Mike Austin (golfer)
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Austin in his living room in 2003 at age 93
February 17, 1910|
|Died||November 23, 2005
Los Angeles, California
|Height||6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)|
He was credited by Guinness World Records with hitting the longest drive in tournament play (471m/515 yards) in 1974 at Winterwood Golf Course (the Par-4 455-yard 14th Hole now called Desert Rose Golf Course) in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The book has the following 19 chapters:
- Chapter 1 - The 300-Yard Barrier
- Chapter 2 - The Greatest Swing Ever
- Chapter 3 - On Learning Golf
- Chapter 4 - The Golfing Bandit
- Chapter 5 - A Hands-On Lesson
- Chapter 6 - The Hollywood Years
- Chapter 7 - In the Limelight
- Chapter 8 - A Giant of a Man
- Chapter 9 - Mike Austin vs. the PGA
- Chapter 10 - A Change in Direction
- Chapter 11 - Digging Deeper into the Past
- Chapter 12 - The Happiest Time
- Chapter 13 - A Divinely Ordained Swing
- Chapter 14 - Chandler Harper
- Chapter 15 - Tin Cup Teacher
- Chapter 16 - The Living Austin Swing
- Chapter 17 - A Legend in Decline
- Chapter 18 - In the Footsteps of My Hero
- Chapter 19 - Going Home
The Golfing Bandit
During the Depression, Austin ran a local golf shop in Atlanta during the summer. In the winter he frequented the courses farther south in Florida playing big money games against vacationing gangsters from Chicago. After the first year, they wouldn't bet against him so he found a set of left-handed clubs and played with that handicap. The next year he played one-handed. He often thought up impossible-sounding side bets. Once, he won a $5,000 bet that he could make par hitting the ball with a Coke bottle. His exploits earned him the nickname of "The Golfing Bandit."
Austin also traveled across the country performing trick shots and challenging anyone to try to outdrive him. He said he could hit a variety of shots with an ordinary set of golf clubs. He told a biographer that he "lived like a maharaja" during that time. When steel shafts were first introduced, Sam Snead received a set (a rather stiff set) and promptly gave them to Austin, saying, "You're the only one who swings fast enough to hit these."
Moving to Hollywood
In the late 1930s, Austin moved to Los Angeles to become a pro at the Wilshire Country Club. When he arrived, the job fell through so he worked at other golf courses, teaching and competing. His roommate was Errol Flynn and they frequented local nightclubs in search of women. Austin also auditioned for roles in movies and eventually appeared in a number of motion pictures. However, his golfing and acting were put on hold when he joined the service. Having never completed U.S. citizenship, he went to Canada and joined the R.A.F.
Austin established a name for himself as a golf teacher and was eventually sought out by Howard Hughes for lessons. He eventually established a gym in Hollywood where he taught boxing, tennis, baseball and golf. The walls of the gym were covered with mirrors which he said sped up the learning process. When he gave lectures about golf he dressed in a tight-fitting black leotard with white outlines of the skeletal structure. He wanted students to see how the bones were positioned in the correct golf swing. Austin also appeared/acted in the Michael Douglas movie "Star Chamber" as Judge Lang. Austin's wife Tanya also was in the movies. She appeared in the movie "The Blues Brothers." Austin also had a voice good enough to sing light opera. He would occasionally break out in song at, some say, the most awkward of moments. Austin also spoke several languages.
Setting the World Record
For years Austin was well known by professional golfers for his length off the tee. But it was one drive in 1974 that secured his name in history. While playing in the U.S. National Seniors Tournament, at the Winterwood Golf Course (now the Desert Rose) Austin was put in a foursome with PGA Champion Chandler Harper. After hitting several 400-yard drives, Chandler said, "Mike, let's see you really let one go." Austin drove the green on 450-yard par 4. It carried to the edge of the green, bounced over and rolled past the pin and off the back edge. In a 2003 interview, Chandler said he found a ball on the next tee box and called to Austin, "This is impossible, but there is a ball over here." They identified the ball as Austin's and stepped off the distance back to the center of the green. The drive was 515 yards. GBWW no longer recognizes the world's longest drive in their book.
Several factors make this record feat especially amazing, although there was a tailwind estimated at 25 mph. The drive was done on level ground, using a persimmon wood driver with 10 degrees of loft and a 43.5" extra-stiff steel shaft, the ball was a soft balata and Mike Austin was 59 years old. The improved technology of today should achieve far greater distances in the same conditions.
The Mike Austin Swing
Austin's golf swing, known as The Mike Austin Swing, is currently practiced and taught by numerous golf professionals.
It is generally agreed upon that two key fundamentals of the swing are:
- To establish a specifically measured setup position which will enable the golfer to use the C7 vertebrae as a pivot point to move the lower spine laterally along the target line and consequently leverage the power of the legs.
- To throw the club from the top of the back swing versus attempting to delay the club release.
However, there seems to be confusion and controversy as to the hand action that Austin used and/or advocated. Apparently, different instructors were told different and/or multiple things. Thus depending on the instructor or source, you will either hear about a more conventional rolling type of hand action versus one that keeps the blade more square to the swing path through the hitting area.
Some instructors like Jaacob Bowden observed Austin talk about both. Austin would say distance had little to do with size or strength, it had to do with "supple quickness."
Austin's Flammer training aid, which appeared in the movie Tin Cup, was developed before his stroke and is no longer sold, promoted the rolling type of hand action.
It is believed that after Austin had his stroke and he could no longer make normal swings, he changed his view on the teaching of the hand action to remove any rolling over action.
Mike Dunaway (his greatest protege) had this to say about Dr. Mike Austin, "He is the dean of all golf instruction from the beginning of time, as far as I'm concerned." Austin has been called, "The Leonardo Da Vinci" of the golf swing.
The three professionals presently teaching his swing that spent the most time with Austin are (in alphabetical order):
- Mike Dunaway in Arkansas 
- Walter "Smiley" Jones in Oregon/California
- Dan Shauger in California 
Other professionals that met Austin, worked with him, or are currently teaching his swing are (in alphabetical order):
- Betsy Cullen (former LPGA TOUR winner) currently at Pine Forest C.C. in Houston, Texas
- Heiko Falko in Germany 
- John Marshall in Atlanta 
- Steve Pratt in California 
- Deb Vangellow, Sweetwater C.C. Sugarland, Texas
Those that use the Austin swing fundamentals tend to be known not only as long hitters, but highly accurate as well.
Dunaway was on the cover of Golf Digest magazine in August 1985 and November 1987, was called "the longest human striker of a golf ball on earth" by Greg Norman, was shown hitting it on, to or through the green 10/15 times on a 375-yard hole, and his 302.8 yards/drive in the 2005 Wal-Mart First Tee Open would have led the Champions Tour in driving distance.
Jones was also an above-average hitter in Champions Tour events.
Bowden won the 2003 Pinnacle Distance Challenge with a televised 381-yard drive and he won multiple qualifiers for the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championships including one that set a grid record of 421 yards.
Marshall is the 2005–06 ALDA Super Senior National Long Driving Champion and a five-time RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship finalist.
Instructional and Related Materials
Mike talked about setting the world record and revealed his secrets for hitting it long and straight in his video Golf is Mental Imagery and Austinology.  Austin's last instructional DVD was with Mike Dunaway, Mike Austin: Secrets of the Game's Longest Hitter, and was produced by Peace River Golf. Also featured in the video are Dan Shauger, Smiley Jones, Philip Reed, and Jaacob Bowden.
Other instructional and Austin related materials and resources include:
- Mike Dunaway's World's Best Driver DVD  and his book Hit it Hard! The Modern Fundamentals of Power Golf 
- Dan Shauger's How to Kill the Ball books and DVDs 
- Jaacob Bowden's The Mike Austin Swing with Jaacob Bowden 
- Steve Pratt's HitItLonger.com website 
- John Marshall's JMLongDrive.com website 
- Chuck's MentoredByTheLegend.com website 
- The Flammer Training Aid (not currently available for sale)
- Pause N Throw Training Aid 
- The Mike Austin Golf Swing Facebook group 
- LA Times - Mike Austin, 95;Set World Record for Longest Golf Drive:515 Yards by Peter Yoon
- LA Times - The Man Who Cracked the Code by Philip Reed
- In Search of the Greatest Golf Swing by Philip Reed
- Travel & Leisure - Mighty Mike Austin & the 515-Yard Drive by David Hochman
- Golf Channel - Going Deep by Casey Bierer
- Golf Channel - A Conversation with Jaacob Bowden by Casey Bierer
- Golf Week - The Man Who Hit the 515-Yard Drive by James Achenbach