Play Better Golf

Jason Day: Hitting the High Ball

From driver to the wedges, my standard ball fight is as high as the others’ on tour. My high standards give me some huge advantage, particularly in carrying hazards, which helped me bag last year’s Players Championship. I shot 9-under-par 63 in the opening round, and hit 15 greens in regulation. This is not doable with a low ball flight at TPC Sawgrass.

Sending one shot into orbit involves several factors. Firstly, movement of the hip and the speed of the clubhead play a huge role. Actually, my hips stop rotating during the downswing. It may look a bit bizarre, but as my hips stop rotating, it pushes my arms and club to create a whip-like action. Fast swings result in higher shots. Second, if you want to get the ball up, it is important to have a very shallow angle of attack. Third, i have a straight right arm at impact. If my right arm was bent like some players do, it would be a struggle getting the height I need. Fourth, during the backswing, I load onto my right side. Players who don’t move that much are more prone to compressing the ball; however, once they hit it, they do not carry it as far.

You may realize that you are not expected to copy my swing if you are aiming your hit to be higher. While you can easily copy some things, a lot on this drill will push you to work harder, sometimes harder than you are probably able to endure. Do not forget that I’ve been doing this swing for more than two decades.

Col Swatton, my coach, and I have developed 4 drills that can help anyone hit higher with their irons. These drills do not need you to have a faster swing action or have the hip movement of a professional player. You don’t need to sacrifice family time in order to do these drills, you’ll just need a little extra hours and you’ll see an improvement with your ball arc.

  1. Before you go…LOAD. As your backswing ends, do you feel a lot of weight concentrated on your left foot? If yes, you are more likely to hit a line drive. You may try positioning your body behind the ball. What to do: With your right foot, step on the club shaft. Pin another on your chest. (See photo.) Then, turn back. Can you feel how all your weight shifts to your right leg? The club that you are stepping on serves as a backstop, hindering you from swaying away from the target. Now, the other club, which is pinned across your chest, must point behind the ball when you turn, with your head behind the golf ball, as well. If you are able to execute similar position while getting to the top of your swing, then you can get this shot off your right side as you do your downswing. This is a great weight shift. It is a lot similar as how pitchers throw a fastball.

2. Let it fly. Maybe you’ve been told to sweep with a driver and hit down with an iron. But, in reality, you shouldn’t hit down on the ball with the iron that much if you want it to go higher. Learn the shallower approach: Tee a ball 2-3 inches off the ground, but instead of using a driver, execute it using a 6-iron. Try your best to hit this ball as far and high as you can. You will feel how your spine needs to bend away from the target while your arm straightens in order to launch the ball. Spine tilt is a crucial factor here. If your spine is positioned straight up or leaning toward the target during impact, you’ll probably pop the ball since there’s a greater tendency of swinging under it. Weight shift is another factor. You’ll surely blade it if you swing off your back foot. Get this drill going and see if you get the same results by swinging in a similar manner when the golf ball is not teed up.

3. Hit the slopes. Look for a spot where you can try to do iron shots from an uphill lie (see photo). It shouldn’t be an overly severe slope, but you have to feel the gravity pulling you lightly from the target. If you are able to hit the ball solid and high from that position, you know how a high-ball swing feels from a flat lie. The slight slope forces your body to shift its weight forward and make your downswing shallow. You might lose balance if you llet all your weight on your back foot, all because of gravity or it could be because you may think that this position helps in making your shot higher. Then again, if you swing down a bit too steeply, the club is more likely to crash into the turf. It is really the rules of physics. Do like Col says, instead: “follow the earth with your clubhead.” transfer your weight toward the target and swing up the slope. And since the hill will act as a launching pad once you do it right, you’ll surely get it high and far.

4. Turn, shift, and rotate. This is a combination of all the elements you’ve learned. Use an alignment rod and stick it on the ground just a few inches off your right hip. Use another one and do the same on your left. Position yourself like in Drill No. 1, totally avoiding swaying into the rod placed near your right hip. Start down by allowing your left hip bump the rod placed next to it. Make sure your spine angle shifts like it does in the 2nd drill. Feel your weight shifting into the left heel while doing this. You are out of position if you feel your weight in your toes. Finally, right after the bump, twist your hips slightly toward the target. Swing the club and let it graze the ground like in Drill No. 3. Work these three, but blend it. Once you mastered this, you will easily get your ball sailing.