At the World Long Drive Championships in Mesquite, Nev., it was hard to escape a certain element of wonder. Wonder, of course, that Bryson DeChambeau had showed up in the tiny desert town with aspirations only of hitting bombs and resetting the sport of long drive. But also wonder in a different sense: the kind of utter adulation that fans feel when they witness unfathomable athletic accomplishments.
Sure, professional golf has its own degree of implausibility, centering for most of us around the idea of shooting four consecutive rounds under par. But at the long drive, impossibility takes a different shape. How could it not? What, with 400-yard drives commonplace and a cast of professionals closer resembling Monday Night RAW than their plaid-wearing, pleated-pant brethren.
When GOLF sent me to Mesquite to understand the world of long drive, I wondered if it’d be possible to deconstruct that wonder into terms both understandable and applicable to the average golfer. So, I did exactly that — canvassing the sport’s finest athletes for their opinions and advice about how to turn you from Average Joe to big-swinging bro, if you will.
I figured I’d learn a thing or two about dietary habits (or perhaps the total number of Orgain shakes required to reach 200 mph ball speed), and maybe pick up on a few swing and/or equipment tips along the way.
Instead, I found something surprising. Most if not all long drive pros shared that swinging faster, longer and hitting the ball farther is not a matter of bulk or brawn, but rather, a matter of science and strategy. Below, find my random sampling of three of long drive’s most familiar faces — Kyle Berkshire, Martin Borgmeier and Bobby Bradley — about what they’d share with people hoping to add a few yards off the tee.
1. What’s biggest misconception about adding distance?
Martin Borgmeier: “That it’s hurting their game. That speed is actually hurting their game, and that’s because most people don’t practice speed. They just go out there and try to smash the ball on the golf course, and that’s not how it’s going to do. You need to practice speed to get it to apply to the golf course. I believe, especially because of what Bryson did, that it’s going to evolve more and more. Amateurs will try to apply the same principles and will have success with that too, and will see that it does benefit their game, it doesn’t harm it.”
Bobby Bradley: “The biggest misconception is that people feel like they need to grip the club really hard — they need to take the club back really fast. I have the luxury of having a Trackman 4 at my shop, and I’ll sit there and hit 150-200 balls, and it’s amazing how much farther I hit it when I’m relaxed. In baseball terms, tranquillo! Relax! Chill! And you’ll see a lot more improvement.”
Kyle Berkshire: “I think the biggest thing is that people feel like they need to swing with a lot of effort and a lot of brawn — that’s definitely not the case. To get your speed up, you do need to swing at your max speed to train for that, but when it comes to generating speed that’s actually consistent and long-lasting, it’s more about being loose and free and creating speed at the bottom. It’s not like really gripping hard, it’s about being smooth, fluid and quick with your body.”
2. One thing everyone can do…
Borgmeier: “The most important thing is hitting maximum intent. There are a lot of different drills. But most important is figuring out your CNS, your central nervous system, and how to make it fire at the right time, and that’s something you have to figure out for yourself over a period of several months.”
Bradley: “For me, just having the mechanics of the golf swing and not swinging too fast, A lot of times when people want to swing really hard, they take the club back fast and they don’t let their hands set. Slow everything down, take a deep breath, let those hands set, and then you can let it rip and guide your hands wherever they need to go.”
Berkshire: “My recommendation, three times a week, swing as hard as you can at 50 balls. They should be going all over the place because you’re basically overloading your nervous system. That overload is going to result in the nervous system recovering a little bit quicker and more robust. You’re going to have the same swing, it’s just going to happen a little bit faster. That’s what I’d recommend instead of trying to hunt for a quick tip, because quick tips lead to quick regression.”
3. What should everyone know about adding speed?
Borgmeier: “Number 1, or let’s say, the most important factor to practicing speed is not being afraid to swing fast. And do that a lot, and do it on a regular basis, but don’t be afraid of bad ball flights, it’s going to happen. It’s part of the process, but what you need to do is build up a speed reserve that you’re going to build up over a long time.”
Bradley: “The good thing about our sport is that we come in all different shapes and sizes. I wouldn’t be discouraged if you’re 150-160 pounds, you know, Jamie Sadlowski was 165 pounds and won two world championships. Then you’ve got Mike Dobbin who’s hitting right now who’s 6-9 and almost 300 pounds. A lot of it has to do with sequencing.”
Berkshire: “[Strength train] like a powerlifter, train low reps, high weight. You will gain muscle, which is fine. But that’s not why you’re doing it. These last three years, I’ve competed at worlds at 197-202 lbs, but I have gotten a lot stronger. So train for strength, don’t train for hypertrophy.”
4. How can you hack your equipment for even more distance?
Borgmeier: “Yeah. You can obviously loft down to get the spin rate down. You can obviously change your equipment, but most importantly, try to figure out what launch angles and spin rates you need to hit the ball far. That’s the first step for a longer ball flight: knowing your numbers and how you get there. Then you can play around with shaft length, with different flexes. I’m gaming a regular flex, and so while I see some people out here bragging about ‘oh I’ve got my super stiff shaft,’ and I’m like yeah, okay, I’m gaming a regular, but I probably hit it farther than you.”
Bradley: “What I would tell any amateur, hit the center of the clubface, focus on that first, and then let the results speak for themselves after that with speed.”
Berkshire: “The best hack, if you want more spin, add loft, if you want less spin, deloft. If you want more height, get your attack angle up. If you want to flight it a little bit, it’s better to hit down on it a little bit.”