It’s important to have swing thoughts on the tee. They help take your mind off all the bad things that can happen and put your focus on what you need to do to put one in the fairway. Way down the fairway. But just as important as mechanical thoughts is making sure you’re swinging with good tempo, particularly with the driver. You could have amazing technique, but if you can’t put it all together with the right rhythm, you won’t hit your best tee shots. So let’s start there as we try to make this your Year of the Driver.

You might notice I’m wearing in-ear headphones. I like to listen to music when I practice to help improve my rhythm. I tend to get a little quick in the transition from backswing to downswing, especially as tournaments get closer to Sunday and I’ve got a chance to win. Listening to music helps throttle back my tempo. I’m not talking about upbeat hip-hop or some Celtic metal band. I need something a little more mellow when I hit balls: acoustic stuff like Coldplay’s older music, Ed Sheeran, Bon Iver.

My first tip for you is to find the rhythm that produces good, solid strikes over and over. It’s probably less violent than the swing you’d instinctively make. Keep rehearsing with the driver until you feel smooth from start to finish. Then, go back to the swing thoughts that click for you. I’ll share some of the things I’m working on with my driver currently. If you want this to be your Year of the Driver, I think they can help.

Carry Distance (metres): 284.3
Club Speed At Impact: 196
Initial Ball Speed: 292.7

Create Your Foundation

Stability is important in any athletic movement, but it’s absolutely critical when you want to swing your driver with more power. There’s never a point in my swing when I feel like I’m losing control of my body. Even when I’m swinging my fastest and really firing into the ball, I know I’m going to stay in balance. Watch my swing, and you’ll see how quiet I am at the finish. It starts with getting into a comfortable, tension-free position at address, but one where you feel free to swing the club with some speed.

Rory McIlroy

That delicate blend of being relaxed and ready to move at high speeds is something to focus on when practising. The stance is key. If there’s too much weight out on your toes or back on your heels, you’re starting from an unstable position. Feel that your legs are solidly under you.

Maintain Your Height

One of the big things I’ve been working on since the end of last year is keeping my head from dipping as I take the club back. A lot of amateurs have the opposite problem: They straighten up. Either fault moves the club off the ideal plane to hit your tee shot long and straight. Keep your head height, and you won’t have to make any split-second adjustments on the downswing to get the club back on plane.

Rory McIlroy

I pay attention to one other thing here: If unchecked, my backswing can get long, making it difficult to time squaring the clubface at impact. Some golfers fight their swings getting too short, but either way, it’s important to maintain a consistent top-of-backswing position. I know my swing should stop when my left shoulder is tucked directly under my chin. Once I hit that position, I’m ready to start my move into the ball.

Activate Your Lower Body

I use the ground to generate power more than a lot of guys do. That comes from what my legs are doing when I transition into the downswing. As I’m completing the backswing (and this is something my coach, Michael Bannon, taught me when I was a kid) I really brace against the inside of my right leg. I’m pushing into the ground, and I can feel my right leg resisting my upper-body turn. That stores a lot of power for the second half of the golf swing.

Rory McIlroy

As I start the club down, I lead with my legs. I’m trying to get my left knee out of the way so the club can whip through the hitting area. You don’t want the left knee moving out towards the ball. You also don’t want to make a big slide to your front side. I think of it as a small shift towards the target, then the left knee starts turning left. From there, you can let everything go and sling the club through impact.

It’s All About The Strike

When you think about it, do things like tempo, backswing length or leg action matter if you aren’t making solid contact? Hitting it flush is my focus whenever I face a tough shot or a key moment in a round. If you can take the clutter out of your head and think about catching it in the middle of the face, you’d be surprised how many of the moves you’ve worked on just happen.

Rory McIlroy

The simple things are often the most important when it comes to great ballstriking. The correct ball position (just inside the front heel for the driver) and good posture (feeling balanced and ready to be athletic) can do wonders. Point is, when you’re nervous or feeling like your brain is overloaded, go back to the most basic goal: hitting the ball solid. I think you’ll agree, that simple thought keeps you in the moment and helps you hit your best drive of the day, week or year.