World Long-Drive Champions Shoot Distance to Make Munis’ Mouths Water
I have known about the long-drive championships since the first day I watched a golf tournament as a kid. The one who sticks out for me was George Bayer, so you can tell how long ago that was, and even he wasn’t the earliest. However, I went on and blithely left it alone, thinking that’s all there was. One day a year, the burliest of the men, not women, get together and bash a bucket of balls over the horizon, and the longest is called the long-drive champion. Interesting, but not really related to golf, I thought.
Apparently, the world long-drive championship is a lot bigger deal than I ever thought, and it isn’t just the men who are competing. It turns out that there is actually a tour that takes us from Maricopa, Arizona to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Atlantic City, New Jersey, Rochester, New York, Kingsport, Tennessee and Thackerville, Oklahoma.
Competitors routinely send golf balls out a distance of 370 to 450 yards, and I am sure that my muni brain says the same thing as many others do. Oh, if you had that distance, you’d be driving par 4s and hitting short irons on par 5s for double eagle or eagle. Sooner or later, I return to earth and estimate what a 450 yard drive sent in the wrong direction would mean. The image is full of broken windows, hitting a second shot from the roof of a nearby McDonalds, or yelling fore at the top of my lungs with no possibility that anyone would hear me that far away.
And who are these long-drive obsessed people, anyway? Are they just ball-smashing body-builders off on a lark? No, they are golfers keyed in on the tee box component of the game. Obviously, they are strong and beautifully conditioned, but the one with the largest build doesn’t necessarily win. They are subject to the same physics we all obey, and as it is from any first tee, technique is everything.
This year’s winner in the women’s division is Chloe Garner, with work as a collegiate golf coach at East Tennessee State in her background. In a high muscular condition, she exaggerates driving technique to the max, because she can. She edged out Phyllis Meti of New Zealand, a multiple-year champion. Kyle Berkshire, originally from Maryland, is the 2019 male champion, and defeated Jordan Brooks of Tamworth, England – same caveat, “because he can.”
Features of the long-drive include both feet occasionally leaving the ground, and a back swing that almost touches the ground before being hip-whipped back at unthinkable speeds. At my age, no way are my feet going to leave the ground. Who knows where they would come down, not to mention the rest of me? The extended backswing has “hernia” written all over it, and I would probably hit precious few fairways per round. Long-drive is, without a doubt, a young person’s game. You have to play it while you can still bend.
My first instinct was to brush it off. The drives in this competition don’t have to hit a fairway. The expanse of the playing area is huge. On the other hand, both the winning drives were pretty much right down the middle. Then my brain gets defensive and says, “Yeah, but can you chip and putt? How’s your bunker play? and how do you feel about 7-irons?” No good. Even if they aren’t PGA and LPGA stars, they are professional golfers, and I wouldn’t turn down a lesson from any one of them.
The lesson for those of us who negotiate public and private courses all over the country is a reminder that distance is wonderful, but it’s only one component of a successful game. It can come at a terrible price on the scorecard, but a moderate inquiry into these long-ball strikers might give us the optimum version that we need. Our success lies in doing what is possible for us in the best way.
But you, know , if I had that distance, I could…