A breathlessly enthusiastic account of breaking the record for the fastest single hole of golf ever played (minimum hole length of 500 yards)
This show describes what I consider to be a miracle athletic performance, wherence where I accessed that lauded flow state and transcended my normal athletic limitations to come through under pressure and break the Guinness World Record for the second time. On June 1st 2018, at the Woodley Lakes Golf Course in Los Angeles, I played the 503-yard par-5 fourth hole in one minute, 38 seconds. The effort entailed an all-out sprint from start to finish, using only one club (3-wood) and making a birdie four on the hole.
The record performance came on the heels of months of specific practice simulating the competitive effort (“context specificity” as my Speedgolf coach Christopher Smith–future GOY podcast guest–calls it), and strategy improvements such as choosing to play with only one club (that means pitching and putting with a 3-wood—not easy!) to save time. My first record attempt came in Sacramento, CA on May 8th, 2018. My time of 1:40.24 busted the previous Guinness record of 1:50. On this occasion, I scored a smooth 6 on the 503-yard par-5 ninth hole at Bing Maloney Golf Course. I kept my shots straight and in line with the hole to save time, but hit a couple less than stellar shots and was not completely satisfied upon reflection. As I reviewed video and photos for my Guinness submission, I saw a couple distinct areas for potential improvement, and the competitive juices started flowing again. Soon, I was orchestrating another do or die effort, this time in Los Angeles.
The most rewarding aspect of this whole journey was sharing it with family and friends. As you can see on the video, we had a fun time celebrating out on the course! Per Guinness record attempt guidelines, I had to rally a separate dream team of supporters in each city (Mia Moore saw both records) to fulfill the Guinness record attempt guidelines.
Here’s what it took to break the world record:
- Humility: In late 2017, I stumbled upon this awesome YouTube video of British Speedgolfer Steve Jeffs breaking the Guinness World Record for the fastest golf hole. Dig the 166,000 views (okay well, 1,000 of them are mine, but still…pretty viral!) and the dog pile celebration at the end. Jeffs did a 1:50 to beat the old record of 1:52 at his course in England. Being the soñador (dreamer) that I am, and knowing my basic competency for sprinting and Speedgolf, I thought I could easily bust this record. The very next day I made an unofficial attempt at Bing Maloney. I ran pretty hard, hit some good shots, and was absolutely shocked to see the digits on my stopwatch read 2:12 when the putt dropped – 22 seconds off the pace! A few days later, I tried again. This time I really opened up the throttle, going a nearly full-speed 400-meter sprint pace. Thanks to a couple off-center shots and sloppy putting, my time was 2:13. Clearly, this record was legit, and it was time to train hard and prepare carefully!
- Do or Die Mentality: Due to the sprint speed required to take a healthy dent out of the record, I realized that I had best make the magic happen on my initial attempt. Returning to the tee to make successive efforts of sprinting 500 yards would clearly result in losing several seconds of sprint speed due to fatigue. Guinness rules allow multiple attempts, but I didn’t even wanna go there in my mind. Do or die!
- Excellent Shots: Hit any shot flying significantly off the center line and the smooth fairway grass and you are done. Hit a chip shot slightly too hard and past the hole and you are done. Muff a chip shot and you are done. Miss a short putt and you are done. These latter examples are all easy to do when you are holding a highly inappropriate club for these delicate shots.
- Strategy: Get comfortable with one club, hit the ball straight and never past the hole, and train the mind and body to swing virtually right after arrival to the ball. There is no time to waste catching your breath before a shot. I trained my brain and body to immediately take a full swing, a delicate pitch, and a smooth putt while my chest was heaving and heart pounding out of my throat! This contrasts the typical approach in Speedgolf tournaments, where running pace is steady but not sprint, and you take several seconds over the ball to get settled and take careful aim before swinging.
- Logistics: For official Guinness ratification you have to complete a 12-week application process, get approved for an official attempt, then arrange for 10 people to time, witness, film, and photograph the attempt, and complete sworn statements and evidence submissions afterward. It’s a big deal with lots of pressure! My friends Shawn and Maria drove three hours to support my Sacramento attempt, so I knew I had to come through on the big day!
In the show, I detail how it’s essential for peak performers, especially those with an athletic background, to maintain a passion and competitive intensity throughout life, a concept detailed in the MarksDailyApple.com post called, “How to Move through Life with an Edge”.
Your competitive goals should be constantly re-calibrated and updated to be age appropriate, promoting health and longevity (instead of compromising these things, as with elite level triathlon training), and fitting nicely into a healthy, balanced lifestyle. I relate how my competitive focus transitioned from the pro triathlon circuit, then to the goal of dominating young athletes whom I coached in basketball, soccer, and track. Indeed, I dominated the kids from their 3rd grade through 8th grade seasons. In a short time coinciding with growth spurts, I quickly matched (in height and abilities) and then left in the dust. When my youth sports dynasty wore off, I turned my attention to my present day passions of high jump and Speedgolf. This Guinness effort is just a sideshow for my main focus on professional Speedgolf tournaments, where we play a normal 18-hole round or 36-hole tournament and add strokes and minutes together to post a Speedgolf tournament score. For example, my best round in competition is a 78 in 47 minutes = a Speedgolf score of 125—good for 3rd place in the 2017 California Professional Championships. I’ve also placed in the top-20 in the Speedgolf World Professional Championships four times.
I relate how these are mostly personal challenges and “just for fun,” but not really. I’m very focused and serious about clearing the high jump bar or breaking the world Speedgolf record, but in a way that promotes personal growth and self-satisfaction, without an unhealthy attachment of self esteem to the results. Developing this mindset requires getting over yourself, a concept I elaborate upon in a follow up Breather show. Enjoy this hopefully inspiring account about taking aim at a unique and challenging competitive goal and going for it!
- Brad discusses his passion and training for the World Record fastest hole of golf ever played. [00:00:27]
- Live your life on the edge. Always have something in the background to keep you going. [00:03:16]
- The process for application to go for the Guinness World Record is very complicated. [00:08:40]
- What was Brad’s secret weapon that differed from previous attempts at this record? [00:12:08]
- Enter the “zone” for best performance. [00:14:48]
- Find something that will keep that edge of excitement and competition. [00:18:58]
- Marks Daily Apple, How to Move through Life with an Edge
- Steve Jeffs YouTube performance
- Brad sets record in Sacramento
- Brad sets record in Los Angeles
- Brad Kearns High Jump
LISTEN:Download Episode MP3
Hey listeners, welcome to a breather show, or maybe I’ll call this a breathing hard show. Because I want to talk about this incredible experience I had last week, where I went out there and broke the official Guinness World Record for the Fastest Hole of Golf ever played. The guidelines are that it has to be a 500-yard, a very long par five hole on the golf course.
You’ve probably heard me talk about my favorite sport of speed golf, where they have tournaments where you play the entire course. You keep score, and you add together your strokes and your minutes on the course where you’re running as fast as you can, trying to get through the course and shoot a good score. You add your strokes and your minutes together. That’s what a speed golf tournament is all about. But this little folly is sort of a one-off, an offshoot of the sport of speed golf where the Guinness Book of Records has an official category of the Fastest Hole of Golf.
You can look on YouTube, the previous record holder, this gentleman named Steve Jeffs of the United Kingdom has this amazing viral video with 165,000 views of this guy playing a par five in record time of a minute 50 seconds. When I saw this video back in 2017, late 2017, I was captivated. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. It blends together my two favorite things to do, which is sprinting and golf. I’m not so much for that long distance endurance stuff anymore. So, running the whole golf course about five miles is kind of my outer limit, but I love to sprint and do those explosive workouts. And then of course, playing golf. So, if you look on YouTube, you’ll see my performance. You’ll see Steve Jeffs’ previous record.
What we’re talking about here is playing the hole as quickly as possible. They’re not counting your strokes, but of course, the fewer strokes you take, the less time you’re going to spend. I started training for this with great devotion at the start of 2018. I’d go out to the course and pick this ninth hole on that course that I usually play in Sacramento and speed it up, and try to get some sprints in and just practice that sensation of hitting a ball while your heart is beating in your throat and you’re completely out of breath, and you just have to get that swing done anyway. Because even if you settle down for five seconds or seven seconds or 10 seconds, that’s way too long to waste on a single hole World Record attempt. And you’re also still not going to catch your breath.
So, I had to train my body to run a full-speed sprint and then stop, and then swinging a golf club and then do it again. It was a lot of fun to practice for. It was a specific goal that I had. Oh, my gosh, at my age, you know, I’m long since retired from the professional circuit when competition was my life and my consuming passion. Now, I have all kinds of different responsibilities and passions and endeavors in life; being a parent, running a business, all that kind of fun stuff. To have something to keep me going and keep me focused, I believe is really, really important.
There’s a great post on Mark’s Daily Apple, maybe a couple of years old now called Living Life with an Edge. Mark and I subscribed to that same ethos where you don’t want to just settle into each passing decade, telling stories about how your exploits were back in your teens and 20s. We always want to have something keeping us sharp, especially if you’re an old time competitive athlete. Deep down that never goes away. So, you have got to find some way to re-calibrate. Of course, you’re not going to be playing pickup basketball for three hours a day like you were at your heyday, but have something that’s age appropriate, that promotes health and longevity rather than compromises it.
Being a professional triathlete was a great passion and a great journey that I had from ages 20 to 30, but it came at a pretty significant compromise to my overall health. It certainly did not promote longevity or balanced lifestyle or any of those things. So, to move on from that, I remember transitioning into coaching youth sports with my son and daughter. And so, really my competitive goal for a while was to dominate young kids in soccer, basketball, and track. And that was really fun because at first, I had no problem being the best player on the fourth grade team!
I had to keep my A-game going and keep in shape and keep training and be a participatory coach in the practices that I could keep up with these guys when they got into sixth, seventh and eighth grade. At seventh and eighth grade, oh, my gosh, my son was on this really highly competitive AAU basketball team. I still contend that I would be possibly in the starting five and I could put up some good points when we had these full-bore scrimmages. Then when it was time to run lines after practice, I would come in second or third on the team. I’d push myself to maximum effort as a what? 40, 45-year-old guy.
But then, the great transition in life took place and these guys started going from eighth grade into high school and becoming grown men. I went from being a possible candidate for MVP to completely blown off the court, and with my tail between my legs going home. My son actually had to tell me one night when we were driving home from the open gym where we’d play pickup and form teams, he said, “Dad, you don’t have to drive me anymore. I can get a ride from someone else.” I said, “Oh no, I love driving and I really love participating with you guys.” And he said, “You don’t have to play anymore either,” because it was becoming apparent that I could no longer guard anybody on the high school team. They were just too quick and strong for me.
So, my day had come and gone. But it was a really beautiful and graceful transition away from mixing up with the kids, and then going into the stands as any proper high school parent should. You should leave it to the professional coaches, the guys who do this for a living, and just cheer in the stands and don’t interfere.
But then, I had to go look for something else, and the sport of speed golf came along, and I was so excited to train for these tournaments and go out there and compete with the best guys in the world. I came in 20th, 20th and 19th, three years in a row in the speed golf world championships in the professional division. I was proud to say I was one of the oldest guys out there. There were a couple other guys. Jamie Young, notably from Wisconsin, became world champion past the age of 50. So, he was carrying the torch for the old guys. I was doing the best I could out there to keep a steady pace and shoot a good score.
So, always having something in the background. It doesn’t mean I was training four hours a day and neglecting my life balance and other core daily responsibilities that were now more important than when I was a professional triathlete, and living and breathing by how well I did at the race. But I always have something kicking in the background. You know, my passion for high jump. If you look at the podcast logo or go search on YouTube for my five-foot five-inch high jump, five-foot four-inch high jump beyond the age of 50, which is a pretty respectable performance for an old guy.
So, I’m always having some fun. And what’s really great, as you mature and gain in your years and gain a fresh perspective about the place that sports and competition should have in your life, I feel like I’ve become much more balanced and easy going. Definitely gotten over myself, if you compare to my career as a triathlete where I was wrapped up in the business aspects of it, and winding those around my over misplaced competitive intensity, where I’d get down and discouraged if I had a bad race. I might then get kind of a little bit over inflated if I had a string of good races; crazy times.
But now, of course, this stuff is all just for fun. Yes, I like to make a big deal of it and put it on YouTube in the hopes that I’ll motivate and inspire others. Now I’m really doing this for life enrichment and personal growth, and I don’t care if anybody’s there or not. Oh, my gosh, when I cleared those high jump bars, when I had those wonderful outings by myself in an empty high school stadium, when I cleared those bars, I had a couple of notable clearances. I jumped five-six five years ago. And then it was five-five, two years ago.
Oh, my gosh, I screamed like I had just won the national championships triathlon on TV, on ESPN with thousands of people cheering at the race venue. I had the same sense of satisfaction and just personal well-being from working hard and achieving a goal as I did when I was an actual, professional, prominent athlete. So, it’s all about re-calibrating and keeping healthy balance goals that fit nicely into your lifestyle.
This tee up is to finish the story about going for this Guinness World Record.
So, it turns out it’s a little bit complicated when you apply to the Guinness people in the United Kingdom. First you fill out this detailed application. The approval process takes 12 weeks. I remember the day I got an email in late April of 2018, saying, “Congratulations, you have been approved for a World Record attempt.”
I very quickly set up for the record attempt, which is a big deal because you have to get around 10 people present to hit all their guidelines and check boxes. You need two people that you have nothing to do with you before. Some absolutely independent witnesses have to sign these sworn statements that they actually saw the record take place. You need two official timekeepers and they have to prepare a sworn statement that they timed it accurately and how they timed it. You need a photographer for still photos of every shot that you take, and you need a videographer to record the entire event from start to finish unbroken. I need permission from the golf course, the greens-keeper, the pro, and the guy in the pro shop.
This whole thing was orchestrated. In just the process of doing that, I started to feel a lot of pressure, man. I thought, “Okay, so, I’m arranging this whole thing. I’m turning away the other golfers from that hole because we have six carts out there and we’re making a big deal.” All of a sudden, it’s a little different than my just getting to the ninth hole on my practice rounds right before dark and sprinting and having some fun and timing myself with a watch.
It was also kind of cool to feel that pressure and have those butterflies coming on the day of the attempt. My first attempt was in Sacramento on May 8th of 2018. I tell you, the biggest pressure I felt was my girlfriend’s sister and her husband agreeing to drive down three hours from Redding, California to help support my event. And Sean, the former CHP executive, was going to be the official timer because he had all experienced timing and his business was going to do the sworn statement. I was thinking, “Man, if these guys are driving three hours, I better come through and pull this thing off.”
The thing about the attempt is that because you’re sprinting at full speed in order to break this very, very, legit record that Steve Jeffs’ put up of one minute and 50 seconds for 500 yards, you pretty much have to open up the throttle all the way. You can’t hold anything back. So, the maximum number of attempts really is two or three, knowing that you’re going to be slower on your second and third attempt. So, it’s really rolling the dice and going for it all in, on that very first attempt when you can actually sprint at full speed without that fatigue factor creeping in, and then hoping that you’re going to hit good shots.
It was a great experience. I came through under pressure. On that very first attempt, I ran really fast. I kept the ball in front of me and in front of the hole as well, which is a key component of this high-speed effort. And I took six strokes for a bogey and finished in one minute and 40 seconds. So, I broke the existing world record by 10 seconds, had a great celebration, lots of fun, submitted all my forms and documents. I had to send out about 20 different documents, uploading the pictures and the sworn statements. Then I waited for the official ratification process, which takes another 15 weeks or some crazy time frame like that.
Then you might guess what happened to an exuberant competitive guy who had such a great time doing this. That’s right, you guessed it. The brain starts thinking and the competitive juices are flowing. Sitting here, analyzing the videos and realizing that I hit a couple of shots that were less than perfect and maybe, just maybe, let’s think, maybe I could break the existing record if I put together a flawless performance.
So, yep, I started making plans for another attempt. Just for fun, going down to Los Angeles and do it in front of family and friends down here, just to kind of change a pace. Getting all set up at another course for another record attempt. I had already done a ton of R &D, analyzing Steve Jeffs’ video. I give him so much credit for inspiring me, but I noticed he was carrying a small bag of several clubs, and having to replace the clubs and pick up the bag and put it down. I’m thinking, “You know what, for one hole, I think the winning ticket here is going to be to try to play the hole with a single club, a 3-wood. So, if I take two big 3-wood shots that are good, I’m going to be up near the green. And then I have to do a very clever and complex little chip shot where you just hit a very short 3-wood shot, running along the grass on the ground, and then rolling onto the green. And then finally, learning how to sink a putt with a 3-wood, which is pretty difficult, but it can be done.”
Mark Sisson was one of the guys that recommended I just take a single club. Of course my golf guru, the great speed golf legend, Christopher Smith up in Oregon agreed. I was doing a lot of problem solving and consulting and realizing that I’m going to go out there and learn how to play a hole with a single club. So, in the Sacramento attempt, I felt like that my secret weapon was learning how to play the hole with one club. Again analyzing the video, I realized that you’re not really going to catch your breath, even if you rest for five seconds. That’s what we do in an 18-hole speed golf tournament, because we have to pace ourselves and we want to hit really good shots.
I realized that if I could train my brain and my body to run up to a ball while running full-speed and heaving as hard as you’ll ever breathe, and then just take the swing. It doesn’t matter. Even if I can’t breathe and I’m barely holding steady, I have to learn how to hit the ball immediately. So, I was lowering my time over the ball between one and two seconds. I just get there and swing. I wouldn’t even look at the target. I’d look at the target, running up to the ball and then get there and whack it. So, being able to practice that over and over, I thought if I could put everything together, maybe I’d take another shot at it. Even if I didn’t break the record, I’d have a lot of fun and have another group of people watching me.
I set up the whole crew of another 10 people and got out there. Then what proceeded to happen was…. it was really a miracle performance It was a testament to these concepts that are often discussed and studied in the realm of peak performance athletics, where you enter the zone or the flow-like state, where you’re on another plane. You’re not thinking, everything’s automatic and you’re performing these great feats.
I like to talk about Reggie Jackson in the World Series, when he hit three home runs with three swings of the bat. He got up to bat and hit the first pitch out of the park three times in the biggest baseball game in the world. It’s one of the greatest athletic performances where this guy was operating on a different plane than we normally think. That, you know, humans are capable of. It is the same with Tiger Woods. When he went out there in the 2000 US Open and won the tournament by 15 strokes in an absolute zone for four days, hitting shots that the other golfers, the greatest in the world could not come close to equaling. That’s one of the greatest performances of all time.
We have these Olympic performances, like Wade van Niekerk in the Rio Olympics when he ran the 400 meters from lane eight completely blind, and what many people say is the worst lane or the second worst lane. He just started sprinting from the gun because he couldn’t see anybody. He kept sprinting all the way to the finish line to shatter the World Record of 400 meters. We have so many examples of these athletes transcending the normal boundaries of time and space and getting into that flow state.
I felt like that happened to me on this hole. Because what happened out there was again, sprinting at full speed. I hit four perfect shots on this par five and sank a short putt again with my 3-wood, knocking that birdie into the hole, and it was an absolute miracle. And I’m so happy to talk about it. I played golf my whole life. I was a very competitive and driven kid, but I didn’t have the right temperament for golf. I was kind of a tightly wound guy that was better suited for running, where I could just get that competitive outlet and release that aggression onto the race course. If you’re struggling or doing poorly in a cross-country race or a track meet, you just step on the gas pedal and start hurting more, and that takes care of everything.
Of course, golf is totally different than these endurance sports where they’re straight ahead, go, go, go. You have to keep a calm head at all times. You have to manage and regulate your emotions. You can’t ever get down on yourself or experience negative thoughts or get tense and nervous because that’ll just ruin you and get you out of that flow-like state, to where you start hitting worse shots. Then they build upon themselves to where you just crater your entire round.
I was pretty capable of choking. I remember going into the junior tournaments and just playing terribly and being so distraught halfway through the round (I wanted to quit). I was playing against some great players when I was a young guy and I would get down to the final couple of holes, where there was $5 on the line. That which was a fortune back then. I’d find a way to screw it up if I had a lead. I just didn’t have that great temperament that my father had for golf and consequently, got steered into the endurance sports in high school and kept at that for the next 15 years and kind of put golf on the back burner, even though it was my family sport, and I have a tremendous passion for it.
So, finally, with maturity in the years, I’m able to enjoy myself out there, especially in the speed golf tournaments. It’s such a thrill to just go through the course and play quickly. Even if you hit a bad shot, guess what? You better run to the next ball and hit that thing. You can’t waste any time complaining or worrying about it. So, I feel like my temperament’s become better over the years and I’m ideally suited for speed golf because I just get in that flow-like state and don’t get into that overly analytical mindset that so many golfers suffer from.
The way this hole went was first a big 3-wood right down the middle. Then another one right down the middle, coming up close to the green, almost 500 yards in two shots. Then I had this little chip shot that just bounced and hit over the bumpy ground just releasing onto the smooth putting surface. It rolled right up there next to the hole. I couldn’t see the green because it’s higher than the fairway as you run up the last hill to the green. But I heard my group, my peoples going, “Oh my gosh, get in.” You know, it almost went in and I just had to drop this little putt in. And I just screamed with joy because it was like putting together the ultimate clutch performance and something that I’d really never been able to do at that level. It just felt really special.
So, I wanted to share it with you and bring out those insights about maintaining that competitive edge, finding something that you have a passion for, that you want to set that goal and better yourself, and measure yourself against yourself. Of course, I wanted to break the world record, but the thrill of just executing perfect shots on that day. It didn’t even matter if I was timed. It was just like this amazing thrill that I could put it all together and have a great time and also share it with all my friends and family out there. That was just making it a special night. And of course, over with really quickly, because after that first attempt, I said, “Okay, we’re done. We’re going home. No three attempts like I took in Sacramento,” because I wanted to see if I could better it after that first attempt.
Anyway, that’s my message about my Speed Golf World Record. I appreciate you bearing with me, listening to me. Hopefully, it gets you excited about finding something that’ll keep that edge with you and keep that passion burning to where your workout regimen is calibrated towards some distinct goal in the future. So, you have something to work toward and keep you honest and focused.
I had the podcast with Vinnie Tortorich recently, and he says straight up, “I climb Mount Whitney once a year. And that’s kind my checkpoint to make sure that I’m still in shape, still fit, delaying the aging process as much as possible.” Mount Whitney’s the highest peak in the continental of United States, at 14,500 feet. The claim starts at 8,500 feet. So, it’s a pretty huge day. It takes 14 hours according to Vinnie. And boy, you better be in shape for that. You better have some preparatory hikes going.
But to do that once a year, it seems like a wonderful benchmark to just know that that’s coming around every summer. You got something to do, you’ve got to put your work and you can’t let yourself go in the winter because you’re trying to keep it sharp and fresh for some peak performance goal.
I’m not sure I’m going to attempt that record again, anytime soon because I don’t think I can top it. I can’t wait to sit back and watch other people go for it. But again, I’ll go out there and have fun myself some night. Maybe just time myself with my wristwatch. It doesn’t matter if I come near that other performance, because honestly, I mean that’s what I’m talking about. The magic of that evening was I don’t think if I tried that again 50 times, I don’t think I could match that performance of making a birdie running at full speed. In fact, I don’t make too many birdies when I’m playing with 14 clubs in a golf cart and a good caddy telling me which way the wind’s blowing and which way the putt breaks.
So, fun stuff. I hope you can find some fun stuff to do yourself, especially broadening your horizons about fitness when we’re stuck in the gym and going through these routines of doing two-spin classes a week and one session with your personal trainer. It can very easily get to be a little bit boring and a little bit difficult to motivate for. So, if you’re feeling yourself in one of those ruts where you kind of don’t know what the purpose of your workout is, try something crazy. Sign up for one of these popular Spartan races or mud runs where you’re going through obstacles. And people are broadening the horizons of fitness really nicely now with these unique new events. So, it’s not just running a 10k or doing a triathlon. There’s all kinds of great stuff to do out there.
Set a goal, go for it, have some fun. And then send a note to the show. Let’s hear about it. firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to read some success stories and some inspiring messages from you. Thank you so much for listening. Talk to you soon.