Top gear stories of 2021: Wilco Nienaber’s secret to hitting 400-yard drives

When it comes to distance, Wilco doesn't hold back.

Andrew Tursky

Happy Holidays from our gear team at GOLF.com. To bring you into the New Year the right way, we’re counting down our top 21 equipment-related stories from 2021. For the latest gear news, check out our dedicated equipment section, and click here to listen to GOLF’s Fully Equipped weekly podcast

Bryson DeChambeau has become the king of the long ball on the PGA Tour, and he’s proven himself to be one of the longest drivers in the world. It’s possible, though, that he’s not the longest driver in professional golf. If there was a distance crown to share, then DeChambeau would share it with 21-year-old Wilco Nienaber, a South African who plays mostly on the European Tour.

Nienaber is known for his 400-yard-plus drives, and he leads the European Tour in driving distance, averaging 323.23 yards per drive. For reference, fellow basher DeChambeau averages 323.7 yards per drive on the PGA Tour.

Prior to Nienaber’s 2021 U.S. Open debut, I met up with the Ping staffer at Ping’s Headquarters in Phoenix, Ariz., to watch him during a testing session and speak with the bomber himself.

On the back of the range at Ping HQ sits a towering net that separates the range from the surrounding business buildings and side streets. The net keeps staffers like Tony Finau and Bubba Watson from sending the ball flying over the net and breaking any windows. Typically, even Ping’s longest staffers don’t get close to hitting the ball over the net.

Nienaber, however, was caroming golf balls off the top of the net time-after-time during his Ping G425 LST driver testing session. While his swing looks effortless, his club speed hovered around 138 mph and routinely hit ball speeds of 200+ mph. That’s some serious speed.

In one of GOLF’s most-read gear posts of 2021, Nienaber revealed his secrets to hitting the long ball with his 46-inch driver.

“One thing that had helped [with distance] was changing into a little bit longer driver shaft,” Nienaber told GOLF.com. “One thing I always think of when I try to go after it is just make sure I keep the backswing nice and steady, and finish the backswing, and then go at it as hard as I can…[most amateurs] try and hit it long on the backswing.”

All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy a linked product, GOLF.COM may earn a fee. Pricing may vary.

PING G425 LST Driver

$499
OUR TAKE: Some drivers offer flashy distance, while others provide sturdy stability. Ping’s new G425 drivers, though, checked both boxes for our testers. In his first time hitting the Turbulator-crowned driver, one GOLF tester called the G425 “wife material” due to its speed and forgiveness. “All my mishits went straight,” another said. Players also found that the impact sound sings a deep, booming note.  THE DETAILS: By combining tech from previous releases, Ping says it was able to design its most forgiving driver ever with the G425 Max. No wonder why testers found its performance dependable. The G425 Max drivers measure a USGA limit 460cc and have a 26-gram adjustable tungsten in the back of the heads to help increase launch and forgiveness. For golfers with a slice, Ping offers the G425 SFT draw-biased option, and for higher-speed players who need reduced spin, Ping offers the G425 LST. Check out 150+ reviews from our gear experts in the ClubTest 2021 collection
Buy Now
View Product

In the full story, Nienaber also takes us through what’s in his golf bag, including an ultra-custom Ping PLD putter and an i59 2-iron.

Want to overhaul your bag for 2021? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf. For more on the latest gear news and information, check out our latest Fully Equipped podcast below!

generic profile image

Andrew Tursky

Golf.com Editor

Andrew Tursky is the Senior Equipment Editor at GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com.