I nailed the 5-iron straight into the trees on the right. Annoyed, I shoved the offending club back into the bag wishing I had thrown caution to the wind and played a driver after all. Curse you conservative golf brain!
“Hey, this is the longest drive hole, isn’t it?”. Initially I thought my partner was playing a cruel joke on me, but he was right.
As the salt hit the already large wound, I remembered that the 12th had been appointed the longest drive hole for the day. Long drive competitions are usually played out on long holes or at least on holes where golfers are left with no doubt that the driver is the only option. Nevertheless, today it was a short but not quite drivable par-4, and I was not going to take home the bottle of wine.
Initially I thought the short, narrow hole of choice was to encourage accuracy over brute strength, which would give a slightly larger percentage of the field a chance to win the prize. Because the truth is, long drive competitions are mostly won by golfers that can hit the ball a long way. You only need one of them to hit it straight and it is all over.
I realise that is straight from the book of ‘state the bleedin’ obvious’ but when you think about it, most golfers have more chance of playing Augusta National or dating Ana Ivanovic, than winning the longest drive competition. Only a few gifted golfers have a good chance of winning. Perhaps no more than 20% of the field on any given day. This seems to me, to go against the spirit of the game.
This may be starting to sound like sour grapes, but I should say that I have won a couple of long drive competitions in my time. Not many, but I have taken away a few vouchers when the field is small or erratic enough.
The admiration from fellow golfers was always tempered by the distinct feeling that most of the golfers I had ‘beaten’ were not really in with a chance to win in the first place. It was like winning a competition that was only open to people born on a Tuesday.
Handicaps allow for every skill level of golfer to compete against each other. It levels the playing field and gives us all a fighting chance of winning the plaid jacket, the bottle of wine or pro shop gift voucher. To then go and include a game that excludes most of the field from winning just doesn’t seem right.
Of course, there have been some variations on the long drive competition. Some prizes are awarded to not just the longest drive, but also the most accurate. A much fairer competition in the age of big drivers, but still not exactly a fair playing field.
So I wonder, do we really need this ‘grip and rip’ competition in our corporate, charity and tournament golf days? With all the talk about how far the modern golf ball is going, we aren’t exactly deterring golfers from playing a more shot-shaping, intellectual golf game. Do we really need this extra incentive to hit the ball further at the expense of accuracy and finesse?
Let’s bring in more nearest-the-pin competitions. Maybe one on every par-3 for each grade and ditch the longest drive altogether. Those Bubba’s of the charity golf days get enough pleasure and admiration from spanking the ball a mile, without getting a medal for it as well.