Matt Nicolle: The golfer with the 400-yard drive hoping to tackle the world
“I am at all times being requested to do a Blissful Gilmore swing, however often as quickly as they see me hit the ball they overlook about that.”
Matt Nicolle is used to folks placing down their golf equipment and watching him hit balls on the driving vary.
The 27-year-old isn’t any regular golfer – he can hit a ball additional than virtually anybody in Europe.
And when most individuals consider males who can hit a ball a great distance, the primary individual that comes into their thoughts is the ice hockey player-turned-golfer from the 1996 film.
“Adam Sandler at all times comes up in dialog, it is Blissful Gilmore, ‘golf-ball-whacker man’, these are the nicknames you get,” he says.
However there’s cash to be made by smashing a ball as far and as straight as you’ll be able to – or lengthy drive golf, to offer it its extra formal identify.
‘My longest drive this yr is 425 yards’
Jersey-born Nicolle was a really promising younger golfer, however the calls for of making an attempt to get on the tour with having to maintain himself financially meant he was by no means capable of dedicate sufficient time to make the game his residing.
However, like Sandler’s character, he was blessed with an superior drive.
Now based mostly in London, he balances his time teaching as a PGA-qualified skilled, working in golf retail and and travelling the world making an attempt to hit a ball so far as he can.
“My longest drive this yr is 425 yards, and the PGA Tour common is about 280,” he says, as he warms up at a driving vary ignored by Canary Wharf on one facet and the O2 Area on the opposite.
“There are some guys like Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson – the largest hitters on the planet – they’re going to hit it 320-340, so on our greatest drive we’re 100 yards longer than them.”
Additional lengthy golf equipment, huge tees and 140mph swings
There may be much more to hitting a ball a great distance than simply brute pressure. Nicolle spends time within the fitness center, does pilates and yoga, and has a bagful of particular equipment to get the additional distance.
“Individuals assume to be ideally suited for lengthy drive you need to be 6ft 8in and 120kg and that is how we create our energy and velocity,” he says. “I create my velocity via mobility, flexibility and rotational velocity.
“I am not the largest – I solely weigh 80kg so there’s not lots of mass to place via the ball – however via leverage and floor work I can create related speeds.”
These speeds are mind-boggling – when Nicolle’s specially-adapted driver crashes via his hardened ball atop a four-inch tee, it’s travelling at round 140mph.
The shaft is 48ins lengthy, 4 inches greater than an everyday driver, whereas it’s 5 instances as stiff because the stiffest you may get at a variety.
His clubheads – which have an angle of simply three levels in comparison with 9 or extra on a standard driver – are constructed from titanium because the carbon fibre ones often used would crack.
And when it comes collectively it’s spectacular – the noise that his membership makes because it cuts via the air quicker than most British trains go at high velocity is simply bettered by the awe of seeing his ball journey additional than the size of 4 soccer pitches.
Are you able to make a residing from lengthy drive?
The game of lengthy drive is greatest in comparison with a home-run derby in baseball.
Opponents get 165 seconds to take six photographs which should land on a fairway and the longest is the winner – the extra correct you’re, the extra probability there’s that you’ll win.
Finally weekend’s Lengthy Drive World Collection occasion in London, Nicolle completed second behind two-time world champion Joe Miller.
However whereas the prize cash on the primary golf excursions is large – the Irish Open earlier this month had a prize fund of £5.3m with winner Russell Knox picking up £885,000 – lengthy drive is extra in regards to the love of the sport.
“There’s £1,800 for first place on a European occasion and the highest 4 pays out,” says Nicolle, who’s at present ranked 31 on the planet.
“There’s larger cash in America, that is the place lengthy drive developed.
“It is getting to some extent the place you’ll be able to earn a great residing from it, however you are going to in all probability want some backing and assist to enter the tournaments and journey.
“The World Championships, that are each September in America, there’s $125,000 for first prize on the market.”
In contrast to abnormal golf, the place gamers can nonetheless compete on the highest degree into their fifties, the profession of a long-driver is so much shorter.
“It does tear your physique aside while you’re swinging at that velocity,” says Nicolle.
“There is a masters division in America and you’ll nonetheless get it on the market if you happen to’re good to your physique.
“Nevertheless it’s not the longevity that ordinary golf has as a result of that is so much slower and the swing is so much smoother, however there are guys of their peak who’re of their mid-thirties.”
And the ambition for Nicolle is straightforward – make waves on the World Lengthy Drive Championships, beginning with the 2018 version in Oklahoma on the finish of August.
“I have been concerned within the World Championships up to now couple of years, I’ve improved slightly bit annually nevertheless it’s a troublesome atmosphere to go on the market with the 100 longest hitters on the planet.
“Most of them are American and you’ll really feel slightly bit remoted while you go on the market and full towards them. The highest 16 will get you thru to the TV rounds so that is the goal this yr actually.”