As golfers you’ve probably noticed all the technology being marketed in golf. Whether space age materials in club-heads, CNC milling for wedges, nano-technology in shafts or ballistic launch monitors to analyze our club and ball performance there’s no missing the science in golf. With that said most of us have no idea what all these terms and numbers being used in the equipment manufactureres marketing platforms mean. Let me try to make some sense of it and at the same time explain how it can impact your game. Let me start of with some of the terminology and its meaning.
CLUB-HEAD SPEED: The speed at impact off the club-head. Most over-rated number in golf as it tells nothing of the quality or consistency of the swing or impact conditions.
BALL SPEED: The speed at which the golf ball leaves the club-face during impact. far more important number than club-head speed as it dictates the actual distatnce potential any shot has.
SMASH FACTOR: The ratio between club-head and ball speed. Ideally ball speed will be 1.5X club-head speed. Therefore If your club-head speed is 100MPH your optimal ball speed would be 150MPH.
LAUNCH ANGLE: The angle of trajectory that the ball takes when leaving the club-face. For every club, at every speed there is an optimal trajectory that will allow for the maximum potential carry distance. If we compare launch angle to types of hits in baseball it starts to make sense. A pop fly loses its enegy going up, a line drive doesn’t go high enough to stay in the air long enough to become a home run but somewhere in between is the ideal trajestory, or home run swing, that launches the ball at the ideal angle to maximize distance.
BALL SPIN: The amount the ball spins and the angle on which it rotates can dramatically affect performance. Basically put the higher spin rates have negative affects of distance and control. Slices, hooks, ballooning shots and reduced roll out are all symptoms of too much spin. While some of this is caused by faulty swings and poor contact in many cases improperly fit clubs can have a huge impact.
To illustrate how one number can have a huge impact on performance I’ve used two low handicap golfers and there performance numbers. Golfer A Golfer B
Ball Speed: 144MPH 154MPH
Smash Factor: 1.44 1.46
Launch Angle: 15.9 6.9
Spin Rate: 2600RPM 2350RPM
Total Distance: 260 255
If you look closely you’ll notice Golfer A has 10 MPH less Ball Speed but is 5 yards longer than Golfer B. The reason is the Launch Angle, Golfer B launches the ball too low and as such it hits the ground well before it has travelled it’s potential carry maiximum. Given that both golfers have similar spin rates and Smach Factors, Player A is close to their maximum while Player B is 25-30 yards short of their potential. If Player B had a more ascending strike or added loft to their driver they’d immediately see distance gains.
Hopefully this helps your understanding of some of the jargon being used around the game of golf these days and if your looking to get the most out of your game and equipment consider a lesson and club-fitting to help maximize your potential.