This year's Honda Classic had seemingly more wrecks then a NASCAR race, but it sure was interesting to watch. Congratulations to Russell Henley for surviving - and thriving when it mattered most - to win this year's championship.
One of the reasons Henley performed so well was his distance off the tee. Thus, the Lesson Learned from this years Honda Classic is how to go big off the tee and maximize your distance.
I had the opportunity to walk with Brendon de Jonge on pro am day as a PGA ambassador, and was very impressed by his play and by his ability to hit the slight fade with every drive. Playing the fade is good if you have that kind of fire power. Unfortunately, only a few golfers can really move it out there with a fade. For the most part, if you want distance, hitting a draw is what you want.
While on the practice tee at the Honda I noticed that almost all the long drivers were going right to left (draw). Tiger, Adam Scott, Ricky Fowler, Keegan Bradley and many other were all going long with the right to left draw shots. The majority of the longest drivers out there on the PGA Tour play the draw to get the most distance. The Champion Course at PGA National will certainly favor the long hitters, it's no surprise that the four players in the playoff were bombers.
Henley played his drives right to left to maximize the distance off the tee on virtually every hole. You certainly saw it on the first playoff hole where his big sweeping draw put him in perfect position to reach the par 5 green in two. One two-putt later, victory was his. A few pros can go left to right, but this shot shape will add loft to your club face and add spin to the golf ball - in turn reducing distance.
Let's be honest, most amateurs want more distance. My advice to them is to learn to hit the draw shot off the tee. When you draw the golf ball, your club face will be square and moving from inside the target line to the golf ball. All long hitters attack the ball from the inside path. I teach a lot of golfers to rotate the arms through the swing. This free arm swing adds a lot of speed and allows the club face to square up to the golf ball.
The more I teach golf the more I become a distance specialist and a short game specialist. Hitting it long off the tee takes the correct swing method and a lot of practice. Use these five suggestions for hitting the draw off the tee:
-tee it high. This promotes a slightly upward approach and helps with the inside out swing path.
-take a full backswing. By completing your backswing you will have smoother tempo and better weight transfer.
-relax your upper body. This encourages a downswing that will get you in the slot not over the top.
-correct alignment. You should square up your body to target line.
-Swing to a high finish position.
Increased distance gives you shorter approach shots which (hopefully) means more greens hit, more birdie putts and lower scores. And besides, it's fun to move one out there from time to time. Good luck and everyone have a great golf season!
Christian Czaja is a PGA Instructor at Boca West Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida. Czaja was the 2010 PGA Teacher of the Year in the South Florida section. Christian can be reach at 844-367-5309 for lessons or through his website www.christianczaja.com.