Golf Ball Speed

Golf ball speed is the TRUE measure of distance

Your ball speed is the speed in which the golf ball leaves the club face after impact. This ball speed is always going to be faster than your actual swing speed or club head speed because of the laws of physics…again a topic for another website. But just like tennis, football, baseball…heck, even shot put, the speed at which the ball is projected off of the club face, racket or out of the hand, this speed is the most determining factor in the distance the ball will travel all things being equal.

Let’s explore how to go about maximizing ball speed.

At the moment of inertia (MOI), the power and momentum that you have built up with proper balance and timing in your golf swing in the way of club head speed is transferred to the golf ball. Generating the club head speed is the most important aspect for creating more distance in our golf shots. Increasing your club head speed is the single biggest factor you can control that will immediately lead to results.

Your balance and proper timing in your golf swing will help increase your club head speed. This is done by turning away from the ball in your backswing and creating a tight “coil” in your midsection. Then by cocking your wrists to about a 90 degree angle at the top of your backswing. Once your weight is shifted in your backswing, you have to properly get your weight shifted back to your left side (if you’re right handed) during your downswing. This is done in the following order: driving your right knee toward your left, begin rotating your hips (let your lower body start the downswing to maximize the torsion in your midsection), letting your hands “fall” into the slot, your upper body begins to catch up with your lower body which is releasing a lot of energy and club head speed, and now finally release your hands, un-cocking your wrists which really whips the club head around the arc of the golf swing into the back of the ball.
  1. Turning your body away from the ball creating the necessary coil
  2. Obtain 90 degree wrist cock
  3. Load your weight on your backswing, and transfer it on the downswing and follow-through
  4. Realeasing your wrists
All of these key pieces to the golf swing, if done with the proper balance, and impeccable timing will maximize your club head speed. Sounds easy enough right? Not so fast…as we all know. The order of events that make up the perfect golf swing takes years for most people to grasp….and unfortunately, some never do.

The timing in the golf swing is what it’s all about. If you build up all your power on your backswing and are primed to release the club into the ball with the proper weight shift, and then end up un-cocking your wrists too soon, you’ve just lost all your club head speed. Same thing if you release your wrists too late…the ball has already left the club face, and misses out on all of the momentum that is generated from the proper wrist release.

The golf swing is like a dance step that has to be in unison, and all of your body parts have to work together to make it a masterpiece…now just do that the same way 60 to 70 times in a round of golf consistently. It’s no wonder this game is so hard. I don’t mean to scare you here, but it’s the truth…this game is difficult to excel in. But at the same time, that’s why it’s so fun. Cause if it were easy, everyone would do it…oh wait, most everyone does it already anyway.

Once you release your club head speed into the ball, now you have to take advantage of all of that pent up speed by centering up the ball as close to the sweet spot on the club face as possible. The closer to the sweet spot the ball is struck, the more efficient the transfer of club head speed to ball speed there will be. Therefore, you won’t lose the club head speed that you’ve worked tirelessly on the range to help create. The more center on the club face you impact the ball, the greater your ball speed will be because this is how golf clubs are made.

Club shaft flex will help you to some degree in increasing club head speed, and likewise ball speed because of the “trampoline” effect. If your club shaft is married well to your swing type and speed, the flex in the shaft that is created on the downswing will release at the perfect time, the moment of impact, adding that much more ball speed as the ball leaves the club face. It’s like getting that last little boost. If you’ve ever jumped on a trampoline with another person, you know exactly what that ball is feeling like when it gets whipped off of the club face by the perfect timing of the release of the shaft flex.

And of course the metal in which your clubs are constructed with will play a role in the ball speed. The harder the metal like titanium, the more ball speed you’ll achieve. As well as the type of ball you play will also impact the maximum speed in which you are able to achieve based on your swing speed. Keep in mind, a softer golf ball might actually help you increase your ball speed based on your swing speed. Although this sounds backwards, it’s true. Think of it this way. If you have a slower swing speed, hitting a harder ball might actually feel like hitting a rock because you aren’t able to compress the ball properly to get that “spring” off of the club face (much the same as the trampoline effect mentioned above). The ball kind of acts like a pogo stick as it compresses on the club face and then jumps off.

So as a rule, for slower swing speeds, a softer ball will actually optimize your ball speed. While a harder ball will work better for those with faster swing speeds. All of these factors lead up to what we call in the golf world as smash factor.

Smash Factor

The ratio between your ball speed and your club head speed is what is referred to as “smash factor”. If you take your ball speed and divide that by your club head speed, the resulting value is what is known as your smash factor. As we’ve mentioned thus far, there are a number of things that will determine smash factor:
  • How close to the sweet spot on the club face the golf ball is struck
  • How well your shaft flex is matched to your swing speed
  • Material in which the club face is made of (steel, titanium, tungsten, etc.)
  • Type of ball you use
Club head speed plays no factor in smash factor, because the smash factor is only the ratio between the club head speed and ball speed. For example, I could have a swing speed of 75 mph, and a ball speed of 112 mph, and my smash factor would be 1.5 (if you do the math, 112/75). At the same time, I could have a swing speed of 115 and a ball speed of 172 mph, and would achieve the same smash factor of 1.5. In the example, the swing speeds were different by 40 mph, but the smash factor was the same.

The key in swing speed is to also look at your smash factor, because a swing speed of 115 mph with a smash factor of 1.3 will only result in a ball speed of 150 mph. While a swing speed of 10 mph less at 105 mph and a smash factor of 1.55 will result in a ball speed of 163 mph. It’s not always the harder swings that euate to the most distance. It’s a mix of both power and precision, matched with the correct equipment that will maximize your ball speed, and ultimately your distance.

Off center hits on the club face can result in losing between 10 and 20% of your ball speed than if you hit the ball on the sweet spot. To recap, this is the order of events and the cause and effect relationship for maximizing your distance:

Swing speed along with proper golf swing mechanics will lead to the optimized club head speed. Ball speed is a product of: club head speed, how close to the sweet spot the golf ball is struck, shaft flex based on your swing speed, type of golf ball you play and the material your club face is made from.

For every 1 mph you increase your ball speed, your golf ball will travel 2.5 yards further. Conversely, this works the other way around as well.

Ball speed is THE number one metric you need to focus on increasing to add distance to your golf shots. Because it’s the ball speed value that ultimately has the final say as to how far your golf ball travels in the air. We’ve just learned the factors that go into creating ball speed. Since ball speed is the number that you need to most concern yourself in increasing, you need to know what yours is, and experiment with your golf clubs and different shots to see which swings produce the optimum ball speed. Now you can know YOUR ball speed.

Knowing your club head speed and ball speed numbers is as important to the health of your golf game as knowing your blood pressure and cholesterol to help determine your overall physical health. If you’re serious about improving your golf game and maximizing your distance, click here.

Launch Angle

Your launch angle is exactly what it sounds like…it’s the angle at which the ball leaves the club face. Optimizing your launch angle for your swing is another factor that goes into affecting overall distance. This of course can be altered by the club’s natural loft angle, ball placement at setup in your stance, and angle of attack that you swing the golf club at. On a driver for example, most drivers have a loft between 8 and 12 degrees. Generally speaking, the longer you can hit the ball, the lower the launch angle should be. So for bigger hitters, you will want to have a driver that has a lower loft, like 8 or 9 degrees, or maybe less in order to achieve your optimum launch angle so as to maximize your distance.

Conversely, shorter hitters want to have a higher launch angle to maximize distance with their drives. So drivers with at least 10.5 degrees of loft will benefit your game better.

Distance is most sought after from the tee while hitting a driver. So that’s where most of the research has been done, because the demand to hit longer drives will always be part of the game. Because the driver is the only club in your bag in which you should be impacting the ball with a slight up-stroke, you will be adding a couple extra degrees on your launch angle because of this. So to achieve your overall optimum launch angle, you need to add the number of degrees of loft on your driver with the angle of attack in which you impact that ball with your club head.

Depending on your stance, this value will be anywhere from between zero and five degrees. So if you’re one that needs more launch angle on your shots based on your swing speed, then you should consider moving the ball up a pinch more in your stance, and slightly angling your spine away from the ball at address to help create more of an upward approach as the club head impacts the ball.

If you know your club head speed, you can determine your optimum launch angle here.

Revolutions Per Minute (RPMs)

The revolutions that your golf ball makes in a minute is also a measurement that is studied to help optimize distance. The higher the RPMs on your golf ball, the more backspin it will have, and the higher in the air it will fly. This is good to a point, until it reaches the optimum height. So if you’re hitting the ball with a high launch angle and high RPMs, you’re not hitting the ball as optimally far as you could be.

There is an optimum relationship between ball speed, launch angle and RPMs that is sought after to maximize distance. Based on what your ball speed is off of the club, you should be trying to obtain a specific launch angle and corresponding RPM value that will optimize the distance the ball flies.

It’s not just about how fast you swing the club, but it’s about having the optimum club shaft flex for your swing, making solid contact on the sweet spot on a consistent basis, and upgrading your clubs to take advantage of the new technology and the harder metals like titanium that club faces are now made from.

If you’re serious about improving your game, increasing your distance and putting as many of the factors that go into this game of golf in your favor as you can, you should look into getting custom fitted for the appropriate equipment.

If you don’t know your swing speed, smash factor, launch angle, golf ball RPMs….there’s probably a whole lot more distance out there for you to capture that you’re missing out on by pairing the right equipment for your swing.

If you don’t know your numbers, you won’t know how best to go about treating them. To start, you need to know your swing speed in order to know if your club shafts are right for your swing. This is the starting point. As you get more advanced you should get tested to see what your average ball speed is, or better yet, get your own ball speed monitor if you’re truly serious about increasing your distance, and continue to narrow it down to determine if your launch angle and backspin are within range for your ball speed.

Optimum Ball Speed, Launch Angle and Backspin Relationship Chart

Ball Speed (mph)

Launch Angle (degrees)

Backspin (RPM)

120

15-17

3700-4000

130

14-16

3500-3700

140

13-15

3300-3500

150

12.5-14.5

3000-3300

160

12-13.5

2700-3100

170

11-12

2500-2700

180

10-11

2300-2650

190

9-10

2000-2400

200

7.5-9

1900-2100

210

6-8

1700-1950


The Medicus Power Meter

Yes, new clubs can help your golf swing. But only clubs that fit your swing. Just ANY new set of clubs can have a negative affect to your golf swing if not paired together properly. Even though they’re nice and shiny new, it doesn’t mean they’re good for your game. Do your golf game a favor and get fitted before your next club purchase. Custom built golf clubs are the new wave. Stack the deck in your favor to take full advantage of this most difficult game. The aspects that go into creating maximum ball speed, in order of importance and effectiveness are:
  • Club head speed
  • Impacting the ball on the sweet spot
  • Angle of attack (helps determine both the launch angle and backspin on the ball)
  • Material your club face is made of
  • Launch angle
  • Golf ball you play
  • Spin rate
So to best increase your distance off the tee and move up an entire club or two in your bag, start at the top of this list and work your way down, beginning with the most important, club head speed. In order to increase it, it will help to know where you’re starting from. Determine your baseline today, and start building from there. What’s YOUR swing speed?  
 
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