You may have heard the phrase, “Swing easy to hit it hard.” It may seem counter-intuitive, since clubhead speed is often seen as the be-all, end-all of driving distance.
But there’s sound science behind the concept. Fact is, ball speed is more important than raw clubhead speed – a whiff at 110 mph is still a whiff, right?
The biggest hitters are those whose high clubhead speeds translate to high ball speed via a measurement called “smash factor.” Simply put, smash factor equals ball speed divided by clubhead speed, an indication of how solidly the ball is struck.
A strike on the sweet spot will generate a higher smash factor (greater ball speed) than a strike on the toe or heel at the same swing speed. In fact, a dead-center hit at a slightly slower clubhead speed, let’s say 98 mph, will produce more ball speed than a miss-hit at 100 mph.
Which brings us back to the “Swing easy to hit it hard” mantra. You’re more likely to make solid contact swinging at 85% power than you are at 95% power. The improvement in contact will compensate for the small loss in clubhead speed. Most likely, your accuracy will increase as well.
The key is to find the sweet spot in your swing, if you will, that generates the optimum combination of clubhead speed and contact.
You’ll need access to a launch monitor, preferably with a pro who can interpret the data and guide you. (Many golf shops feature indoor hitting bays with launch monitors.) Test your smash factor at varying effort levels – 80% power, 90% and so on. You’re looking for a number approaching 1.50. A smash factor of 1.47 is quite good, considering amateurs average around 1.44 according to TrackMan. (Pros are close to the so-called “magic number” of 1.50.)
No launch monitor at your disposal? Then your best bet is to find your natural tempo. Whether it’s fast, slow or medium, this is the swing rhythm that will deliver optimum results.