Professional Long Driver- By Definition
The USGA considers long drive a golf “skills” competition. According to the USGA, an amateur golfer becomes a professional when he or she enters a competition with a purse. Winning money is not required to become a pro, simply entering a contest with prize money creates the breach of amateur status making one a “professional” golfer.
Where / How To Start
A great place to start is in Amateur Long Drive , but that is not a requirement. This really depends on your skill level. If you feel like you have the ball speed (see below) to compete as a professional, moving straight to a pro series makes sense. If you’re not there, beginning your quest as a long drive amateur will provide much more on-the-tee experience to hone your skills….with less expense. The key to getting better in this sport is competition. What you do on the range will not immediately relate to what happens in competition.
World Long Drive
Obviously the top series is the World Long Drive Series. This series began as the LDA (Long Drivers of America) in the 70s and was purchased by The Golf Channel / NBC Sports in 2014. As a pro, that’s where you hope to end up. The ultimate goal would to make it to their televised tour and/or into their World Championship. There are several WLD qualifiers each season that anyone can enter. They take a handful of top players from each qualifier into their World Championship Rounds. Only the top 54 (as of this writing) in WLD World Ranking Points are eligible for their televised tour.
Xtreme Long Drive™
Xtreme Long Drive™ (XLD™) was established to give professional long drivers more opportunities to compete. It is not open (as of this writing) to the top 50 in WLD World Ranking points for men, and the top 10 for women in effort to give entry-level pros more opportunity to advance. XLD™ provides an annual series followed by a Series Championship. Players may advance to the series championship by winning events and earning (XLD™) world ranking points.
Ball speed is the primary indicator of one’s long drive skills. To be more specific, ball speed measured by Flightscope or Trackman is the primary indicator. Many of the devices on the market vary in their calculations of ball speed by several mph, as do many of the indoor simulators. Getting ball speed above 210 mph for men and 175 mph for women is considered to be the lower end of the professional skill level. Progressing to 218 to 225 mph for men and 180 to 184 mph for women is fast enough to begin getting into some final 16 and 8 rounds and possibly winning individual events. Winning a WLD World Championship will require more…possibly a lot more with Kyle Berkshire recently posting a 230.2 mph number in a practice round and Kanani Lodge with a recent posing of 190 mph.
How To Get Better
Reps! Practice! Competition! Getting some good instruction from a qualified long drive coach will advance your game considerably….if you follow the instruction given. Bobby Peterson at One Stop Power Shop and Jeff Crittenden are a couple of the best long drive coaches around. Jeff has won two WLD long drive titles, and Bobby coached both Kyle Berkshire and Chloe Garner when they each won their division in the 2019 World Long Drive Championship.
There aren’t that many long drive specific heads out there. Callaway, Yeti, Krank, MOI, Shark Attack, and Brute all have low-lofted heads. Shaft technology is changing, but swing and ball speed are going to be an indicator of the shaft spec you will need, and it’s a good idea to try several shafts / specs. You will probably end up with a variety of set-ups for shafts and heads in your bag.