The 18th hole on the Plantation Course at the Kapalua Resort in Hawaii is a veritable launching pad for PGA Tour pros. The 663-yard behemoth is the final hole at the annual season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, and has accounted for more than 25 percent of the 400-yard drives on the PGA Tour since 2003.
Thus, it seemed like the perfect location for Golf Channel to unveil their new "Callaway Driving Grid", a graphical representation that measures the yardage of tee shots.
Similar to the visible "First and 10" lines used during NFL broadcasts, the Callaway Driving Grid's graphic lines were marked off in 25-yard increments in the fairway at No. 18.
As if the PGA Tour didn't already have enough statistical data to document the power of some of the game's longest hitters, this Driving Grid proved to be not only an instant graphical representation on television to show the viewing public—but an instant hit—creating a long-drive contest the likes of which professional golf has never seen before.
With names like Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson, two of the PGA Tour's longest hitters, paired together in the early rounds at Kapalua, plenty of excitement was generated as a kind of "game within a game" to see who could produce the longest drives for the week.
When all was said and done, however, it was Ian Poulter who had the longest drive of the week at No. 18 with a 391-yard blast during the second round. Then, Scott Stallings and Mark Leishman each had 386-yard drives during the first and third rounds, respectively.
No. 18 didn't surrender any 400-yard drives this year, but it did play as the easiest of the competition, rendering an average score of 4.37 with five eagles and 48 birdies.
Mother Nature prevented the championship from going the usual four rounds and even pushed the shortened 54-hole tournament ahead two days to a Tuesday finish, where the aforementioned Johnson captured the $1.1 million first place prize with a 16-under-par total.
I love the addition of the Callaway Driving Grid to produce even more excitement at specific holes throughout the year. Protracer technology is still the best tool to visually follow any given shot in professional golf, but a concept like this—a long-drive contest within a golf tournament that builds anticipation and adds interest to the game—is certainly worth trying.
The Callaway Driving Grid is back in action this week at the Sony Open on the 16th hole at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu and will be featured at six-to-eight other PGA Tour events this season.