What is the PLDA? How Long Drivers Make it to the Pros

By Nick Heidelberger

Joe Miller driver backswing

The Professional Long Drivers Association is still in its infancy, founded in June of 2020. But the start-up long drive league was the talk of the golf world by September of 2021. What exactly spawned the birth of the PLDA, and what happened to its predecessor, the World Long Drive Championship? Here’s the long and the short of professional long drive today.

History of the PLDA

In June of 2020, the World Long Drive Association, which had been owned by the Golf Channel via Comcast since 2015, notified its long drivers that the 2020 season finale was canceled, like so many other events in 2020. Not only that, the WLD was up for sale, creating an opportunity for a new long drive league. That’s when the PLDA opened its doors with the mission to be the world’s premier long drive league.

The casual golf fan probably didn’t notice the shift in long drive governing body power until 2021, when noted PGA Tour long hitter Bryson DeChambeau helped Team USA win the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straights then went straight to the PLDA World Championship in Mesquite, Nevada. 

DeChambeau’s run to the PLDA World Championship finals shined a bright light on the PLDA itself. The low-tech, high-energy YouTube live stream lent a charming vibe to long drive that fit the sport like a glove.

PLDA World Championship Qualifying

Think you have what it takes to compete with the big hitters? The PLDA invites you to try its fascinating World Championship qualifying process.

The first step is to enter a local qualifier. Unlike an 18-hole U.S. Open local qualifier, the PLDA World Championship local qualifier allows participants to purchase attempts in batches of six balls for $50 per attempt. The more qualifying attempts per site, the more regional spots are awarded.

Bombers who advance through local qualifying advance to a regional qualifier. At the Regional qualifier, four hitters are in the tee box at a time, competing head-to-head in a double-elimination showdown, and one out of every 10 participants earns a berth into the World Championships. 

PLDA Members are also free to compete in any PLDA Tour event on the schedule, which are hosted in conjunction with World Championship qualifying.

Long Drive Trackman Numbers

If you’re wondering how your game stacks up to the planet’s longest hitters, have a look. On the left, we’ve got world long drive champion Kyle Berkshire’s stats from a then-record-breaking drive from 2019. For comparison’s sake, we’ve got Dustin Johnson’s driver data. Of course, the two players use use different equipment, as long drive drivers are a little different than standard drivers.

The next time you measure your swing on a launch monitor, jot down your numbers on a hit-it-as-far-as-you-can swing and see how they compare to these two prodigious drivers.

Category

Kyle Berkshire

Dustin Johnson

Swing Speed

154 MPH

121 MPH

Ball Speed

228 MPH

181 MPH

Launch Angle

 

13.6 degrees

Spin

2681 RPM

2016 RPM

Carry

394 Yards

346 Yards

Total

398 Yards

377 Yards

PLDA Divisions

While the PLDA is the go-to league for the world’s best drivers, the organization has a spot for almost anyone who wants to get involved in long drive. In addition to the Open (professional) division, the PLDA has Amateur, Senior and Women’s divisions.

How Much Money Do Long Drivers Make?

Kyle Berkshire won the 2022 Sunshine Smash - great name, by the way - and showed off an oversized $8,000 winner’s check for his efforts. Not a bad payday for the winner, to be sure, but it also illustrates the fact that not many players can make a living solely as a competitive long driver. Once travel, equipment, registration and coaching costs are factored in, that margin slims.

By comparison, the same day on the Korn Ferry Tour, the eight players who tied for 16th at the Visit Knoxville Open cashed just over $10,000, and the eight professionals who tied for 50th earlier in the month at the LPGA’s Founder’s Cup cashed a little over $9,000.

Hit It Hard

The PLDA continues to grow and as Berkshire dabbles into the traditional form of professional golf while PGA Tour superstar Bryson DeChambeau dabbles into the long drive world, the cross-pollination between the two sports is growing as well.

About the Author

Nick Heidelberger is the Editor of GolfLink. He has a degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and has been an avid golfer for more than 10 years. In the years prior to joining GolfLink, he worked for the New England Section of the PGA of America.