Could we see a 500-yard drive at a baked-out Carnoustie?

July 18, 2018

The heat wave roasting the United Kingdom is also drying out Carnoustie to lightning fast speeds. (Last month was one of the hottest and driest Junes on record in the past 100 years in the U.K.) These conditions beg the question: Could we see a 500-yard drive this week at the British Open?

Between the conditions, fairways and opportunity for helping wind, players are already glimpsing the potential for monster drives at Carnoustie. In his press conference on Tuesday, Dustin Johnson said that he hit it in the burn short of the green on the par-4 499-yard 18th. In 2017 and 2018, Johnson set the official record for the longest drives on the PGA Tour for the season, at 439 yards and 430 yards, respectively.

But at Carnoustie, the opportunities for a 500-yard-plus drive are likely limited to a few holes: No. 6, a 580-yard par 5; No. 12, a 503-yard par 4; No. 14, a 513-yard par 5; and No. 18. Last week at the Scottish Open Rickie Fowler smashed a 458-yard drive at Gullane Golf Club, which is not far from Carnoustie and is dealing with similar conditions.

The longest drive on the PGA Tour since 2001 was officially hit by Stuart Appleby at the Buick Challenge that same year, according to the PGA Tour’s statistics page. Appleby’s drive went 557 yards, and that year another seven players also posted drives over 500 yards, either at the Buick or the Invensys Classic at Las Vegas. The only other player to come close to 500 is Tiger Woods, whose 498-yard drive at the Mercedes Championships came in 2002. ShotLink, which was fully implemented in 2003, made more accurate reporting possible. Before ShotLink, drives were measured using spray-painted lines, which were painted every 10 yards. Volunteers mapped the distance by walking it off and counting the lines–a process fairly prone to human error.

Dustin Johnson could hit some booming drives at a dry Carnoustie during the British Open.
Dustin Johnson could hit some booming drives at a dry Carnoustie during the British Open.
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In the ShotLink era, the longest drive record is owned by Davis Love III’s 476-yard bomb at the 2004 Mercedes Championships. In 2018, Johnson hit a 489-yard drive at the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play, but the Tour does not include match play statistics in its official records for drives.

Before ShotLink, another golfer posted a very big number on the Tour: Carl Cooper’s 787-yard drive at the 1992 Texas Open. But not everyone includes Cooper’s drive because the distance was aided by the presence of a downhill, concrete cart path.