Long Drive is a competitive sport where success is determined by hitting a golf ball the farthest.
Currently long drive is broken down into three divisions:
At the United States Senior Long Drive Championships the divisions are broken down into a further four divisions:
Top long drivers can achieve distance over 400 yards. As “specialists” in the world of golf, long drivers train specifically to generate speed and coordination in their golf swings. A combination of strength, flexibility, and speed are required to perform at the highest levels of the sport. Swing speeds of top long drivers have been measured in excess of 150 mph producing ball speeds greater than 220 mph; nearly double that of an average golfer. By comparison the fastest club head and ball speeds recorded on the PGA Tour are 112 and 165 mph respectively.
The 2016 WLDA World Championship was won by Joe Miller at the Winstar Casino in Thackerville, Okalahoma.
Long Drive events can take many forms. Some are on golf courses, while others establish grids on driving ranges; some allow specific time allotments to hitters in the tee box, while other do not; some have high tournament entry fees, while others are more modest, etc. Much of the format is left to the event organizer. Some the most common aspects of long drive events is that they are double elimination, hitters hit the same ball as supplied by the event organizer and they are open to anyone with any legal driver to enter.
Long drive clubs are different in many ways from consumer clubs. For 2017 the World Long Drive Association has introduced a maximum USGA conforming length of 48 inches.
Long drive shafts differ from standard shafts. The main difference is stiffness, as a shaft too flexible will lag in an inconsistent manner, causing a loss of control and distance. Long drive shafts are much stiffer in flex. The kick point or bend point is also higher to generate a lower trajectory relative to the swing, and the shaft has a lower torque, meaning that it will not twist as much, allowing the club head to stay straighter.
Club heads do not exceed the 460 cubic centimeter limit. They must also stay under the Coefficient of Restitution (COR) limit of 0.83 as determined by the rules of golf. The loft of a long drive club is also much lower than a consumer club, frequently ranging from 3 or 6 degrees. The reason for lower lofted driver heads is to greatly reduce back spin therefore reducing the amount a ball will balloon or climb, creating a steep landing angle which does not allow the ball roll out.
Balls used in Long Drive competitions have high compression of 110+ and specific design characteristics that help maintain lower spin rates. The average ball compression in golf varies from the mid 70’s to the upper 80’s. Common balls include Volvik, Pinnacle, Slazenger, etc.
Tees used by long drive competitors generally range from 3 ¼ to 4 inches in length. Teeing the ball higher promotes contacting the ball on the upswing which helps create ideal launch conditions to maximize distance.