Add more length to your drives

By: Shawn Kelly, Journal Golf Columnist
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Many golfers feel that the most fun club in the bag is the driver, a.k.a. “the Big Dog.” Boo-yah! What a kick it is to really nail that tee ball waaaay down the fairway! New drivers these days look like a Volkswagen on a stick. They’re mostly about 460 cubic centimeters of titanium and other exotic materials along with sophisticated engineering designed to maximize performance. Also, with the new balls that seem to have wings, golfers are hitting drives that seem to have the potential to achieve low-earth orbit. If you’re looking to get longer off the tee — with control — and haven’t test-driven any of the new drivers out there, here’s how to find the best driver for your game and how to successfully hit the ball into the center of the fairway. n Contact your local PGA professional club fitter to find out which driver specifications would best suit your game. The most important thing you’ll be seeking is an appropriate loft to match your swing. Driver lofts average from six degrees for long-drive competition to 16 degrees for women and seniors. Finding your correct loft will affect both launch angle and roll. n Shaft fitting is the next important concern. Kick, torque, gram weight, tip stiffness or softness, flexibility, length, material and — believe it or not — even color are all factors that can help you hit the ball farther. Let your PGA professional help with the decision and find the correct “tuning fork” for your swing. n One of the most overlooked parts of getting any club fitted is proper grip size and material. Size does matter! If the grip size is too big or too small for your hands, it will not allow your hands and wrist to work efficiently with the club. Get your grip size correct and you’ll be on your way to hitting great drives. Now that you have your fitted driver, it’s time to let that “Big Dog” eat! These are my keys to hitting it high and deep: n Take dead aim into the center of the fattest part of the fairway. This allows for a miss either way to land in the short grass. n Keep your grip pressure as light as possible. This is the most important aspect of hitting long drives. Keeping it light will allow for maximum potential. Remember, the further you want to hit any shot, the lighter you’ll have to grip the club at the start of your swing. n Don’t try to overpower your swing. You have spent a lot of money on this driver, so swing at 90 percent and let this expensive driver do some of the work. You’ll be amazed how far it can go. n Swing to balance. The tee ball is your longest shot, so if you’re not in balance, chances are you will not hit the ball solidly. Your shot could find the rough. The tee shot can either be the most frustrating or the most fulfilling part of your round. Keep in mind, however, that if you are not hitting fairways, it’s gonna be very difficult for you to score well. I feel the tee shot is the most important shot in the game. It’s important to putt well, but I don’t ever remember having to play a penalty shot after hitting my putter. If you’re hitting it out of the rough all day long, it’ll put too much pressure on all the other clubs in your bag and that’ll make it difficult to score well. Shawn Kelly is a PGA professional at The Ridge Golf Club. He can be reached for questions or lessons at (530) 888-PUTT.