Everyday players can add a good 15 yards to their tee shots by switching to equipment that better suits their swing and maximizes launch angle and ball spin. Or so I'd read. To test this proposition, I consulted with Tom Mase, a leading engineer at HotStix in Scottsdale, Arizona, a high-tech clubfitting facility.
The science of the long ball has grown so precise that Mase, by crunching a few numbers, can spit out formulas and predict trajectories as though he were tracking a satellite. When I relayed my vitals as collected at my local driving range 100 mph clubhead speed, 13-degree launch angle, 4,000-rpm spin rate Mase quickly sized me up. "I'd guess you max out at around 260 yards," he said.
This guy was good.
The quickest path to bigger tee shots, he explained, was to reduce spin, the distance killer that sends balls ballooning. The cure would cost no more than a sleeve of balls. Mase suggested I swap my Pro V1s for either the Srixon Tri-Speed or the Titleist NXT Extreme, although he warned that what I gained in distance with lower-spinning balls might cost me in touch around the greens.
"'Touch'?" I said. "What is 'touch'? Hulk smash!"
On the course that week, I measured my best drive: 272! With nothing but a new ball, I'd lengthened my best tee shots by 12 yards. That was the good news. The bad, reported Mase: My swing speed was respectable for an amateur but sluggish by Tour standards, and 272 paces was my limit. It's basic physics. Inching toward 300 would require a swifter swing. Or a membership in Tibet. "At minimum," Mase said, "you'd like to go from 100 to about 110 miles per hour."
Then he laid out the equation the power hitter's answer to E=MC2. Assuming square, solid contact with the ball, the formula for a 300-yard drive (without the aid of wind, elevation, dry fairways, etc.) looks like this:
110 mph swing speed + 14Â° launch angle + 2,500 rpm backspin = 300 yards
It was science, and it was simple: I needed more speed. I needed the Beast.
"People try to make distance sound mystical," said the slow Southern drawl on the phone. "Nothing mystical about it. You've gotta go back to basics."
Three-time world long-drive champion Sean Fister, Arkansan buddy of John Daly, is known to colleagues as "The Beast." Makes sense. Fister, a goateed giant who looks like a lumberjack in Lacoste, once blasted a ball 515 yards. The author of the new chock-full-o-tips book The Long Drive Bible(Wiley, $22.95), he routinely splinters shafts and shatters clubheads. He also practices a Paul Bunyan-esque routine of beating a baseball bat against a tire nailed to a tree.
At six-foot-five and 250 pounds, Fister had me by 9 inches, 90 pounds and 200 yards off the tee. His clubhead whips through the hitting zone at 145 mph. Still, Fister said, I could pick up swing speed by abiding his commandments. If I didn't have a tree and a tire, I could slam a bat into a boxer's heavy bag. Or, more quaintly, I could while away the day skipping rocks. "The right-hand action in rock-skipping helps ingrain the movement you need to really kill it," he said. "Remember, the left hand guides the club. That right-hand snap is where you get your power."