How to Hit the Driver Off the Deck
With the advent of the modern driver - and the modern golf ball, for that matter - new technology and the way it's marketed has actually taken some really useful shots out of the hands of a lot of golfers.
For instance, with every manufacturer telling golfers to tee the ball up as high as they possibly can and launch it as high as they possibly can, the thought of hitting a driver off the deck just seems absurd to a lot of golfers these days. Some of the younger players have never even contemplated this shot.
Of course, drivers used to be much smaller. They were smaller than a lot of the 3 woods that you see out there these days, and it was very common to hit them off the deck. It's actually a great shot, and still useful today.
It's is an excellent shot to have going into long par 5s where there's not a lot of trouble in front of the green.
Chuck says he actually hits this shot better than his normal driver because if he misses it a little, it doesn't get as far out of control as when the ball is teed up high and launching a lot higher.
How Does it Work?
At least psychologically, the mechanics of the shot feel similar to a normal swing with the irons.
You're not thinking about trying to catch the ball on the upswing, and you don't have the visual distraction of the ball being much higher above the face.
It's hard to trick yourself into making a normal golf swing when the ball is sitting halfway above the club face.
Let's look at the mechanics of the shot.
First of all, anyone with reasonable club head speed - ideally at least 90 miles an hour with the driver - should be able to hit this ball solidly about 230-240 yards off the deck, and get more roll with it.
If you're going into a long par 5 and you need to get the ball to release a little, this is your shot.
You'll be hitting the ball every bit as hard as you do when it's teed up. There's no holding back on these shots.
Understanding Ball Position
We'll start by looking at the setup from a face on view. Everything looks pretty normal. The only thing you might notice is that the ball is a little farther up in your stance.
You can see in the photo that it's just behind Chuck's left heel.
You might move it up one ball width - two at the absolute most if you're really trying to max one out - but as a rule it's going to be back a little bit.
Ball position is vastly misunderstood. If you draw a line straight up from the back of the ball, you always want the left side of your head to be right on that line.
That goes for every club in the golf bag. Unless you're hitting a specialty shot, you want that same alignment every time.
This is a fundamental of every single Tour player's setup, and you can see it demonstrated here as well. The left side of Chuck's head is right up behind the ball and the club shaft is perfectly vertical.
From face on, everything looks pretty familiar. Your stance width is going to be normal for a driver, or slightly wider.
Hit Down on the Ball
There are two keys to this shot:
- You take a wide, shallow swing
- You still hit down on the ball
You don't necessarily have to take a divot, but it certainly helps.
This is something even the Tour players struggle with, especially the younger guys who have been taught to hit up on the ball with the driver.
You never ever, ever, ever hit up on a golf ball. Ever. It doesn't matter what kind of shot it is.
You don't do it with a driver, you don't do it with the lob wedge, you don't do it with a putter. Not with anything. You never hit up on the ball. You always want your hands leading at impact. Always.
It's critical that you learn to do that. You may have been taught to just tee the ball 3" off the ground and try to catch it on the upswing and hit it as high as you can, but that's not an efficient golf shot. It's not an efficient golf swing and you're not going to compress the ball as well.
In Chuck's shot, we'll see that even though the ball is teed low and he needs to get some loft on the club head, his hands are still leading at impact. We'll come back to that.
Loading Up on the Right
So we're at setup and everything looks pretty normal. As Chuck moves the club back he's loading up into his right side.
You'll notice quite a bit of load - his head has actually moved off the ball a little bit. This helps him come into the ball a little more shallow, and with some power.
You come down into this shot all-out at full speed. Chuck hit the shot in these photos at about 113-115 miles per hour, which is the top of his range while still maintaining control.
Since he's swinging full bore, he loads into that right side. He turns his hips, his shoulders, and everything to load up.
Getting ready to fire everything back through, it's the hips that fire first to start the downswing. Chuck rotates his hips, his core, his belt buckle. All of that fires first.
You can see his belt buckle turning back, getting back into that line he established at address.
Keep Your Head Behind the Ball
Notice that Chuck's head is right back on that line as he starts the downswing, right where it was at address. His hips continue to rotate and everything looks good.
The key is not to get in front of that line. If you get in front of that line you're going to start blocking and flipping shots. You never want your head to get in front of the ball.
The transition has gone well; Chuck is back on his left side, turning his hips aggressively and firing through. His head is right on that line and everything is perfect.
Now he's able to rotate. At this point, the dynamics of his swing cause his head to actually go backwards a little bit.
This is something we see in every great ball striker; they get some axis tilt and the spine actually tilts back slightly behind the ball. This helps you get your hands leading through impact.
Chuck's head is right on that line, and then it moves back by an inch or two. It continues back as he comes down.
Hands Lead at Impact
Getting close to impact, we can see that Chuck's hands are in front of the ball. In fact, in the photo below the club still has another 6" to travel, so his hands will actually move slightly farther forward than they are here.
As you can see, even with the driver off the deck, you're still hitting down on the ball. You should always feel like you're hitting down, like you're going to take a divot with the driver.
If you're popping up your drives and just not hitting the driver solidly anymore, you should definitely learn to hit this shot.
Practicing this shot will improve your normal driver swing. You'll start to hit the ball more solidly on any drive once you learn to get your hands leading through impact.
We see so many golfers who have been told to launch the ball as high as they possibly can, without really understanding how to do it properly. They end up flipping the club and letting the club head lead through impact, and you don't want any of that.
Get your hands leading as you come through for a solid hit. The ball launches, you release everything through, and you come around to a full finish.
Again: Load into the right side, fire the hips and core from the top, release, hit down, and come into a full, balanced finish.
Take a Look from Down the Line
We'll notice a few different things when we watch the shot from down the line.
First of all, you'll see that Chuck's shoulders and club face are aligned with the target line, and his feet are a little bit shut. Why is that?
Nobody really talks about this shot very much, but if it comes up at all you've probably been told, "If you're going to hit the driver off the deck you've got to hit a big cut. That's the only way to get the ball in the air."
In fact, that's not true at all. If you have enough club head speed there's no need to just hit a big cut.
Of course you can hit a big cut if that's what you want to do. You can still hit it well, and high, and far, but you lose control of the ball and you lose distance.
For this shot, you're looking to hit the ball dead straight. Maybe a slight cut if you want to, but you can actually work the ball both ways when hitting the driver off the deck.
Take your normal driver setup, with your feet a little bit shut. Line up your shoulders and club face square to the target line.
Keeping your feet slightly shut helps shallow out your path on the way back and through. That's critical, because if you have a very steep path you're just going to throw that club head right down in the ground.
You need to sweep the ball, but you still have to hit down on it with the driver when you're hitting it off the deck.
Club Head Inside Shallows the Plane
As Chuck takes the club back you'll notice a couple little tricks he has to make this shot work.
One is that you can see in the first photo below that the club face is dead square to his feet line. That's intentional. That's planned. Rather than focusing on getting it square to the shoulder plane or the target line, you want the club head a little bit inside.
Why would you want that?
Squaring the club face to the feet line helps you come through the ball more shallow. If you take the club back very steep you're going to have to reroute it on the way back down.
You want it to go back and through on a very similar plane, so you want to take it back very shallow.
As you go back you're actually getting more rotation in your left forearm from off the ball, to get the club coming back behind your hands. You want that rotation in your hands because it helps shallow out the path on the way back.
As you keep going to the top you're still rotating the left forearm, getting the arm plane a little shallower than normal.
As you get closer to the top, even though you've rotated your left forearm pretty aggressively taking the club back, the club face is still square to your forearm.
Long, Powerful Swing
Hitting the driver off the deck takes a pretty long swing. You're definitely getting ready to rip through that ball. As you come back through you initiate with you hips and core, turning your belt buckle back through.
As we've talked about in other lessons, if you're on plane the club shaft will go straight through the right forearm.
From there all you have to do is just keep on turning. Turn everything through the shot - hips, core, chest - everything goes through.
Your shoulders and hips are very open to the target line, even though the feet are shut.
As you're coming through, here's the key to any shot with a driver: Hit the ball in the center of the club face. If you don't hit the ball with the center of the club face, nothing else matters.
Then just release that puppy hard. Get everything releasing through. You can see Chuck's club head completely released in the center photo, turned over and coming around to a full finish.
- Take the club back inside
- Get a little bit of forearm rotation
- Rip it through
- Release everything
You can use this shot to hit the ball a very long ways - much farther than you could hit your 3 wood, for sure.
Bonus: Improve Your Regular Driver Swing!
As an added bonus, in addition to adding a new shot to your repertoire, learning these little tricks and practicing this shot will also improve the overall mechanics of your regular driver swing.
Say you're used to teeing the ball up high for your normal driver shot, and you're starting to launch the ball really high. Come back and practice this shot to make yourself start using good mechanics again.
Get your hands leading the ball through impact, get a good shallow plane with the driver, rotate everything through, release the club; all of this will also improve your mechanics for the regular driver shot.
This shot isn't indispensable. You don't have to learn it if you don't want to, but we highly recommend it because you'll be able to get to much longer par 5s in two a lot more often. For some of our older golfers, it may mean getting into some of the par 4s.
You can get good launch characteristics with the driver off the deck.
Chuck is hitting a 9° driver at full speed in these photos. He's hitting it full speed, going maybe 270-285 yards.
It's a great shot to learn, if nothing else, for the simple fact that it teaches you to get your hands leading the ball through impact. If you don't, you're just going to chunk the ball or pop it all day long.
Learn this shot and watch your scores drop because you're going to start hitting a lot more par 5s in two.
Checkpoints for Practice
- Many younger golfers may never have even considered hitting a driver off the deck, but it's a great shot to learn
- The mechanics feel a bit like a normal swing with the irons - take your normal driver stance, or maybe just a touch wider
- Ball position is off your left ear - this is the correct ball position for every club in the bag!
- Take the club back inside, getting a little bit of forearm rotation
- Keep your head behind the ball and make sure your hands lead at impact - again, this is true for every single swing
- Rip it through and release everything
- This long, powerful swing is wide and shallow