According to that most reliable of sources – Twitter – the sport of Long Drive has a whole new legion of fans thanks to Bryson DeChambeau.
Apparently, the former U.S. Open winner dragged in eyeballs in huge numbers last week when he went to Nevada to compete in the Professional Long Drivers World Championship.
Many of these new viewers were from the more ‘traditional’ golf world, no doubt aware of the existence of long drive though previously uninterested. And with good reason.
This is not a knock on long drive or the remarkably athletic individuals who participate in it. It is a staggeringly impressive thing that they do.
But long drive is to golf what chemists are to doctors. They are in the same general field but very different pursuits.
As dumb as it sounds to say out loud, there are a few things that make golf ‘golf’ and one of the most important is the multi-dimensional nature of the skills required to play it.
"Without the pull of his personality, it seems likely the one-dimensional nature of long drive – impressive though it is – will be less than the appeal of tournament golf and all its quirks." - Rod Morri.
From the 300 yard tee shot to the three foot putt (and everything in between), the game is an endless test of fine motor skills, raw power and the ability to think critically.
Most sports don’t have anywhere near as many layers as golf and those that do tend to have teams made up of specialists in different areas.
Cricket has predominantly either batters or bowlers with genuinely world class all-rounders being the smallest group in the game.
Long drive has almost none of this. It is a sport built solely on the outcome of one very specific physical movement in the same way javelin or shot put or high jump are.
It lacks all – or more accurately, any – of the nuance of golf where the outcome of any given shot accounts for only a small part of the whole.
In golf if you hit a bad drive you can recover with a good second shot. Missing a green is a ‘bad’ outcome until you hole out from the bunker.
The total score is the ultimate arbiter in golf but the myriad possibilities between first tee and 18th green make it a never-ending adventure.
Every shot on every hole has multiple options of how to play it then multiple possible outcomes for each of those options.
Long drive has almost none of this strategy. The goal is simple with every swing: hit the ball as hard and as far as possible. There is no ‘next’ shot.
For all that, DeChambeau’s performance at the Las Vegas event was quite remarkable.
He was among the final eight players and hit a longest drive of the week of 416 yards, an extraordinary feat for a golfer ranked 7th in the world.
It’s no surprise a lot of people tuned in to watch his performance and, by default, that of the other competitors.
But it seems doubtful most of those new viewers will become committed followers of the long drive schedule.
Without the pull of his personality, it seems likely the one-dimensional nature of long drive – impressive though it is – will be less than the appeal of tournament golf and all its quirks.