Big news in the small world of long drive: the World Long Drive Championships are moving to Golf Channel (from ESPN).
Will this be good for golf?
I think yes. Here’s why.
As we continue to growing the game of golf, players will always to be drawn to the allure of distance.
We all love distance. Hit it far and you shorten up the hole. Hit it past your buddies and you get respect. Crush it dead square and there is no sweeter feeling.
There’s something mesmerizing about watching a drive soar straight and long down the fairway. Visit any driving range and the majority of golfers will have a driver in their hand.
What the new Golf Channel contract will do is bring the excitement of long drive to a whole new audience. As is true for any sport, television really brings the sport of Long Drive alive for people – not only the mesmerizing distances that are being achieved, but also the personalities of those who are pushing the envelope.
ESPN has been great for long drive for 17 years. But look at what the Golf Channel has been able to accomplish with shows like Big Break, Chasing the Dream, the Haney Project, the Feherty show, Morning Drive, and other shows.
It’s the stories behind the story that really grab us.
And trust me, having been in long drive for 10 years, there are plenty of stories. Back in 2003 when I won my first championship, ESPN broadcasted my win — as well as my marriage proposal from the tee (see “the real prize” video clip).
So I believe the Golf Channel partnership will help build interest in long drive, and in so doing help to bring new golfers into the game, plus re-ignite the passion of existing golfers. After all, look at what Charles Barkley did for the game: his swing was so bad and his failure so epic that he had millions of golfers saying “Even I can do better than that.” and they were encouraged to get back into the game.
Then there’s the equipment side. Long drive is to golf like Indy cars are to the automobile industry: innovations tested at the extreme edge of performance eventually trickle down to improve performance at the consumer level.
I’ll give you a couple of examples: 10 years ago the graphite shafts we used wouldn’t stand up to the swing speeds we generated. I was breaking one or two shafts a month. So the shaft manufacturers innovated, doing things like adding boron strands to the tip section and reinforcing the weave of the graphite sheets. Today we have shafts that are lighter and stronger, giving every-day golfers more club head speed with a livelier “kick” that produces more distance.
In another case, the “No Brainer” club head I used took Steve Almo from Geek Golf two years to design and test. But the weight distribution configuration he achieved put more mass behind the sweet spot, and the result gave me a club I hit not only farther, but straighter too – results we documented by testing hundreds and hundreds of drives on a launch monitor.
Sports on the edge force innovation and innovation that is good for the game. Frankly, it’s good for all sports. The new contract with Golf Channel (read the LDA Press Release here), is good for long drive, and ultimately good for the game of golf. I’m excited to see what this next year will bring.
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