It’s no wonder three-time long drive champion Sean Fister gave up pole-vaulting for golf. As a kid, he built a makeshift pole vaulting pit and practiced until he was able to make his high school team. He became so good at it; he earned a scholarship to college and had a chance at qualifying for the Olympic team. That was the good part. The bad? Using a pole to lift your self 16 feet into the air and landing in a pit sometimes leads to injuries. For Fister, that included a broken back, 12 broken feet, a cracked skull and he almost lost his thumb.
A medical chart like that would lead anyone to the golf course. But Fister doesn’t tee it up at his home course and swing easy. He makes his living under the bright lights of the World Long Drive Championship swinging a Dunlop driver at speeds of over 150 miles an hour and routinely sending his golf ball bounding 350 yards away. The guy they call “The Beast” once recorded a drive of 515 yards.
Now, thanks to Fister’s deal with Dunlop and his writing skills, you too can become a better driver of the golf ball. Fister is the author of a new book called The Long Drive Bible, (By Sean Fister and Matthew Rudy, John Wiley and Sons, Inc.). Fister’s book is an incredible read, as he recalls how he went from a big hitter at his local club in Arkansas to the tee box at the World Long Drive Championship in Mesquite, Nevada.
But more importantly, Fister – at the risk of creating more competitors looking to take future titles away – includes so many instructional tips, readers are sure to walk away from this tome routinely hitting their drives past the rest of their foursome.
Fister has compiled what he calls the “Ten Commandments of Distance.” These are not just ten tips off the top of his head. Fister is a voracious reader and resembles a NASA engineer when it comes to compiling data in search of the best golf tip. Fister collected seven years worth of Golf Digest magazine and in 1995, he spent two week reading every issue, compiling every instructional tip he could find – 397 of them!
“Once I had a list if unique tips, I went to the range and spent hundreds of hours trying every one of them. If one worked, it made it onto my ‘keeper’ list. I boiled all the tips down to the ones that worked for me. I had my Bible,” recalls Fister.
Fister’s Bible is a small black book that he still keeps in his golf bag today. Your Bible can be Fister’s Ten Commandments that he admits may not get you into the Long Drive Championship, but can make you a longer hitter and a better golfer. (See inset)
“I truly believe you can take the information contained in my Ten Commandments and immediately get 20 yards longer,” says Fister. I’ve seen it happen for 65-year old guys who hit it 185 yards and 25-year-old guys who hit it 260. And I’ve seen it happen over the space of five or six balls on the driving range with guys I’m spending the day with at an outing.”
Fister says that one of the many keys to long drives is swinging your driver with the maximum speed. He feels that every player has a maximum speed that he can swing the club, and that varies among individuals.
“I win world championships because I get right up close to my max number, and my max number is very high – about 150 mph and I get 375 yards of carry under normal conditions. There are less than ten guys in the world that can say that.”
Fister discovered just how unique his swing was in 1997 when he went to Motion Reality Sports in Georgia to have his swing speed measured. He absolutely floored the technicians during his warm-ups with his incredible swings.
“They kept asking me if I could go any faster, so I dialed it up as fast as I could go – until I tore the skin on three fingers and broke the blood vessels around my eyes. The result: my top clubhead speed was 171.2 miles an hour. The fastest they had ever measured,” said Fister.
A swing like this plays havoc on Fister’s equipment. “I go through at least two hundred competition clubheads a year. When you are swing that fast, it’s like a car crash when the club hits the ball. When I collapse a clubhead, it looks like an orange that somebody dropped off the roof of a five-story building.”
Although he suffers far fewer injuries than he did in his days as a pole-vaulter, Fister almost met with near tragedy as the result of one of his huge swings.
“I hit a drive and the clubhead basically disintegrated. A shard of metal flew up and cut me pretty bad under my right eye. I’m already legally blind in my left eye from macular degeneration, so if that shard had gone into my right eye, I’d have had a problem.”
Fister admits that the key to his distance is the thousands of hours he has spent honing his craft. His voracious reading, his incredible will to get better and the constant grind of hitting ball after ball has led him to where he is today.
“I have hit more balls than most people think is possible You can hit a thousand balls in a day. I’ve done it. It takes seven hours,” says Fister.
His book is packed with numerous tips and his Ten Commandments but Fister says that he has one trick that is “positively guaranteed” to work for any player.
“No matter what you are built like, if you turn your shoulders more on your backswing and concentrate on keeping the butt end of the club as far away from the middle of your sternum as possible, you’ll pick up 20 yards on your tee shot. If you practice that, those yards are guaranteed.”
Fister is now using his golf knowledge as part of his professional association with Dunlop Golf. “I’ve been with them for 12 years now, which is practically unheard if in this business. I’m very involved with the company as far as design. I’ve been in touch with the foundry where the club heads are made and I do what I call an autopsy on the clubheads I play. I call the company and let them now what is and isn’t right and we work together to make the Dunlop product better,” says Fister who says his long term goal is to be even more involved with the R & D department at Dunlop.
Fister has not only won three driving titles, he has done so with equipment that is affordable as well as world class. “ My last two titles have been won with a $150 Dunlop club head. There are $500 drivers out there, but I’m proving you don’t have to pay that much for quality.”
Fister is working with Dunlop on a signature driver and recenttly contacted them about a new ball. “I am playing a lot more now and working with them on a ball that is hard inside, but has a softer cover for touch around the greens.” Fister says that both will be available by 2009.
Fister is not just a “Beast” off the tee box. He boasts a plus-2 handicap at his home course, which he admits is pretty wide open, and is a legitimate 2 or 3 handicap anywhere he plays.
He hopes that his book can help the average golfer who is hoping for a bit more with the driver.
“If you’d like to get 10 or 20 more yards on your tee shot and win some more money in your weekend game,” says Fister, “than this book is for you…and it will pay for itself.
“Being 6’-5” and 245 pounds is nice, but fast hands are the reason I can do this for a living. You’ll just have to be satisfied with the 20 extra yards I find you for your driver. That’s not so bad, is it?”