WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Air traffic controllers at Palm Beach International Airport might have noticed some blips on their radar recently, but not to worry.
It was just World Long Drive champion Kyle Berkshire and his buddies launching some bombs 4½ miles away at Bear Lakes Country Club. Berkshire and his pals can hit it high (250 feet) and hit it long.
How long? Berkshire broke the world record last month when he hit a 579-yard drive in favorable weather conditions at Rochelle Ranch Golf Course in Rawlins, Wyoming, about two weeks before he won his third world long driving title.
Think about that … Five hundred and seventy-nine yards, with a carry of 512. That’s twice as far as most pros hit it and three times as far as most amateurs. Who cares if the ball was helped by a tailwind of 17-22-mph with 6,700 feet of elevation (though the temperature was in the low 50s)? That would be long enough to drive almost every par-5 in the U.S.
“Oh, that’s it!” Berkshire screamed on video after his world-record drive. “That’s it!”
While having lunch in Bear Lakes’ new clubhouse last week, Berkshire reflected on that moment.
“When I caught that ball, I knew it was the hardest ball I hit,” said Berkshire, a 27-year-old Orlando resident who is known for his long dark hair. “It was also spinning enough to stay in the air with a tailwind. With the wind coming off the right, I had a 10-yard-wide window where the ball would carry into the fairway. It felt amazing.”
Berkshire understands most golf fans focus on the yardage of his drives, but he and his peers use the ball speed coming off their extended drivers as the true barometer of their talent. Berkshire set a world record with a ball speed of 241.6 mph.
When asked what means more to him, the world record or the championship belts he received for the three world titles, his answer was quicker than his swing.
“As an athlete, I care about that belt more than anything,” Berkshire said. “When my career is over, I want to leave a legacy of being the greatest. You have to have the belts. Like in basketball, you have to have the rings. If you want the belt, you have to be clutch.”
Berkshire had aspirations of someday playing on the PGA Tour when he was competing collegiately at North Texas, but that changed during a practice round his sophomore year. A backup on the course allowed his entire team and coaches to watch as he pumped a drive 440 yards on the 17th hole. It was at least 70 yards past everyone else.
“When my entire team and coach saw that, my path was pretty much set,” Berkshire said. “I had to decide if I thought I could make my (PGA Tour) card first or win a belt first. I felt I could get a belt in three years, and it would take six years to get a card.”
Turns out he’s as accurate as he is long: It took him three years to win his first world title. Now he’s not worried about the other.
“Once you have the belt, you can make a very, very good living out here,” he said, smiling.
The 2023 World Long Drive in Atlanta, where Kyle Berkshire won the title.
Berkshire has made millions by being known as the guy with the long hair who hits the ball a very long way. Berkshire said his bouffant happened organically.
“I went to the barbershop in early 2018, and the barber never showed up,” Berkshire said. “In a couple weeks, I played on TV and my hair was just long enough for announcer Jonathan Coachman to mention it. Once I heard that, I let I grow, and it became a thing.”
Berkshire was at Bear Lakes last week filming his ever-popular “Bombers Club” YouTube podcast with buddies Billy Ray, Bobby Bradley and Karol Priscilla. In the videos, they play matches, trade barbs and hit 400-yard drives while showing a cooler, younger side of golf.
While Berkshire said he loved the Jack Nicklaus-designed Lakes and Links courses, the Bombers Club folks didn’t mind making their own design: One of the competitions was hitting from the 15th fairway on the Lakes Course to the par-3 14th. It was a 341-yard carry — into the wind over water. Berkshire won by hitting his regular-length driver to 25 feet.
“I love doing the show because I can be myself,” he said. “People only see me in a serious lens when I’m competing. This allows me to show my personality.”
Kellie Stenzel, a teacher who has worked with Berkshire on the Bombers Club, said don’t be fooled by his image.
“It’s easy to look at him and say he’s the long-drive guy with the long hair,” said Stenzel, a Palm Beach Gardens resident. “But when Kyle starts to talk, he’s so smart and thoughtful. There is an intelligence behind the talent.
“And who doesn’t want to hit the ball farther? We all dream of that.”
Berkshire agreed that there is more of a mental approach to his sport than most fans believe. It’s not just hit, scream and hit again.
“A lot of people think long drive is just bashing a ball over and over, but there’s a skill to it,” he said. “If you both swing the same speed and one hits it further, that’s the skill of the game. That’s why the fast guy doesn’t always win. We’re not just wailing away with no regard to consistency or accuracy.”
Berkshire is friends with major champion Bryson DeChambeau and they often talk about their search for more clubhead speed and distance. Unlike DeChambeau, Berkshire has yet to experience his dream of playing on the PGA Tour (hear that, The Classic in The Palm Beaches officials?) or Korn Ferry Tour on a sponsor exemption. Why not? We all love the long ball.
“I play mini-tour events, and I can hang with them,” Berkshire said of professionals. “I’m not getting blown out. I usually shoot low-70s.”
The only concern: Is there a course long enough?