Scotland: 500-yard tee shot

MIGHTY SMACK: Lanark GC’s Stephen Wills

Has Stephen Wills just hit the longest drive ever seen in Britain?

SCOTLAND: Monday, March 14th

In the last ten years we have got increasingly used to top golfers hitting drives in excess of 350 yards.

However prodigious length off the tee was taken to a new level yesterday (Sunday) when a Scottish amateur sent his drive more than 500 yards.

Playing in a fourball at Gullane, Stephen Wills, a scratch player from Lanark GC, stood on the 11th tee with a 30mph wind ready to take his ball to new heights.

And the 44-year-old nailed his drive up the righthand side of the fairway so it easily sailed over the flat part of the hole and just kept going.

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The second half of the 470-yarder is all downhill but, as he searched for his ball in and around the bunker at the 350-yard mark, he became worried the ball was lost.

He and his partners carried on searching and the bunker at 410 yards, on the left handside of the fairway, was investigated but still no luck.

It wasn’t until one of his opponents decided to look behind the green that the mystery was solved. Garry Tetley, who is a member at Craigielaw, had driven it nearly 400 yards himself and, luckily for Stephen, spotted it in the deep stuff.

Once the ball was identified the players were able to pinpoint the exact distance using their GPS devices… a mind-boggling 501 yards.

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“I was in a bit of a state of shock,” said Stephen. “I thought I was looking at a lost ball until Garry shouted over.

“Although, in the end, it was a good job my playing partner Tim Gardiner hit his second to a foot and got a birdie because I had a horrendous lie and could only hack it out just short of the putting surface.

“I once drove into the Valley of Sin on the 18th at St Andrews, which was about 340 yards, but my normal carry is 260-270 so I just couldn’t believe it had gone that far.

“The fairway wasn’t soft. It is a links course but in the summer it is rock hard and we worked out it must have carried the bunker up the right (at 350 yards).

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“The fairway slopes right to left and there is no way it could have got to its resting place without landing right on the right edge of the fairway and then working its way to the left.”

Officially the world’s longest drive, incredibly, was set by a then 64-year-old in 1974. At the US Senior National Open qualifier, Mike Austin, using a persimmon driver, sent his drive 515 yards.

The advance of long-drive competitions has seen 500 yards exceeded at the South African Long Drive Championship in 2012 when Nico Grobbelaar reached 506 yards.

And Stephen has been working with his coach Paul McDonald (Bishopbriggs) through the winter on increasing his swing speed using a speedstick… clearly to good effect although he and Gullane member Tim lost the match 3&2 to Garry and Gerry Seydak.