How driving distance has changed over the past 40 years on the PGA Tour

By
Daniel Wilco
PGA.com

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Tuesday, July 03, 2018 | 11:34 a.m.

In 1997, John Daly became the first golfer on the PGA Tour to average more than 300 yards per drive. That year, he was more than 30 yards longer than the average Tour player.

Now, 21 years later, the entire PGA Tour averages 295.3 yards off the tee — the longest average ever. By the way that stat has been increasing over the past five years, don’t be surprised to see the Tour’s average break the 300 mark by 2024.

In 1980 (the first year that the PGA Tour’s driving distance stats are available), Dan Pohl led the field while averaging 274.3 yards per drive. The Tour average was a meek 256.89 yards.

RELATED: 15 longest drives on the PGA Tour since 2010

Since then, the average driving distance has steadily increased, rocketing upwards in the ‘90s and early 2000s. For 13 years — from 1994 until 2006 — the average increased every year, which is the longest such string since 1980. During that stretch, Daly led the Tour off the tee eight years in a row.

While the progress has cooled off some since the mid-2000s, the average driving distance has increased every year since 2013 and is currently at its all-time high.

MORE: You might not be able to crush driver like Dustin Johnson, but you absolutely can get more distance off the tee. Here's how.

For reference, this is what the PGA Tour says about its method for recording this stat: "The average number of yards per measured drive. These drives are measured on two holes per round. Care is taken to select two holes which face in opposite directions to counteract the effect of wind. Drives are measured to the point at which they come to rest regardless of whether they are in the fairway or not."

Here’s the average driving distance and overall leader for every year since 1980:

Year Average Distance Leader Leader's average
2018 295.29 Trey Mullinax 318
2017 292.79 Rory McIlroy 316.7
2016 291.06 J.B. Holmes 314.5
2015 290.21 Dustin Johnson 317.7
2014 289.85 Bubba Watson 314.3
2013 288.00 Luke List 306.3
2012 290.07 Bubba Watson 315.5
2011 291.14 J.B. Holmes 318.4
2010 287.49 Robert Garrigus 315.5
2009 288.07 Robert Garrigus 312
2008 287.74 Bubba Watson 315.1
2007 289.08 Bubba Watson 315.2
2006 289.35 Bubba Watson 319.6
2005 288.88 Scott Hend 318.9
2004 287.32 Hank Kuehne 314.4
2003 286.30 Hank Kuehne 321.4
2002 279.84 John Daly 306.8
2001 279.35 John Daly 306.7
2000 273.18 John Daly 301.4
1999 272.45 John Daly 305.6
1998 270.63 John Daly 299.4
1997 267.67 John Daly 302
1996 266.49 John Daly 288.8
1995 263.55 John Daly 289
1994 261.84 Davis Love III 283.8
1993 260.36 John Daly 288.9
1992 260.52 John Daly 283.4
1991 261.44 John Daly 288.9
1990 262.75 Tom Purtzer 279.6
1989 261.81 Ed Humenik 280.9
1988 263.50 Steve Thomas 284.6
1987 262.50 John McComish 283.9
1986 261.58 Davis Love III 285.7
1985 260.18 Andy Bean 278.2
1984 259.61 Bill Glasson 276.5
1983 258.65 John McComish 277.4
1982 256.89 Bill Calfee 275.3
1981 259.66 Dan Pohl 280.1
1980 256.89 Dan Pohl 274.3