Hit towering tee balls like Jamie Sadlowski with tips from the two-time world long-drive champ
Most guys who can hit a golf ball 400 yards look like they can hit a golf ball 400 yards. At 5-foot-11, 165 pounds, Jamie Sadlowski is built more like a triathlete than a long-drive King Kong. But that's just what this 23-year-old Canadian is - winner of the 2008 and 2009 RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship and two world junior titles before that. Turn the page for his best tips for helping we mere mortals maximize our power.
Equipment: Get the Big Dog Right
"Most players use a driver with too little loft and a shaft that's too soft. These days, it's all about ‘high launch, low spin.' Shafts are built very weak now, which creates extra backspin that causes drives to balloon and lose distance, or extra sidespin that produces curve. Get fitted by somebody who knows how to use a radar-based launch monitor. Matching launch and spin will make you efficient and help you get max distance."
Stance: Ready, Set ... Relax
"Too narrow a stance can ruin your balance. Legs at least shoulder-width apart help you swing the driver more athletically. Also, a ‘death grip' is a killer. The harder you grip it, the harder it is to create wrist action and lag during the swing. To stay relaxed, try hovering the clubhead behind the ball rather than soling the club on the ground. A preshot waggle with the wrists hinging also helps."
Setup: Tee It High and Forward
"The average golfer plays the driver too far back in his stance. You can't attack the ball from that position. Depending on wind conditions, I'll move the ball around a bit in my stance to produce different trajectories. But, in general, you want to position the ball off the inside of your left heel and feel like you're hitting up on the ball. Also, today's deep-faced drivers demand use of at least a 3-inch tee. Try to get the bottom of the ball about even with the top of the driver's crown."
Backswing: Low and Slow
"A fast backswing tends to ruin balance and rhythm, and makes it very hard to hit all the right positions, especially at the transition. The big thing you want to accomplish with the backswing is to create width. Think about a ‘low and slow' move dominated by the shoulders, then the arms, then hands, to a fully turned position at the top."
Transition: Think Narrow
"A good swing is ‘wide, narrow, wide' - wide backswing, narrow starting the downswing, wide follow-through. Too many players get narrow on the backswing, wide on the transition - they cast the club, increasing the angle formed by the left forearm, wrist, and clubhead. Once you cast, your shoulders start opening and you have no chance to produce a powerful drive, which requires square shoulders and open hips at impact. That's the magic separation all big hitters have."
Downswing: Right Elbow to Right Hip
"That first move needs to be a slight lateral move of your weight to your left side. This helps avoid an over-the-top move. Your right shoulder and elbow work down toward your right hip, not your left shoulder working toward your left hip. From there, the hips start moving - as the club starts dropping down, the lower body begins to clear while the shoulders stay square to the target at impact. Another good tip: Think about hitting the inside quarter of the ball. Then it's all just a matter of keeping in balance."
Flexibility: Stretching for Distance
"To be competitive in long driving at my size, I need to be flexible enough to get the club way past parallel and to make angles in the golf swing that create lag. For flexibility, I'm a big fan of using a foam roller to stretch. The IT bands along the thigh are very important. Lie on your side on the floor and put your right hip on top of the roller. Put your left leg in front of your right leg for leverage and support yourself on your right arm. Then roll the roller up and down your right leg. Reverse it and do the left leg."