In March, the CA World Golf Championship was held at Doral’s famed Blue Monster Course in Miami. It’s a big hitter’s course, with the likes of Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, and Tiger Woods having won there in recent years. For the past two decades, Doral has also been home to the Jim McLean Golf School. It’s a terrific place to have a school—our teachers have a huge advantage by being able to observe and videotape the world’s top players every year.
I’ve been teaching at Doral for 18 years now, and one of the things I’ve noticed every single year during tournament week is that PGA Tour players sweep the ball off the tee when using a driver. In fact, I’ve never seen more than a few little blades of already-cut grass kicked up by a pro player when they tee off. The teeing areas on the par 5’s are in the same pristine condition on Sunday afternoon as they were on the preceding Monday morning.
However, when I look at the forward tee boxes on the course, where the amateurs play, there are plenty of old divots. Upon arrival at our school, many students have difficulty driving the ball because they are hitting golf’s most important shot with a descending blow. With irons, a descending blow is fine. But the best players off the tee bring the clubhead through the ball with a slightly ascending blow.
A very effective drill for shallowing your clubhead’s approach to the ball is what we call the “tee-ball drill.” Now, many kids start out playing baseball in a league where they learn to bat by placing the ball on a waist-high tee. Well, the baseball tee can be a great image for a golfer who is having trouble sweeping drives cleanly off the tee. At your next practice session, use a 3-wood (this club’s shorter face height will easily expose a steep approach). Tee the ball at a height where the bottom of the ball is just above the top of the club when you rest it on the ground. Then address the ball, hovering the clubhead so that the face is even with the ball.
Now put in your head an image of a “flatter” or more “around your body” backswing action to promote sweeping the ball. The height of the tee will promote such a swing. If you can consistently hit solid shots with your 3-wood using this drill, then move on to using your driver (which has a much taller club face area), setting the ball on the tee the same way—just above the top edge of the face as you rest the clubhead on the ground. Sweeping will become even easier with this club, with the only difference being an extra 20 yards!