Long Blacks

Sport of long drive hits new heights out West

If you haven’t yet heard of long drive as a sport, then you will do shortly. One of the fastest-growing sports in NZ, long drive involves hitting a golf ball as far as possible. Professional long drivers regularly average an incredible 320m in competitions.

And soon, Westies will be able to give the sport a go. A dedicated indoor training centre is due to open in 2022 in northwest Auckland.

Olna Ford, the enthusiastic and passionate CEO and President of New Zealand Long Drive, is one of the main reasons behind the sport’s growth.

Already popular in other parts of the world, Olna was responsible for bringing two international long driver athletes to a golf event back in 2016. The speed and skill of the long drivers was a big hit. And from those early days, the sport has gone from strength to strength.

The NZ national team – the Long Blacks, was set up in 2017. The apt name was chosen by popular vote on the hit TV show, the Crowd Goes Wild.

The NZ Long Blacks regularly compete at international events. And the hotly contested annual trans-Tasman clash against the Aussies is always a highlight of the calendar.

Olna has big plans to grow the sport at the grassroots level.

‘Anyone can get involved,’ she says. ‘We have recently set up a para-athlete association. And we are keen to get into schools and colleges. We want more junior players to give it a go as it’s great fun.’

The sports’ governing body, the IGANZ, was delighted to be recognised as a national sporting organisation recently. What’s more, IGANZ has succeeded in getting long drive officially listed as a high-performance sport away from golf.

With its headquarters in Hobsonville Point, Olna and the team are committed to spreading the word about long drive in West Auckland.

‘We have great plans for the performance centre, which is due to open next year in northwest Auckland,’ she says.

‘The IGANZ has partnered with US-based OptiShot Golf to provide the very latest golf simulator technology at our driving ranges,’ continues Olna.

The sport’s profile recently received a boost when NZ long driver Phillis Meti was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. Phillis is the female world record holder for the longest ball with an impressive 406 yards (371m). She will be trying to better her world record at a special event at Parakai airport in the spring. Keep an eye on IGNZA’s Facebook page for all the latest news.

Long drive is an enjoyable sport that’s suitable for all ages. If you’d like to try it out, then get in touch with Olna Ford on 021 260 4802. More information is available at www.iganz.co.nz.