Many golfers think that swing speed is the only way to increase ball speed and ultimately the distance the golf ball travels. This is false. Before we discuss the other factors that affect ball speed and distance we need to talk about the relationship between swing speed and ball speed. Swing speed is defined as how fast the club head is moving at impact, while ball speed is defined as how fast the golf balls center of gravity is moving just after it leaves the clubface. Ball speed will always be higher than club head speed due to the transfer of energy from the clubhead to the golf ball. If you take a golfers ball speed and divide their swing speed from that, you will get what is known as smash factor.
A golfer that has a ball speed of 150mph and a swing speed of 100mph then their smash factor is 1.5. This number tells you how effectively energy is being transferred from clubhead to the golf ball. The higher the smash factor the more energy is being transferred. The USGA has put a limit on smash factor on to 1.5 when club manufactures submit new designs. A smash factor of 1.5 for a driver, around 1.39 for a 6 iron, and around 1.25 for a pitching wedge means you’re hitting the ball with optimal efficiency. It is important to note that increasing the loft of the golf club will decrease smash factor. According to Trackman, the PGA Tour average smash factor with a driver is 1.49 and a 6 iron is 1.38. The LPGA Tour average for driver is 1.49 and 6 iron is 1.39.
Male Amateur Averages (Driver)
- Scratch or better – 1.49
- 5 Handicap – 1.45
- 10 Handicap – 1.45
- 15 handicap – 1.44
Female Amateur Averages (Driver)
- Scratch or better – 1.46
- 5 Handicap – 1.45
- 10 Handicap – 1.44
- 15 handicap – 1.41
As mentioned before swing speed isn’t the only thing that affects ball speed. While increase swing speed will likely increase ball speed and overall distance there are many factors that also affect ball speed and increasing your swing speed is most likely not the fastest way to increase overall distance. Improving how efficient you hit the golf ball is the quickest way to increase distance. Smash factor is a measure of how efficient you are hitting the golf ball, but what factors make up that efficiency? There are 3 main factors that make up how efficient you hit the golf ball.
- Centeredness of contact
- Angle of attack
- Face angle in relation to club path
Centeredness of contact and angle of attack are two major factors that affect ball speed and efficiency. If you aren’t hitting the golf ball in the center of the face you will be adding side spin to the golf ball causing the ball to either hook or slice and reducing the efficiency of the strike. If your angle of attack is too steep in the downswing you are going to create more spin which will diminish the penetrating effect of the golf ball. Finally The face angle in relation to the club path plays a major role in the amount of side spin that is put on the golf ball. If the face angle and the club path don’t balance each other out, then there will be too much side spin on the ball and you will not hit the ball with optimal efficiency. The quickest way to increase your ball speed and to get more overall distance in your golf game is to improve your smash factor by focusing on centeredness of contact, angle of attack, and face angle in relation to club path.
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Joseph, C. (2018). Golfweek. Retrieved from Swing Speed vs. Ball Speed: golftips.golfweek.com
Practical Golf. (2017). Why is Smash Factor So Important. Retrieved from Practical Golf: practical-golf.com
Trackman. (2014). What is Smash Factor. Retrieved from Trackman Golf : blog.trackmangolf.com
Trackman. (2017). What is Ball Speed. Retrieved from Trackman Golf: blog.trackman.com