What Is The Longest Drive In PGA Tour History?
Nothing beats seeing a professional golfer rip a driver miles down the center of the fairway. The sound off the club, the ball launching into the stratosphere, taking an age to come down… but what is the longest drive ever hit in PGA Tour history?
The longest drive ever on the PGA Tour came in 2004 when Davis Love III smashed one 476 yards down the 18th fairway at the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, Hawaii.
The Plantation Course at Kapalua, where the Tournament of Champions is held every year, is a favored stomping ground for the big hitters. There have been eleven drives of over 450 yards on the PGA Tour, and nearly thirty percent of them (three out of eleven) came at Kapalua.
This is due to high altitude (where the ball travels further due to thinner air), firm fairways, elevation changes, and strong breezes – all of which combine to create a recipe for massive drives!
Top Ten Longest Drives On The PGA Tour
So Davis Love III holds the record for the single longest drive, but what about the runners-up? The following table shows the ten longest drives hit since Shotlink technology was introduced:
The table brings up some interesting questions. The general narrative is that golfers are hitting the ball further and further every year – but does this data back that up?
Interestingly, only two of the top ten drives in history have come after 2013, with an incredible six coming before 2008! Surely that shows that distances are getting shorter rather than longer, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.
Are Golfers Hitting Further?
The short answer is: YES. Golfers are hitting it farther than they were before.
According to the PGA Tour’s official website, Bryson Dechambeau led the average driving distance stat in 2021, with an incredible 323.7 yards as his average drive. Rory McIlroy was second (319.3), with Cameron Champ taking the 3rd place spot (317.1).
The tour average last year – so that means across the board – was 296.2 yards.
Six years ago, in 2015, that number dropped ten yards to 289.2. Dustin Johnson was the biggest hitter that year with an average of 317.7 – which still would have gotten him the third spot in the season just gone. So a decent drop, but not a ridiculous one.
But if you go back to 2010, the data gets even more interesting. The tour average is practically identical (287.3), as was the biggest hitter – Robert Garrigus, with an average of 315.5.
2005 shows the same data, if not a slight statistical increase: Tour average of 288.4, and longest hitter of 318.9.
But if you go a further five years back to the turn of the millennium, there’s another significant drop. In 2000, the tour average drive was 272.7 yards, and John Daly topped the leaderboards with an average of just 301.4.
Tiger Woods, coming in second place with an average drive of 298.0, would only have been middle of the pack if he had played in 2021.
Let’s see that data as a chart:
We can see that there has been a steady increase in driving distance over the last two decades. Interestingly, the most significant jump was between 2000 and 2005, increasing since then much more gradually.
So why isn’t that reflected in the data for longest drives ever?
The Problem With Long Drive Data
The big issue with using single drives to measure how far golfers are hitting the ball is that freak events and conditions too easily sway them.
Unlike long drive championships, which take place over a completely flat driving range, golf courses are full of undulations and inconsistencies. One week the weather might be hot, firming up the fairways. Another might be at sea level, with thick air reducing the carry distance.
This means that the same golfer could hit the same drive two different weeks and have a hundred yards difference between where the ball ends!
The best example is the longest (unofficial) drive ever recorded, hit by Carl Cooper at the Texas Open in 1992. His tee shot landed on a cart path and then ran down it, going straight past the hole he was hitting towards (the third) and ending near the 12th green!
The drive ended up being estimated at 787 yards! Not that Cooper would have been best pleased – he made a double.
While it can be great fun to watch holes where the ball goes a million miles due to a combination of elevation changes and conditions, it’s not a good metric to gauge how far PGA Tour professionals are hitting the ball.
The fact that three of the longest drives in history came on the same hole pretty much sums that up. The best way of summing up driving distances is to look at averages, such as those available on the PGA Tour website.
But don’t let that spoil your fun. Next time the Tournament of Champions is on, get yourself to the 18th hole. Who knows? With the steady increase in distance, we might soon see the first FIVE HUNDRED YARD drive on the PGA Tour…