Not since 2012 has a young European had such an impressive start on the PGA Tour. That player from across the pond was Rory McIlroy. Viktor Hovland has nearly matched Mr. McIlroy with his third win on tour at the ripe age of 24. Hovland’s heroics early in his career have been largely based upon great ball striking and solid putting.
In the past two years at Mayakoba, Viktor has been a record-setting 43 under par. He has accomplished this phenomenal scoring with one simple recipe, get the ball in play off the tee. The el Cameleon course used for the World Wide Technology Mayakoba Championship is very demanding when it comes to hitting the fairways. For two straight years, Viktor Hovalnd has consistently put the ball in play.
How has Hovland become one of the best all-around drivers on tour? As a right-hander, he hits a very dependable slight fade down the left side of each hole and slides it back into the fairway. His level of comfort off the tee is remarkable. Yet, it isn’t impossible for all of us to use a similar strategy for hitting fairways.
By keeping the game plan consistent, we can reduce our chance for error and learn to hit it more like Hovland.
Whether you normally hit a draw or fade off the tee, this proven method for finding the fairway will work for you. Start by getting to the practice range, make sure you get warmed up and have your body prepared to hit some drivers. Then try this drill.
Take an alignment stick and place it about 30 feet in front of you on the target line. Tee up a driver and aim at the vertical stick. Once you have taken your stance, open that front leg by moving the lead foot back about an inch. This will also open your lead shoulder and hip.
Once we have created that room to swing, take the club back about halfway with just your shoulders and back. Don’t engage the wrists or hands. Once you reach your turning maximum return through the ball. Get the ball flight to start on your side of the vertical alignment rod. (For right-handed players this is the left side of the stick.)
If you have successfully quieted your hands and wrists, the ball should bend around the stick and back toward the target line. Thus, creating a small fade. Keep practicing this move feeling a giant back and shoulder turn. Watch Viktor’s swing online. Look at his back move, that’s what allows him to be such an amazing ball striker.
Once you are comfortable seeing and feeling this ball flight by turning, start to swing a little further on the way back. The reason why this tee shot system helps everyone is because it only allows for one miss. As long as the handle gets through impact ahead of the strike, it can only go one way, straight or fade.
Knowing that will give us all great confidence in turning through the shot. Pretty soon you’ll only imagine the vertical stick and your ball bending around it from every tee box. Once you’re able to envision that you are locked in for success. Not to mention, your impact will become way more solid. Help yourself to Viktor’s victory move off the tee and you’ll be in position to score better as well.
Keith Stewart is a 5-time award-winning PGA Professional with 25 years of experience in the golf industry. His network of players, coaches and insiders provide him with a unique perspective on the game. He's a writer on PGA.com and host of the ProShow on ESPN 920 AM Friday afternoons at 3:00pm EDT. Check out his PGA Coaching articles archived here or his conversations on air with this link to his website The ProShow.
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