January 13, 2015 by Speakers' Spotlight
A Q&A With Lisa “Longball” Vlooswyk
Being clear and committed to your goals determines how far you will go and what success you are able to achieve. Seven-time Canadian Long Drive Champion Lisa “Longball” Vlooswyk, who—just over ten years ago—went from being a high-handicap recreational golfer to a professional player who hits farther than most men, shows others how to determine what drives them, where they want to go, and how to get there. With valuable lessons drawn from her experiences both on and off the green, Lisa’s wisdom can be applied immediately to improve achievement in both business and personal aspirations. Lisa was recently profiled in Golf WRX magazine:
How she got started in golf
First time I swung a club was in grade 8. There were 60 boys and me. The coach told me to go hit my 6-iron at the end of the range. I hit my 6-iron at the end of the range while he worked with the boys all night.
I ended up quitting.
There weren’t a lot of strong junior girls programs at that point. I maybe played once a year with my dad if he forced me to. It was really only after I finished university that my boyfriend at the time (now husband) was asked to go to corporate golf charity tournaments, because golf truly is a key networking skill.
He was embarrassed because he didn’t play, so he just dragged me out to the local muni or wherever we could get on, and that’s kind of how I got into it.
When she knew she could compete in long drive
In 1999, the DeMaurier Classic—one of the four LPGA majors at the time—came to Calgary. I had the summers off as a school teacher, so I decided to volunteer that week. And watching the best female golfers in the world—even though I couldn’t break 100 to save my life—I was completely inspired. And I’d always been competing since a young age, I was thinking “What can I compete in now?”
In 2000, I entered my first golf tournament. It was the mid-handicap, which is like your state mid-amateur. I came sort of halfway through the pack, but I was hitting it 80-to-100 yards past my playing partners. But I still didn’t think it was long because it was just the mid-handicap.
In 2001, I entered the Brita Amateur. I just squeaked in. I placed near the end of the pack, but I was outdriving the NCAA girls by 70 or 80 yards. And that’s when I knew I was long.
I happened to see an advertisement for a long drive competition, and I entered with a set of clubs I won at Costco. I won with a 313-yard drive.
Her experience playing a LPGA Monday qualifier
I probably play to about a five-[handicap] right now. My problem is keeping it in play. I’ve done a Monday qualifier for the LPGA.
I’m at 160 yards. Some of the girls are using a hybrid, and I’m using a 7-iron. I’m not just long with my driver, I’m long with all my clubs. The problem is consistency and keeping it in play.
These girls aren’t long, but they’re deadly accurate and they get up-and-down from everywhere. So that’s where I struggle competing in full golf.
On match play in long drive competitions
In our sport, if we have headwind or tailwind, it never really shows that. Wind conditions impact our sport—both men and women—tremendously. That’s why Art Selinger, owner of the Long Drivers of America, switched to a match play format.
I’m not in love with match play: You can have one pair where someone hits it 370 and someone hits it 375 and the 375 advances. And the next pair hit it 360 and 365 and the 365 advances. Really, it should have been the first two that advanced; that’s my issue with match play.
Amateurs’ biggest distance-killer
The biggest mistake amateurs make when trying to swing hard is that tight grip pressure. One of the things you have to do to maximize distance is relax grip pressure. You want that hands relaxed, the forearms relaxed.
When I was doing a Monday qualifier for the LPGA, I tried to switch down to a 45-inch driver. I hit a 47.25-inch driver. I have swung tens of thousands of times with the 47-inch driver. I have found I have more success using that in full golf as well.
A lot of guys, they want to tell their buddies they hit an extra stiff shaft. But really, you want to hit the most flexible shaft you can control, and that’s a huge part of long driving. If you can control a more flexible shaft, use it. You’ll hit it farther.
I use two different shafts: a Matrix and an Accra. So at the world championships this year I used both Matrix and Accra shafts.
I’ve been sponsored by Nike for the last 9 years. I used the Covert 2.0 last year…with it I came in third at the World Long Drive Championships. I have one set at 7 degrees and one set at 8 degrees. And that’s my playing loft as well. I’m hitting the Vapor irons right now and love them.
At a Champions Tour event, Steve Elkington watched my clinic and really loved it. He said, “Do you mind if I give you a couple of pointers?” He took me to the range; he gave me some great tips. And then he called me a few months later and said he started this new show called the Rural Golfer.
I was his first female guest, and I was his first guest to ever beat him. I played from the tips with him, and it was unbelievable. I do a backflip on the show and it really freaked Elk out…all the stars lined up for me. I can’t say enough nice things about Steve Elkington.
On her swing
I’m self-taught, so my swing is quite unique. I used to be very Furyk-y, where I took it outside. I’m trying to make a better turn with my upper body now.
I get right up on my toes…very Laura Davies-esque. I’m one of the smaller girls out there. I’m five-foot-six and I’m competing against a lot of girls who are six feet.
I definitely do a bit of a squat as well, which is a bit unorthodox. But you won’t see that in my irons, I don’t squat with my irons.
It’s leg strength, core strength, but my leg strength has always been my secret.
It’s kind of like right before you do a back-handspring or a backflip, you’ve got that bit of a squat and you push up off the ground. That’s kind of how I hit the longball.
A lot of coaches I’ve asked—including Steve Elkington—“Is it bad that I’m up on my toes at impact?” They’ve all said no.
When I’m trying to kill it, in terms of swing—you have six chances. You only need to get one of those in play—you’re trying to swing as hard as humanly possible.
In full golf, I average between 280 and 290 on my drives. When I’m in long drive competition, I average between 295 and 310.
If you’re not hitting it three bills in long drive, you’re definitely not competitive at the world-class level. For any girls looking to get into it, you need to be hitting it three bills.
When she’s not competing…
I get to do corporate charity golf outings. Companies hire me to come out and hit balls for guests. And I love it, because a lot of guys won’t listen to a girl. But because I’m a girl who hits it over three bills…a guy…who I’m outdriving by 30 yards, he’ll listen to me. And most women don’t hit it 200 yards, so they’ll listen to me too.
I do a lot of speaking at conferences, too. And basically, I share my story. If you’d ask me 10 or 12 years ago if this is what I’d be doing, I’d have laughed at you.
I started my own golf school this year: Lisa Longball Golf School. I had so many women asking, “Do you teach? Do you teach? Do you teach?” I hired PGA instructors to coach at my school, and I also do clinics and so forth.
Changes for 2015
I actually started working with the strength and conditioning coach for Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter, Mitch Sadowsky, the golf fitness instructor at Lake Nona. He came up for one of the men’s golf schools that I did. I’m going to be training with him this winter to get ready for this season.
I’m going to be making a coaching change this year to Paul Horton out of Calgary.