The Long Drive Series Part 2
This is the second entry of the series, to read The long drive kings - Before the steel shaft, click here.
With the advent of the three-piece Haskell ball at the turn of the century and the disappearance of the traditional St. Andrews swing, the mechanics of the golf movement became more athletic.
As the century slowly moved on into the twenties and beyond the new steel shaft began to take hold of the game. It was at the right time as the prominent players were asking more and more from their golf clubs.
Also, the durability and strength of steel shafts allowed the great players to apply a more forceful change when initiating the forward action. The return to ball movement became more dominated by the body revolving at a higher pace, leaving the arms and wrists more passive to the forces that be.
With the faster return activated from the body, a later release of the clubhead was achieved. The steel shafts were not susceptible to excessive torsion like hickory (steel had only 2° torque while hickory could twist 20°), resulting in less hand and wrist activity; this, in turn, helped to create more speed at impact and less penalty on off-centre hits. As the nineteen-forties became the nineteen-fifties, a new breed of long hitter started to gain notoriety. Players who generated huge clubhead speed as a result of both physical strength and swing quality were appearing. Of those candidates, three were more notorious than the others. George Bayer, Jimmy Thomson, and to a lesser degree Sam "slamming" Snead.
Born 1912 - Height 5ft 11 inch and 185 pounds.
"The person able to get the greatest possible distance with the least possible effort is the man who has used his swing with the greatest efficiency."
Snead's career covered six decades and he won 82 PGA Tournaments.
Sam may not qualify for real long-hitter status but anybody who achieved more than 250 yards in the first half of the century would be classified as long. Sam averaged about 270 yards. The smoothness of the Snead swing was famous. It was a beautiful combination of rhythm and acceleration. Snead was an expert at using his optimum speed without effort. Irv Schloss titled this PROGRESSION OF POWER.
The Snead swing, filmed in 1960 by Irv Schloss using his famous background canvas.
Born 1908 in Scotland
"A wonderful swing to watch and well worth studying."
Jimmy has to be seen as an American pro, but his roots were very Scottish, and so was his swing.
He made what Irv described as "a flat-footed twist." A common method used on the sandy turf and strong winds of Scotland. (I am not advocating deliberately keeping the right foot on the ground and restricting the swing, even Jimmy has a slight lift at contact).
He gave the key away when he reminisced about his teaching father, who was a great believer in balance. To quote Jimmy, " When I was 13 or 14 years old I began with a 9 iron and stood very quiet with my feet together, I was able to work up enough hand speed to get normal distance with the club. When I was 16 or 17 I got so I could hit a drive 225 yards with my feet together." The films show a wonderful combination of a solid base and an effortless graceful flow. A teaching concept that has become so emphasized today, holding finish for a number of seconds, is also clearly to be seen in Jimmy`s swing.
In 1937, Jimmy became a long-hitting legend when he won the North American long-driving contest.
To quote his own reported words " Everybody hit 20 drives, they averaged the ten best, my average was 316 yards and my best 386
To his credit, Jimmy Thomson supported the Africa American professionals and regularly played on the UGA Tour, which was a separate tour set up for blacks who were not given access to the regular tour.
More about African American professionals here