When people talk about accuracy off the tee, they’ll frequently mention playing to a natural shape. But I’m a very neutral player, so rather than thinking fade or draw on a tight drive, I’m thinking “lower”. The higher you hit the ball the more likely you’ll get the mushroom effect, where a drive begins on target, then climbs and moves so that it falls outside the narrow corridor you might be aiming down. Hit the ball low, so that it gets back to the ground more quickly and you immediately increase the margin for error.
I do this by staying more centred through the swing. You can see here how I don’t move off the ball as much when I’m hitting a low shot. I’ll tee the ball a touch lower, swing shorter and then stay on top of the ball as I sweep through towards the target. This doesn’t mean you get steep on the shot. You need to clip it off the tee peg rather than striking with an ascending blow.
When I want to hit a draw, I move the ball back so it’s closer to the middle of my stance. I still swing down from the inside, but my main thought is to chase the ball with my right shoulder after impact. This keeps my torso rotating aggressively through the shot. Contrary to popular opinion, I think the shot that lands softest is a high draw. Most golfers who fade a wood do so by hitting down on the ball, which produces a hard, running shot.
Watch others and steal their tempo
If you’re playing with someone who has a similar tempo to yours or if you can visualise a favourite player, that can be a useful way of finding the right gear early in the round. As I’ve said, letting the club free-wheel through the ball so that you’re nice and loose, is the best way to hit it straight.
I wasn’t hitting the ball very well the other day and I was playing with Harris English and he’s got such a crazy amount of turn, especially through the ball. I tried to feel his swing on the first hole and I hit a good shot and that was me up and running for the rest of the round. I like playing with Louis Oosthuizen as well because his swing, rhythm and balance is good for me.
It’s no good trying to copy a player like Bubba Watson. The only reason his game works is because of the clubhead speed he gets. People argue Bubba’s making golf coaches obsolete, but not everyone has that capability. If you haven’t got the physical abilities then you need to be technically very sound and that’s why there are a lot of coaches about.