Journey to the Worlds 2012: Winning the 2012 World Long Drive Championship – it’s about more than the title

On winning the 2012 World Long Drive Championship: Much More Than A Title

After a long and grueling day in the desert heat of Mesquite, Nevada, against a deep and talented field of long drive professionals, I succeeded in reaching a major goal:  winning a second long drive World Championship title.

I’d like to share four keys to the day that helped me win the title, in the hopes that the next time you face a pressure situation on the golf course, you’ll have some strategies to be successful.
1. Practicing and training effectively
2. A solid pre-shot routine
3. Trust
4. Being in the moment

Preparation: A Consistent Golf Swing Starts with Effective Practice

Although my tournament only lasted a day, and the finals are over in 3 minutes, the tournament was won in the weeks and months leading up to the day.

One of the biggest keys to coming through in the clutch is being prepared, and that means practicing effectively.  Effective practice is about more than working on technique. It’s about getting prepared to compete.

Working on technique is an important part of that process. Don’t get me wrong. At 6 feet tall and 195 lbs, I’m one of the smaller guys in long drive, so my swing technique HAS to be outstanding. I start out getting prepared by focusing the majority of my efforts on technique – to the tune of 90% of my practice time.

10 years ago I started breaking down the golf swing to understand which parts influenced distance. The result, of course, was my training program The 5 Keys To Distance. But my point is that 8 weeks prior to the Worlds I put myself through that very training program and the BLAST framework – Balance, Leverage, Arc of Swing, Speed, and Target focus. I started with balance to get myself as athletic as possible. I worked on my leverage to maximize the power in my swing (heaven knows I could use every ounce I can get). Once I re-mastered these two fundamentals, I worked on my swing arc width and my core speed.

That process took 6 weeks. The key to proper technique practice is to focus on one fundamental at a time, master it, and then move on to the next one.

Two weeks prior to my competition I tapered off the technique practice and switched to competition practice. At that point –  less than two weeks out – there is very little I can do to change my swing. So the key is to learn how to maximize what I have, so that my best can come out in competition.

I’ll have much more to say on competition practice soon, but virtually 100% of my practice time when I am that close to competition is devoted to simulated competition and strategy development. Which brings me to my second key: my pre-shot routine.

The Magic of a Solid Pre-Shot Routine

On the day of the competition, having a solid pre-shot routine was one of the most important assets I brought to the tee, and a really important take-away for you from this newsletter.

I had made a number of minor changes during my technique work: I moved the ball back in my stance 1-1/2 inches, teed the ball a little lower because the sweet spot is a little lower on the new driver head I was using; closed my stance slightly to create a draw; rotated my chin to the right before swinging for more shoulder rotation; extended my left arm while tucking my right elbow closer to my left to help with lag, and narrowed my stance an inch for more speed.

These are all minor set-up changes, but I wanted to make these changes as automatic as possible. The LAST thing I wanted was to be on the tee running through my checklist of changes. That would have been a major distraction. I had to KNOW that when I was on the tee I was putting myself in the best possible position for success.

And that is precisely the point of the pre-shot routine, and why it is so important to deliberately practice it. It is every bit as important as practicing mechanics when it comes to competition day. Perhaps more so, because it contributed directly to my third key to success: Trusting my swing.

TRUST: The Secret to Distance and Consistency

In the finals I hit 5 of 6 balls in the grid – when the pressure was highest. The key was the trust I developed practicing my routine and taking myself through simulated competition situations. That’s virtually all I practiced the final two weeks.

Trust allows me to swing tension-free, which produces a golf swing that is not only faster, it’s more accurate. And the process for building trust is the entire process of working through the mechanics, then spending the time to focus on competition training.

By the time I worked through this whole 8-week process, I had a strategy for virtually every scenario I was likely to encounter on the tee, and I hit balls in practice simulating actual competition circumstances, so I could feel comfortable no matter what I faced.  My last ball at 369 yards was my best, and the drive that won. And I practiced the scenario where I was behind and needed to hit a big ball on my last swing. When the moment of truth came, I already knew what my strategy would be. That’s what set me up for the next key to success: being in the moment.

Peak Performance Starts with Being Centered In The Moment

One of the keys to peak performance is being centered in the moment. It’s also a zone precursor – something that must be in place before you can get into the zone.

Centered means two things: being physically balanced and athletic; and being mentally “in the present.”

I relied on my pre-shot routine to get me physically centered.

To get myself mentally centered in the moment I limited myself to just two things:

1. Having total target awareness (The T of the BLAST Fundamentals)
2. Having one simple swing thought

There was a wind-sock at the far end of the range that I used for my target all day. I got to know where that wind-sock was so well that even when I was concentrating on my ball I still had total awareness of where the target was. The location was so clear in my mind that my body instinctively knew exactly how to turn toward it. It’s that clarity of image – what Flow experts call a “clear and unambiguous goal” – that frees up the swing. You don’t have to try to control or steer the shot if you already know exactly where it is supposed to go.

That freedom allowed me to have a simple swing thought: hit the ball as squarely as possible.

This was the simple combination that allowed me to hit the ball I absolutely need to hit, when I needed to hit it.

Great golf doesn’t have to be complicated.

Thank you for joining me on my journey to the 2012 World Long Drive Championship. It’s an honor for me to be the new Champion and to have had the chance to compete against so many outstanding athletes.

Eric Jones
PGA Professional and 2012 World Long Drive Champion
If you have a comment or would like to share your thoughts, please use the comment box below. I’d love to hear your perspective.


Journey to the Worlds 2012 (see the whole process)


20 Responses

  1. Mike Wilhelm says:

    Eric, I’ve followed your progress since we worked together, I believe it was in 2007, at Poppy Ridge when you were working on your Masters degree in Sports Psychology. I still use much of what you taught and it has made a real positive contribution to my enjoyment of the game. Congratualations on your recent success in long drive. It nice to see that practicing what you preach really works.

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Hi Mike – Great to hear from you. I see Ron several times a year when he comes back for a refresher. Thanks for the note! I talk about you guys all the time, and still use info and insights from the study to continue to create more effective programs and approaches to teaching and learning. Come by and see us some time!
      And yes, I did use my own advice a lot to win this championship.

  2. It was great meeting with you and talk about the strategy to win. Approaching practice with a strategy along with your mental game led to your winning results. It’s proof that you’re system works.

  3. Malcolm Black says:

    Congratulations Eric!
    Your win at is the best possible inspiration for us wannabe target-centred golfers to get out there and practice effectively!


    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Thanks Malcolm, appreciate your kind words. Effective practice is a foundation of confidence. I spent four weeks testing equipment and taking myself through my own training program, working on technique. Then, a couple of weeks before the tournament, I switched away from technique practice to simulated competition practice and strategy development. One of the scenarios I practiced was getting down to my last ball and having to hit my best ball to win. Sure enough, that’s what it came down to in this tournament. But since I’d already practiced it many times, my mind was clear and I was able to maintain my focus and be centered in the moment. I trusted my pre-shot routine, and that made all the difference. Thanks again!

  4. Ivan R says:

    Congratulations Eric on winning your 2nd championship! Larry O’Leary is my instructor and you both work together. I just had John Greenwood install a shaft on my driver and and 3 weeks ago he installed a shaft on my 3-wood. I like the way my 3-wood performs. I’m still practicing with my driver to TRUST my swing with it before putting it into competition play. I’ve studied some of your instructions and have incorporated them into my practice sessions. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience with all of us. I hope to see you on the P-town range. BTW – I’m still waiting for the 3rd Section of your book – Strategic Golf. I have sections 1 and 2. Again congratulations on winning.

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Hi Ivan,
      Thanks much for your note. Larry is one of the all-time greats, and John Greenwood, as you know, builds all my drivers. I’m glad my posts are helping.
      As for Strategic Golf – I’ll have much more to say next spring. I’m planning on releasing a new training course for scoring clubs, as well as a book on effective practice soon. Stay tuned!

  5. Allan says:

    I’m sure I speak for many when I say we are fortunate to have you.
    Your manner, humility, good sense and knowing ‘the meat’ of what is needed, rather than ‘hype’ is most appreciated.
    Any ‘lone voice’ you feel, is only that there’s a lot listening when you talk 😉

    Cheers Eric!

  6. Allan says:

    Well Done Eric
    I’m delighted at your success – and I’ve no doubt it’s well deserved.
    May you enjoy many more.

    Thanks as ever for the wisdom you share – in every way.

    Very warm wishes

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Hi Allan,
      Thank you for your comment, and for following the posts. Sometimes I feel like a lone voice in the wilderness, so I appreciate hearing back, and knowing that I am being helpful. Cheers!

  7. jim dingman says:

    Jim Dingman:
    Congratulation Champ!
    I have been working on blast for almost a year. I am pleased to say that your input and great coaching have payed off. The last two weeks blast has come together. 80% fairways, reaching par five’s with a wedge for the third shot. Center hits on the club face. Love you for your communication ability. Jim D.

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Hi Jim,
      That’s fantastic news on your progress using the 5 Keys to Distance. Thanks for letting me know. You’re getting more distance AND more consistency, which is my hope for everyone. Keep us posted on your progress.

  8. carlos sandskaer says:

    Gratulerarverkligen god och gott!
    That is swedish for well done. CONGRATULATIONS!
    C. Sandskaer, SWEDEN

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Hi Carlos. It’s great to hear in any language. Much appreciated.

  9. jgary says:

    Awesome, and congratulations on number two Eric!

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      JGary – Appreciate the note. It’s amazing to think of the 5 world champions and 4 hall-of-famers I had to get by just to make it into the finals. It’s nnice to think there’s still some mojo left in the swing.

  10. Tommy Dahl says:

    Congrats from TommyD in Winnipeg (Go Jets Go!). Really appreciated your ‘Road to the 2012’s’ story. I play our ‘Muni open’ every year (made the final weekend this year in the 1st flight – out of 300 golfers), and I’ll be using your prep tips next year. Hopefully our Canadian TSN will air the LD competition in Dec. I see you chose the Chevy Geek head and not the Mustang head. Just wondered if the Mustang head might have had more horsepower? Anway, great win, and please work on getting us some slo-mo vids of a variety of your swings with analysis. I think golfers would appreciate it.

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Hi Tommy,
      Thanks for the note. Good idea on the slo-mo. I’ll have to figure out how to do that. Hope the tips and thoughts work for you as well. Cheers!

  11. Jeff says:

    Wonderful outcome for you Eric. Heartiest congratulations.

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Hi Jeff,
      Thanks much for the comment. Hope you enjoyed the tips and videos. Cheers!