Golf: Long hitters drive for show and dough in England

Handout photo of Lucas Dornan, United Kingdom's Long Drive Champion, who will be competing in the United Kingdom's first ever Long Drive World Series event at the Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club in Windsor

By Andrew Both

(Reuters) – Golf fans respect great putting but what they seem to enjoy most is watching a player smash the ball a prodigious distance.

That universal appeal is what organizers of the Long Drive World Series are trying to tap into as they head to England for a razzle-dazzle competition that might have traditionalists wondering what ever happened to the old game.

British Long Drive champion Lucas Dornan and 2016 world champion Joe Miller will be among the competitors at the July 8 event at the Berkshire Polo Club in Windsor.

While the purse of 60,000 pounds ($77,928.00) pales beside the millions offered each week on golf’s traditional circuits, Dornan is bullish about the event’s future.

As the staid professional tours continue mostly to embrace tradition, expecting funereal silence and statue-like stillness from spectators while a player executes a shot, the Long Drive World Series embraces quite the opposite.

It is the golfing equivalent of Twenty20 cricket compared with test cricket, a Usain Bolt-like show of power rather than an all-round decathlon-like test of every facet of golf.

Dornan attended the European Tour’s PGA Championship at Wentworth last month, and was so bored he left after a few minutes.

“(Traditional) golf is dying a death, whether they want to admit it or not,” Dornan said. “I think the only reason a lot of people came to Wentworth was to see the nice houses (on the property).

“Most spectators sit next to a green and all they see is putting. Everyone has to be so quiet. I lasted five minutes.”

That said, Dornan, 31, describes himself as a “golf nut” who enjoys watching the top pros, at least on television.

He likes Jason Day’s swing but dislikes Bubba Watson’s, and appreciates Jordan Spieth’s passion, but does not warm to world number one Dustin Johnson.

“D.J.’s such a wet blanket personality-wise, you can’t root for him,” said Dornan.


Londoner Dornan is a natural salesman for the Long Drive World Series, where nary a ‘quiet please’ sign can be found as golfers compete head-to-head and the action is complemented with music and celebrity DJs during commercial breaks.

With a clubhead speed that can reach 150 miles per hour (241 km per hour) — long-hitting Johnson’s average on the PGA Tour this year is 121 mph — it took Dornan a while to find a driver that fit his swing.

Bur once he was properly measured for a driver that suited his specifications, he was off to the races, and he is now the British champion with an officially-measured career long drive of 427 yards.

Naturally enough, most every amateur Dornan encounters wants a tip on how to drive the ball further.

His advice to anyone who asks is to imagine trying to hit a highly teed-up ball over a person standing six feet away and ensuring the clubhead is on an upward trajectory at the moment of impact.

Dornan, a four-handicapper, said that contrary to popular belief most long drive specialists are pretty handy all-round golfers, if not necessarily good enough to play the pro tours.

“The biggest problem is when we’re slightly off(line), we’re out-of-bounds,” he said modestly.

($1 = 0.7699 pounds)

(Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Larry Fine)