I’m a football fan as well as a golf fanatic so I spend the cold weekends in the winter, which aren’t conducive to golfing, watching both sports on TV. Sometimes the schedules aren’t cooperative and I find myself switching back and forth between an exciting football game and a more relaxing golf match. Thanks to the remote control, I can do this all weekend and never leave my chair!
When the weather is particularly nasty I enjoy having some buddies over to watch a big game and I remember one such gathering last winter. I forget which teams were playing (it doesn’t usually matter – we can get worked up over a great game without even knowing which teams are on the the field ), but it was an exciting game with both teams scoring frequently. Finally, it was the last quarter and there were only a few seconds left on the clock; the team with the ball was three points behind and they took a timeout, we supposed to discuss whether to go for the tie or the win. We were impatient – what coach in his right mind would settle for a tying field goal when he had a quarterback capable of putting a great pass right in the end zone?
Finally, the team broke the huddle and they came up to the line as usual – no field goal! We were pumped! There was time for one play and the team with the ball had over 60 yards to go for a touchdown. We knew they had a plan when the quarterback called a short signal and rolled right. At first, it looked like he was going to hand off the ball and we collectively held our breaths – no way that was going to work. Then he was in the backfield looking for a receiver. We could see one open about 15 yards down the field but that wasn’t going to win the game and we knew it. We started yelling (not that the quarterback could hear us, but it felt good anyway) and pumping our fists: “Go long! Go long!”
I tell you this story because this is exactly what I say and do when I hit a tee shot or an iron shot that’s more than 200 yards from the hole: “Go long! “Go long!” I’m not alone. Every golfer implores every distance shot to “Go long!” It’s the name of the game, especially on those long par-5 holes where hopes for a birdie are pinned on reaching the green in two. This is the hope of every golfer on every hole but a par-3, until we get closer to the green. Then we can be heard to beg and plead a hard-hit ball: “No! Don’t go long! Don’t!”
How do the Pros do it?
Week after week during the season, I watch the golf pros effortlessly hit a 6 or a 7 iron from halfway down the fairway and then calmly watch as the ball bounces several times in the fairway before landing on the green and rolling to within inches of the cup. I watch them all intently as they study the shot, going through the checklist in my mind:
- The lie – is it tall grass that will get in the way, short grass, level ground, or is it in the rough? What’s between the ball and the green – open space, trees, bushes, or traps?
- The distance – how far is it to the green and how far does this shot need to go to either reach the green or set up the next shot to reach the green.
- The wind – how strong is it, which way is it blowing?
- The club – which one will create the right speed and power to go as far as it needs to go and which one will either lift the ball to the right soaring height or keep it close to the ground and under any tree branches in the way. As I watch them week after week, I have to remind myself that they are serious professional golfers. They play every day and practice endlessly. Not only that, they are naturally talented – far more than I am – and they work very hard at perfecting these difficult shots. So, I know that I can learn from them, try and emulate them, hit these shots the best I can, and hope for the best.
Can I do it like the Pros do?
Every golfer dreams of standing in the fairway and watching a perfectly hit iron shot sail away toward the hole, drop on the fairway and roll up to the cup, leaving a short putt for a birdie. The other dream is standing in the trees and watching your perfectly hit iron shot skim along the ground, under the tree branches, land in the fairway and bounce on to the green where it stops just inches from the cup.
The question is – are those dreams attainable or are they just dreams ? Well, here’s the truth. The pros hit these shots longer and straighter because they play every day. They work at perfecting their iron shots or their drivers and I have resigned myself to the fact that I may never be able to hit an iron shot as far as the pros do. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause. We all can hit good shots and we can all make them fly long and true. We just have to know the secrets.
The secrets to “Going Long”
Just like the best baseball players who pitch blinding fast balls or hit towering home runs, the secret to perfection is in the speed of the pitch or the batter’s swing. For a golfer it’s “club head speed.” The bottom line is that they generate quicker club head speed than most occasional or amateur golfers. If you ever get a chance to measure your own swing speed you will be amazed of the difference in the readings compared to the pros. So here are the secrets to a “going long”:
- Treat the club grip like a kitten. That means “Don’t strangle it!”
- “Load the club.” This is the term for bending your wrists like a hinge (preferably a well-oiled one) and it is the key to hitting the golf ball long. If you keep your wrists straight when you hit the ball, it will only go as fast as your arms can swing the club.
- “Unload the club,” also known as releasing the club. Before you try this, watch a video of Sergio Garcia, who is a great example of a master at unloading the club. Releasing the club creates a lag on the down swing, which means the club will have to “catch up,” thus whipping the club head through the ball and sending it soaring. Practice his method until you have perfected it and your drives will get longer every time you hit.
- Visualize the perfect swing and the ball sailing down the fairway as far as you can see. This technique is what made Jack Nicklaus one of the all-time great golfers in the history of the sport. He could play every shot in his mind and watch it as he would a movie on a screen. When he hit a great shot, he would stand and swing the club a few times, the same way, making it easier for him to remember what a really good golf swing looks like and how far it goes.
Keith Matthews is keen to share more of his golfing tips and experience so sign-up for his free weekly emails at TopGolfTipsHQ.com.