As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, “Driving for Show,” this Saturday, May 3, Pine Hill Golf Course is hosting a qualifier for the ReMax Long Drive Championship. The competition is open to all as there are different categories for men and women and different ages. All you need to do to participate is show up at Pine Hill in Brewer between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., register, and compete.

In my quest for long drive glory I have decided to participate in the qualifier; a first for me. My goal is straightforward; to hit at least one of my six tee shots over the minimum qualifying distance of 250 total yards (Oh, also, to not hurt and/or embarrass myself too badly!)

It’s been documented that almost all amateur golfers overestimate the distance of their drives, so this experience will certainly be a reality check. An added challenge (in addition to fighting the adrenaline and nerves I will undoubtedly feel as I set-up for my first drive) is the fact that the wet ground will limit the ball’s rollout. This will turn the competition from a total distance contest to a carry-only contest, and hitting a drive 250 yards in the air is no small feat.

Thankfully, I was able to enlist the help of Michael Clendenning, owner of Barnes Brook Golf Course in Enfield and a Level III Certified Golf Teaching Professional. I spent an hour with Michael hitting drives on a rainy Sunday in his course’s indoor golf simulator, a very handy option to have for poor weather conditions.

I warmed up a bit hitting my rescue hybrid; then it was time to pull out the big stick. We set the simulator on driving range mode with tracers, so I could see my ball flight. The simulator is actually a great way to prepare, as it provides information such as carry and total distance, launch angle, and ball speed.

After hitting 10 to 15 drives, none of them exceeding the 250-yard distance I will need at the competition, I began to feel a creeping panic seep into my bones. That’s when Michael stepped in, like a ray of hope, and offered the following tips:

  1. Warm up thoroughly
  2. Line up with the ball a bit more forward in my stance (want to hit the ball on the upswing, about two degrees positive attack angle; this will help with launch and minimize backspin, which can be a distance killer)
  3. Since I use a 10.5-degree head, tee it up but not too high
  4. Line up the club near the center of my body, not directly behind the ball
  5. Keep the club head square to slightly closed at address
  6. Have a smooth takeaway but be aggressive through the downswing and extend through the ball

With these pointers in mind, I stepped back in the simulator and saw some reassuring results. Incorporating Michael's advice and having my back begin to limber up, the distances began to increase.

Below is a photo of a few of my final shots as they show up on the simulator screen. As you can see below, the carry distance averaged 255 yards, which would be measurable at the competition, and my ball speed and launch angle were pretty good, too.

Under normal fairway conditions, the 11-degree launch angle at the ball speed I was creating with my Adams Speedfast 12 LS driver with a Fubuki stiff shaft would generate good carry and significant rollout, but I may want a slightly higher launch angle on Saturday to keep the ball in the air longer.

Finally, at the conclusion of the session, I had my best drive of the day (170 mph ball speed! 269 carry and 285 total yards) leaving me feeling much more confident and excited to compete.

All that’s left now is for me to go Saturday, Tee it High and Let it Fly!