Long Drive Interest Is On The Rise
The sport of long drive has existed since the 1970s. But, it gained global prominence in the 1990s with the guidance of Art Sellinger and title sponsor, Remax. Televised World Championships were exciting, entertaining, and…they were competitive. At its pinnacle of exposure Remax parted as title sponsor and The World Long Drive Championship was in danger of extinction when NBC Sports (The Golf Channel) purchased the event and began giving the World Long Drive series events more television exposure.
The Golf Channel
Since the acquisition of World Long Drive by The Golf Channel in 2014, the sport has seen the most growth and global interest in its history. Multiple professional long drive organizations have spawned around the globe. Unfortunately, some have failed to deliver on promises and payouts, creating some bad press for the sport. But, overall interest is growing internationally in this sport that has struggled to become mainstream for over 40 years.
A New Twist
The most recent significant development in the sport of long drive has been the creation of an organization called Amateur Long Drive, Inc. and the ALD™ Championship Series. The first ALD™ event was held in 2017, and the company has plans to organize dozens of events annually beginning with the 2018 / 2019 season. The ALD™ Championship Series season begins on September 1st and runs through August 31st. Series organizers began offering first right-of-refusal for franchising leagues in several territories in the United States in 2018. Also in 2018, an ALD™ Canadian franchise was added with long driver, Fareen Samji as Commissioner. Additional international leagues are currently in the works. ALD™ creates competitive time on the tee for long drivers aspiring to better their game whether in preparation for the professional ranks, or just for the fun of it. There is interest across all ages. The series has divisions from youth to super senior. See the rules HERE. Many of the competitors in Amateur Long Drive’s series are players who have no professional aspirations. ALD™, by way of their series / league concept, are enlarging the fan base and exposure of this emerging, high energy, adrenaline-fueled not-so-new sport. The annual World Championship can hold up to 200 competitors who will be invited for leading in World Ranking Points in their respective divisions, by way of a league championship, or major event win. ALD™ also provides adaptive divisions as well as current and past military divisions.
Growing Niche Market for Specific Golf Products
As this sport gains momentum, it is expected to create an additional pipeline for long-drive-specific products such as specialty drivers, tees, and even coaching. It is yet too early to speculate on how large this potential market may grow, but some believe there could be several thousand competitors in a few years. Still a niche, and a small fraction of the overall golf industry, long drive by its nature, provides an additional buzz for the golf industry and attracts a different type of golf enthusiast. While most have ventured into the long drive world from the game of golf, more and more athletes are showing up on the grid with little or no golf experience.
Is Long Drive Really Golf?
For a while, some pundits in the golf industry refused to consider long drive as golf. One would think hitting a golf ball with a golf club would be sufficient evidence. Involvement in the sport by The Golf Channel gives the sport continued credence, and leaves little doubt regarding the connection. Long drive is perhaps better defined as “alternative golf”, a descriptive term recently used by The Golf Channel and the World Long Drive organization. Long drive is to golf as the home run derby is to baseball, except that long drive appears to be a self-sustaining sport.
What Does the USGA Say?
The USGA recognizes long drive as a “Golf Skills Challenge”, and therefore relies on the rules of golf for their governance of the sport as it relates to amateur status. Competitors who compete for World Ranking points in the ALD™ Championship Series must maintain their amateur status. Those who have competed professionally may only compete in ALD™ after they have regained amateur status from the USGA. World Long Drive competitions also adhere to the USGAs rules governing amateur status. Amateurs may compete in WLD competitions and maintain their amateur status if they declare their status and compete as an amateur waiving their rights to any payout. Declaration must be made upon entering the competition. According to the USGA, an amateur golfer becomes a professional when he or she enters a competition that has as its prize a monetary payout…whether or not they are paid from the competition. Read more about the USGA and amateur status HERE.
Here To Stay?
There are those who have, and will continue to ask. “Is long drive here to stay?” Time will tell, but every indication points to not only continued, but progressive growth over the next several years. For more information about Amateur Long Drive, Inc. go to their website at https://amateurlongdrive.com . For more information on World Long Drive, and professional long drive competition, please visit their website at https://www.worldlongdrive.com/.