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Ball Speed is King

Ball Speed is King

If you happened to watch any of the PGA Tour golf from the Bahamas at the weekend, you would have noticed they talked a lot about Tiger’s ball speed.

When a golfer asks why he or she is not hitting the ball as far as someone else, there can be many reasons. One reason is that their ball speed is not high enough. Previously club head speed used to be the big thing in golf, but now I hear ball speed being discussed just as much.

What is ball speed? It is the speed the ball travels immediately after leaving the club face through impact. This is a combination of club head speed, swing speed, where the ball has struck on the face of the club, along with the type of club being used (driver, 3-wood, 7 iron etc).

All the above factors affect ball speed. For instance a heel strike tends to produce the slowest ball speed and there are arguments to say the toe may even create faster speeds than those generated from the centre of the club face.

Basically the calculation is your ball speed is 1.5 times faster than your swing speed. So, if you swing a club at 100mph, the maximum you can expect would 150 mph ball speed. So, for Tiger to produce 180+ mph ball speed you can imagine how fast he is swinging his driver.

This ratio is only achievable with a driver or possibly a fairway wood, as the strike with these clubs are flusher, where as an iron is a more descending blow, causing the club to only glance the ball creating more spin and therefore a slower ball speed.

If you picture a tennis player hitting a slice shot, effectively the harder they swing the racket the more glancing the blow is, therefore the more spin generated. If you now imagine them hitting a serve, the contact is flusher, which creates the ball to release off the strings at a much faster rate. The face of a golf club acts very much like the strings of a tennis racket.

This being the case I might be better of trying to play golf with a tennis racket!!!!

Every golfer has an optimum swing speed which means they will have an optimum ball speed especially with their driver. To demonstrate this, I got a golfer to hit 5 balls with his driver at 3 different speeds. I then took the average of all these shots to show that sometimes swinging the club purposely slower isn’t often the best solution. That being said technique also comes into the equation, so before you go trying to hit the ball as hard as you can, you may want to get your current habits checked out by a Professional to understand this further.

The smash factor is rated up to 1.5. If the swing was 100 mph with a ball speed of 150 mph the smash factor would be a maximum 1.5

This table shows that his efficiency is best when swinging the club just under his maximum capacity. Also this suggests that when he swings the club purposely slower, he is not striking the ball as well, which in turn has resulted in a lack of ball speed and therefore less distance. If he tried to swing the club at 100% he is likely to lose his technique, so just under that 100% should be optimum.

Below are some average ball speed figures by club golfer’s to help you relate to your own swing.

Male Amateur (Driver)

  • Scratch or Better – 161 mph

  • 5 HCP – 147 mph

  • 10 HCP – 138 mph

  • Average Golfer (14.5) – 133 mph

Female Amateur (Driver)

  • Scratch or Better – 131 mph

  • 5 HCP – 125 mph

  • 10 HCP – 119 mph

  • 15 HCP – 111 mph

We measure these values we use a radar machine which tracks the ball flight and produces all these figures. If this is something you would like to discuss, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. Even if you just want to discuss how this works, then why not pop into our shop and have a chat with us.

To book fittings please phone the Professional shop on 01738 440678 or email

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