How finding an extra 20 yards helped Chris Hanson close gap between Challenge and European Tours

Chris Hanson, right, with Woodsome Hall club professional John Eyre at a celebratory evening held after Hanson won his European Tour card.
Chris Hanson, right, with Woodsome Hall club professional John Eyre at a celebratory evening held after Hanson won his European Tour card.
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CHRIS HANSON has travelled thousands of miles playing tournament golf - but it needed an increase of only 20 yards on his tee shots to elevate him from the Challenge Tour to the European Tour.

The Woodsome Hall professional makes his debut as a card-carrying member of the continent's elite today in the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.

Chris Hanson tweeted a view from his hotel room before final practice for the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.

Chris Hanson tweeted a view from his hotel room before final practice for the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.

And he puts a career-best season down that helped him get there to the extra length he has gained with his driver following a specially-tailored fitness regime, plus a change in putting style.

The 30-year-old won the right to play on the European Tour at the Final Qualifying School at PGA Catalunya Resort in northern Spain a week ago.

Asked to evaluate the differences in his game that mean he will mix it with the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and other elite figures in the 2015-16 wrapround season, he said: "I started working with a fitness coach at Oulton Hall, Rachel Tibbs.

"My coach Mark Pearson and I knew that distance was a key - I needed to be longer off the tee - and I tried to work towards that through the winter.

"I definitely reaped the rewards of that as the 20 yards further I have been hitting my drives is a massive gain and has helped reduce my stroke average hugely.

"The closer you are to the hole with your tee shot, the easier it is with your approach, whether that is with a wedge or a three-iron."

There was no point giving himself a higher number of birdie opportunities if he was not going to take them, and in mid-season he altered his putting grip.

"I stepped up the emphasis on my putting and made a few changes, including going left over right with my grip," he said.

"That was something we decided to change because it answered problems that I'd had - it helped me rock the putter better and squared my shoulders up, all without changing anything else.

"I've stuck at it since then and my putting stats have gone through the roof.

"Once I'd committed to it, it made a huge difference."

While his job takes him to a host of different countries - yesterday morning he tweeted a picture of himself as he watched rhinos before breakfast - being parted for long spells from his wife Laura and young daughters, Jessica, three, and Olivia, one, is a real downside.

"Lucky we've got a close family who live close by and they will help Laura with the children," said Hanson.

"It was my youngest's birthday last week and we Facetimed and put the phone up on the table, and Laura opened up all the presents for Olivia and I was able to watch it.

"You miss being there in person, but it's a lot better than it must have been for players 20 years ago."

As to finding time for sight-seeing or absorbing the local culture, he said: "It's a fine balance. Generally you don't see much of the places you travel to - you fly to the airport, drive to the hotel and golf course and that's it for the week. You might go out for a meal at night - although I'd be quite happy to have beans on toast in my room, but you don't get that."

He also tries to get the balance right between practice and down time from golf.

"You try not to practice too much, and you might try and see a bit of culture and do things," he said. "Everyone's different - there are times when I've probably stuck myself in my hotel room and not done too much and not enjoyed it enough and experienced it, other than the golf.

"The last few months I've still worked hard and practised hard, but I've seen some places and enjoyed it, and it takes your mind of golf. I think you need to do that at times."

I've got the best job in the world, says Chris Hanson