I just played a round of golf yesterday with a colleague who is also an inspiration. He's 11 years older than I am, yet he hits the ball every bit as far as I do and often hits it past me. I've been playing with this older whippersnapper for more than two decades, and I can't recall ever hitting it by him on a regular basis.
"Why is that?" I found myself muttering under my breath after another one of Bob's drives airmailed one of my best hits. The answer is, he swings with abandon. And usually it goes straight down the middle, as Bing Crosby would have crooned.
Then I was reading about young Keegan Bradley for an upcoming article in Golf Digest. At a rail-thin 180 pounds (same weight as me) he averages 299.2 yards off the tee. How can this be?
Then I watched Fred Couples win another Champions Tour event last weekend, where he made that effortless-looking, smooth backswing, looped the club on an inside path, and powdered his drive on the last hole straight down the middle, 290. Of course, he birdied the hole and captured the tournament by a stroke. He could actually be a contender at Augusta this week.
So what gives? What's their secret to obscenely long drives? I know that while the backswing is important, it's the through swing that gives you distance. As teacher Tim Mahoney once told me, "You don't hit the ball with your backswing."
But there must be more to it than that.
So I asked Jim McLean, Bradley's teacher who also coaches LPGA long-hitting phenom Lexi Thompson, for his insight. He says the key is to get your hips to line up under the shoulders (McLean calls this getting stacked). Then from this coiled position, swing the club through the ball--not to it--swinging with abandon. Bradley looks as if he's swinging about as hard as he can. But he stays in balance on the backswing (remember, coiled at the top), all the way to his finish, which McLean tells him to hold for at least two seconds, every time.
As Julius Boros used to say (and even wrote an entire book by the same title): "Swing Easy, Hit Hard." Especially when you're under pressure, try these keys. Not only will you hit the ball farther, you'll probably hit it straighter, and have a lot more funl.
Good luck with your game this weekend. And remember to follow me on Twitter @RogerSchiffman.