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
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
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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