My Shot: Sean Fister
From the belly of The Beast comes insight on 150-mile-per-hour clubhead speeds, 500-yard drives, 20-second hang times and 280-pound foes in spandex shorts
Age 43 • Three-time World Long Drive champion • Little Rock, Arkansas
When I swing the club at 150 miles per hour and hit it absolutely pure, it feels like a whiff. The club is designed so that if I unload the shaft correctly and catch the ball dead in the middle of the sweet spot, the transfer of energy is so efficient that I feel nothing. In long driving, feedback is for losers.
My longest carry ever is 466 yards, at a course not far from Castle Pines in Colorado. A guy lasered it from the ball mark back to the tee. I prefer to measure that one not in distance but in hang time: It was in the air for 20 seconds. I'm very proud of that. Ronnie Lott, the football player, was one of the people standing there counting.
When I started out in long driving, persimmon drivers were still around. To this day the longest drive I've ever hit was with a Bert Dargie persimmon driver with a steel shaft. With a 40-mile-per-hour wind at my back and a firm fairway, I drove the ball three yards past the hole on a straightaway, 512-yard hole. Could have been a triple eagle, a hole-in-one on a par 5. But I pulled it a bit.
With the new balls, persimmon won't hit it anywhere. I've tried.
I've hit people on courses before. Never with a crooked drive. It's always somebody on the green of a par 4. My playing partners get tired of waiting, and they goad me: "You can't reach them," and "It's OK, if you drive the green I'll apologize for you." I've hit two people on the fly, one a guy I hit in the face and cut him around his eye and nose, another a lady I hit on the shoulder. They both went to the hospital. I've bounced balls into many people. I refuse to be goaded now and even give a speech: "You have to be patient with me because I've hit people before, and it's not pretty. It's fun to watch me hit it far, but it comes with a price."
When they say I hit the ball out of sight, for me it's literally true. I'm blind in my left eye because of macular degeneration. If it's overcast, I need some help telling me where my ball came down. Most of the time in competition I can tell by the sound and feel.
Freaky things happen when the clubhead is traveling more than 150 miles per hour. I mean crazy stuff, like the top of the driver flying off or the whole clubhead disintegrating. One time I shattered a clubhead, and a shard of metal flew up and hit me in the cheek. It cut me pretty deep. If it had hit me in my right eye, I'd be cooked.
I can't count how many driver heads I've caved in or the number of shafts I've broken. Thousands, I guess. Heck, I caved in or cracked 42 faces at the World Long Drive Championship last year. At first I snapped the shafts about six inches up from the hosel. After the manufacturers started adding more boron down there, I started snapping them just below the grip. It's still a problem. If I had to pay for my shafts and clubheads, I'd be on welfare.
I've got too many drivers at my house. Roughly 600 completed, and if you count the number of driver heads I have in boxes, it's over a thousand. The average person would be set for life. But the way I break them, I doubt what I have on hand would last a year.
In our sport, accuracy matters — a lot. The grid is only 52 yards wide, and when you're hitting the ball close to 400 yards, your misses become exponentially worse. I've got to rein it in a little, or none of the six balls in my round will find the box.
I can play a little. I've had good days with tour players where they suggested I work on my game and take a crack at playing professionally. My best score is a 64, eight under par, here at Chenal, my club in Little Rock. My short game would probably surprise you; playing with Tommy Bolt in a charity tournament a while back, I chipped in three times. Tommy was dancing all over the place. "Sean is the greatest player in the world," he said to anybody who would listen. But I know how good tour players really are, and I'm smart enough to stick with what I know best.
On the wide-open course at Chenal my index is plus-1.3. On the tight one I'm five strokes worse, a 4. It's not that I'm crooked. It's that there's no place for one of my straight drives to land.
I make a good living. I do more than 80 appearances a year at up to $15,000 a crack, and I won $100,000 for my last win at the World Long Drive Championship. I make extra off endorsements. I'm not the richest guy in Arkansas, but we do have the full cable TV package, we have pizza delivered a couple of times a week, and none of our clothes have holes in them.