Justin Rose soared back to the top of the world rankings after edging out Haotong Li in a thrilling finish at the Turkish Airlines Open.
Q&A with Long Drive Champion 2017 Matt Nicolle
Meet Matt Nicolle in our Q&A! The Class A PGA Professional Golfer and American Golf Pro talks about his incredibly successful career competing in Long Drive, where he is currently ranked Number 1 in Europe, and the AG Long Drive Championship.
AG: You are a member of the Long Drive European Tour and had a fantastic year in 2017 winning the Spanish, Danish, Estonian and Masters titles and winning the Tour in 2017. How long have you been doing Long Drive?
Matt: It was an awesome year and I had a lot of success, I entered my first tournament at the end of 2016, competing a few times and coming 3rd twice was a good stepping stone for me. I built up equipment, worked on my swing and learnt more about the sport having my first full season last year. Competing in 7 tournaments on the Long Drivers European Tour, The American Golf Championships, IGANZ New Zealand Open and The World Championships.
AG: What makes Long Drive stand out for you in golf?
Matt: Being a professional golfer I have seen it from both perspectives which I feel helps me with my development. Long Drive is different to regular golf in the sense that you don't chip or putt! Hitting the ball as hard, straight and far as you can being the primary aim, it is fast paced, easy to understand and fun to watch. The profile is growing all over the world and we are seeing many more competitors getting involved each year, American Golf has a massive part to play in this with thousands of people across the UK and Ireland getting involved in The American Golf Championships.
AG: How do you train for Long Drive golf? Do you have any top tipps for people trying to get into Long Drive?
Matt: With Long Drive it is all about specific training relating to the swing and to build speed, staying fast is crucial, the strongest guys don't win Long Drive events, the fastest and most consistent do. My workouts relate to key areas in the golf swing that we use to create power, primarily the ground, how we use our lower body is a massive part in the distance we can create. Rotational speed, pull power from transition to impact and extension through impact are all areas anyone can work on to gain more speed within the swing, and ultimately hit the ball further. One overriding factor that all of this relies on is strike, this applies to regular golf and long drive. We will not be able to maximise the speed we have unless we can control our strike on the clubface, to transfer that speed into ball speed, resulting in potential distance.
AG: We are proud to call you our American Golf Staff Long Drive Champion 2017. How excited are you for the 2018 Championship?
Matt:The American Golf Long Drive Championship has been growing since I joined the business nearly 3 years ago, and it's exciting to see. This year we have a massive sponsor in Callaway and their support will no doubt add something extra to 2018! We have some exciting promotional events in the lead up to the finals and it proves to be bigger and better than ever. We had a huge response in 2017 and 2018 will be even bigger, I look forward to seeing some new talent and experienced competitors come through the stages and be in with a chance to win a trip to The World Long Drive Championships, which is the pinnacle of any Long Drivers career.
AG: Any Long Drive golfers you are especially excited to compete against this year on the Tour?
Matt: There has been a big response to the 2018 LDET season, with many new faces joining the tour. This is exciting and I always want the best competition as this pushes me to work harder. Anyone who's on the tour can win, we all have speed and the ability to hit it long, this is what makes it the best Long Drive Tour in the world.
AG: Your longest drive of the 2017 season was 421 yards. Where are you hoping to get this season?
Matt: Conditions are always a huge factor in Long Drive, wind, temperature and grid conditions all play a part in the distances we can achieve. But given the right conditions I hope to pip this number, 444 is the LDET record, so let's see if this can be broken!
AG: What is your favourite golf equipment when it comes to Long Drive? (clubs, balls, shafts, grips, etc.)
Matt: I am using Brute 2.0 drivers, which are specifically designed for Long Drive, all conforming just extreme specifications compared to normal equipment. My lofts are between 2-4 degrees, shaft flex 3-5 X-Stiff and shaft length is maximum at 48 inches. I am always analysing my launch data to make sure I am getting the most out of the speed I can create.
AG: Talking about driving in 'normal' golf. Do you think there is a secret to a long golf drive?
Matt: Clubhead speed can be trained and worked on to an extent, everyone has physical limitations and these should always be assessed before any speed development work takes place. I would say that these physical limitations usually restrict the average golfer from reaching serious levels of clubhead speed, so a more efficient way to increase distance is to optimise your equipment and work on your impact and launch conditions. Getting properly custom fit is paramount to being able to reach your maximum potential and working with a pro to develop a more functional impact and technique are the only ways you will hit it further. Most people hit down on a driver meaning their attack angle will be negative, changing this to a positive number, meaning you are hitting up on the ball with a driver will have benefits to swing path, strike and swing direction, in turn creating more ball speed = more distance.
AG: So, we know your drive is impressive but what other skills do you have?
Matt: At the moment pretty much 100% of my time is taken up either, custom fitting, coaching, training, competing or teaching golf. My passion for golf originally stems from understanding the golf swing and using that knowledge to develop a process to help people improve. I would say a skill I have outside of long drive is coaching, whether it be with clients working towards goals to improve their swing, custom fitting clubs to maximise performance or training and upskilling staff across American Golf in custom fitting.
AG: Thanks so much for doing this quick Q&A. When and where can we see you competing next?
Matt: I am always happy to talk golf and appreciate the support. I will be in Belgium on the 21st April, Sweden 4th May and Russia 3rd June. Then back to London on the 9th June at The London Club. Hopefully picking up a trophy or two along the way!
Matt's Website: mattnicollegolf.com
Matt's Pro Profile: ag-pros/matt-nicolle