cases -- it's part of why I enjoy watching match play, I love my club's match play and fourball tournaments, it's why football season feels different.  But they're no way to evaluate anything meant to be long-term.  

After each of your next several rounds, look back at your driving.  Ask yourself:  if you made the same swing with (whatever non-driver you used to hit), would the result be better?  Don't bother with this during the round;  I bet you can remember afterward what your drives were.  I expect that for every "I wish I could go back and tell myself to hit 5W off that tee instead" you'll have a half dozen or more "yeah, driver was definitely the right club."  And that's ignoring the ones where either would be a bad choice, such as a bad swing, as opposed to the shot zone for the driver happening to include a low-but-not-zero-probability place you'd rather not be.  And for those, you might prefer to have told yourself to pick a different starting line off the tee with your driver instead of telling yourself to take the 5W.  

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-- Michael | My swing! 

"You think you're Jim Furyk. That's why your phone is never charged." - message from my mother

Driver:  Titleist 915D2.  4-wood:  Titleist 917F2.  Titleist TS2 19 degree hybrid.  Another hybrid in here too.  Irons 5-U, Ping G400.  Wedges negotiable (currently 54 degree Cleveland, 58 degree Titleist) Edel putter. 

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(edited)
21 hours ago, Shindig said:

I've found this to be helpful too.  I use the pin as a starting point, and for a general green (so, this doesn't apply to #6 at my main course, as there's O.B. behind the green, for example, or #14 which is a very wide green but not very deep), I add a bit.  I used to add +5 for front and -5 for back, as was suggested at a Newport Cup a few years ago.  I recently switched this;  I now add 15 for front pins;  if I find myself playing a course (or just a green) where I really do want to "leave myself an uphill putt," I'll revise this for future playings of that particular hole/course.  So don't look for me to implement this strategy in the 2023 Masters!  Similarly, if I'm between clubs for a middle pin or back, I'll pick the longer club.  Of course, I don't use the pin to decide start line or target -- it's just to tell me how far to hit the ball.    But that's the #DeadCenter thread, which I assume you're familiar with.

I can't say I know which videos are his.  But as you've discovered, clubbing down off the tee isn't the right general move.  Do it if hitting driver brings trouble into play (which brings us back to the actual topic of the thread), but if that's a lot of holes at most courses you play, prioritize the full swing practice to get a better shot zone for the driver.  Or develop a "second driver swing" -- one you can use on more narrow holes, maybe shorter or a 3/4 swing or something.  And I say trouble, not 'fairway' -- fairways are overrated unless you're sailing.  And getting comfortable with all distances between "greenside" and "full (shortest club you hit a full swing with)" takes an afternoon and some maintenance.   Either I love laying up to 30 yards or I always go for it in two and never get there, take your pick.

That's very wise.  18 holes is a small sample size, no matter what.  Small sample sizes are great fun in a lot of cases -- it's part of why I enjoy watching match play, I love my club's match play and fourball tournaments, it's why football season feels different.  But they're no way to evaluate anything meant to be long-term.  

After each of your next several rounds, look back at your driving.  Ask yourself:  if you made the same swing with (whatever non-driver you used to hit), would the result be better?  Don't bother with this during the round;  I bet you can remember afterward what your drives were.  I expect that for every "I wish I could go back and tell myself to hit 5W off that tee instead" you'll have a half dozen or more "yeah, driver was definitely the right club."  And that's ignoring the ones where either would be a bad choice, such as a bad swing, as opposed to the shot zone for the driver happening to include a low-but-not-zero-probability place you'd rather not be.  And for those, you might prefer to have told yourself to pick a different starting line off the tee with your driver instead of telling yourself to take the 5W.  

I track all my rounds with Shotscope and recommend this. I like to track the strokes gained data and can see Im making a lot of ground there across the board against my goal handicap of 15.

Edited by Hugh Jars
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  • 2 weeks later...

I work on driver a lot. It is the absolute bane of my game; I'd estimate that 90% of my worst problems come from the tee box. Just yesterday, I shot a 42 on the front 9 and was really playing well off the tee. I tripled bogey'd the 9th due to an errant tee shot and struggled through the rest of the day off the tee and shot 57 on the back. 

I'm pretty solid from inside 100 and as long as I don't go for a hero shot from 220+ I don't usually hit very many catastrophic shots. 

Anyway, by working on my driver I've managed to shave about 15+ strokes over the last 3 months. To be fair, I only started playing again about 4 months ago, so take that for what it's worth. But keeping the ball in play off the tee leads to me only having to hit 8 iron or less on my second shot rather than hitting 3 off the teebox. 

Therefore, when I'm at the range I've been working on driver more than anything---and it's helped a lot. 

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Driver is low priority for me. I mainly practice limited length swings, trying to hit it solid. I practice driver IF I have a successful time with shorter swings and want to apply what I'm doing to the driver. I switch which irons I hit with these limited swings, using anything from a gap wedge to a 5 iron. I would practice the driver more, but my feeling is that if I can't basically stripe it with limited length and speed swings, there's no point in practicing full driver swings.  

JP Bouffard

"I cut a little driver in there." -- Jim Murray

Driver: Titleist 915 D3, ACCRA Shaft 9.5*.
3W: Callaway XR,
3,4 Hybrid: Taylor Made RBZ Rescue Tour, Oban shaft.
Irons: 5-GW: Mizuno JPX800, Aerotech Steelfiber 95 shafts, S flex.
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM5 56 degree, M grind
Putter: Edel Custom Pixel Insert 

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