Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mike Austin, Record Holder, Longest PGA Drive, 515 Yards.

Never heard of Mike Austin? Neither had I.

The scene was the US National Seniors Open Championship in Las Vegas in 1974. Egged on by his partner that day, Chandler Harper, winner of the 1950 PGA Championship, to "really let one go", he did just that. It was 450 yards to the pin on the par four 5th hole. They found Austin's golf ball 65 yards past the pin. Guess he should have hit three wood. 515 yards was, and still is, the longest recorded drive in professional history. Here's the best part. Mike Austin was 64 years old! He was aided by a 35 mph tail wind, but keep in mind that the hole was relatively level, and Austin had a steel shaft, persimmon head, and balata balls.

His golf exploits just scratched the surface of this prodigious man. He was a WWII war hero. He shared an apartment with Errol Flynn. He gave secret golf lessons to Howard Hughes and played against Hogan and Snead. He'd been noticed as a youngster by no less than Bobby Jones, who remarked about the young Austin's 300 yard drives at East Lake.

Born in England, but raised in the southern US, Austin was a cantankerous sort. His gruff presence was as intimidating as it was natural. He taught golf in southern California, L.A area, for many years and hosted what else, The Mike Austin Golf Show. His exploits and character are detailed in a fantastic book by Philip Reed called In Search of the Greatest Swing. I recommend it highly for an inside look at this legend.

Mike passed away in 2005 at age 95 but his legacy continues to this day. Mike Dunaway is a well known advocate and teacher of Austin's swing, (www.MikeDunaway.org). I'd rather have you, the reader, dissect the basics of the Mike Austin swing. It's not radically different from the current idea of a golf swing. It's much simpler and uses just a few "basic" concepts to get the fundamentals across. My best friend, Dean Miller, a legit 8 handicap, watched half of an Austin video, took it to the course, and proceeded to nail 14 of 14 fairways. I'm prepared to "Austinize" my swing over the long winter. If I gain some length great. What I really want is accuracy and I'm convinced that Austin's ideas are sound.

Why aren't these incredible concepts taught in the mainstream? Austin, a PGA member, claimed that when he presented his ideas to the PGA they had already decided on what the model of an ideal golf swing should be in order for their teaching pros to have some continuity, i.e. two plane swing, forearm rotation, etc. Mike professed to have been "blackballed" from teaching his methods. You be the judge. After all, 515 yards is still 515 yards.

Til' next,


  1. He sounds like an interesting guy. I'll have to get the book you mentioned.


  2. Fascinating guy. My post only scratches the surface. If you read the book I'd be interested in your opinion.

  3. It is truly one of the most incredible stories from the golf world that I have ever heard. Just a couple of years I was looking for the longest drive on tour which I had assumed would also give me the answer to the longest driver ever but to find out that it was a 65 year old guy who achieved that feat so many years back was something I found very hard to believe.

    In fact till he passed away a few years back he still used to hit the balls to some distance, usually over 300 yards and mind you, this is when he was 90 years old. Must have been some swing that he had and it was something that he passed on to many of his pupils. In fact he was famous for regularly tonking the ball past the 400 yard mark which has got to be considered a phenomenal achievement. It is no surprise then that Bobby Jones thought the young Austin was someone to watch out for!

    The best part about the story is that despite the drive he could only manage a par on that hole which goes on to prove the old adage “Drive for show, putt for dough”



  4. Austin himself admitted he wasn't a very good putter because it bored him to practice it. Even Ben Hogan said, "Putting isn't golf".

    Austin was very accurate off the tee despite his length. His swing theories aren't particularly radical. His swing looks like a golf swing. Very graceful. I'm going to give them a try. Can't hurt.

    Thanks very much for your thoughts Andy.

  5. Anyone still interested in MA?
    He was an amazing talent and character.
    Had the privilege of working with him for over 5 years.
    His teachings led to effortless power and accuracy.
    I have a clip of my swing under his tutelage.
    Is it ok to attach under site rules??

  6. Effortless power. Mike Austin was way ahead of his time.
    Mike was a true golf treasure.

  7. No doubt. Wish I'd heard of him earlier. At least there's some video to be had.