Long drive competitions are the exact opposite to normal golf. And we love it.
Scores don’t matter, instead, it’s all about gripping it, ripping it, and hitting it as far as possible. Their swings that long drive pros make Bryson’s look tame, which is no easy feat to say the least.
Not to mention, the events have loud music, fireworks, and screaming fans… sounds more like a monster truck race than a golf tournament. But that’s the beauty of long drive competitions, they are everything that golf is not. There are no signs that read “Quiet please” and no quiet golf claps.
Instead, it’s a high energy environment where players swing as hard as possible to take home the trophy. While not as popular as golf, I see them only gaining more popularity as the game looks to expand and continue to attract a new audience.
Keep reading to learn more about how long drive events work, how to watch them, and how to get started yourself.
While the game of golf has been around for centuries, the long drive part of the game is a lot more recent. It’s not as popular as the “normal” game of golf, but it’s becoming increasingly popular as it’s a less formal/more fun version of golf for newcomers. As more and more people look to join the game, this spin off sport is something that even non-golfers can enjoy.
Before diving into the specifics of long drive competitions, let’s start with how this all got started.
So how long has the spinoff of traditional golf been around?
According to Pro Long Drive,
The metamorphosis of long drive competitions in the United States evolved over the past seven decades from 1949, when golf fans outside Henrico, VA watched Chick Harbert win the inaugural long drive event during the 31st PGA Championship. While Harbert was credited with a 305-yard drive at Hermitage Country Club (now Belmont GC), it was Sam Snead, who won the match play championship and took home $3,500 as the PGA Champion’s share.”
Then, in 1974, the event spun off the PGA Championship into its own event. One of the first big names was Evan “Big Cat” Williams, who was a huge hitter thanks to his enormous 6’6” frame.
Competitions became more popular, they began to attract sponsors, added new divisions, and it’s been growing ever since. For a long time, the home of the long drive was in Mesquite, Nevada, but has since moved to Oklahoma in 2015. But regardless of where you live, I’m sure you can find a professional or amateur competition near you.
If you’re like most golfers, you might be thinking… How far do these athletes actually hit the golf ball? Do they really hit it longer than Bryson “The Hulk” DeChambeau does on the PGA Tour?
In competition, these guys find a way to hit monster drives of 450 or more yards. While not everyone hits it 400 plus yards, the average for players is around 356 yards. That is a staggering 50+ more than the average PGA Tour golfer, which is wildly impressive.
As long drive events have become more popular, it’s a lot more formal now with a standard set of rules. This ensures that everyone competes on the same playing field and is a fair competition for all.
The goal is pretty simple – hit it as far as possible. But the catch is that you must keep the golf ball inside the grid, otherwise the drive does not count. Accuracy is still somewhat important, although it’s a wider grid that most fairways are on a normal golf course.
Players are given an allotted amount of time to hit six to eight drives. Depending on the league and event, there is usually a minimum length of drive to count for each division as well.
No other shots are played afterward. It’s all about the drives!
If you’re like most people, you probably think they use tricked up drivers or specialized golf balls to launch the ball 400+ yards. But it’s actually not true.
According to the PLD,
“World Long Drive Association competitors were required to use USGA-approved golf clubs with a maximum length shaft of 48 inches and the volume of the clubhead no greater than 460 cc. All balls used for a WLD event were furnished by the golf ball sponsor of the World Long Drive Association to ensure USGA compliance as well as equality of brand and model.”
That’s right, the clubhead is the same size that every normal golfer uses. And it also complies with the USGA rules. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.
What’s crazy is the length of the driver is 48 inches.
For context, most off the rack standard golf drivers are 45 or 45.5 inches long. Adding another 2.5 – 3 inches makes a huge impact on total distance. But it also makes the driver significantly harder to control, which is why accuracy isn’t as important in these events.
Not to mention, the loft of long drivers clubs is crazy low. Most long drivers use a driver with 4-5 degrees of loft!
While the average golfer is between 9-10.5 degrees. Even the guys on the PGA Tour don’t usually go below seven degrees (except Bryson, of course). Having a much lower loft than normal helps reduce spin and increase distance.
The other big difference with these drivers is the shaft flex. Once again, these are not off the rack shafts that you can buy at your local golf store.
These clubs are extremely stiff to keep up with their insane swing speeds. Not to mention, the kick point is significantly higher, which helps produce a slightly lower trajectory as well.
While the clubs and shafts are different, one thing that is the same is the golf ball for all long drivers in competition. Each player also plays with the same Volvik golf ball.
The ball is designed for low spin rates and has a ball compression of around 110. This is a lot more than normal, as the average golf ball compression is usually between 70-80. While some balls are between 50-60 for women, juniors, and senior golfers.
The extra compression makes it easier to add distance and reduce spin. These balls would not be good for a normal round, as it would be nearly impossible for the average golfer to create enough speed and spin them on the green.
In the PLD competition, there are now three main divisions; Men’s Open, Master’s Open, and Women’s Open.
The Men’s open has been around since 1976 and is available for anyone under 45 years of age. The Master’s open divisions started in 1996 and are reserved for golfers over 45 years old. Finally, the women’s division was added in 2000 and does not have a specific age limit.
Like professional golf, there is more than one main tour for players to compete. Just like professional golfers have the PGA Tour, Korn Ferry, and European Tour, there is a selection for long drivers too. You can’t just sign up for the World Long Drive Championship without going through the necessary qualifying stages.
Here are some of the most common long drive tours:
- PLDA (Professional Long Drivers Association): This is the formal league where long drivers must be a member to compete and earn money, prizes and points. There are three stages to make it to the world championship. Starting with local qualifiers, then regional qualifiers, then championship qualifiers for each of the three main divisions.
- Xtreme Long Drive Tour: This tour is based in Myrtle Beach, SC and helps pros plus amateurs rise up in the ranks to make it to the big leagues.
- European Long Drive Games: This is a newer organization that is committed to helping the big hitters in European countries.
- Long Drive For Heroes (LD4H): This is a new tour to help fundraise for military veterans who have given their lives to serve and protect their country.
Let’s not forget about amateur long drive competitors as well.
Another great part about long drive competitions is they have ones specifically designed for amateur golfers. The ALD (Amateur Long Drive) is available to register and compete in certain parts of the United States and Canada. This ensures that they do not lose their amateur status and can still compete in USGA and other local amateur competitions.
To compete in these events, you need to purchase a membership ($100 for adults and $50 for minors). Then, you pay entry fees for the specific event, which is $50 for adults and $25 for minors. Regional qualifiers to make it to the World Championship are additional.
So if you’re feeling up to the challenge, make sure to check out the site and find a competition near you. Or, at least go by and support them or even volunteer at the event for additional behind the scenes look at a long drive event.
The biggest difference between long drive events and a traditional round of golf is, of course, the rest of the shots. Long drive events are all about that – bombing it off the tee with enough accuracy to stay on the grid.
But with a normal round of golf, you of course have to play the shot after your drive! That’s the biggest difference between these long drive pros vs. PGA Tour guys.
The PGA Tour guys have all shots in the bag, not just the tee ball.
Do you have more questions about long drive competitions in golf?
If so, hopefully we’ll cover them with these most frequently asked questions and answers below.
The winner of this prestigious title goes to Mike Dobbyn. His longest drive that was measured went a staggering 551 yards! That’s right, he drove the average par 5 in one single shot.
While that is insane to think about, don’t forget to mention his frame, either. Mike is a staggering 6’8” and weighs over 300 pounds! Needless to say, Bryson better keep hitting the gym to get these kinds of numbers.
While that’s the longest drive in competition, there is an unofficial drive at 787 yards!
In 1992, Carl Cooper hit a bomb of a drive that landed on a cart path, kept rolling for eternity, and went nearly 800 yards. But obviously that wasn’t near the hole and ended up making a double bogey – yikes!
Even if you aren’t a long drive competitor, it doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from adding distance to your game.
If you want to start hitting your driver longer like these guys, here are some ways to get started:
- Build a wide base at setup.
- Have a consistent stretching routine.
- Start speed training with heavy and light clubs.
- Tilt your spine to promote an upward hitting angle.
- Make sure your swing is wide early on the backswing.
- Use a launch monitor to measure stats and track your swing speed progress.
And finally, practice a lot. When you’re first starting out, it will feel very awkward to swing so aggressively, and it’s easy to give up early. Make sure you stay patient, have a clear goal in mind, and trust the process.
Jason Zuback owns that award with six titles. What’s even more impressive is that he won four in a row from 1996-1999.
Long drive competitions pay out differently for each event. Like the PGA Tour, the larger the event, the larger the payout.
It’s important to note there are entrance fees too, just like there is with mini tours and other events. For example, in 2018 there was an event with a $2,500 entrance fee for all long drivers in the field.
But the total purse was worth $400,000 with the winner getting $150,000. Sadly, there was an issue with the event and the players didn’t end up getting paid. You can learn more about this crazy story here.
But in 2019, the World Long Drive Championship the total purse was $270,000 with the winner getting $125,000. Don’t worry, they got paid this time.
Also, aside from prize money, a lot of players are sponsored as well.
Yes, some of them are televised – both professional and amateur events. Some are available for online viewing, and there are tons of videos on YouTube from past events as well.
Start swinging really hard!
Seriously though, this is not your average driving range challenge with a buddy. These athletes push their swing and body to the limit. They only get that way by a ton of discipline, practice, and commitment to their craft.
If you love hitting bombs but don’t enjoy the rest of the game as much, then maybe you should give it a shot.
Start by working on your long drive skills, then find an amateur competition. If you continue to dominate the amateur circuit, then you can look at a professional event.
Volvik is the most common name associated with long drive events. In 1976, the first started sponsoring events and have remained a staple in the sport ever since. Now, they provide the standardized golf ball that each player uses.
When Tiger first burst out onto the PGA Tour, his drives were something special. We would all marvel at how far he hit the golf ball in the air and take on shots that no one else would dare.
Not to mention, he was playing a driver that was about 40% smaller than today’s average driver and most impressively, playing with a steel shaft. Could you imagine swinging a driver with a heavy steel shaft? I honestly can’t (nor can my back). But that’s what made Tiger great.
While he doesn’t hit as many bombs as he once did, he still hits it far in his mid 40s (and we’re hoping he makes a PGA Tour return from his injury).
So what’s the longest drive by TW?
That’s right, two yards short of 500! He was able to accomplish this incredible feat at the 18th hole at the Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. This crazy long drive was hit at the 2000 Mercedes Championship.
If you’re not familiar with the course, this hole is as long as eternity but does play downhill. Once the ball hits the fairway, it can roll out 50+ yards. Not to mention, it gets really windy too which helps with carry distance.
But needless to say, a near 500 yard drive from the 15-time major champ is nothing short of impressive.
The current long drive champ is Kyle Berkshire from 2019. Due to the global pandemic, they did not have a 2020 competition.
Kyle regularly competes in the World Long Drive Association and has become a well known golf figure online. His Instagram is very entertaining and highly suggest following to go behind the scenes of the long drive champ. Despite not being nearly as big as some guys, he obviously knows a thing or two about hitting bombs!
In a Golf Digest interview, he shared more about what allows him to hit it insanely long. His longest drive in competition came in at 492 yards and swung it 150mph with ball speeds of over 230mph!
Despite his success, he now has his sights on something new – the PGA Tour. It will be interesting to see his journey, as no one has been able to transition from long drive champ to elite player on the PGA Tour. We’re rooting him on as it would be fun to watch him and Bryson tee it up.
Yes, according to the PLD, all drivers are USGA legal. They are all 48 inches or shorter and meet the 460CC driver size requirement.
But just because they’re legal, doesn’t mean I suggest trying them out. The longer the driver shaft, the more that can go wrong. These guys hit these clubs long, but definitely not always straight.
Long drive competitions are awesome and a fun part of the game of golf. Unlike a normal round or tournament, it’s all about distance and not caring where the ball ends up. Not to mention, the environment doesn’t even feel like you’re anywhere near a normal, quiet, golf course.
If you ever get a chance to watch a long drive competition in person, I highly recommend it. It’s hard to believe how hard these competitors swing the club and what they can do with the golf ball. If they could keep the ball in play and had some short game, they would rival some of the best players in the world.