The 10 Longest Drives in PGA History
The 10 longest drives in PGA History are a mix of luck, skill, and effectiveness of modern technology. On this page, we honour those who have treated us to the best tee shots in history and explore what made their record-shattering drives a reality.
By the end of this post, you will know why a combination of high swing speed, optimal smash factor, and low spin are imperative for accelerated ball speed and a powerful golf shot. Plus, I will break down a list of the 10 golfers and assess their swings and career achievements. If you want to know more about golf and where to bet on golf in Ontario, check our online Ontario golf betting sites page.
🚩 When Did The PGA Tour Start Measuring Long Drives?
Despite its formation in 1916, long drive records on the PGA Tour date back to 1992, the same year the longest drive in professional tournament experience was struck. Since Carl Cooper’s stroke of luck at the Texas Open in the 1990s, golf driver technology has developed significantly, featuring faster clubfaces, greater forgiveness, and incredibly low spin.
The key factors contributing to long golf drives include accelerated swing speed, optimal launch angle, low spin rate, high smash factor, and rapid ball speed. Top players generate clubhead speeds over 120 mph, launch the ball at medium to high angles, maintain low spin rates, achieve optimal energy transfer with a smash factor close to 1.50, and strike the sweet spot for high ball speeds, resulting in impressive carry and total distances. But let’s see all these in detail.
#1. Swing Speed
Accelerated swing or clubhead speed is one piece of the puzzle for a golfer to strike a long drive. The players with the three longest drives in 2023 all generate over 120 mph clubhead velocity, which gives them the upper hand to maximize energy transfer and smash factor for faster ball speed and a powerful launch.
Stats gathered by launch monitor giants Trackman reveal that the average swing speed of tour hitters is 113 mph, 13 mph shy of the highest club speed in 2023.
World Long Drive legend Kyle Berkshire is a prime example of how accelerated swing speed can aid your distance. In recent footage, the player produced over 158 mph of clubhead speed, 13 mph higher than his average, highlighting his readiness to defeat his previous best distance of close to 500 yards.
#2. Launch Angle
The launch angle of your golf ball determines the trajectory, stability of flight, carry distance, and roll after landing. To generate a long drive, you need a medium to high launch that maximizes your carry distance and generates extra runs on the ground after landing.
When your launch angle is too high, it can cause the ball to lose forward momentum and fall out of the sky earlier than intended. Plus, a high launch angle brings the wind into the fray and, when hitting into the breeze, can cost you significant distance on a hole.
Conversely, a low launch angle produces piercing flight. Mix in a lack of ball speed, and your urethane hits the grass earlier than intended, costing you carry and total distance. According to Trackman, PGA Tour golfers have an average launch angle of 10.9 degrees, compared to the 12.6 degrees of the average golfer.
#3. Spin Rate
A low spin rate is part of the package required to blast a long drive down the fairway. A look into the statistics of the two-time Remax Long Drive Champion Tim Burke reveals how low spin compliments ball speed to send his ball way into the distance.
You notice how Burke generates a mere 1850 rpm of backspin, which registers 400 revolutions lower than Rory McIlroy, who ends approximately 70 yards short of Burke’s shot we discussed above. Despite producing fewer yards than Burke, McIlroy still generates 400 rpm less than his fellow PGA Tour members.
Trackman finds that average golfers with a 14.5 handicap create 3275 rpm of backspin with a driver, resulting in significantly lower yardage measurement to the pros.
#4. Smash Factor
The smash factor determines the level of energy transfer from the clubface to the golf ball at impact. An optimal smash factor produces maximum ball speed, giving you the best shot of delivering your longest tee shot recorded in a round. Ideally, you want a smash factor as close to 1.50 as possible, but most amateurs are far from achieving this.
Returning to Burke and McIlroy’s statistics, both players are up at the optimal level, with the former producing a 1.5 smash factor. McIlroy pushes it up to 1.51, highlighting his outstanding ball-striking qualities. However, the digits are quite different for those who play off a mid-handicap, notching up a 1.44 average.
If a player with a 100 mph swing speed produces a 1.51 smash factor, their ball speed will average 151 mph. Conversely, when the same club head speed conjures up a 1.44 smash factor, they only produce 144 mph of ball pace.
#5. Ball Speed
The final factor for a long drive is rapid ball speed to power your ball into the air and maintain forward momentum during flight. A high ball speed is only possible with a cleanly struck golf shot that finds the sweet spot of your driver.
After generating 141.3 mph clubhead speed and a 1.50 smash factor, Tim Burke achieved 211.9 mph, resulting in 380.6 yards of carry distance and 409.5 yards of total yardage. McIlroy, on the other hand, delivered a superior smash factor of 1.51. However, his reduced clubhead velocity of 118.6 mph led to 302.9 yards of carry and 330.8 yards of total distance.
The longest drive countdown in PGA Tour history is a fascinating tale of rolling cart paths, exceptional ball striking, golf courses at altitude, and unbelievable wind gusts. While some of the drives on our list were pure power, a few of them were only made possible due to the right conditions.
Some drives are not registered on the PGA Tour site because they were achieved in a match play or team event where statistics do not count towards formal records. I’ve also taken the liberty of two other drives that transpired before the ShotLink era when data of this nature became available.
#10. Luke List – 459 Yards
Number 10 on the list of longest drives in PGA history is one of several tee shots struck onto the fairways of the Plantation Course during the Sentry Tournament of Champions. However, unlike the commonly long par 5 18th, Luke List smashed his tee shot on the par 4 7th with views of Cook Pines and the Pacific Ocean in the backdrop.
List’s impressive work off the tee ended in disappointment, and he only got down for a par 4. However, he is the longest driver on the PGA Tour in 2023 and sits 3rd overall for driving distance average.
#9. Scott Stallings – 460 Yards
The ninth-longest drive on our list happened in 2022 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open when Scott Stallings hit a 460-yard tee shot on the 15th at TPC Scottsdale. The 15th hole is a reachable par 5 in 2 for most Tour pros, but Stallings wanted to make sure of it in the 2nd round of the 2022 edition.
He put everything into his tee shot and got down for a birdie 4 before carding a round of 70. It was enough to make the cut, and he finished the tournament in a tie for 21st.
#8. Dustin Johnson 463 yards
This is not the first time you will see Dustin Johnson’s name on the list, but his 463-yard drive is officially his longest on the PGA Tour. Although his 2018 WGC-Dell Match Play drive was longer, it does not count toward official stats. However, 463 yards are nothing to scoff at either, an achievement the 24-time PGA Tour winner managed at the 2011 Deutsche Bank Championship.
The drive in question occurred in the tournament’s final round on the 7th hole at TPC Boston. Despite his gigantic drive, it did not help overall as he sunk to a +4 net score for the day and closed out the event in a tie for 42.
#7. Charley Hoffman – 467 Yards
Charley Hoffman stepped onto the first tee in the third round of the 2009 Valero Texas Open and blasted his ball 467 yards into the distance. 2009 was the last year the Texas Open was played at La Cantera before moving to TPC San Antonio. The third round was plagued by inclement weather featuring torrential rain and elevated wind speeds, which may have added to Hoffman’s carry distance.
The San Diego native creates maximum coil on the backswing and is fully loaded at the top to release. He then produces lag in his swing by turning the left shoulder on the downswing and, through impact boosting momentum and power as he strikes the ball.
#6. Jeff Sluman – 473 Yards
Jeff Sluman’s 473-yard drive was achieved in 2003 in the 2nd round of the 2003 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic at the PGA West Stadium Course in La Quinta, California. The 5-foot 8-inch tall golfer stood on the 14th tee box and launched his ball 473 yards into the distance, recording the longest official drive recorded in PGA Tour history.
Historical weather data suggests the course was dry and hot that week, creating some additional roll upon landing. In addition, slight wind gusts were present to boost the ball in flight.
#5. Davis Love III – 476 Yards
One year after Jeff Sluman showed his distance capabilities, Davis Love III rocked up and outdrove the New Yorker by 3 yards. The 1997 PGA Championship winner smashed a 476-yard drive on the par 5 18th in the 4th round of the Mercedes Golf Championship at the Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii.
The 21-time PGA Tour winner delivered when it mattered most, and his mammoth tee shot was not in vain. He managed to capitalize on his proximity to the green and card a crucial birdie on the 72nd hole to secure a top-ten finish. It is worth noting that 27 of the top 30 drives in 2004 were recorded at the Mercedes Championship, which speaks volumes of the length potential on the Maui golf course.
Finally, the 18th hole, where Love III produced the goods, runs downhill. A long shot is possible, especially with the breeze at your back and a kick off the correct slop, which will see your ball running for plenty of yards compared to a regular hole.
#4. Dustin Johnson – 489 Yards
You will notice that Justin Thomas is credited with the longest drive in 2018 after a glance at the PGA Tour statistics page. However, it was, in fact, Dustin Johnson. Unfortunately, individual statistics do not count in team events like the 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Tournament when he bombed a 498-yard drive on the par 5, 12th hole at Austin Country Club.
Naturally, the cameras weren’t rolling when the 2016 U.S. Open champion achieved the feat, starving us of his pure athleticism. Johnson operates with a slightly upright posture and wide stance. Next, he ensures his knees are marginally bent, and his upper body is positioned back behind the golf ball, prompting maximal shoulder turn on the downswing and through impact.
Finally, he aims to increase the width of the backswing to generate increased power at the top to unleash on the downswing. He induces a low and gradual takeaway, affording him increased time to turn his upper body and wind up at the top of the backswing.
#3. Tiger Woods – 498 Yards
Tiger Woods enters the fray with his 498-yard drive, which the PGA Tour credits as the longest in 2002. For the second time in this content, the course in question was the Plantation Course at Kapalua in Maui. Like Davis Love III, Woods capitalized on the wind and downhill layout of the 18th hole to leave himself 170 yards in for his second shot.
Interestingly, most of the longest drivers in the top 30 hit their longest tee shot on the same hole. To highlight how easily the pros found this hole, one only needs to look down to the 28th longest drive on the PGA Tour that year, by Sergio Garcia. He hit a 429-yard drive, and it only snuck him into the top 30 for the season.
If I included every golfer who hit a long drive on that hole, the list would be filled only with drives from the 2002 Mercedes Championship. Furyk, Durant, Goosen, and Pernice Jr, all recorded drives over 480 yards on the same day.
#2. Mike Austin – 515 Yards
In 1974, Mike Austin did the unthinkable for a golfer at the U.S. National Seniors Open. Mike Austin stuck his peg in the ground on the 5th hole at Winterwood golf course in Las Vegas, Nevada, and swung a 43.5-inch Wilson driver, which struck a Balata golf ball.
The late Austin was 64 on that magical day, enjoying the help of a 20 mph tailwind and approximately 2,000 feet above sea level. Although no videos recorded the shot, Austin’s playing partner explained that the ball carried about 400 yards before rolling incessantly across the green, eventually stopping 65 yards past the cup.
At the time, the 515-yard drive was registered as a world record by the Guinness Book of World Records. Austin spent limited time on the PGA Tour and was plagued with an erratic short game. However, he used his talents for big hitting to coach and hustle to earn money.
Mike was a brilliant mind who obtained a degree in physics and engineering and a doctorate in Kinesiology. He used his knowledge to improve his clubhead speed, smash factor, and distance.
The key to Austin’s long-drive success stemmed from “Supple Quickness,” where he relaxed his core muscles, shifted his hips, and threw the club from the top. This was in contrast to every instructor promoting active core muscles and enhanced rotation.
#1. Carl Cooper – 787 Yards
The longest drive in PGA history is either sensational luck or bad luck, whichever way you see it. Carl Cooper etched himself into the record books with his 787-yard drive on the 3rd hole at Oak Hills Country Club. However, the ball left him with a full 4-iron followed by an 8-iron to get to the green. Sadly, lying 3 near the dancefloor required a chip and two putts to get down.
He walked off the third with the longest drive in history and a double bogey on the card. Score aside, this was one impressive outcome. Cooper opted for an oversize driver to send the ball home on the 456-yard par 4. However, he pushed it, and the ball stayed airborne for approximately 300 yards before using the momentum to kick and bounce along the cart path several times.
Officials determined his ball had travelled 787 yards from the tee box. However, the shot occurred prior to ShotLink capturing detailed data on every tour member. Those who witnessed can attest to the immensity of the tee shot, but the precision of the measurement remains questionable.
Let’s give a shout-out to some remarkable drives that didn’t make the top 10 list.
#1 Gary Woodland – 450 Yards
The Plantation Course at Kapalua is the gift that keeps on giving. In 2012 Gary Woodland leveraged the prevailing wind and downhill slope to smash a 450-yard drive down the 18th. At least he capitalized on the length as he managed to get down in 4 and remain even for the round and the tournament. Woodland has driven over 400 yards in 9 of his 14 years on tour and has a season’s best of 381 yards as of April 2023.
#2 Bubba Watson – 455 Yards
Bubba Watson deserves an honourable mention for his distance consistency over the years. From 2009 to 2022, the double Masters champion produced 400-plus-yard drives in all but three seasons. His longest drive on the PGA Tour came in the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock Hills, where he used a prevailing wind to carry his ball 455 yards.
#3 Louis Oosthuizen – 500 Yards
My compatriot Louis Oosthuizen pulled off a 500-yard drive at the Ballantine’s Championship in South Korea. Since it was on the DP World Tour, it didn’t qualify for this list, but it is worth mentioning. Like Cooper’s tee shot, the South African pushed his drive right, and the ball ended on a downhill sloping cart path, which helped it trickle slowly until resting at the 500-yard mark.
Get ready to tee off into the future of golf! Technological advancements in golf club manufacturing have sent shockwaves through the game, empowering professionals to unleash remarkable distances and masterful shots. However, the governing bodies are now facing an exhilarating challenge: striking the perfect balance between preserving the integrity of the sport and reigning in equipment assistance to prevent sky-high scores. The stage is set for an exciting era of innovation and regulation as golf courses may need to evolve, posing questions about land use, sustainability, and creating tailored experiences for players of all skill levels.
Potential For Further Technological Advancements
Manufacturers spend fortunes on research and development to make golf clubs faster and more forgiving to produce consistently long shots. In the last 20 years, technological advancements have revolutionized the distance professionals can achieve, and manufacturers show no sign of abating.
However, the challenge lies with the governing bodies of the game, who are looking to restrict the assistance provided by the equipment. If everyone consistently drives between 350 to 400 yards, it makes golf easy, and scores get out of hand. The perfect example is the Sentry Tournament of Champions in 2022, where Cam Smith won with a total score of 34 under par.
Impact on Golf course Design
Golf courses will need to be lengthened to make the game more challenging for the best players, which poses a challenge. It requires more land and natural resources, leading to a larger carbon footprint. In addition, it could create a need for professional golf courses and layouts for the average player.
Balancing Power and Precision in The Game
Dustin Johnson is a prime example of how to balance precision and power. He places the ball parallel to his left front heel, widens his stance, and increases his width on the backswing. This helps him wind up for the downswing, giving him optimal power to unleash. Finally, he turns his left shoulder on the downswing and through impact, creating lag and giving him time to square the clubface at contact and produce a straight strike.
The longest drive in PGA history highlights how anything is possible. Carl Cooper’s 787-yard drive will be remembered for generations and challenging to beat. Besides identifying the 10 longest drives in the Tours history, our review highlighted the attitude of the USGA and R&A towards long hitters.
Golf club manufacturers can access more data and information than ever, enabling them to constantly refine equipment. Every year, they marginally enhance the speed and forgiveness of a clubface, the recoil of a shaft, and the golf ball’s compressibility. However, innovation is in jeopardy with the impending changes to golf equipment conformity.
If the powers that be have their way, we may see a reduction in 400-plus yard drives on Tour. So, in the meantime, here is a recap of the current top 10 to enjoy:
- Luke List – 459 Yards
- Scott Stallings – 460 Yards
- Dustin Johnson 463 yards
- Charley Hoffman – 467 Yards
- Jeff Sluman – 473 Yards
- Davis Love III – 476 Yards
- Dustin Johnson – 489 Yards
- Tiger Woods – 498 Yards
- Mike Austin – 515 Yards
- Carl Cooper – 787 Yards
Before we close out our guide to the longest drives in PGA Tour history, I must address several frequently asked questions on the topic. Unsurprisingly, two of the questions revolve around Tiger Woods.
Carl Cooper is credited with the longest drive in PGA Tour history, amassing 787 yards on a par 4. However, this occurred before the distances were actively tracked by the Tour. As per the PGA Tours website, Tiger Woods holds the official record for the longest drive in the ShotLink era, with his 498-yard drive at the Mercedes Championship in 2002.
Carl Cooper has the longest drive on the PGA Tour in history, recording a 787-yard drive at the 1992 Texas Open. His ball hit a cart path and rolled over 400 yards before eventually coming to a stop.
Tiger Woods’s longest-ever drive is 498 yards which he achieved at the 2002 Mercedes Championship. He used a tail wind and the downhill sloping 18th at Kapalua to amass a sensational distance on the par 5 hole.
Yes, Tiger Woods has hit multiple 400-yard drives during his time on the PGA Tour, with his longest tee shot travelling 498 yards at the 2002 Mercedes Championship.
Tiger Woods and Sam Snead are tied for the most PGA Tour wins, lifting 82 trophies each in their careers.
No, there is no correlation between driving distance and success on the PGA Tour. Luke List, the longest hitter in 2023, currently sits 116th on the FedEx Cup rankings, having missed 8 cuts in 16 events this season. Scott Stallings is another example. After hitting a 460-yard drive in 2022, he finished the season missing 14 cuts. However, he finished strong in the BMW Championship to make up for a difficult season.
Yes, technology has impacted the length of drives in golf. Despite Mike Austin’s freakish drive and Carl Cooper’s cart path running shot, the longest drives have all occurred since 2000. Golf clubs have become more forgiving, the clubfaces are faster, and golf balls deliver low spin and speed off the tee.
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Matt is an expert golf writer with over 10 years of experience. He picked up a golf club for the first time 29 years ago and has not stopped swinging since. Matt writes product and course reviews for golf blogs targeting players in Canada and the United States. Matt's knowledge of the sport spreads across Golf Betting Tips, Golf Equipment, Golf Courses, Golf Trips, and Game Improvement Tips.