There is no doubt that there are many long hitters among the pros. Not all the top players are big drivers but a few names stand out for booming long shots of the tee. Let’s try to answer the question ‘how far do pro golfers drive?’
Following the Zurich Classic of New Orleans 2021, the average driving distance on the tour is 295.6 yards. The leader being Bryson DeChambeau at 321.1 yards, and at number 68 is Keegan Bradley the last man on 300.0 yards. These are average driving distances, so there have to be some very big numbers in the mix.
There is much debate, controversy, and confusion about the longest drive recorded in a game of golf. In 1992 at the Texas Open, Carl Cooper hit his tee shot 787 yards. Having ricocheted off a paved area this one should be disqualified. Mike Austin at the US National Seniors Open in Las Vegas, drove a ball 515yards, but this is not a PGA Tour event.
The official PGA record belongs to Davis Love III for when he drove 476yards at the 2004 Sentry Tournament of Champions. The longest drive should belong to Dustin Johnson with his drive 489 yards at the WGC-Dell Match Play, but again stats from this tournament are not logged by the PGA.
You can see some of the action in this amazing video.
These exceptionally long drives are more likely freaks of luck or flukes and a more reliable and consistent standard would be to measure the “carry distance”. The carry distance is how far the ball travels from the tee before making contact with the fairway.
Very rare are carries of 330 yards but they are happening and a couple of them occur each season. Dustin Johnson says he can carry it up to 330 yards in the air, yet in 2018 his average was 301 and his longest was 337.9 yards.
Carries of 340 and 350 yards are even rarer and there are no PGA stats for a drive, over 360 yards. J.B. Holmes came close in 2008 when his drive covered 356.9 yards before touching down.
Why Are These Numbers Important?
The average carry distance on the PGA tour has been steadily increasing over the years. The high technological advances and improvements in golfing equipment coupled with specialized strength and power training have driven this increase.
Not only has the average distance increased but so has the number of players hitting the top mark. In 2008 there were 7 tour golfers with an average of 290 yards or better. Ten years later there are 28 players in this category and ten of them average 295.6 yards or better.
What does this mean for golf? If this trend continues it could make modern championship golf courses obsolete. Strong big-hitting players can ignore the natural obstacles that would test the normal golfer, and simply fly over them.
What Can Be Done?
What if anything, can be done about this? Some have suggested moving the tee box back, but how would this affect the original design of the hole? Building new courses of championship standard will need to be 7400 to 7800 yards long, not a very practical solution.
Maybe what is needed is limits being set by the controlling bodies as is found in Formula1 motor racing, the equipment and technology advances need to be curbed. This is an extremely controversial opinion and many disagree.
Some argue that we need to take a look at the club and the ball. The shaft length, clubface angle, and COR all affect the carry of the ball.
The coefficient of restitution (COR) measures how much energy is transferred from the club to the ball on impact. The higher the COR the further the ball will travel, but this factor is already controlled and limited to 0.83. Lowering the limit might reduce the distance a player can achieve.
More important than the club, the ball seems to be the main component in achieving greater distance. Balls used to be made by winding rubber bands around a solid or liquid core. With new techniques, the solid ball was developed with concentric layers of plastic and rubber, further enhanced by the specific design of the dimples.
This ball spins less off the face of the driver and with an increase in launch angle greater distance is achieved. To somehow dumb down or soften the ball would make a huge difference.
Records are made to be broken, but as we approach the limits of human ability some of the growth or increase becomes smaller. PGA stats show that over the last decade, although more players are hitting the 290 yard carry distance, the average of the top players is stuck around 305 yards. Maybe there is no need to panic, but some limitations might have to be considered.
An interesting comparison is the average range of different golfers. PGA tour pros drive between 280 to 320 yards on average. Ladies PGA tour pros drive on average 230 to 270 yards. The average for amateur golfers is 195 to 205 yards, so guys don’t try to take on the ladies.
The numbers and the average increase in how far pro golfers drive is interesting and exciting. It is also, a potential issue. Whatever your thoughts, it is amazing to watch the long drivers.
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Nick Lomas is the founder of GolfSpan, an avid golfer, not quite a pro but has over 15-years of experience playing and coaching golfers from all over the world. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience then it comes to choosing the right golf gear, and finding the right set up for your game.