Golf Tip: Crush it like a driving champion
By Andrew Penner
Canadian Lisa “Longball” Vlooswyk makes a living obliterating golf balls. She is one of the longest women drivers on the planet and the first woman in history to hit a golf ball 350 yards in competition. A seven-time Canadian long drive champion and a sought after motivational speaker and author, Vlooswyk is one of the most energetic and enthusiastic people I’ve ever met.
A former gymnast, Lisa’s extraordinary power is product of her go-for-broke technique, powerful frame, and exceptional flexibility. The clubhead speed off her Nike Vapor Fly prototype driver — which is 47 inches long with 6.5 degrees of loft — often eclipses 115 mph. (The average on the LPGA Tour is approximately 94 mph. The average on the PGA Tour is approximately 112 mph.)
While Lisa “Longball,” ranked in the Top 5 in the world in Ladies Long Drive, would routinely outdrive the majority of the players on the PGA Tour, she absolutely bombs in past everyone — male and female — in her impressive and entertaining clinics. Indeed, watching her swing the driver is a jaw-dropping experience that hardly seems real.
So how, exactly, does she achieve her unreal power? Here are a few of her secrets... in her own words.
True, longer shafts lead to increased clubhead speeds, but it’s tougher to keep straight. The driver is such a critical club. Unless you’re playing a pitch and putt, it sets up your entire round. I always recommend that people, especially if they already create a fair amount of speed, see a professional clubfitter to make sure launch and spin are optimized. For weekend warriors, talk to a professional and try a few drivers before you purchase something. Get fitted! You need to be comfortable with what you’re holding and, obviously, you’ve got to have a driver with the correct shaft flex and one that produces a good ball flight.
PHYSICAL FITNESS / CORE STRENGTH
I absolutely credit my ability to hit the ball so far to my background as a gymnast. Everyone always grabs my arms when they find out I’m a long driver and want to talk about “the pipes.” It has nothing to do with my arm strength. It’s legs and core that create the power. As a gymnast, the key elements that lead to hitting the ball far are flexibility (the ability to make a good turn), strong legs to initiate the downswing, and a strong core, which prevents injury and transfers the coil and torque into speed. Doing squats and lunges can be very beneficial to build leg strength. As far as flexibility goes, you want to do stretches that focus on your ability to turn.
Posture is key for hitting all your shots longer. Many people slouch or hunch their shoulders in their setup. This restricts their ability to turn. If you can’t turn, you can’t coil, which will kill your distance. If you have a straight spine to begin with, it’s easier to turn and unwind while maintaining good posture throughout.
My simple four-step process to posture is: stand up straight with your shoulders back and chest out (Photo 1). Bow at the waist letting your butt stick out. Crack your knees slightly to get your weight on the balls of your feet and, finally, let your arms hang naturally from your shoulders (Photo 2). This is where you grip each club, about a fist width away from your body.
The key to a good coil, or turn behind the ball, is consciously thinking about it. It’s easy to get lazy in the golf swing. You need to think of turning your large muscle groups like your back and your lead shoulder in the takeaway (Photo 3). Do not initiate your turn with small muscles like your hands. Try to get your back to face the target in your backswing (Photo 4). This is why the majority of woman struggle hitting it over 200 yards. They are arm lifters versus “turners.” You want to wind up with the top half of your body and unwind toward impact with the bottom half, as in Photos 5a and 5b. Yoga is great for this!
I tend to squat and then explode into impact, getting up on my toes at “the moment,” as in Photo 6. I literally appear to “jump” at impact, which is not something you can really teach. But this is something that comes naturally for me due to the gymnastics. While uncommon, that explosive use of my legs — squatting and then extending to create maximum power at impact — is not unique. Other long hitters who do this are Laura Davies, Bubba Watson, and Lexi Thompson.
At impact the key swing thought needs to be swing through the ball. As I am in Photo 7. Your clubhead should be moving fastest three feet PAST the ball, not at the ball. Too many golfers stop swinging at the ball. This is a power leak and can lead to errant shots. It is why so many players have a great practice swing, because their ball is not there and they actually swing through it. In Photo 8, the ball has already left the club but the clubhead is just reaching its maximum speed.
The finish is one of the most important parts of the swing and one of the most neglected. Many swing faults could be fixed if golfers focused on finishing their swing. A great starting point is to finish your swing with your belt buckle facing the target, as I am in Photo 9. If you accelerate through the golf ball with your clubhead moving fastest three feet past the ball you will naturally be pulled to your front side. If you leave weight on your back foot when you finish you will kill 10 to 30 yards, or more, off your drives. It also may be the reason why you slice the ball. ALL of your weight should end up on your front foot, the entire sole of your back shoe visible. For extra distance try to finish with your belt buckle PAST the target, as I’m demonstrating in Photo 10.
By working on these positions through your swing with the big stick, you’ll find yourself farther down the fairway than ever before. The Long Ball is definitely in your reach.
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