Long Drive Is more Popular Now Than Ever

It’s hard for me to remain silent when I hear those who should be more learned make comments like, “the sport is dying” or “the sport is in dire straits.” The truth is there are more people playing and watching the sport of long drive today than ever before.


There are challenges, for sure. So that I don’t have to qualify my words with an occasional (IMO), everything in this article is my opinion. Everyone is entitled to theirs. But, making erroneous / unfounded statements as one’s opinion only shows either a lack of understanding or failure to pay attention to the details. After being involved in the sport for over a decade and running hundreds of events, I feel like we know a thing or two about long drive. I am by no means saying we are experts, and have ALL the answers. We do have ideas and we have our opinions.

The Real Issues

The part of the sport that is in trouble is the current professional model practiced by some. It seems to me, after seeing that model fail time and again, those with the power to change would. But… . 

Go Fast or Go Home and the Lucky Dog Pass

One of the biggest issues is format. If you’re not running a single or double elimination format, there’s an opportunity for managed rather than competitive results. Those who know me, have heard me make a correlation (or three) between this sport and NASCAR…something I was passionate about as a participant and fan for decades. In my opinion, the decline in NASCAR’s popularity started when they began trying to manage results. A couple of examples were the top 35 and the lucky dog pass rules implemented back in the early 2000s. Keep in mind, the sport was originally built around the concept of “go fast or go home”.

The Lucky Dog

NASCAR’s changes were made to an otherwise working model in an effort to manage sponsor exposure / TV time. They were, in fact, managing results to attempt to satisfy sponsors. The “lucky dog pass” was implemented to allow the first car a lap down to regain a lap positioning during caution. Racing hard to put a driver a lap down was a huge accomplishment. To have that car allowed to get back on the lead lap with you was a managed result.

The Top 35 Rule

In the same era NASCAR implemented the top 35 rule that allowed the top 35 in points to make the field regardless of where they qualified. The “go fast or go home” factor went out the window. Fans revolted. If you’re not familiar with these examples, please do your research. I think you will see the correlation. These types of things are happening right now in the sport of long drive. There’s far too much focus on the top 32 and creating opportunities to get them back to the front. I’m all for getting them more exposure, but this needs to be done without the results management approach. Use single or double elimination formats, forget the “bonus” balls, and  let them go home If they get beat. Back in the day, an aspiring racer could build a car in his garage and go compete against the best. That was one of the foundational concepts that helped NASCAR rise to the pinnacle it once enjoyed. We can’t afford to lose that opportunity in our sport. When the model is designed to “protect” the current top players it creates an opportunity barrier that will never work….long term. 

The Television Issue Today

Another issue with the sport at the top is the overwhelming dependence on network television to justify enough sponsorship to support a financially weak model. That ship has sailed. Network television is no longer the answer. With viewership of most network television long drive events struggling to reach 100,000, the math just doesn’t work. 1. We’re a niche sport. 2. The network television viewers have scattered to hundreds of new platforms. No sponsor (who is paying attention) is going to (long-term) spend enough of their marketing dollars to cover the cost of these high-end events costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to manage and produce… for a television model that has already failed. It is time to wake up.

Sustainable Business

I’m sure this writing will ruffle a few feathers. As well it should. Please understand that I’m not saying “our way” is the only way to grow this sport. But…our way is still working, and it will continue to work for as long as it is based on a sustainable business model. It may not be as flashy and glamorous as the more expensive (failing) models, but it is growing our amazing sport from the grassroots year after year in spite of all the challenges. 

Pay Attention

My father had an 8th grade education, and to this day still stands as one of the smartest people I’ve known. He used to say, ”boy, pay attention”! With all things considered, long drive is still a niche sport. There’s lots of headroom for us to grow for years to come. But, we have to pay attention to what is working and what is not. It concerns me to see any part of the sport struggle. The current professional model practiced by other organizations needs some work. We’d love to see that be successful, too. 

So, do us all a favor, please don’t make claims the sport is failing. Those who are paying attention know you’re not making a credible case.