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What’s your smash factor?

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One of the most egotistic terms that my Trackman monitor produces is undoubtedly SMASH FACTOR. Often varying between 0.8 and 1.5, smash factor, by nature, speaks to the egos of people wanting the see the highest number. But what really is smash factor?

SF

In simple terms, smash factor is an “efficiency rating” on the quality of strike; it shows us how much ball speed we are achieving per 1 mph of club speed that we produce. For example, if your ball speed was 140 mph and your club speed was 100 mph, your smash factor would be 1.4, since 140/100 = 1.4.

Generally, top professionals would be aiming for a 1.5 smash factor with a driver and a 1.4 smash factor with mid irons. But it’s important to note that any level of golfer can achieve these numbers; a young child who has a good relationship between his club speed and ball speed could produce a 1.5 smash factor!

Why is smash factor important?

Primarily, smash factor is highly influential in terms of controlling the distance we hit the ball. From a distance perspective, it is important to understand the importance of ball speed, as it accompanies launch angle and spin rate to complete the three main components of distance. Despite this, I see a lot of players chasing club head speed, and while it is important, it is almost redundant if not accompanied by appropriate ball speed.

Beginner Golfer Cartoon

To match the desire for distance, as a general rule, we should be striving to create the HIGHEST smash factor with our longer clubs; however, this is not the case with shorter clubs and in wedge play. With those clubs, a smash factor of around 1.0 should be targeted as opposed to a 1.1 or 1.2 that I so often see.

This idea of lowering the smash factor is to help with distance control, as a ball that is flying off the club face too quickly can be difficult to control. James Ridyard, a PGA Professional from the UK, has done some great work on smash factor in wedges, discussing specifically the idea of controlling spin loft (explained below). In a recent presentation, James explained how a 4-degree error in spin loft with a club head speed of 60 mph can result in a 30-foot miss!

What affects smash factor?

The two most influential things that can affect smash factor are:

  1. Spin Loft
  2. Strike point

By definition, spin loft is most easily thought of as the difference between the angle of attack (is the club traveling downwards or upwards) and the dynamic loft (loft presented at impact). It is often referred to as a measure of how much energy is transferred into the ball.

Spin loft

The above picture shows an angle of attack of -4.6 and a dynamic loft of 22.2. The difference between these 2 numbers is 26.8, giving a spin loft of 26.8.

Spin loft 1

BUT in the above example, the difference between the angle of attack and dynamic loft is 27.7, however the spin loft reported is 28.0. This is because spin loft is by exact definition a 3-dimensional number and involves the face-to-path relationship.

 If you think about spin loft as a measure of the amount of energy transferred into the ball and then think about punching a bag with a glancing blow (representing hitting a ball with a club face well open to club path), this should help you visualise how a poor face-to-path relationship could increase spin loft (reduce the energy transferred into the ball).

Striking the ball on the sweet spot of the club is also very important when looking at smash factor. As you know, off-center hits do not always result in long drives and controlling the strike point is pivotal when attempting to achieve a high smash factor. The below picture is a great example of how strike point is important. As you can see, a lower club head speed with a better strike point resulted in more distance.

Smash Factor ex

In essence, it is a combination of strike point AND spin loft that will help you achieve a good smash factor!

How can we improve our smash factor?

Before identifying how we can improve smash factor, here is a fact from Trackman that may just motivate you:

[quote_box_center]Reducing Spin Loft from 30 degrees to 25 degrees with a 6 iron will raise Smash Factor by 0.06. For the average amateur, 0.06 equals 5 mph of ball speed or approximately 9 yards.[/quote_box_center]

As shown, reducing spin loft can often drastically help improve smash factor; however, without a ball flight monitor it is impossible to accurately measure spin loft. For this reason I would advise you to go and find your nearest instructor with a monitor and with his or her help you should then be able to gather some information on your current spin loft and discuss whether it actually needs improving.

If you’re not able to use a monitor, however, try this. 

Strike point is an easier variable to measure yourself, and all you need is a little athlete’s foot spray. Simply spray a light coating on the club face and after hitting a shot or two, you will soon be able to get some accurate feedback on your strike point.

Strike point

Remember, one (spin loft) without the other (strike point) is not what we want. So aim to combine the two! Happy smashing!

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Thomas is an Advanced UKPGA Professional and Director of the Future Elite (FUEL) Junior Golf Programme. Thomas is a big believer in evidence based coaching and has enjoyed numerous worldwide coaching experiences. His main aim to introduce and help more golfers enjoy the game, by creating unique environments that best facilitate improvement.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. CNYNative

    Nov 4, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    1.55 lol alright, and im pretty sure smash factor is regulated for clubs anyway?

  2. Philip

    Nov 4, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    It depends – whenever I high a high slice it is obviously the max as why would I ever hit a high slice in the same fairway as myself. However, for all other shots it is closer to 1.40 or less.

  3. Christestrogen

    Nov 4, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    This is one of the best articles I’ve ever read on barstool.
    Awesome!!!

    -Christosterone

  4. Jack

    Nov 4, 2015 at 8:32 am

    How can you get your wedge smash down but still flight your wedges and have a spin loft that is too high? Thanks

    • Thomas Devine

      Nov 4, 2015 at 10:20 am

      Hi Jack…sorry I do not fully understand your question….however from my experience, when spin loft gets too high, the player does not launch the ball at their desired height and thus suffers with distance control

      • Jack

        Nov 4, 2015 at 4:30 pm

        Sorry my question wasn’t clear! I’ll try again. I have a smash of around 1.1 with my distance wedges (40-80 yards 58 degree) I have a low dynamic loft at impact (say 40 deg) is there a way to decrease smash with this club without increasing DL? I like my current wedge flight but would like my smash closer to 1. Thanks!

        • Thomas Devine

          Nov 4, 2015 at 5:42 pm

          ok great…the first question would be do you have difficulty controlling your yardages with the wedges….if not, I would not get hung up on aiming for a 1.0 smash factor. Like most things, this is desired/preferred by some coaches but not essential for everyone. Have you thought about using a lower lofted club, for e.g 52 degree. With this club, you could achieve the same launch with less downward hit….I have found this to help at times (a shallower attack with a lower lofted club) when trying to produce those low spinny ones!

  5. Daniel

    Nov 3, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    Maybe your smashfactor was low because you have a descending blow? I had a lesson on Trackman and the best I can get was 1.40 with a descending blow with the driver. We worked on swinging up and the smash factor increased to 1.48. Since I wasn’t used to the up swing, my swing speed decreased but carry distance signifcantly improved.

    • ph00ny

      Nov 3, 2015 at 6:21 pm

      Unless i misheard the TM rep, he said i had a nice long back swing along with a good AOA. He even joked in saying i should try long drive comp.

  6. Ph00ny

    Nov 3, 2015 at 10:02 am

    Would type of golf ball used during the launch monitor session impact ball speed thus changing the smash factor? For an example, range ball is used opposed to regular golf balls

    • Mat

      Nov 3, 2015 at 11:21 am

      Ball speed is the dividend, so a cruddy ball would not travel as fast. So yes, it matters.

    • Lich King

      Nov 3, 2015 at 2:05 pm

      Yes, it will have a big impact. You should always use the balls you are playing with on the course in a TrackMan.

      • ph00ny

        Nov 3, 2015 at 2:55 pm

        Damn. My ball speed was very slow compared to the clubhead speed being shown at the TM demo session on flightscope. Is there a setting to add some sort of offset for using rangeballs?

        I think my smash factor was in the low 1.4 but the total distance and carry numbers looked great.

        • Thomas Devine

          Nov 4, 2015 at 10:17 am

          The Trackman Monitor has a normalisation feature that allows you to translate what the range ball has done into what a premium golf ball would do….as long as the user has the ball type selected correctly, you should get some very reliable figures even when using the range balls 🙂

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Instruction

Golf 101: Why do I chunk it?

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Whether you are a beginner, 10 handicaps, or Rory McIlroy, no one player is immune to the dreaded chunk. How many times have you hit a great drive, breathing down the flag from your favorite yardage and laid the holy sod over one? It’s awful and can be a total rally killer.

So what causes it? It could be several things, for some players, it could be a steep angle of attack, others, early extension and an early bottoming out and sometimes you’ve just had too many Coors Lights and the ground was closer than your eyes told you…been there.

This is Golf 101—let’s make it real simple and find one or two ways that a new golfer can self diagnose and treat themselves on the fly.

THE MAIN CAUSE

With beginners I have noticed there are two main things that cause the dreaded chunk:

  1. Players stand too close to the ball and have no way to get outta the way on the way down. This also really helps to hit Chunk’s skinny cousin: Skull.
  2. No rotation in any form causing a steep angle of attack. You’ve seen this, arms go back, the body stays static, the club comes back down and sticks a foot in the ground.

SO HOW DO I FIX MYSELF?

Without doing all-out brain surgery, here are two simple things you can do on the course (or the range) to get that strike behind the ball and not behind your trail foot.

This is what I was taught when I was a kid and it worked for years.

  1. Make baseball swings: Put the club up and in front of your body and make horizontal swings paying close attention to accelerating on the way through. After a few start to bend at the hips down and down until you are in the address position. This not only gives your body the sensation of turning but reorientates you to exactly where the bottom of your arc is.
  2. Drive a nail into the back of the ball: This was a cure-all for me. Whether I had the shanks, chunks, skulls, etc, focusing on putting the clubhead into the back of that nail seemed to give me a mental picture that just worked. When you are hammering a nail into a wall. you focus on the back of that nail and for the most part, hit it flush 9 outta 10 times. Not sure if its a Jedi mind trick or a real thing, but it has gotten me outta more pickles than I care to admit.

As you get better, the reason for the chunk may change, but regardless of my skill level, these two drills got me out of it faster than anything all while helping encourage better fundamentals. Nothing wrong with that.

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Instruction

Golf 101: How to hit a bunker shot

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I’ve heard from numerous people over the years that theoretically, the bunker shot should be the easiest shot in golf—you don’t even hit the ball.

Sounds romantic, but common sense would suggest the polar opposite. Any new golfer or one walking into the game knows that hitting it into the bunker can be a disaster if you don’t know what to do. Figuring out how to hit a bunker shot can be daunting. So in the spirit of the 101 series, I want to give the beginner a three-step strategy to playing out of a bunker with one goal in mind: get it out of the bunker.

Keep in mind, this is simply to get the ball outta the sand, not spin it, not get it close, just get it back on the grass.

How to hit a bunker shot

Use a 56-degree wedge. Non-negotiable. You need the loft, the bounce, and the forgiveness.

Dig in: Gives your feet and body not only a feel for the sand but also a firm base. The bunker shot isn’t a full swing but you need stability. So when you address the ball, wiggle your feet a bit to get in there. It also makes it look like you know what you are doing—that helps for social reasons.

Face open: Imagine if you had to hold an egg on the face, that’s the visual. If the face isn’t open enough to do that its not open. Remember also that when you open the face, you are not cranking your hands over to do so. Turn the club open, grip it normally, and there you go.

Thump

This is what I have taught beginners a few times, and I’m not a teacher, but I’m a pretty gnarly bunker player. It works. Now that you are dug in, the face is open and you are ready to hit it, pick a spot an inch behind the ball, and with some speed, control, and a firm grip (hold the face open) THUMP down on that spot. Even more, THUMP the heel down on that spot. When I saw THUMP I mean CHOP, BEAT down on it with some purpose. Two things will happen, the ball will pop up by simple momentum and the face will stay open because the lever (and meatiest part) that holds it open (the heel) is doing all the work. Your tempo is key, and yes, I’m telling you to beat down on it, but also be mindful of staying in your body.

Could you potentially stick the club in the ground? Yup. Maybe. But the odds of you skulling, whiffing, chunking are reduced to almost nothing.

The best way to get outta the sound is to use the sand to help you. That’s how to hit a bunker shot. Pounding down on it with an open face uses a ton of sand, a ton of energy, the bounce of the wedge, and requires you to do very little.

Give it a shot.

 

 

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How the direction of turn influences your swing

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Understanding the direction you turn in the backswing will help identify your swing pattern. To start, turn is simply a word for something going around or moving circularly. When teaching, the term turn is very broad. The spine, shoulders and pelvis can all move in different directions.

So what direction should you turn? After an efficient setup (How Posture Influences Your Swing) I want players to coil around their original spine angle. This gives players an efficient “shape” to the body at the top of the backswing. Shape is the relationship between the upper and lower half of the body. Shape retains body angles from the setup, which also mirror impact. The relationship between the upper and lower body are highlighted in the pictures below.

When in this shape, the downswing can become a reaction towards the target. The club and body can return to impact with efficiency and minimal timing required. The body doesn’t need to find the impact position. This impact position is a common look to all great ball-strikers.

An important concept to understand is the direction of turn is more important than the amount of turn. Think of throwing a ball towards a target. You don’t turn more to throw the ball further or for more accuracy. Your body coils the correct direction to go forward and around towards the target. The golf swing and direction of turn is similar to a throwing position.

A great drill to get the feeling of this coil is what I call off the wall on the wall. Start by setting up with your lead side against a wall. Make sure your trail shoulder is below the lead shoulder with a tucked trail arm. From this position, swing your arms to the top of your swing. Note the backswing position.

When doing this drill, note how your upper body moves off the wall, and the lower body stays on the wall. An important note to make is the hips and glutes don’t stay stagnant against the wall. They go around, sliding against the wall as the upper moves off.

The beauty of the golf swing is there is more than one way to do it. Many great players turn with lead side bend in the backswing. This is where the upper body tilts towards the target (lateral trunk flexion). However, these players will have to change their spine angle to find impact. This pattern isn’t incorrect, just needs more recovery in the downswing to find the impact position.

I do not prefer players having to recover in their downswing. I define recovery as having to re-position the body in the downswing to find impact. Think of a baseball player having to throw a ball to first base when his body starts in a contorted position. I the golf swing, this requires more talent and timing and can lead to inconsistency unless precisely practiced and trained.

Educating yourself on how your body coils in the backswing is critical when working on your swing. Remember, there is no one perfect swing and people have different physiologies. However, coil in a direction that will give you the most efficient swing and prevent injuries.

www.kelleygolf.com

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