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Golf's Longest Hitter Driving Up Sales of New Club

September 21, 1997| Associated Press

DENVER — When Jack Hamm boasts that he's banned from most driving ranges, your first reaction might be to roll your eyes.

But then he unleashes a towering 8-iron shot that sails high over a 50-foot fence about 250 yards away.

To borrow one of Hamm's favorite phrases, this is a true story.

Hamm, according to the Guinness Book of Records, holds the record for the world's longest golf drive, 473 yards.

Hitting for distance is not just a passion, but a business.

Drawing on his degree in engineering, Hamm, 45, founded Longball Sports Inc. in 1986.

Longball makes the Air Hammer, a $250 metal driver that has six holes through the face and a hole in the back to let air pass through the head. That means less wind resistance and higher club-head speed. And higher club speed means longer drives.

Thanks to an infomercial and word of mouth, Longball, which also makes putters and wedges, did about $5 million in sales last year. Hamm expects to double or triple that this year.

"What is the thrill for a golfer that brings him back? It's hitting the long ball," Hamm says. "You don't come back for the putting. When you go play a round of golf and you hit that shot on No. 6 300 yards, that's why you come back."

However, the United States Golf Assn. refuses to certify the Air Hammer, barring it from official events.

"You cannot have holes through the face of the club," says John Mutch, manager of equipment standards for the USGA.

Hamm doesn't mind that. "The average golfer doesn't care if the club is legal" is his standard response.

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