The Tragedy of Modern Long Driving (Shambolic Championship & Techniques)

berkshireThose of you who’ve read my postings over the years know that I don’t ever say outrageous things for clicks or views – I simply state my opinion on something, take it or leave it.

My opinion is that long drive and golf swing techniques have regressed and today’s competitors would be absolutely pummeled by the quality of long drivers generations past.

The swings were, to put it mildly, nauseating with their flaws.

Right now, I’m looking at the state of modern long driving & the shambolic techniques therein & am shocked to think that Bryson DeChambeau, a pro golfer at the highest Tour levels & a major champion, has a better long drive swing than most long drivers, even the ones who beat him this week.

This whole “jumping for vertical lift” rubbish has reached terminal destination, I’m hoping, because short of launching themselves out of cannons at impact and follow-through, I don’t think that can go any further.

Again, I’ll clarify for those who weren’t around when this silliness began about 5 or 6 years ago (and by silliness, I mean that the golf analysts began praising the “flying left foot” at impact as something to admire & emulate), the only reason these swingers are doing this is because they insist on anchoring their trailing foot through the impact and follow-through.

If you are swinging at those speeds with this wide a stance as the long drivers, you’d snap yourself in half anchoring the trailing foot if you didn’t either spin around on your leading heel (Bryson) or jumping into the air to wrench your body and left leg around.

Joe Miller has a jumping left foot, yes, but his trailing foot also leaves the ground, which at least makes some form of sense even if it isn’t really creating more speed.

The distances are the glaring indicator – they were barely getting over 400 yards most rounds even with a helping breeze.

Jason Zuback won the 1997 Remax Long Drive with a blast of 412 yards.

That’s 24 years ago with equipment far inferior to today’s. There is video below of that event and Zuback’s winning drive, at night when it was pretty cool out (see what the crowd are wearing) – just look at the size of that club head and how clean his address & swing action were back then compared to today’s Twitchy McTwitchers

Jamie Sadlowski won the 2008 Remax with 418 yards after a qualifying round blast of 434 yards.

Does anyone remember the Remax World Finals regularly featuring drives at night (balls don’t travel as far in the cold) that traveled well over 400 yards?

If you don’t, have a gander at this:

longest drives 2012


There is your proof that even with the improvements made to ball & club technology, the competitors yesterday in the full heat of mid-afternoon with following winds were struggling to even hit 400 with all of this jumping around malarkey.

Awful.

There have always been swingers with twisting/spinning leading foot syndrome, because at those speeds, if you don’t clear the left side properly, you’re going to snap something.

In fact, older readers will remember that 2012 Remax Champion Ryan Winther read a critique of his swing technique in 2013, flared his leading foot & promptly sent me an email about it:

“Someone sent me a link to a story you wrote about me… I had a shoot today with Golf Channel and while I was at the range… the flared foot thing like hogan that you recommended I do.. I killed it!”

Ryan W had a rotating left foot but it was spinning out, baseball swing style (he was a former baseball player who took up long drive after an injury, much like former college footballer Mike Dunaway), not doing the high jump backwards with one’s left leg.

Have a look at one of the most powerful long drive champions ever and why he spun out:


I’ve said what I’m going to say about all of that, but another observation is how far long drive has fallen from its Remax days.

If this isn’t rock bottom, I really don’t want to see what is.

In my defense, if you think I’m being unduly harsh, my introduction to the world of Long Driving was in 1997 during the Christmas Day telecast of the Remax World Long Drive Championship.

It was pre-recorded and shown months later in December, but that means nothing because it was on ESPN, about the biggest showcase for a sporting event you’re going to get on a cable telecast

Here’s a clip from 1997:


I haven’t paid much attention to long drive since it began its descent from the heady highs of being televised on ESPN with multiple camera views, even bird’s-eye views of the landing and run out areas, so when I tuned into the live telecast on Youtube in time for the Final at 6:45 PM EST, I was genuinely confused.

“Is this it?” I asked myself, seeing the competitors swinging from the down-the-line shot.

There was no visible grid, no shots of balls landing, no advertisers decorating the landing area, no overhead shots, no balls in flight – it was, to be completely honest, a worse production than anything I’ve ever witness called a “World” anything.

Even after its peak with Remax, when Long Drive moved to the Golf Channel, you still got some spectacle, as you can see in the telecast from 2016:


What did we get last night?

If you didn’t watch, you may not want to click on this and pay particular attention to the 2nd slot (eventual winner Berkshire) and his left leg, compared to Bryson’s swing in slot 4 (hard right):


I won’t even mention the prize money, which saw a high of USD $250,000 in 2008 with Jamie Sadlowski, to the paltry USD $50,000 top prize last night, which was what the Senior Long Drive winners used to garner in the Remax era.

If there is one saving grace, it’s that the production was so low budget that there was no analysis or slow-mo replays to let the analysts gaslight us all about how this jumping jack technique was so effective at generating speed, power & lift.

That was the one positive I could find.

It’s just not the same now.

And for the worse.

My opinion.