Va. native pro golfer Josh Jackson talks long drive competitions, how to improve your long game

Pro golfer Josh Jackson was one of the contestants in the Capital Long Drive Classic, which was held Oct. 24 and transformed West Potomac Park into a professional golf long drive “arena” on the National Mall and Memorial Parks area.

Because of COVID-19, live attendance was limited, turning the event into a made-for-TV competition to air on the Golf Channel Dec. 17 at 11 a.m. and Dec. 20 at 5 p.m.

The Capital Long Drive Classic featured eight of the top professional men and women long drivers in a co-ed format, but for Jackson, it was as much about the connections as the competition. One of Jackson’s goals is to promote more diversity in golf, and he believes the Capital Long Drive Classic with a national television audience will help.

Five of the drivers, including Jackson, who competed in October are African American. While there was a limited number of people on site for the actual competition, Jackson and his fellow competitors were still able to do clinics at East Potomac Park Golf Course for young golfers who he believes had to be inspired watching Black men and women perform in a golf setting.

“I do think we need to create a more inclusive environment in golf,” said Jackson. “Often, the Black community just thinks of Tiger Woods, but there are a lot of great Black golfers that are trying to work their way up the ladder. A competition like the Capital Long Drive Classic is great entry point to the sport.”

Golf became a part of Jackson’s life at the age of 12 as he wanted to spend time with his dad John — a former NFL offensive tackle.

Jackson not only learned golf from his dad, but he also excelled. Jackson earned a golf and football scholarship from HBCU school Kentucky State University, and while he was very good fullback in football, golf became his true passion.

It is a passion that has led to a career for Jackson. Through his website, Jackson offers instruction on not only the finer points of the game, but also physical training for the sport.

The Chantilly resident is also an instructor at the Eisman Golf Academy at Twin Lakes Golf Course in Clifton, Virginia.

Jackson is determined to one day be on the PGA Tour, but for now he is enjoying being a part of long drive competitions. With the strong build of the football player he was, Jackson can drive the ball over 400 yards with a club head speed of 154 mph and a ball speed of 218 mph.

“You can’t just have strength when it comes to a long drive and when it comes to speed,” Jackson said. “You have to have a certain technique. If you’re not technically sound, you’re not going to be fast. You can be as big as you want to be and it doesn’t make a difference. You still have to have some sort of technique.”

Driving a golf ball is very technical, and Jackson said the goal is to have a low spin number with a high launch to achieve the optimal amount of distance on a drive, and that involves proper weight distribution and foot positioning.

And then it all comes down to timing.

“We only have like a split second to swing the club,” Jackson said. “So everything has to work out on point in order for the ball to go straight. And it is a fine line. If anything else is like an inch off, the ball might go 30 or 40 yards to the right or left.”

To add to the challenge of successful long drive, the swing is only one element. There’s plenty else to consider.

“A long drive can depend on so many things out of your control,” Jackson said. “The surface of the ground is a factor and so are wind direction, wind strength, the atmosphere, the elevation. Still, I tell my golfers to keep it simple. Golf is hard enough as it is without trying to swing out of your shoes.”

Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson is Senior Sports Director and morning sports anchor. He first arrived at WTOP in 1989, left in 1992 and returned in 1995. He is a three-time winner of the A.I.R. award as best radio sportscaster in D.C. In 2008 he won the Edward R. Murrow award for best writing for sports commentaries.

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