Wilco Nienaber will be one of the biggest hitters at this year’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, with the young South African leaving galleries around the world stunned with the distances he hits the ball.
In 2020, his average on the European Tour was 340.47 yards, around 36 yards further than the average of the other players. In the first round of the 2020 Joburg Open, he averaged 416.5 yards off the tee.
Here he explains the secret behind his prodigious power, and what fans are in for when he makes his second appearance in next week’s Alfred Dunhill Links.
How did you develop your distance off the tee?
Wilco: It’s always been a thing for me. I’ve always hit it long. When I was playing junior golf, I played about four age groups ahead of my age, so I always wanted to try and hit it as far as the older players. Also, my Dad never wanted to buy me a driver, so I was hitting a three wood. I also played most sports, not just golf. So that developed quite a few other muscles. But from 15 to 16 years old I could really feel the shift of distance.
What made you notice it so much then?
Wilco: As an amateur, when I played a golf course where there was a professional tournament, it did surprise me that I was hitting it where the pros hit it. Then when I started playing in professional tournaments as an amateur, it was a bit of a shock for me to see that I was hitting it past the professionals.
Do you always just stand up and smash it down the fairway?
Wilco: No. It’s really key for me to choose wisely when I use it. I actually don’t hit my drive 100% on the golf course, or on the range. I hit it about 85-90%. So when I really need to, I know I’ve got another 10-15% carry in the bag. Hitting it far does help, but you’ve still got to get the ball in the hole. For me, it’s equally important to get the right lines off my tee shots.
So what’s your secret?
Wilco: The thing for me is to always focus on having the club in the right position at the top so that I can give it the right amount of force on the downswing. If you’re not in the right position at the top a lot can go wrong at that speed. So I really focus on my backswing and on developing a nice slow rhythm and finishing my backswing properly. From there I can really launch it.”