Golf instructors typically encounter the struggling hacker whose first words are probably “Can you help me hit it farther?” The response from a teacher just as typically might be, “Why don’t we strive to hit it straighter?”
Bobby Wilson doesn’t mind hearing from the golfer who longs to hit it farther and he doesn’t mind saying, “Sure. Let’s go.”
Wilson, a Waco, Texas, native who made Arkansas home 25 years ago, has given corporate-level golf instruction to CEOs and others for the past several years. For the last four years, the winner of multiple long-drive championships in both the open and senior divisions “chased” the PGA’s Champions Tour, but since last summer he’s returned to full-time teaching and consulting.
In September, Wilson took over the Lakewood Driving Range, renaming it Mulligans, where he works with another prominent name among state golfers, Keith Golden.
Wilson also serves as the guru to long-driving prodigy Jason Eslinger of Stillwater, Okla., and several others, and the 55-year-old Wilson still targets competing this year in the senior divisions too (in fact, he’ll finally be able this year to shoot for all four available divisions: open, senior, super senior and grand champion).
Wilson, who came to Arkansas as the pro at then North Hills Country Club in Sherwood (now the public Links at North Hills) in 1985, says he can help golfers of any ability seek any improvement, from the short game to driving.
But don’t be afraid to ask this genial sort to help you hit it longer. Yes, everyone has limitations to length, Wilson said, but many golfers are already failing to achieve their potential with faults. A little tweaking can help.
“I have always heard this from CEOs and others I’ve taught. A guy comes to me and says ‘I can hit it 220.’ I ask, ‘What if you only hit 50 percent of the fairways,’ they’ll say, ‘I don’t care. I want to feel what it’s like to hit it 250.’
“And truthfully, would you rather hit it 150 yards straight down the middle or 250 yards out of bounds. I know I’d much rather tee the ball up again because of the way it felt hitting it longer.”
For the typical businessman or business-woman these days, the time to perfect a golf swing isn’t available. Wilson tries to work around any time constraints with his teaching.
“Being in the corporate world the past few years, I like to say I’ve taught more CEOs than Harvard Business School,” Wilson said. “Their challenge in their business and in golf is to get better. They have limited time on how they can practice. There are things they can work on at different times of the day to do that.
Born to Drive
When Wilson was in his early 30s and golfers were still hitting persimmon-headed drivers, he was renowned for his prodigious drives using a short backswing. Think of his swing as the anti-John Daly; Wilson not only didn’t get to parallel or past parallel a la Daly with the shaft, it barely went past his head.
Wilson, as well as other Arkansas big hitters such as Sean Fister and Mike Dunaway, will be the first to say that long driving of distances in the 400-yard range is a talent a golfer is born with.
In Wilson’s case, he’s the son of Jack Wilson, a college All-American and the second player drafted in the 1942 NFL Draft out of Baylor.
When Bobby Wilson was in his teens, his father asked him what sports he wanted to play. He was OK with Bobby giving up quarterbacking the football team to play basketball (Bobby Wilson is 6-foot-3 with an arm span of 6-foot-9, creating a huge swing arc) and golf. They met every afternoon when the weather turned warm to play golf while Bobby Wilson was in high school, and a love affair with the game has never waned.
Bobby Wilson was also an Olympic handball player, qualifying for the 1980 team that was not allowed to compete in Moscow by President Jimmy Carter.
In 2009, Wilson achieved a remarkable double by winning the national long-drive championships in both the senior and super senior divisions.
Wilson is quick to point out that it doesn’t take height or long arms or a pro-football playing father or any other factor to assure length to drives. For instance, Jamie Sandowski won the 2010 long drive championship with a 400-yard smash, and he stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 165 pounds.
On the golf course, the Tour golfers are all discovering distance “is not a deterrent but an advantage,” Wilson said. Twenty years ago, the names atop the PGA long-drive lists didn’t coincide with the money list. Look today. Think Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson, to name two. Phil Mickelson, already longer than most, is constantly on the search for more length.
The average golfer hitting it 30 yards behind his foursome doesn’t have to shrug his shoulders and give up, Wilson says.
“Tommy Bolt once said the most important clubs are the putter and driver. You score with your putter and it all starts with the driver,” Wilson said.
Professionals can put a golfer into the right equipment or hitting the right ball. But Wilson has other ways to find the extra yardage, from stretching correctly to making the correct turn.
Mulligans’ hours will run from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and 8 a.m. to dark otherwise every day. The teaching facility is on North Hills Boulevard south of Interstate 40 (or, follow 13th Street in North Little Rock east until it begins to curve north, the facility is on the left).
Wilson plans for the facility to play host to professional driving exhibitions in the coming months as well as other family friendly events.
Call (501) 753-3355 for more information.