The Driver: Hit Up or Hit Down?

henrik-stenson-getty1For many years I have believed that the irons are struck with a descending blow, the fairway woods and hybrids are swept off the ground and the driver is hit with a slightly upward hitTee it high and let it fly! In recent months it has come to my attention that that is not necessarily the case; certainly amongst the top golfers in the world. Trackman is a company that collects a tremendous amount of data on the tour golfers and their shots. Essentially everything you did not need to know about your club and ball in the swing, but importantly, a few things that are very important.  Trackman, in their January newsletter, stated that the PGA Tour average for attack angle with the driver  (up or down at the moment of impact) is -1.3 degrees.  That means that a collection of the greatest drivers on the planet actually average out with a downward hit on the big stick! Pay attention to how high tour golfers do not tee their ball.  It is almost always medium to low height.  As I researched further I found that long drive champions tended to have an attack angle of anywhere from +7 to +12 degrees.  Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes, two of the tours longest, regularly measure out at around +6 degrees.

The primary reason why all these top golfers hit down is because they hit the ball so far already that they have no need to learn how to hit up.  If you drive the ball less than 250 yards on average then you need to learn how to hit up on the ball. If any of you watched Henrik Stenson's magnificent round yesterday at the very major-like TPC Sawgrass you will have noticed how often he took a divot while hitting three wood off just about every tee.  There is only way way to take a divot after impact and that is to hit down.

There is nothing in physics that indicates a downward hit is more accurate than an ascending hit other than that the generally lower trajectory will get on the ground sooner and thus stay more on line.....

Make sense?

Things to Ponder:

  • In my book Henrik Stenson played the round of the year yesterday. Congratulations!
  • I like Ian Poulter a lot and I find myself rooting for him to break through more and more.  Great outfits too!ian-poulter
  • How about my two picks for the week; Boo Weekley WD and Brian Gay WD. Sensational selecting there....
  • Jim Hardy, of One-Plane fame, believes that most of the great putters of all time were hookers of the ball; Crenshaw, Ballesteros, Watson (in his day), Locke, Archer.  The one exception is Nicklaus.  Release the face of the putter.....
  • I thought that TPC Sawgrass showed some much needed teeth, but it was a little tricked up in places.  I thought the 13th was a joke!  You had to land it front right to have chance to get close, well Goosen did that and his ball rolled into the water?!
  • Did anyone notice that four out of the top five finishers at the Players played in sunglasses?  Stenson, Poulter, Na and Davis!
  • I remember when Strange and Kite had a Monday playoff for the Tour Championship many years ago and the winner would be the first player to break the $1million mark for the season.  Ian Poulter did that yesterday, by finishing second!

No 5th Major at TPC Sawgrass

When was the last time the top 10 players in a major were a combined 55 under par on day one?  When in a major have 57 players shot under par on any day?  The PGA Tour is trying to buy their way into a major championship by touting The Players as the "5th Major". Not many people are aware that the PGA Tour does not operate or run a single major championship. The Masters is run by Augusta National, The US Open by the USGA, the British Open by the Royal and Ancient and the  PGA by the, well, PGA. With the Players Championship the PGA Tour is making a vain attempt to get into the mix. From the monstrous clubhouse, to the monstrous purse, to the monstrous PR spin they put on the event they are eagerly attempting to join a closed club.

My primary reason for voting out the Players is the golf course! Sure the holes we see all look frightening, with tremendous risk and reward, but what about the rest of the course. Ever notice how much the Tour focuses on the closing holes?  Please don't get me wrong - you must be a ball striker to do well here, but this is simply Harbourtown where rough has replaced trees.  Distance does not make a great course , but give the best in the world ten opportunities from inside 140 yards and look out. There are 10 short, legit birdie opportunities on the course (holes 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17).  Holes where every player in the field, from the longest to the shortest, should be thinking birdie or par at worst.

I have taken the rounds of those two players, the longest and the shortest, namely Bubba and Freddy Funk and broken them down for your perusal.  Let's start with Fred Funk who played earlier this morning.  When it comes to driving distance Fred Funk is currently 62nd on the Champions Tour with a distance of 265.9.  That would leave him at 183 out of 185 on the PGA Tour ahead of only Faxon and Pavin.  His driving distance was 260 today and he scored a +1 /73.  The following numbers indicate the yardage he had into each of the 10 selected holes in regulation. They include all four par fives and a par three.2006 PGA Championship Third Round, Round 3Saturday, August 19,

1-156yds, 2-82yds, 4-115yds, 6-115yds, 9-87yds, 10-146yds, 11-101yds, 12-81yds, 16-4yds, 17-137yds for an average of 102.4 yards.

The shortest player in the field averaged just over 100 yds into 10 holes on a major championship course?

Now let's check in with Bubba Watson who is playing nicely and shot -5 /67.  He is currently the longest hitter on the PGA Tour at 313.8 yards per poke.  Today he averaged 318 yards off the tee.  His yardages into each of the ten selected holes were:

1-90yds, 2-53yds, 4-91 yds, 6-104 yds, 9-76 yds, 10-139 yds, 11-29 yds, 12-92 yds, 16-3 yds, 17-137 yds for an average distance in of 81.4 yards.  I wonder how many drivers Bubba used on these holes?

The facts indicate that every player in the field is faced with 10 holes on a supposed 'major championship' course where the longest shot they are required to hit is approximately 140 yards.  And this is with a rainy night before the tournament got under way.  What major course has a four hole stretch (9-12) where no approach shot of over 125 yards is required?


In 2008 the greens had just been reshaped and surfaced and as a result were rock hard.  The wind blew between 15 and 25mph each day starting at 10 am.  In other words conditions were as tough and challenging as they could get and yet, the playoff number was -5.  Can you imagine conditions being brutal at Winged Foot or Carnoustie and -5 playing off!  Grow all the rough you want, make the green rock hard and roll at 13 on the stimp, but my belief is this; if they have soft conditions and windless days the winning score will be lower than -15.  You heard it here first - this is no major, just an over-sized, over-promoted PGA Tour dream.

I love the event, just not the way the Tour is painting it!

Slow the Golf Ball Down - It Goes Way Too Far!

Phil and Tiger (Cannon/Getty)I watched the broadcast from Quail Hollow yesterday and was shocked at what I saw; these golfers were playing some of the hardest holes I have ever seen with 9-irons and wedges for their approaches.  I have been to this event and the 'Green Mile' holes are as they have been promoted - BRUTAL!  The leaders made them look a little silly (even though none of them managed to hit the 17th green!):

  • O'Hair had 154 yds. left in to the 480 yard 16th and the hole played slightly into the wind! Nine iron!
  • Number 17 played 225 yds. to the back pin and into a light wind.  Now I comprehend that the green was rock hard and with water lurking over the green and a back pin the optimal spot was to leave the ball a little short, but Lucas Glover hit a 5-iron!  That is ridiculous!
  • The uphill closing hole measures 478 yds. and played slightly down breeze.  Tiger Woods hit 3-wood, 9-iron to pin high! (Tiger also drove the 14th green (345yds.) with his 3-wood)  Bubba Watson had a flip wedge in from 135 yds. after hitting what looked like an easy cut driver!  Number 18 is the hardest hole I think I have ever seen and to play it with a fairway metal and a short iron is just wrong.
  • Bubba Watson hit a tournament long drive of 374 yards!  I know the guy is long but that is obscene.

I firmly believe that the USGA and RnA has dropped the ball (pun intended) on this matter and something needs to be done soon.  Gone are the days of upper echelon golfers hitting a 3-iron into a par four unless weather conditions exist.  Without changing the ball the only way that could be done would be to have par fours of over 530 yards and golf courses that measure 8,000 yards!  Whether it means changing the size of the ball, it's dimples, materials or construction, something needs to be done.

For more detailed quotes and information on this topic please link to

Things to ponder:

  • Zach Johnson looked like a regular weekend warrior out there on the 2nd hole; a little cart path, a little pine, a three putt, hello triple!
  • Sean O'Hair's mental toughness will carry him far.  Even though he finished bogey, bogey I never thought he looked afraid.
  • Well done to Bubba Watson!  He is more of what the PGA Tour needs and no that new hair-do is not a mullet.
  • Tiger needs to lose the driver and hit 3-wood on every hole.  The driver and 3-wood swings look so different.
  • How about David Feherty calling Tiger a loser!?  Tiger smiled, but I don't think we'll be seeing Feherty do the Tiger post-round interviews any longer.
  • Brandel Chamblee made the one of the dumbest statement of the year following the broadcast on the Golf Channel. In referring to Tiger's position at the top of his backswing;  "He needs to do something, because you cannot play golf from there!"  I'd like to not play like that.
  • The so-called 5th major is at TPC Sawgrass this week and it is my opinion that any golf course where every player in the field can hit 9 iron or less into more than half the holes cannot possibly be a major. (#1,2,4,6,9,10,11,12,16 and 17)