Mike Austin's record 515-yard drive has yet to be approached in thirty years. Which begs the question: Did it—could it—really happen?
T+L GOLF asked the engineers at Focaltron, a golf-performance company in Sunnyvale, California, to simulate the drive to see whether Austin's story flies. After plugging in all the known data—that day's wind and weather conditions, the altitude, the persimmon driver and the two-piece ball—here's what they determined:
At an altitude of 2,030 feet and a temperature of eighty-eight degrees, Austin would have needed the day's maximum wind gust of 27 m.p.h. behind him, an astonishingly low launch angle and spin rate and a swing speed of 150 m.p.h. to carry the ball 445 yards before it started rolling. (Indeed, Austin's swing was once measured at 155 m.p.h.; by comparison, Tiger Woods swings the club about 120 m.p.h.) A few lucky bounces might—just might—have yielded another sixty or so yards. Plus, by cutting off the slight dogleg, Austin shaved ten or more yards off the hole. If all these variables came together, the 515- yard drive could have occurred. Or perhaps, as Austin's biographer, Philip Reed, suggests: "Something unquantifiable may have happened that day. It's like the moment when a mother lifts a car to save her child from the burning wreckage. Whatever Mike did that day seemed to defy everything we know about the golf swing."