From professionals like Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau to the weekend warrior that wants to show off at the local course—golfers want to push the limits and hit it longer. There’s no better place to see the longest shots in the world than at a Long Drive Championship. But what exactly is long drive, and why haven’t you heard of it before?

The History Behind Long Drive

Imagine if baseball’s home run competition or basketball’s annual slam dunk contest had its own tour. That’s long drive!

Just a few years ago, the sport was dominated by athletes like Jamie Sadlowski and Brian Pavlet, with World Championships held in Mesquite, Nevada every year. But when Art Sellinger sold the World Long Drive Association (WLDA) to the Golf Channel in 2015, the sport changed.

At first, it seemed like good things were happening. The Golf Channel trademarked the name and increased the number of yearly events from 1 to 6. Viewership quickly boomed for this niche sport. But in 2020, as uncertainty from a global pandemic started to set in, long drive was hit hard. Events were postponed and then canceled altogether. Pretty soon, there was nowhere for hitters to compete in a sport they loved. 

Covid-19 devastated athletes and fans throughout the nation and the world, but today, most sports have returned to a pre-pandemic feel. Fans and crowd numbers are slowly increasing, and event schedules are returning to normal. Unfortunately, the Golf Channel decided not to move forward with the WLDA, putting the tour up for sale in mid-2020. Since players and competitors didn’t want the sport to die altogether, they stepped in and created the PLDA—the Professional Long Drivers Association.

Long Drive’s Second Life as the PLDA

Bobby Peterson—swing coach, club builder, and all-around mad scientist of the long drive world—was the main force behind saving long drive through the uncertainty of the pandemic. He hosted four events on his range in North Carolina near the end of 2020, set up the national championship in Memphis that year, incorporated the PLDA, and planned a season for 2021 to continue to give hitters a place to compete. As a result, Bobby and the rest of the PLDA team were able to invite and welcome PGA Tour member Bryson DeChambeau to the tee in the championship last year.

Amazingly, Bryson immediately fell in love with the sport. In a live meeting in December 2021, he committed to a financial minority stake in the PLDA, stating that he wants to “to do everything and anything [he] can to promote the sport and help grow the sport in the best way possible.” 

long drive golfer

Long Drive Today

Bryson and the PLDA team are working to do just that by growing affiliate programs in South Africa, South Korea, and Australia. They’re also planning the Women’s Championship in Japan at the end of the 2022 season. The team has committed to growing the game for the competitors; paying out every dollar of entry fees to the hitters; and providing additional performance bonuses for the longest ball, the most balls in the grid, and the best set overall. These performance bonuses shine new light on the most talented golfers, giving them a chance to win some cash even if they don’t have the brute strength seen in long drive competitions in the past.

The first event of the PLDA season occurred last weekend back on the best grid in the sport in Mesquite, Nevada. A 413-yard bomb from Kyle Berkshire gave him the championship over Ryan Reisbeck in the final round. Kanani Lodge took the ladies’ event by 1 yard over Devon Cassazza. David Mobley took the senior title and Kauner Kay topped the amateur leaderboard. Alongside the title event, many open-division hitters were vying for a qualifying spot into the PLDA Championships in October this year; Scott Odekirk, Brady Torbitt, and Zack Duggan all punched their ticket.

Long Drive Is Here To Stay

Clearly, after a few challenging years for the sport, long drive is experiencing a revival. With so many talented players and unique challenges in the sport, long drive is quickly becoming a part of mainstream golf.

So…you wondered what is long drive? In a few years, nobody will ask that question again.