As golf club technology advances, players are driving the ball straighter, farther and with more consistency off the tee. Often, players on the PGA Tour build their game around long drives to create short approach shots, sometimes sacrificing trajectory for a few dozen extra yards off the tee. So with the advent of bigger, more advanced drivers, who has the longest recorded shot in the history of the sport? The answer might surprise you.
Ideal Weather Conditions
The best conditions for long hitters are hot, dry areas. The air thickens in cooler temperatures, creating more resistance to ball flight. In addition, hitting at altitude will also add distance as the thin air provides less resistance than air closer to sea level.
Longest Recorded PGA Tour Drive - 515 Yards
In Sept. 25, 1974, Mike Austin rocketed a drive 515 yards on a 450 yard par 4 with a persimmon wood driver while competing in the U.S. National Senior Open Championship at Desert Rose Resort, Las Vegas. What's even more amazing was that Austin, now deceased, was 64 at the time he set the record.
Weather and altitude played a role in Austin's 515 yard drive. Weather reports for the day report potential hot tailwinds of up to 35 mph. The Las Vegas course is at an altitude of over 2,000 feet above sea level. Despite this advantage, it is important to remember Austin was using a wooden club and a balata ball, both of which have been replaced by more technologically advanced equipment. The closest drive at a PGA Tour event occurred in 2004 with much more modern equipment, Davis Love III's respectable 476 yarder at the Mercedes Championship.
Austin's Unconventional Swing
Austin's secret, as he said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, is his use of physics. Austin applied his undergraduate degree in physics and his doctoral in kinesiology to his swing. The result, Austin said, was something you wouldn't see PGA pros emulate today because his swing relied more on the uniformity of muscle movement rather than raw strength and power. It's also worth noting that despite his impressive drive, he still recorded a bogey on the hole.
An Otherworldly Drive - 1 Million Miles
If you want to be literal about the longest drive ever recorded, you'd have to give it to American astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, although he did have an unfair advantage. Using a six-iron, Lopez-Alegria struck a ball one-handed while tethered to the International Space Station in 2004. NASA predicts the ball will fly approximately 1 million miles before disintegrating into Earth's atmosphere.