If the PGA Tour was doing crowds this summer, you would have been able to hear the murmurs when Tiger Woods took Frank (his driver headcover) off in the 7th fairway at TPC Boston during the Northern Trust. He was preparing to hit the dreaded driver off the deck—an always challenging shot made even more baroque by the giant-sized driver heads we all use.
Woods had 292 yards into the 593-yard par-5, and played a sliding cut that ended up 20 yards from the hole, in a greenside bunker. He would get up and down for his birdie—which may have made the case for him to make that choice, but does it mean you should try the same thing?
Maybe, but only if you take the proper precautions. We asked two top teachers—Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher Mike Adams and Golf Digest Best-in-State coach Terry Rowles—how to adapt what Woods did to your game. It comes down to understanding what the equipment will let you do, and adjusting your technique to match.
“The way modern drivers are constructed, the center of mass is higher on the face. That means, by definition, the only place you’re going to be able to hit the ball is low on the face below that spot,” says Rowles, who is based at Mountain Ridge Country Club in New Jersey and with Aaron Baddeley and Jazz Janewattanond. “Low face impact makes the ball cut, so you have to aim left to account for it, like Tiger is doing here.”
But you can’t just wind up and make the same swing you used off the tee, says Adams. “Despite having a driver in your hand, you have to approach this shot like you’re hitting a fairway wood—which means you have to hit slightly down on it,” says World Golf Teaching Hall-of-Famer Adams, who is based at Fiddler’s Elbow Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. “Move the ball about two inches farther back than you would if you were hitting driver off the tee, so you can deliver a slightly down or level attack angle and hit the ball first.”
The challenge? Resisting the urge to hang back and help the ball in the air. “Most players see the lack of loft and think they have to do something extra, especially given the size of the head. Tiger has the speed that lets him trust that the loft on the face is enough for the job. Your mileage may vary!”
The good news is that making a mistake—as long as it’s thin and not fat—won’t hurt too much. “If you hit it thin, it will run a lot. It’s when you hit the ground first that you’re doomed,” says Adams. You want to choose a situation where you have lots of safe ground run out in front of you, and a hard low shot that runs won’t hurt you.”