World Long Drive (WLD) Suspends Operations
2020 will surely be remembered for many things…previously unthinkable. One of the surprises in the year to forget was the the exodus of the World Long Drive (WLD) series from the sport. In March 2020 the World Long Drive Association announced they were suspending their 2020 schedule due to COVID 19 and the many challenges the pandemic created for international competition. There was a period of time in the Spring that held hope the 2020 WLD World Championship would remain in tact. In June the company announced they would not return to competition.
Prior to 2020 the sport seemed to be gaining prominence around the world. In the sports 46 year history, The Golf Channel (TGC, NBC Sports / Universal) was the third owner of the sport’s premier series. having taken ownership in 2015, TGC made strides in televising tour events and the World Championship to a growing audience. The upper ranks of Comcast / NBC decided running a sports series wasn’t in their best interest and suspended operations leaving the industry without a premier series.
Xtreme Long Drive® (XLD) and World Long Drive (WLD)
In 2019 Ultimate Long Drive, Inc reached a partnership agreement with World Long Drive (WLD) to operate Xtreme Long Drive® (XLD) as a development series for entry-level professional long drivers. The concept was a first step in the process to “unify” the sport of long drive providing progression from Amateur Long Drive (ALD) through XLD to WLD. XLD hitters would have the ability to earn WLD world ranking points and access to certain tour stops and the WLD World Championship. The concept filled a needed gap in the industry and offered more developmental opportunities for aspiring long drivers.
Expanded Scope For The XLD™ Series
With the news of WLDs suspension of operation, Ultimate Long Drive expanded the scope of XLD™ to include a complete top-level professional tour. The apparent casualty seemed to be the developmental aspect of XLD™. In an effort to retain some sort of entry-level competition, XLD™ League was developed to operate in conjunction with the ALD™ series. The concept allows an opportunity for top-level amateurs to take a smaller step into professional long drive and develop the skills necessary to compete at the top. XLD™ League participants will be able to earn world ranking points and will be eligible to enter any XLD™ Tour event.
The 2021 Season
For 2021 the XLD™ tournament team headed by Tour Commissioner, Jeff Crittenden, and National Tournament Director, Ed LaPierre, have confirmed 11 Q-Series (qualifiers) events, 8 regular tour stops, and 4 World Challenge Series events. Other venues and dates are being considered leading up to the 2021 World Championship September 10 – 19, 2021 at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club.
The Road To Cog Hill Golf & Country Club
In 2019 Cog Hill Golf & Country Club began construction of a 150 yard by 600 yard long drive facility. WLD had reached an agreement with Cog Hill to bring the series World Championship to this newly constructed grid in 2020, 2021, and 2022. Ultimate Long Drive, Inc representatives met with Cog Hill PGA General Manager, Troy Newport in August 2020 and toured the new long drive facility. An agreement was reached for Cog Hill to host the 2021 Ultimate Long Drive World Championships. Cog Hill will be the scene for both the ALD™ World Championship and the XLD™ World Championship. In addition to the World Championship, Cog Hill will host and XLD™ Tour Stop event, The Windy City Clash May 15 – 16, 2021.
New Divisions For Older Competitors Coming 2021
Following through on the goal to bring back professional competition divisions for older hitters, XLD™ will reintroduce three new divisions beginning with he 2021 season. In addition to the existing divisions of Open Men, Women, and Masters, the Senior Division (age 46 to 54), Super Senior Division (age 55 to 59), and Legends Division (age 60+) will begin with the Suncoast World Challenge event February 6-7 in Lakewood Ranch, Florida. These division will be available at all XLD™ World Challenge Series events as well as XLD™ League events. ALD™ currently has divisions for all ages including Senior (45 to 59), Super Senior (60 to 69), and the “Fossil” (70+) division. We expect to align the amateurs and professional age divisions as these groups develop.
Perhaps the largest challenge left as we work to fill the void in the industry left by WLD is television. TGC’s coverage of the sport was exceptional. Distribution was global. Having TGC cover long drive in the future is not completely out of the question, but will require substantial sponsorship programs to support the cost. This is the proverbial “chicken and egg” scenario. We need sponsorship revenue to produce television, but we need television to produce sponsorship opportunities. Sponsorship is important to all i the sport. Players need it to afford the cost of competition as much as we, as an organizing body, need it to grow exposure. As we near approach the 2021 season there are plenty of unknowns yet to face.
What About COVID
We are moving forward with the intent to hold all events on our schedule for 2021. Obviously, as of this writing, there are still issues here in the USA and with international travel. We dealt with the same during the 2020 season. We rescheduled and moved events as necessary. We hope that will not be the case, but we are prepared. We have developed a comprehensive COVID safety plan required by several upcoming venues and urge anyone who competes or attends our events to take all safety precautions. Please do not attend our events if you are ill or have a fever or if you have recently been in contact with someone who has COVID 19. The safety of our hitters, fans, event team, and their families is of utmost importance to us.