Column: Blocking your driver to the right? Join the club

Betsy Larey

I really enjoyed coaching the high school girls’ team this year. It gave me the opportunity to work with young players who have a lot of potential. The other opportunity I had was to see lots and lots of golf swings. High school golfers are really no different than any other subset group of golfers. The elite, the pretty darn good, the average golfers, and those who are just starting out.

One thing I noticed was that technology has really helped golfers of all levels hit their drivers a whole lot farther than 20 (even 10) years ago. The old persimmon drivers had a sweet spot the size of a pea. Even professionals never swung more than 85 percent of maximum because a mis-hit with one of those was disaster. Today most tour players swing 90-plus, even though they don’t hit fairways, because they can consistently drive over 300 yards. You can easily play a mis-hit with a 460cc face on today’s drivers.

Drivers are also much longer than they used to be. There is a belief that the longer the driver, the more clubhead speed you generate. Clubhead speed equals distance. But there is a huge trade off, and that is accuracy. There are a number of manufacturers that are now making 48-inch drivers. If you think that will help your golf game, think again. Just sayin’, and here’s why.

There is a kinematic sequence in the golf swing. I’ll skip the 14 steps that have to happen in order on the way back. Let’s start with what happens on the way down. In the “perfect” golf swing, the forward swing starts with a bump of the left hip (for a right handed golfer). It’s a bump, not a slide. What this does is to allow your shaft to drop “in the slot.” In other words, your driver will be approaching the ball from the inside. Your lower body will be moving faster than your upper body.

At a certain point in the downswing (once again, I’m referencing the perfect golf swing) the upper body speeds up in relation to the lower body. From a visual standpoint, that occurs when the hands approach the right leg. At that point the hands and forearms will release the clubhead into the ball. Easy peasy.

If you watch golf on TV, it looks as though the professionals actually stop their lower body during the downswing as the arms speed up and deliver that clubhead perfectly every time. In reality, the have incredibly fast hands.

Now how does that relate to the average golfer, and why am I getting so technical about this? Because the average golfer (hereafter referred to as AG) does not execute the kinematic sequence in order. AG starts the downswing with the lower body (not a bump) and the upper body continues to trail behind. In layman’s language, the driver gets caught behind you.

You have two choices. Either a block to the right (most common) or if you’re good and you figured that out, you get your hands moving quickly and that result often becomes a hook if your timing is not perfect. Any of this sound familiar?

Do you read about this in Golf Digest or Golf Magazine? Nope. Because the root of the problem is drivers that are too long. I don’t care if they are white! The golf magazines are beholden to the manufacturers. No different than politicians beholden to special interests. Same same. So they will write about whatever the manufacturers want them to. And their goal is to sell more drivers.

If you are an AG and can’t hit your driver straight, try giving a 42- to 43-inch driver a try. You won’t have to try and emulate the perfect swing. Just try this concept. Your only swing thought is this: back to the target, chest to the target.

If you are a blocker, and lots of AGs are, this allows your body to square the driver up at impact instead of having to release the clubhead at impact with your arms and hands. It’s a hard concept to grasp, and I will write more about this in detail next week.

Betsy Larey is an LPGA Class A Teaching Professional who has taught adults and juniors for years. She is the Head Coach of the White Bear Lake girl’s golf team this season. She has taught at the PGA Tour Academy in St Augustine Florida and has coached at Carleton College and Flagler College. For lessons, you can reach her directly at [email protected] or call 651-470-2297.

  • Paul Schneider

    Betsy Larey – great article. You are clearly very informed. I appreciate you sifting through the BS of the golf magazines and providing transparency.