OFF THE TEE

Butch Harmon's quick, no-practice driving tips

By Madeline MacClurg  

Lower scores start with getting your tee shots in good position. Fortunately, improving your driving doesn’t always mean changing your swing. You can boost your confidence and consistency off the tee simply by focusing on strategy. Learn from the best with these eight tips from Butch Harmon, ranked No. 1 on Golf Digest’s 50 Best Teachers in America. They’ll help you think more decisively on the tee, pick better targets, stay calm under pressure and develop an effective pre-shot routine. Follow along with the video above to start setting yourself up for success on the course—and better scores. And check out our new series, "Strategy School with Butch Harmon" at Golf Digest Schools.
Make your target small

“It takes no athletic ability at all to set up to a golf shot properly,” Harmon says. The first step to a solid setup is visualizing the shot you’re trying to hit. Harmon says to step behind the ball, look down your line, and imagine where you want to start the ball and where you want it to finish. This will help you pick your target, which is the next step. Make your target something small, Harmon says, like an individual bunker or tree in the distance. That will get you focused.
Look at the hole backward

 If you play the same course a lot, this tip is perfect for you. Before you walk off the greens, Harmon says to look back up the fairway to the tee. This change in view will give you a better understanding of the hole layout and will help you figure out where you want to place your ball off the tee. What looks best from the tee might not always be your best option. Try Harmon’s old-school trick to figure out the best route for the next time you play.

 Don’t let the tee force your aim

Another course feature Harmon says to notice is where the tee box aims you. A lot of tees will aim you toward trouble and away from the preferred side of the fairway. Instead of rushing to tee up your ball, Harmon says to take a few seconds and figure out where the trouble is on the hole and aim away from it. For example, if there’s water down the left, set up on the left side of the tee to give yourself a better angle out to the right. You might be surprised how many strokes those few extra seconds can save you.

Focus on where you want to go

“When tour players walk up on a hole, they don’t see the trouble. They see the area they want to drive their ball into,” Harmon says. Try focusing on your target instead of the trouble you want to avoid, like O.B., hazards and trees. This gives you the best chance at putting your tee shot in line with your target. And staying positive will free up your mind—and your swing.

Find the right routine for you

Before stepping up to a tee shot, Davis Love III always does a dress rehearsal of his swing—full motion, full speed. Tiger Woods, on the other hand, visualizes his shot from start to finish before hitting it. Harmon explains that both of these are great examples of an effective pre-shot routine and worth testing out as you try to find what works for you. Whatever it is, it should relax you and get your ready for the shot at hand. Once you develop your pre-shot routine, Harmon says to keep it the same on every shot.

To beat your nerves . . . breathe

“Think about a pitcher in the World Series: Before he throws any pitch, you see him take a deep breath in, and a long exhale,” Harmon says. He explains that taking a couple of deep breaths before you hit your tee shot helps to relax your body and gives you the best chance at hitting a good one. Try it next time you’re feeling a little pressure!

Make a smart club selection

 Strategy starts with getting the right club in your hands, and sometimes it’s not the driver. Whether you’re struggling with it that day or you just don’t feel confident, Harmon says that it’s never a bad idea to grab a 3-wood or hybrid instead. “The most important thing about driving is not only how far you hit it, but putting the ball in play,” he says, “In golf, we’re trying to go from Point A to Point B to Point C in the fewest amount of shots, so it’s not always the driver.”

Get fit for your driver

With golf technology being so advanced today, why wouldn’t you have a driver that’s custom-fit to your swing? The days of buying a driver off the rack should be long gone. Harmon explains that getting fit by a PGA professional will give you the best chance to hit a good drive every time you walk up on a tee. Plus, knowing you have a perfect fit will boost your confidence big-time.


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