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Golf has coined its fair share of colorful phrases, and “sneaky long” is no exception. Sneaky long refers to someone who either hits the ball farther than they should, or is hitting it farther than it appears at first glance.

Golfers who are sneaky long take full advantage in maximizing the fi ve elements of the ball fl ight laws: Solidness of contact, clubhead path, clubface angle, angle of approach, and clubhead speed.

When it comes to being sneaky long, the most important factor of the fi ve ball fl ight laws is in making solid contact. Balls that are hit on the toe, heel, top, or bottom of the clubface will not receive the maximum force imparted into them. Without solid contact, it is impossible to be sneaky long.

The clubface angle is also either square or slightly closed to the clubhead path through impact. Golf Digest did a study a number of years ago, and found that for average clubhead speed and all other things being equal, a draw will travel 17 yards farther than a fade. This is because a ball hit with an open clubface will produce more backspin than a ball hit with a square or closed clubface (again, all other things being equal).

The angle of approach for the sneaky long golfer tends to be slightly on the upswing. Today’s modern balls are designed for low spin off the driver, so it is important to get some elevation into the launch angle. However, high launch angle isn’t the be-all and end-all on every tee shot. Golfers who play on firm ground often find that they can get better total yardage by launching their drives lower than the normally recommended 12°-14°. While they may lose, say, 10-15 yards in carry distance, they may gain an extra 20-30 yards in roll in some cases. Into the wind, a drive hit with low spin and a lower launch angle also will tend to travel a little bit farther overall.

Clubhead speed in sneaky long golfers is usually faster than it appears. First-time spectators to Tour events often remark on how “easy” or “slow” the pros are swinging. Of course, this is not the case, but their efficiency of motion can often give that impression. At the amateur level, sneaky long golfers have also found a way to really get the clubhead moving through impact while appearing to swing relatively smoothly.

Another factor in this is that they may, in fact, be swinging relatively smoothly. Golfers who try to muscle the ball and swing hard often wind up tensing the muscles necessary for a long ball, and actually wind up with slower clubhead speed. Dare we say that such golfers are “sneaky short”? Another factor in hitting sneaky long drives is that such golfers tend to use the terrain to their advantage. For example, they may know that the right side of the fairway on a particular hole will provide a springboard effect due to the slope, and they try to take advantage of it.

Two examples of golfers who may be considered sneaky long are Tom Kite and Jeff Sluman. Both are not big in stature; yet, they oftentimes wind up hitting it the same distance as the other pros. Both have learned how to maximize their distance with the gifts that they were given.

The world seems to admire the bombers of golf, but the sneaky long player not only survives – but thrives – in this day and age of the long ball.

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