2005: Distance: Take what you’re given
With the Re/Max World Long Drive Championship coming up Oct. 18-22 in Mesquite, Nev., it is time to tell the truth about distance and the fanatical efforts of many golfers to hit the ball farther.
The truth: Most skilled golfers, whether they are amateurs or pros, will never gain much distance because of swing changes. Try as they might, they will not become substantially longer with a new swing or a new move.
Distance in golf is an innate, instinctive thing. Most long bombers were long from the very first time they picked up a golf club.
All of us can pick up yardage because of modern technology – primarily in golf balls and drivers – but we cannot transform ourselves from Sammy Short Knocker to Larry Long Ball. It ain’t gonna happen.
I have interviewed countless long hitters, and invariably they say they were long from the beginning. Former World Long Drive champion Sean (The Beast) Fister told me he had never hit a golf ball in his life, yet he drove a 320-yard par 4 hole during his maiden round of golf.
All long-hitting amateurs I know say the same thing: They don’t know why it happened, but immediately they were long. Doing what seemed natural to them, they had the ability to generate tremendous clubhead speed.
In the arena of golf distance, looks can be deceiving. Big men can be golf wimps, while small golfers can be explosively long.
My advice for hitting longer drives: See a PGA professional and concentrate on swing fundamentals. A solid swing will produce solid hits, and this alone can maximize distance.
The quest for an extra 15 or 20 yards has ruined many a golfer, so, as the old pros always say, play your own game. This is easier said than done, but it is worth the endeavor.
When pressed on the distance debate, I always offer one additional insight: Swing faster, not slower.
Too many golfers swing too slowly. In the name of rhythm and timing, they unnecessarily sacrifice distance. This is the premise of the “Tour Tempo” swing philosophy of John Novosel, who wrote a book on his theory.
I wholeheartedly believe Novosel.
Try this experiment: Play an 18-hole round without any wagers. Concentrate on swinging faster on every full shot. Forget your normal tempo. Forget all swing thoughts. Just swing faster.
Keep a log of your shots – how solidly you hit the ball, how high you hit the ball.
Remember, it’s just a research project. If it works, try it again. Stay aggressive. Evaluate your performance on the results of an entire round, not just a few swings or holes.
There are a thousand long-drive tips. Here are some I hear all the time: Grip the club with light hands, feel you have rubber arms, create width by extending your arms away from your body, generate more shoulder turn, initiate the downswing with an explosive motion of the legs and hips, introduce more clubhead lag, learn to snap your wrists, aggressively rotate your upper body through impact, accelerate fiercely at the bottom of the swing, and so forth.
It’s too much. Distance hounds are one step away from golf’s dog pound.
If you are lucky, you will find one tip that works for you. Stick with it.
Otherwise, try swinging faster.
If that doesn’t work, give up and admit the truth: Technology will get you a few extra yards, but you might as well concentrate on improving your swing.
See a PGA pro for instruction. Be the best short hitter you can be.