Mike Austin is the man who Guinness Records credited with the longest drive ever in competitive golf. At age 64, on September 25, 1974 at the U.S. National Seniors Open Championship at Winterwood Golf Course in Las Vegas, Mike hit a 515-yard drive on the par-4 465 yard 5th hole. Even more remarkable was that he did this with a 43.5" steel-shafted persimmon wood driver with one of the old balata balls.
Since the Austin drive, Winterwood Golf Course was renamed Desert Rose and the front nine and back nine were flipped…and one could still play the famous hole.
Unfortunately, Desert Rose was closed in 2013 due to flooding for redesign. When the course reopened in 2016, apparently they did not keep the Austin hole. The course is now know as The Club at Sunrise.
How did Jaacob Bowden meet Mike Austin?
Jaacob worked in the corporate world for five years between St. Louis and Kansas City. In late December 2002 right before his 27th birthday, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a golf career. He got a membership at Lost Canyons Golf Club in Simi Valley and began practicing on January 1, 2003. One day while hitting balls in fierce winds in late January, Jaacob struck up a conversation with the man behind him...Dan Shauger. He told Dan of his career aspirations and Dan offered to take Jaacob under his wing and teach him the swing secrets of the legendary Mike Austin. Dan had apparently been good friends with Michael for roughly the last 25 years, and shortly thereafter Jaacob met Mike in his house in LA. Thus the relationship began.
On video, it just looks like a nice fluid swing. What's so different?
Although Austin's swing looks rather effortless and easy, there a reason for that.
The "modern" golf swing is built around a very stable lower body, a wide stance, a short compact backswing, torso coil/uncoil, attempt to hold off the club release to increase compression/stability, and hip rotation (the hip rotators are not particularly powerful muscles)…modern golf swings can look vastly more forceful compared to the more fluid looking swings back in Austin's era.
The older swings incorporated longer back swings, they swung through the ball more freely with more hand hit, and they leveraged much more power from the quads, hamstrings, abductors, and adductors of the legs. When you combine those things with Austin's high hands at the top of the back swing (you can pull more weight down vs around) and his toss of the club from the top (think throwing a tetherball around a maypole), you get a lot more power with a much smoother looking swing.
Why isn't Mike Austin more well known?
In the 1930s to the 1960s, there wasn't the huge amount of corporate sponsorship or television money available to golfers. If you decided to play on the PGA TOUR, you also needed an additional job, particularly in the off-season, to make ends meet. Mike could actually make more money from teaching lessons, putting on exhibitions, and gambling using his trick shots. He was also just more interested in hitting the ball far versus scoring.
If this swing is so great, why isn't everyone using his swing?
If you ever met Mike or took a lesson from him, you probably already know the answer to this. For those that don't know, Mike, although perceived as a genius when it came to the golf swing, was a bit rough around the edges, egotistical, and wasn't very tactful in his dealings with people. Some found him a bit bullish, especially in his old age after his stroke. After meeting him and spending lots of time around him, it wasn't at all a surprise that not many other people had heard of him or were open to hearing what he had to say and offer.
There seem to be several versions of the hand-action that Mike used. Which one is the right one?
As you can see further below on this page, there are many products and people that are affiliated with the Mike Austin swing. Everyone seems to generally agree on the pivot, however, the biggest difference is the rolling hand-action, or curling under hand-action.
So who is right?
In the 1990s and prior, Mike apparently taught a rolling hand-action. You will see this demonstrated in all of the videos that were made during this time period. After he had his stroke and became paralyzed on his right side, he was basically left only to be able to ponder the golf swing. In the last few years before he died, he changed his outlook from a rolling hand-action to one that curls under and keeps the blade squarer longer.
The problem is that Mike didn't make another video after he changed his viewpoint.
The Peace River video was re-released as a DVD with extra footage, but the actual instruction remained the same old stuff.
Also, whether it was old-age or stubbornness or what, Mike would also contradict himself in these later years of his life. There was one time when Dan Shauger (a close friend of Mike's for nearly 25 years) and Jaacob were at Mike's house working in Mike's garage and Mike was insisting that the Flammer produced the new curling under motion that he was professing, when in fact it produces a rolling hand-action. Dan modified the pivot so that it produced the curling under motion, yet Mike still insisted that the original Flammer did so. It did not. So it is understandable that some might not think that Mike professed the curling under action...even in Mike's later years.
In addition, in 2003, Dan began putting together a tribute book to Mike as told through the eyes of Dan, the How to Kill the Ball book (see below). In it included the new hand-action that Mike was professing. Mike was happy about it and even put up funding to put the book together. However, when Dan finished the book Mike began claiming that Mike himself had written it, when in fact, Dan had written it.
Understandably so, Dan was upset about this and Jaacob was witness to a big argument over it. This situation damaged the friendship between Mike and Dan all the way through to when Mike passed away. Unfortunately, many people do not know this story.
So later on when the rights of the Mike Austin stuff were taken over and other people met Mike, Mike gave Dan a bad rap. Thus the discrepancy between those who advocate the rolling action and those like Dan who knew and were witness to Mike's change of viewpoint.
Yes, Mike taught a rolling hand-action…but in the end, he also taught the curling under hand action and came to believe that it was the better of the two.
Who Are Some of the More Popular Names That Pop Up When You Hear About Mike Austin?
Mike is the original protege of Mike Austin.
Dunaway won the 1990 World Super Long Drive Contest. He inspired Art Sellinger, who owned the Long Drivers of America (LDA) and was a big part of growing the World Long Drive Championships before it was sold to Golf Channels, to get in to the sport of long driving. Dunaway was the September 2013 LDA Member of the Month and is in the LDA Hall of Fame. Dunaway passed away at the early age of 59 on September 29th, 2014. Tom Duke now maintains the Dunaway website.
Nicknamed the "Tin Cup Teacher”, Dan is a golf professional who taught at the John Wells Driving range on Strathern in Sun Valley, California. He was close friends with Mike Austin for roughly 25 years and arguably understood the way Mike swung better than anyone. He retired from the movie industry and released a number of golf instruction products before apparently passing away at 74 on March 21st, 2014 to cancer related to asbestos inhaled over the years working on old movie and television sets. Dan's widow Elaine helps carry on his legacy.
Thomas took Mike's several day certification course and acquired the rights to sell many of Mike Austin's older videos and such. Before disappearing from the United States and abandoning his involvement in the Mike Austin community, he taught the original Mike Austin rolling method out of Oregon and California and he ran the MikeAustinGolf.com website (which is not presently being maintained).
John is one of the friendliest and most modest guys you will ever meet. But his drives are anything but modest. John has studied the Mike Austin method, has worked with Dan Shauger, and has qualified for the World Long Drive Championships and won the ALDA Long Drive Championships in the Super Senior Division. He is available for lessons in the Atlanta, Georgia area.
Steve Pratt first met Mike back in June of 1993 and is another one of the lucky guys who took personal lessons from Mike. Steve teaches the rolling hand-action version of the Austin swing near Los Angeles.
Heiko Falke met Mike Austin in September 2005 a few months before Mike died. Heiko obtained the rights from Thomas Dang to sell the DVD copies of “Golf is Mental Imagery” and “Austinology”. He teaches in Hamburg, Germany.
His best student is a Pro named Gary Birch, who has played on the European Tour and in the British Open.
If you'd like to see some footage of Mike giving lessons, Chuck Dayter was smart enough to film lessons he personally took from Mike Austin in the 1990s.
He has videos that show Austin actually teaching the “blade faces the ball” hand action and also how much Austin wants you to take the club back to the inside on the initial take-a-way.
Where Can I Learn More About Mike Austin?
How to Kill the Ball
(The Formula for Power and Accuracyby Dan Shauger - 2004 Book and video available here on Amazon. This book and DVD were put together at a minimal cost and the quality of presentation is unpolished, however, the information contained in each is both exceptional and like nothing you've ever heard. They contain the pivot secrets, the throw, and the latest hand action.
In Search of the Greatest Golf Swing
by Philip Reed- 2004 Available on Amazon here. Highly rated.
The tale of Philip Reed, and ordinary golfer, his quest to hit a 300-yard drive, and his unanticipated journey in to the world of the sport's most legendary long driver and keeper of the secret to the perfect golf swing. A great read for golfers and non-golfers alike.
The Mike Austin Swing with Jaacob Bowden
- 2012 Downloadable instructional video available here.
Mike Austin: Secrets from the Games Longest Hitter
Originally released in 1998 and rereleased in 2004, Mike Austin teams up with 1990 World Super Long Drive Contest champion Mike Dunaway to share the secrets of raw power. Includes the pivot secrets, the throw, but teaches the old style hand action. Bonus footage includes clips with Jaacob Bowden and Dan Shauger.
The Man Who Cracked the Code
by Philip Reed - LA Times 1991 Read the article here.
The 515 Yard Drive
by David Hochman - Travel and Leisure Golf - July 2004 The article is no longer available on the Travel and Leisure website.
The Flammer Swing Training Aid
Often known for its use in the movie, Tin Cup, the Flammer is a good training aid if you want to keep arm extension throughout the swing, but it teaches the old-style rolling Mike Austin hand action. This training aid is probably better for someone learning the conventionally taught golf swing. Mike used to charge around $200 for it. Presently it's not being sold unless you are lucky to find it on the Internet.
The World's Best Driver
by Mike Dunaway - 2005 Instructional video available here on Amazon.