Golf is a beautiful game. Just watch the pros as they step onto a gorgeous course, address the ball with style and grace, swing fluidly with power, and then watch the flight of the ball as it seems to soar for a country mile. Seems simple, right? But of course, it’s not as easy as just waltzing onto the tee box and belting a small white sphere. As Tommy Armour said, “Golf is an awkward set of contortions designed to produce a graceful result.”
Following the distance-hitting trends of today’s leading golfers makes everyone want to hit the ball farther, with swing speed being a key focus.
The Importance of Swing Speed
The goal for a game of golf, beyond enjoying the game as well as the course and companions for the day while getting good exercise, is ultimately to score well. Scoring well requires hitting distance, keeping the ball on the course, and in the right spots for good play and accuracy to the pin. Increasing your swing speed is one key ingredient to hitting the ball farther.
In order to hit their drives 300 yards or more, most pros achieve swing speeds with their drivers of around 110 to 125 miles per hour.
The average golfer that plays frequently is more likely to have a swing speed around 80-100mph, and achieve a carry distance of around 200 yards. In swing speed studies, swing speed is often correlated with golf playing ability. Specifically, as handicap goes down, swing speed increases.
However, while swing speed might be considered “king” for driving distance, there are certainly other factors to consider in achieving golfing success including using the right equipment, physical fitness, hitting the ball closer to the sweet spot, balance and more.
Swing Speed Versus Ball Speed
“Swing speed” is defined as how fast the club head is moving when it strikes the golf ball. “Ball speed” indicates how fast the ball itself is moving just after impact with the clubface. Ball speed is always higher than swing speed, due to the transfer of energy from the clubhead to the golf ball. Ball speed is not only directly affected by swing speed, but also by the design of the club and how efficiently the golfer strikes the ball.
Three measures of strike efficiency are:
- Centeredness of contact. Higher ball speeds will be achieved the closer that the ball contacts the center of the clubface.
- Angle of attack. If the angle of attack in the downswing is too steep, more spin will be created versus driving direct energy into the golf ball.
- Face angle. The clubface should square up with the path of the club to get the most energy transferred into the ball and to minimize sidespin.
The difference between the higher ball speed and swing speed is called the ‘smash factor.” It is suggested that golfers work towards a smash factor of around 1.45 with a driver.
Additional factors in achieving desirable ball speeds are:
- Practicing proper techniques that will help eliminate hooks and slices.
- Working on swing tempo instead of swinging too hard. In other words, swinging evenly to control the club and achieve good ball contact, referred to as a solid strike, instead of trying to “crush” the ball.
How to Increase Swing Speed
It is no coincidence that both swing speed and driving distance have increased in the last 10 years for pros on the PGA tour. Research among golfers in general has shown a direct correlation between a reduced handicap and increased driving distance.
To improve greater swing speed and achieve greater driving distances note these key points:
- It is not necessary to swing harder to increase your swing speed. In fact, swinging harder often interferes with the mechanics of a good swing. What is better is to have stability of position, especially with the right leg, as well as having body balance and evenness with a full shoulder turn and flexed wrist.
- Reduce muscular tension. Practice by swinging a club on a horizontal plane. Practice swinging the club with your arms and hands in a relaxed manner to achieve a natural rotation of the forearms and club, resulting in higher clubhead speed.
- Widen your stance when addressing the ball. You will want to keep your head down and to the right as you focus on the target. This will enable the clubhead to gather speed as it passes the center of the body.
Ultimately, the primary factor behind good clubhead speed is the strength of the golfer’s body and the amount of force the body can achieve in the golf swing. Put another way, more strength equals more speed.
So, move to exercises that will improve targeted body strength:
- Work on hip strength and hip motions
- Work on muscular strength of the gluteus maximus and hamstrings
- Work on shoulder and arm strength
Exercises that are usually offered by strength coaches include kettlebell swings, sled pushes and pulls, jumps, and medicine ball drills.
In addition, use these tips:
- Swing with a weighted golf club. Add weights to the clubhead to increase its weight to about three pounds. Separate the golf swing into separate parts and hold the club in each part for about 20 seconds.
- Swing often. As Hank Aaron said, “It took me seventeen years to get three thousand hits in baseball. I did it one afternoon on the golf course.” It does take practice! Spend time as often as possible on the golf range hitting balls in rapid succession. This will improve both stamina and technique, leading to a faster swing.
- Practice an improved downswing which builds speed as the swing progresses. Start with a slow backswing and gradually increase swing speed.
- Work on a consistent, balanced swing with consistent footwork where the heel comes off the ground as a result of a smooth shoulder turn on the backswing.
Practice Practice Practice!
Rome, as they say, wasn’t built in a day and great golfers don’t just happen.
To enhance regular practice, get the best golf mat for home or outdoor use. High-quality golf mats are available in 60”x 60” size with a tee hole on each of the four sides. They are sturdily built with a half-inch underlayment and a one-inch thick turf. Reliable and long-lasting, a mat can up your practice game considerably.
Jerry Pate once said, “Having a great golf swing helps under pressure, but golf is a game about scoring.” So, use these tips to swing better, achieve higher speeds, and practice your way to improved performance and hopefully a lower score!