I just finished reading the November 2007 issue of Golf Digest and am a little confused.
In this month’s Breaking 100/90/80/70 section, Bobby Clampett sings the praises of hitting down on the ball. In his estimation, the bottom of the swing arc should be about four inches in front of the ball, meaning that when the club makes contact with the ball, it is still moving downward.
I can buy that. In fact, I just covered it in my post about the general misunderstanding of what hitting down on the ball means. What I’m a little surprised about is his point that the driver should be included in that category.
In the article, he says:
I’m blown away that so many reputable golf teachers instruct their students to strike the driver on the upswing. Regardless of whether a ball is on a tee or on a ground, the swing bottom must consistently be four inches in front of the ball. And swinging slightly down on the ball with the driver goes a long way toward ensuring that.
He goes on to give a couple of reasons why hitting down with a driver is important, including helping to keep the left wrist flat at impact.
He’s blown away? I’m blown away.
I can’t say that I’ve ever heard a pro or read an instruction book that said to hit down on the ball with the driver. Every piece of advice I’ve ever been exposed to says that the driver should strike the ball with a level to slightly ascending blow.
Sure, it’s probably been said somewhere. You can probably find someone recommending just about anything with the golf swing.
As you know, I like to talk about the swing but I’m not a pro (yet). So, I’m left wondering what to think. Listen to everything I’ve ever read and heard about hitting the driver, or listen to Bobby Clampett? That may have sounded sarcastic, but it wasn’t. After the Stack and Tilt phenomenon, I’m not discounting anything out of hand anymore.
The only option at this point is to check out some video.
Here’s a slow motion look at Tiger Woods hitting the driver. Pay special attention to the close-up of impact near the end of the video.
Now, just for the sake of not putting all our eggs in the Tiger basket, let’s have a look at Trevor Immelman. Again, pay close attention to the close-up of impact near the end.
Trevor Immelman on YouTube (sorry, I can’t embed that particular video here).
In both cases, it looks to me as if the club head is imparting a level hit on the ball. I’m not seeing any descending blow, though it’s not easy to tell on video sometimes. I will say with confidence that it doesn’t seem like either of those players was bottoming out four inches in front of the ball.
I watched a few other videos trying to find any evidence that I could that anyone was hitting drivers with an downward blow. I found a couple on YouTube (search for “swing vision”) where it looked like club head did dip right after impact, but it seems like maybe it’s more from the force of impact.
Here’s Phil Mickelson:
To me, it looks more like the force of impact makes the back of the club dip toward the ground, not so much that he’s hitting the ball with a descending blow. Pay close attention to the leading edge at the bottom of the club face.
One thing is certain: this advice is definitely in opposition to conventional wisdom.
And, I’ll also say this: whether Clampett is right or wrong, hitting the driver with a slightly descending blow should only result in a few less yards of carry and a slightly higher ball flight, due to increased spin. At the same time, if a descending blow somehow leads to better ball striking (say, with more crispness or consistency, for instance), then it could be worth it.
What do you think? Have you ever heard mainstream advice that recommended hitting down with the driver? Do you do it yourself (on purpose)?