17 minutes and 53 seconds, no we’re not talking about how long it takes Keegan Bradley to hit a putt, this was the time it took Luke Willett to play nine holes. This astounding feat was part of Willett’s build up to a world record attempt in June as he builds toward an incredible 2022.
Anyone who has played Dundonald Links will know that it is a long course and the idea of playing the back nine in under 18 minutes just frankly doesn’t make sense. The Links Diary caught up with Luke to hear all about this incredible event.
“When I am running around the course at maximum heart rate it is a state of ecstasy. When I’m in this state, the course is in high definition and I only notice the things that matter, it’s an entirely different experience.”
Armed with just a six iron he ripped around the back nine and covered 3.7 km in the process. Running that distance in that time is impressive anyway, never mind playing golf whilst you are at it. He also did it with a score of five over in the process.
A conversation with him makes you reconsider your own golf game. As you can imagine, someone who can play nine holes in under eighteen minutes sees the game a little differently. A PGA pro himself, he is a very accomplished golfer who has developed a game that is built for speed.
If you don’t know much about speed golf, it is a rapidly growing format of the game in which your score is a combination of strokes played and time taken. This is a format that absolutely puts a premium on you just trusting your instincts and hitting the first shot you see. There is no time for second guessing and changing clubs here. You see the shot and you play it.
It is this need for quick decision making and execution that Willett believes many golfers could benefit from. He believes that more golfers should trust their instincts and golfing experience when on the course, even at normal speed. He likens golf to a survival pursuit like climbing where if you try too hard you can make things worse. Golf is about relaxing and trusting what you know and what you’ve done before. Speed golf puts a premium on this strategy. He went on to draw a parallel with the best sprinters and how they only perform best when relaxed.
“Don’t try to conquer a golf course, work with it. It’s all about feeling.”
So, what is this all about? Is it just for a laugh or to show what we can do? Whilst there’s certainly an aspect of pushing the envelope of performance, there is a greater plan at play here. Willet is building to two major goals. Firstly, he is aiming to qualify for The Open Championship and use his speed golf training to prepare in his own unique way. He hopes to start the process at Moor Park. He likens this attempt to the wonderful sporting stories of the Jamaican bobsleigh team or the Fiji rugby team.
There’s more though. Clearly this is a big year for the Open Championship with it being the 150th. With that in mind he has set himself various Open-themed speed challenges too. The culmination of this is an attempt to play Royal St George’s in 26 minutes!
The times we are talking about beggar belief, they are truly difficult to comprehend but this is a person who is as physically elite as possible. Watching him in action is something that you just have to see to believe. There is more to come from Luke this year so give him a follow on Instagram @lukewillettgolf and follow this incredible story as it happens.
Words - Kenny Pallas
Photography - John Taylor
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