Trouble is, average golfers aren’t taking advantage of the game’s increasingly sophisticated technology. A recently exclusive player test revealed that golfers across all ability levels are leaving an average of 23 yards on the table.
Golf Digest studied how 150 average golfers hit their drivers. They measured swing speeds from 60 miles per hour to 130, and handicaps from 0 to 36. For the test, they used a Foresight Sports GC2 launch monitor, like we have at the academy, that measured swing speed, ball speed, launch angle, spin rate and distance. They also asked dozens of America’s Best Clubfitters to share similar launch data from their customers. What was found is that the average golfer launches the ball too low, generates too much backspin and doesn’t make solid contact with the center of the face. Specifically, they’re not hitting it as far as they should given their respective swing speeds.
Nine out of 10 golfers in the test hit the ball short of what was estimated as their potential to be. What’s a good estimate for your driving-distance potential? If you’re not hitting it 2.5 to 2.7 times your clubhead speed, you need a better-fitting driver, a lesson, or both. This means if your swing speed is 75 miles per hour, you have the potential to hit your drive at least 185 yards. If your swing speed is 100 mph, your distance potential could be as high as 270 yards. But most golfers are woefully short of their potential. Two-thirds of the players in the survey weren’t within 15 yards of their potential driving distance, and half of those were 30 or more yards short of optimum.
Here are the keys to more distance, and all of them are easily understood when we’re giving a clubfitting using one of our two launch monitors to analyse your swing and ball flight.
1- First, there’s how fast the ball leaves the clubface. Ball speed is dictated by your swing speed, but golfers can maximize their potential ball speed by contacting the center of the face more consistently. Our launch monitors measure how efficient the relationship is between clubhead speed and ball speed, or what’s known as “smash factor.” Generally, the maximum for that ratio is 1.50, so the closer you can get to that number, the fewer yards you’ll be wasting. But the golfers in the test survey too often were miles short. Eighty percent were below an ideal smash factor of 1.47, and 40 percent were at 1.40 or less.
2- The second ingredient is launch angle, or the upward angle of the ball as it leaves the clubface. In the test, more than a third of the golfers had a launch angle below 11 degrees. Unless your swing speed is 120 miles per hour, you should be striving for a 13-degree launch angle or higher. Any lower, and the ball won’t stay in the air long enough to maximise total distance.
3- The third ingredient for distance is optimising the backspin rate once the ball leaves the clubface. To max your distance, you want to launch shots relatively high with low spin. Off-center strikes at a low launch angle often result in excessive spin: a perfect recipe for short hitting. Still, almost half of the golfers tested had spin rates above 3,000 revolutions per minute. If you can get your rpm below 3,000, you’ll be closer to the ideal of higher launch and lower spin.
Our data suggests that many golfers would benefit from more loft on their driver and perhaps a softer flexing shaft. But what we all really need is a quality driver fitting. With the feedback available from launch monitors and our ability as good fitters/instructors, the right fitting can improve your distances/control and even your swing.
We’re not talking major reconstruction. Simple things like shifting the ball forward in your stance, teeing it higher and swinging slightly up on the ball can dramatically change distance. A recent launch monitor test found that a swing speed of 90 miles per hour can gain about 30 yards by just swinging up on the ball.
Studies indicate those yards are easily within reach of average golfers. As advanced fitters we see those improvements every day, and not just for big hitters. Players with a swing speed of 65 to 85 mph show the biggest loss as a percentage of distance if they don’t optimise launch, spin and smash factor.
Here at Kent Golf Academy & Custom Fitting Centre we have many varieties of drivers available, and with dozens of adjustments of loft, lie and face angle, as well as center-of-gravity locations—even within the same head—it’s now easier for us to optimise a club to any swing.