Ever wondered what all the great metalwood players have in common? Here we take a look at 5 factors that really help them to excel in this department…
5 things all great metalwood players have in common
Metalwoods have advanced beyond all recognition over the last quarter of a century and it isn’t all that long ago that many of us were playing with small, solid-headed wooden clubs, and really struggling to master the long end of the game. Several rapid evolutions later, and modern drivers and metalwoods are now very different beasts indeed, boasting large hollow titanium or steel heads, along with clubhead weighting engineered for an easier launch and vastly enhanced forgiveness.
But while they are now undoubtedly easier to play than ever before there are number of specifics relating to your technique that if you can master, will help you unlock the potential in your driver. All the great metalwood players like Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy have the following five things in common – make sure they become a part of your game too…
Getting all the basics right at address is key, from posture, alignment and grip to ball position. With your metalwoods, the most important of these is your ball position and the best players all have it positioned forward in their stance – off the left heel. This encourages the upward attack angle required to really optimise carry distance with your driver. With your fairway woods the contact you are looking for is more of a sweeping action and the ball position can move a fraction further back in the stance to facilitate this. When moving the ball forward take care that your hips don’t move a little to the right – they should remain directly under your shoulders. And there can also be a tendency to open the shoulders as ball position moves forwards too, so always check your alignment.
Rory McIlroy 2018 Swing Sequence
This is another key set-up factor. Check out the best drivers in the world and you won’t find anyone whose right or trailing shoulder isn’t noticeably lower than their left or lead shoulder at address. This tilt at address, with the spine angling slightly to the right too, is crucial in generating power as it encourages an upward strike through the ball, which is pivotal in reducing spin and increasing clubhead speed. Hitting down on the ball is good with irons, but creating a more upward angle of attack is the way to optimise power with a driver. When Golf Monthly spent time with Rory McIlroy recently at TaylorMade’s Kingdom equipment testing facility in Carlsbad, California, his angle of attack with the driver was +4˚ generating a launch angle of about 12˚. Rory went on to rip it up at Bay Hill a few weeks later, where he topped the driving distance stats en route to victory.
Width and extension
Width on the way back and a full extension of your arms through the ball are two real swing keys to excelling with drivers and metalwoods. The very best players create incredible width on the way back, making sure they turn against the right side rather than swaying. At the top of their backswings you will notice how the right knee remains flexed to allow a powerful upper body rotation. After they’ve swept the ball away, they appear to be almost chasing the ball and club down the line as they extend fully after impact. You won’t see any good metalwood players looking cramped either on the takeaway or follow-through!
Let’s be brutally honest – while accuracy is important, the long game on tour has become more about power these days. You won’t see any of the best players holding back off the tee. As the game has become more power-based, it is the players with the fastest clubhead speeds who are able to take fullest advantage, with golf played through the air more than ever before most weeks.
What these players all have in common is complete commitment to the shot. Of course, technically their swings are sound but when it comes to competing on the course they are not thinking about the specifics of their golf swings. We often see amateurs try to guide their golf ball towards the fairway. This will actually cost you accuracy as well as power. To test whether your club is moving at its fastest when it needs to (through impact), make some swings with an alignment stick. Listen out for the swoosh. If it comes before the impact area, you are releasing your power too early and missing out on crucial clubhead speed.
The days of a 9˚ or 10.5˚ driver in regular or stiff, then a 3- and 5-wood to match are long gone. Club fitting, with all the options now available in terms of shafts and head adjustability, is where it’s at for those looking to optimise clubhead speed. The best drivers and metalwood players spend hours studying the data and refining their specs to ensure everything is maxed out for the best blend of distance, playability and ball flight.
WATCH: Rory McIlroy talks through his current club choices and specs
Different shafts can make a huge difference, but there’s far more to really fine-tuning things these days as players seek to elevate performance from good or very good to excellent. Head adjustability plays a big role too – especially in drivers but also in many fairway woods – both in terms of weight distribution plus loft and lie angles.
This has helped the best players in the world drive it better than ever, but fine-tuning your gear is a must for any golfer. Whether it be helping you to reach your power potential or setting the club up to guard against your usual miss, there are many facets to a good club-fitting, all of which can help transform your performance.
In this high-tech world, the great metalwood players are seeking to take full advantage of everything on offer, not just in terms of individual club performance, but also in pinpointing perfect gapping between clubs at the long end of the bag. Thankfully, club fitting and fine-tuning is available to all of us too – but always seek the advice of an expert fitter who can really show you how to get the very most out of your swing.