Lee Cox: The making of a long drive coach

Published:

Lee Cox is a specialist in helping people hit the ball far. In most cases, really, really, really far... This is how he does it. 

There are lots of ‘speciality’ coaches in golf. Ex-NASA scientist Dave Pelz has carved out a reputation as a short game guru through his work with Phil Mickelson. Southport’s Phil Kenyon is a putting maestro, with the likes of Rory and Rose on his books. But if you want to hit the ball a long way – and we mean a really long way – there’s only one man to see, and he’s a Brit called Lee Cox.

As one of the best coaches on the long drive circuit, Cox counts double world champion Joe Miller and a handful of other bombers as his students. His speciality is helping the likes of 6”4’ Miller smash the skin off the ball, while keeping it inside a 55-yard grid. Miller won the 2016 world title with a knock of 423 yards...

What set out as a hobby has turned into a big-hitting business with Cox recalling: “We did a deal – he (Miller) didn’t pay me any money for teaching him – stupid deal – until he won the World Championship. So I got paid in the end! We’re great mates and obviously I was lucky I was given someone who had amazing skills, but when it comes to the crunch, it’s whether you’ve got the nerves for it. Obviously, Joe has.”

Cox also teaches a handful of other promising long drive stars, as well as average golfers at his home club, The Shire in London.

He told us: “I reckon I can get everyone an extra 10mph clubhead speed which can mean 30 yards more distance.”

Where did it all start?

I was working on a range near the A1, doing very well teaching. Joe did a bit of work for us and his late father asked if I could help his son to get into long driving. I don’t think Joe knew his dad came to see me. That was around 2003 and I said yes.

I got in my car, started driving and suddenly thought ‘I know absolutely nothing about long driving!’ But the seed was sown. Joe went on to become a fitness instructor and then became obsessed by fitness, body building and strength, while I went on to study ball flight, biomechanics, swing, optimum distance and body movement.

Do you see yourself as a bit of a pioneer when it comes to teaching distance?

When I first started it was quite difficult to find any information on long driving in the UK. Thanks to the internet I’ve been able to contact experts all over the world including Martin Bruins regarded as the world’s No.1 ball flight expert. Over the past 15 years or so I’ve been able to talk to people who are specialists in this field.

How did Joe hit it when you first started working with him?

In the early days, he was very fast, so we had the raw product. But he couldn’t hit it straight at all! We worked on his swing to make him a very good golfer, so underneath all that huge over-swing and all the other bits, there’s a very good player. I tried to fill in every single area I could to get into long driving as a hobby. It’s a bit more than that now!

Lee Cox with former World long drive champion Joe Miller 

Has he still got plenty left in the tank?

Yes. As I see it, long drivers are fast for a relatively short period of time, but Joe incredibly has stayed at a 150mph clubhead speed for 15 years, and relatively uninjured. My plan for the next five years is to get him into contention for another world title and with him being a master at closing out, he’s got every chance of being in contention. That’ll make me a very happy man.

How does a typical lesson with Joe pan out?

What do we work on? Having a brilliant golf swing, because the boy is a seriously good player – if you can’t hit it straight, you’re wasting your time. Ball optimisation on his Flightscope, has he got the right speed, the right numbers, and then his long drive swing and we flip between those three areas. He’s always looking to swing it over 150mph – you always start with clubhead speed and if you haven’t got that, you can’t win.

How many power drivers are currently in your stable?

I teach three: Joe, Max Armstrong and James Tait. To be honest, I work at a golf club with a fairly short range so I could actually teach a few more and I get a few online requests from wannabee long drivers from all over the world. But I’m happy as things are while the course owners wouldn’t like many more either!

What do you need to become a Joe Miller?

It’s another game entirely and at world level I’m seeing one of those players every generation – players who can achieve a 140mph clubhead speed literally at the drop of a hat. You need to be quite a big guy and you need that raw speed. You need to be a good golfer – more than people think – and you need to have the ability to hit the middle of the club a lot, which many can’t.

So, you need someone with God-given raw ability to swing it fast, have the physical capabilities to be big and strong and in among all that you need a good golf swing. Also, you need to be positive, work hard at it and be able to deliver the goods come crunch time. You’ve got to have a lot of balls!

What are the keys to long driving success?

A lot of people just think it’s about blasting balls everywhere. But it’s a real game of precision. At 400 yards how much can you miss the middle of the face to give you a problem? You ready for this? One to two ball dimples out the middle and you’re gone. That’s a small margin! Also, you’ve got to remember that at 250 yards the grid (fairway) is 55 yards wide; at 400 yards the grid is 12.5 yards wide. Throw into the equation the lights, you’re on TV and you realise it’s a big ask.

Have you seen been big financial benefits from Joe’s successes?

Here’s the greatest business plan that I never planned at all – be famous for getting people to hit the ball further and it’ll fill your lessons diary quicker than you’d believe! We started it off as a bit of fun, a hobby, to see how far we could go with it and look where we are now, though I wouldn’t say I’ve joined golf’s millionaires’ club.

But you don’t just teach long drive stars?

Last week an 88-year-old fellow came to see me with his year’s plan to increase his speed. His swing speed is lower than his age now, but how’s that for ambition?

How’s your own game?

I’ve gone completely the reverse. As a kid, I did hit the ball quite a long way, but I’m now the world’s slowest man! I was never going to be a great player though I had a few wins locally and to be honest I got a bit ‘yippy’... yippy short game, yippy putting and never really recovered. Most of my career highlights have been in coaching having got involved full-time in my early 20s and I’ve loved it ever since.

Have any Tour pros sought your help?

A Ryder Cup player has asked me for a bit of help, while a small group of full-time Challenge Tour players have consulted me about the driving, but only that part of the game. It seems to me that this is the way coaching is going, with specialists in each aspect of the game whether it be driving, short game or putting.

What are the biggest driving misconceptions? 

Many golfers are convinced the only way to hit the ball further is to increase their clubhead speed. But in fact most people would benefit by increasing their ball speed, which is a product of hitting the middle of the clubface. The second biggest misconception is that a lot of golfers believe they’re born either slow or fast and cannot be trained to be fast. But again that is untrue.

How much extra distance could you squeeze out of an amateur in an hour?

For your average golfer, you’ll probably get 10-20 yards from each of them depending on their clubhead speed, but over a good period of time and with the right club in their hands, that could shoot up to three times as much. I’ll eliminate what I think they’re bad at. I’ll find out right away whether they hit out of the middle, what’s their clubspeed, what’s their ball speed, where’s the glancing blow and then I’ll prioritise what is missing. I’ll always give somebody something. That might come from the club, the set-up or the way they swing it and hit it. If they’re an average player, they’re leaking something somewhere... it’s just a case of finding out where.

Is long driving the be-all-and- end-all?

I love it as a sport, it’s great, though I realise it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. It’s been a great journey and it’s been great for me to see long driving become a recognised sport in the UK – Joe was instrumental in that and hopefully I’ve helped a tiny bit myself. My biggest thing now is that somebody in the UK emerges to take over Joe’s mantle and keep the sport going. That would be massive for me. With 7,500 yards-plus courses around, Tour players are looking at long drivers to see what they do and take it on board, enabling them to hit it further. Long driving is an eye-opener for the world of golf and if new courses are creeping up to 8,000 yards, the Tour stars want to see what these boys are doing. I believe now it’s got a massive relevance.

What driver specs yield the longest shots?

That’s a tough question, with about a million answers! Generally the first thing you ask is ‘what’s your clubhead speed?’ From there you get the golfer set- up because if, say a senior or lady swings it at 80mph max, they’re not going to benefit from having a one-degree driver! So best to go and see a club fitter who’d bespoke the loft, the shaft flex and length to optimise it for your speed.

Finally, are you really an East End hardman?

I look like a meathead, yeah! Well you’ve got the first bit right: my family do hail from Bethnal Green in the East End of London, so I can qualify that... but definitely not the hard man bit! 

Joe Miller on Lee Cox and his influence 

I've been with Lee since I was 16 or 17-years-old, and I will always be thankful to him for taking up the challenge dad asked of him.

Firstly, we're very good friends and that's helped from the start. Secondly, we bounce off each other, we like to challenge one another. We don't just sit back and accept things. He provides me with new information every day but
first things first, whenever we do a lesson we always try and make a good golf swing first.

A lot of people think long driving is just about standing up and smashing the ball as far as you can. To a certain degree that's true, but you'll never 
get far in the long driving game if you just do that...

NEXT: Lee Cox On The Four Do's and Don'ts of Generating Power In Your Drives