Editor's LetterJanuary 8, 2012

Think Young, Play Hard

Another example of Golf Digest's new mantra--THINK YOUNG, PLAY HARD--is Jamie Sadlowski, a 23-year-old ex-hockey player from St. Paul, Alberta, who has already won two world long-drive championships. He lost in the quarterfinals this year with a drive of 443 yards. Not a typo.

I first heard about Jamie from Max Puglielli, the club designer for Adams Golf who raved about this kid with a classic swing and 150-mile-per-hour clubhead speed (the average tour player is about 113). Jamie can hit a putter 300 yards but drives it with one of the Hot List clubs in this issue, the Adams Speedline Fast 12LS with a reinforced face to sustain his 218-mph ball speed. He typically would cave in a normal clubface within 15 to 20 shots. In long-drive competition, Sadlowski uses a 48-inch, XXX-stiff shaft and 6 degrees of loft. When he plays real golf, he throttles back to a 45-inch shaft and 7 degrees.

What else is in his bag? No fairway woods, an 18-degree hybrid, a 3-iron through pitching wedge, 52-degree gap wedge, 56-degree sand wedge and a 60- or 62-degree lob wedge.

Golf Digest first featured Sadlowski's swing in a January 2009 gatefold sequence,

but we've shot him at 2,300 frames per second in High Definition with Phantom HD Gold camera technology for a series that will be available only in our digital editions. Print subscribers of Golf Digest may download a digital subscription for free on the iPad, Kindle Fire, Galaxy Tab, the Nook Color/Tablet and other Android devices through NextIssue.com/golfdigest.

"The striking thing about Jamie--aside from the fact that a 5-10, 170-pound guy can carry it 400 yards--is that he has a beautiful swing," says Senior Writer Matt Rudy. "Long-drivers like Jason Zuback and Sean Fister make big, awkward, muscular lunges at the ball. Sadlowski makes a real golf swing with a huge shoulder turn and super-fast wrist action. He actually made the cut in a Nationwide Tour event this past September, shooting 66 on Friday to get through by a shot. The other thing you notice about him is, his shoes are untied. He apparently won his first regional title with untied shoes, so he kept it up for good luck."

Birdie of the month

I asked Sadlowski when it was that he realized he hit it a little longer than the rest of us. He alternated seasons between golf and hockey since he was about 2 years old. He says he could drive the ball the same distance as his father's buddies when he was 9 or 10, but it wasn't until turning 14 that he averaged 300 yards consistently. "It's the same kind of motion as hockey," he says. "I create lag left-handed with a hockey stick and right-handed with a golf club. The hand-eye coordination is the same. The only difference between me and a PGA Tour player is that I take it back a lot farther--I can see the clubhead out of my left eye at the top of the backswing--but I pretty much swing in balance and on plane. And yeah, that part about thinking young--I'm the kind of guy who doesn't overthink it. When I get under the gun, I just play hard."

Hot List companies routinely test their equipment with high-speed players like Sadlowski to simulate extreme conditions for developing products. "The good news is that average golfers with a proper fitting can get a Smash Factor [the relationship between ball speed and swing speed] that's higher than Sadlowski's 218/150, or 1.45," says Equipment Senior Editor Mike Stachura. "We sub-100-mph swingers can get to a Smash Factor of almost 1.5 thanks to modern club and ball technology."

In other words, there's a lot of technology in this issue--from the HD cameras shooting pictures to the tablets serving up our digital content--but none is more impressive than the science behind the Hot List clubs of the year.


Jamie Sadlowski