How to Hit Straight Drives

Published on 08/14/2023 · 9 min readLearn how to hit straight drives with expert tips. Understand swing path, adjust setup, grip, and backswing for accurate and longer tee shots.
Al El Kordi-Hubbard, Golf Expert
By Golf Expert Al El Kordi-Hubbard

Photo by Al El Kordi-Hubbard

“Drive for show, putt for dough,” is how the old saying goes. However, if you’re driving off-line and out-of-bounds instead of in the fairway, then sinking your putt for double bogey doesn’t do you much good. My name is Al, and I’m a Curated Golf Expert with 20+ years of experience as a competitive golfer—from the junior level, to college golf, and professionally. In this article, I’ll teach you how to reduce the amount of curve on your drives, so that you can stop slicing and hooking, and instead improve your accuracy to hit longer, straighter drives.

Diagnosing Your Current Drive

The most important thing to do before learning to hit straighter drives is understanding why you’re not yet able to. You must first become aware of where the ball starts its flight on your driver swing. Is it starting right of the target line or left of it? This is important to know because you may think you’re hitting a big slice when, in reality, the ball is just starting to the right and flying straight—rather than curving hard to the right. The same goes for a hook: you may actually just be pulling the ball left, and it then flies straight, versus the ball curving hard to the left. Once you understand what’s going on during your drives, try the following simple drill.

Start Line Drill

Begin by identifying a target in the distance you want to aim your ball at. Then, use an alignment stick on the ground to aim at the target (orange sticks in photo below). Next, put a golf club or alignment stick between your feet and the ball (white stick below). By doing this, you’ll help make sure you’re aligned properly with your target. Your set-up should look something like this:

Photo by Al El Kordi-Hubbard

With your alignment set-up dialed in, hit five to ten swings and take note of which direction the ball flies before it curves. Is the ball flying to the right of the target and then curving, or to the left? Figuring this out helps you identify if your club face is open or closed at impact. If your ball flies to the right of the target, your club face is closed. If it flights to the left of the target, you club face is open. Ideally, the club face should be neutral, but this is rare. Instead, we need to understand swing path in relation to golf ball curve in order to begin hitting straighter drives.

Photos by Al El Kordi-Hubbard

Understanding Swing Path

The next thing to understand is how swing path, combined with club face, leads to curvature of the golf ball. The swing path of a golf swing through impact is somewhat of an arc. If the arc is skewed to the right, then the swing path is likely to the right. This is commonly referred to as an inside-out swing path (see image below), meaning that the backswing arcs closer to the body, and the downswing and follow through arc away.

Diagram by Al El Kordi-Hubbard

Conversely, with an outside-in swing path (see below image), the backswing arcs further away from the body, and the downswing and follow through arc closer.

Diagram by Al El Kordi-Hubbard

So, which swing path do you have? The best way to figure this out without a launch monitor is by looking at the direction your golf ball curves. If your ball curves to the left (draw or hook), you most likely have an inside-out swing path. If your golf ball curves to the right (fade or slice), you most likely have an outside-in swing path. If you have access to a launch monitor, then please take advantage as it provides exact numbers for the degrees and angles of your path. However, the start line drill and gaining awareness of the ball curve will be plenty helpful for beginning to hit straighter drives.

Swing Path and Club Face Impact on Ball Flight

Now you must understand how swing path and club face influence one another, and how they affect your shot shape, in turn. Below, I’ve listed the typical types of drives, and the swing path necessary to produce these kinds of shots. Keep in mind, there are more combinations out there, but this is the basic overview.

These combinations explain why your golf ball flies the way it does. You don’t slice or hook the ball because of some magical force causing you to do so—you slice and hook because your swing path and club face do not match up. To begin hitting your driver straighter, you need to match your swing path with your club face. Keep in mind: a dead-straight ball flight is almost impossible as the golf swing is an arc. However, the closer you can match swing path and club face, the straighter your drives will go.

Adjusting Set-Up Positioning

The simplest thing to do first is adjust your set-up. By adjusting your ball position, club handle position/shaft lean, and grip, you can drastically improve your consistency and hit drives much straighter.

Adjusting Ball Positioning

For your drive, your ball position should be closer to your lead foot. If you notice your drives start to the left before they begin to curve, you likely have your ball too far towards your lead foot, so you should move the ball back in your stance slightly (but still forward of the center of your stance).

Photo by Al El Kordi-Hubbard

If you notice your drives are starting to the right before they begin to curve, you most likely have the ball too close to the middle of your stance, and should adjust by moving the ball closer to your lead foot. Alternatively, if you notice your drives start exactly where you want them to before they begin to curve, then congratulations! You have your golf ball in the correct part of your stance!

Oftentimes, simply adjusting ball position will radically improve how straight one hits their drives. If this is you, then give yourself a pat on the back, note where your new ball position is, and enjoy your next round! If you notice that, even though your ball is now starting on the correct line, it’s still curving too much, then read on for the next tip.

Adjusting Handle Position/Shaft Lean

The next step in hitting straighter drives is club handle position, also known as shaft lean, which refers to the angle at which the shaft sits perpendicular to the golf ball. Ideally, we want no shaft lean, and the handle sitting close to 90°, relative to the golf ball, which will ensure the club face is neutral at address (shown in image below).

Photo by Al El Kordi-Hubbard

If you notice your golf ball still curving to the right more than you’d like, double-check your handle position. It’s common to see players with the handle too far forward with their driver, which leads to the club face being open at address.

Photo by Al El Kordi-Hubbard

Similarly, if you notice your ball curving too much to the left, check to see if the handle is too far behind the ball, as this will cause the club face to close at address.

Photo by Al El Kordi-Hubbard

With your driver, the club’s handle should always be neutral and close to 90°, which isn’t the case for iron shots and when the ball is further back in your stance, which leads to natural, forward shaft lean, since you’d want to hit down and compress the golf ball. With a driver, the goal is to simply hit the ball and get it in the air, so the right handle angle and shaft lean will set you up for success.

Adjusting Grip

Your grip has a massive impact on how the club head moves throughout the swing and impact. A strong grip promotes club face openness through impact, which leads the ball to curve right. A weak grip does the opposite, and promotes club face closure through impact, causing shots to curve left. Ideally, you want a neutral grip, allowing the club head to return to impact the same way you had the club head at address.

Also be aware of your grip pressure, and make sure it’s firm, but not too tight. By now, you’ve adjusted your set-up for a neutral club head at address, so layering a neutral grip on top will increase the odds of delivering the club head neutral at impact.

Photos by Al El Kordi-Hubbard

By making these adjustments, you should see much straighter and more consistent drives. If you’re happy with your ball flight after these changes, enjoy your next round of golf! If you can still make your drives a little straighter, there’s one last area to consider.

Adjusting Backswing

If all else fails, it may be time to look at your backswing specifically. It has a massive impact on how you transition into your downswing, and as a result, what you do at impact. By correcting your backswing, you can deliver the club head at a better angle and with a more neutral club face, resulting in straighter drives.

To create a backswing that helps you hit straight drives, you need to bring the club back on plane and with a square/neutral club face. If you’re not hitting your drives straight, odds are that you take the club back inside or outside of your ideal plane. Without moving your lower body, begin your takeaway by moving the club back with straight arms until it's roughly parallel to the ground.

Photo by Al El Kordi-Hubbard

From here, begin to rotate your hips/waist and lower body as you raise the club vertically with your wrists and forearms. This rotation engages the lower body, which is the key to improving drive distance!

Photo by Al El Kordi-Hubbard

Continue rotating until you feel tension in your back/spine as you reach the top of your backswing. The club face should still be neutral, like in the image below:

Photo by Al El Kordi-Hubbard

This is the ideal backswing for straighter drives. If the clubface rotates open or closed, you don’t want to be manually manipulating your downswing to match the club face and swing path, because it will lead to inconsistency. Instead, practice to make this ideal backswing automatic!

Putting the Pieces Together to Hit Straighter Drives

Ultimately, hitting straight shots begins with refining your fundamentals, begining with your set-up before you even hit the ball. If you can correct ball, handle, and grip, you’ll set yourself up for a repeatable backswing that maintains a neutral club face, and prevents shots from curving too much off-line. If after correcting your set-up, you still find the ball curving too much, consider your backswing. Take some time to hit slow, controlled backswings until you feel comfortable, and you’ll be shocked at how straight your golf ball flies. If you need additional help with any of these steps, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or one of my fellow Curated Golf Experts!

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