In a sport defined by margins of mere millimetres when it comes to making putts, it always helps golfers when they can hit the ball a relative mile off the tee – the closer they hit their drive to the green, the easier (in theory) their approach shot is.
And when you examine the list of the longest drivers in world golf, it’s no surprise to learn that it contains the names of major champions and prolific winners around the globe.
So who is the longest driver in world golf?
Rory Lets It Rip
As far as the PGA TOUR, the flagship circuit in golf, is concerned, the longest driver of 2023 is a player that even non-lovers of the sport will be familiar with.
Rory McIlroy averaged a mammoth 326.3 yards off the tee, which – coupled with excellent iron and wedge play and a reliable short game – explains why he is still amongst the favourites for the majors in 2024.
Indeed, he remains one of the most popular golf bets for The Masters – the major he needs to complete the career grand slam – at odds of 8/1, tied with the defending champion Jon Rahm and just ahead of world number one Scottie Scheffler (9/1).
Rory McIlroy’s ranks this week …
1st in Driving Distance (331.9 yards)
1st in SG: Tee-to-Green (+3.169)
1st in SG: Off-the-Tee (+1.404)
1st in Total Birdies (22)
1st in Putting from > 10 feet (30.3%; 10/33) pic.twitter.com/m2gP7RbZXW
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 16, 2023
Cameron Champ, who has won three times on the PGA TOUR, is another monster driver of the golf ball – he averaged 317.9 yards in 2023, while over on the breakaway LIV Golf circuit the identity of the longest hitter may surprise some.
On a tour that includes the likes of Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson amongst others, it’s actually the largely unheralded Peter Uihlein who hit his tee shots further than anybody else at a whopping 322.5 yards.
A Thing of the Past?
As golfers get stronger and focus on clubhead speed, they are hitting the ball incredible distances – aided by improvements in the science and manufacturing of the so-called ‘big stick’: the driver.
So concerned are the sport’s officials by the increasing distances that they plan to implement a ‘rollback’ of the humble golf ball, which will likely see shorter drive lengths in a bid to future-proof the game.
It’s thought that the new balls could take 15-20 yards off the average drive, which will take golf back to the 1990s as far as driving distance is concerned – not a move that all players are on board with.
We have finalized the next step in our years-long effort to address consistent increases in hitting distance and golf’s sustainability.
These changes to the Overall Distance Standard will take effect in January 2028.
— USGA (@USGA) December 6, 2023
The longest hitters will be inconvenienced more than those of shorter length when the new balls are rolled out in 2028, which perhaps explains why the ‘bombers’ of the sport are up in arms about the new ruling.
Unfortunately, amateur and casual golfers will also be impacted, but the upside – as far as the R&A and USGA are concerned – is that it will put more of an emphasis on skill and precision; rather than big hitters simply smashing their drives into the rough around 100 yards or so from the green.
The decision is one designed to preserve top-level golf. As players hit the ball further and further, holes need to be lengthened in order to maintain the integrity of the sport – unfortunately, at many iconic courses there simply isn’t any extra room on the property to just make fairways longer or move tee boxes backwards.
The move will change the face of golf forever – and perhaps change the answer to our original question of who is the longest driver in the sport.