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Opinion & Analysis

Was Tiger Woods really swinging his driver between 124-and-128 mph at the Honda Classic?

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In case you missed Tiger Woods in action at the Honda Classic last week, he looked strong with the driver en route to a 12th place finish. He didn’t find many fairways with the big stick, but he appeared to be swinging it fast and hitting it far — actually, he ranked No. 2 in driving distance (319.1 yards) for the week.

But, just how fast was he actually swinging the driver?

According to Brandel Chamblee’s research (he appears to be using live ShotLink data), Tiger was bringing it between 124.5 and 128.4 mph, as measured on hole No. 3 each round.

And just how high is 128 mph club head speed?

Wait a second. If he was swinging the club that fast, shouldn’t his ball speed and distance be way higher? Well, it makes more sense when you look at the smash factor, which is surprisingly low. Smash factor is a ratio of ball speed and club head speed, and the highest possible (depending on who you ask) is 1.50. So Tiger producing smash factors between 1.416 and 1.456 means that while he was swinging the club very, very fast, he was missing the center of the club face, too.

Here’s top-100 teacher and GolfWRX featured writer Tom Stickney’s take: “As with anyone, this shows that not even Tiger is exempt from hitting the ball in the sweet spot. Usually when you try and swing at the upper end of the spectrum, you will find that impact quality suffers. Therefore, you must find your own balance between swing speed and centeredness of contact.”

Of course, there’s a number of different explanations for the numbers — from a few well-respected names in the golf industry, I might add — in the responses to Chamblee’s Tweet.

 

What do you think? Do you think Tiger was really swinging the driver that fast, and simply missing the center of the face? Or do you think the club head speeds were jacked up?

See what GolfWRX Members are saying about this in the forums.

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He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. ray

    Mar 19, 2018 at 8:55 am

    No way 128. He was going after it pretty hard at Arnold’s tourney and wasn’t hitting 180 ball speed.

  2. Robert Parsons

    Feb 28, 2018 at 8:36 pm

    Measured hitting a fade?

  3. Stephen

    Feb 28, 2018 at 8:35 pm

    This jurry-rigging won’t last for long. canna’ change the laws of physics

  4. Christopher

    Feb 28, 2018 at 4:06 pm

    The 1.5 Smash Factor Ratio isn’t an absolute, it varies with the data gathering device. A perfect ratio with something like GCQuad is 1.45.

    Seems like a storm in a teacup for 4 measurements over 4 different days with something that usually has decent +/- tolerances at best.

  5. David

    Feb 28, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    Who cares?

  6. Paul

    Feb 28, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    This has been one of Tigers problems all along. The harder he swings, the worst he hits his drives. I have seen him swing controlled and smooth and hit the fairway or al least the first cut. When he swings out of his shoes, the ball goes way right more often then not.

  7. Steve Pratt

    Feb 28, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    As a long time TM owner, I don’t believe Tiger would miss a driver bad enough to get a 1.41 smash…that’s horrible. A tour player’s worst miss is usually 1.46.

    So yah my gut feeling is that 128 he popped is an electronic outlier. If he does it again in his next tournament I will admit I was wrong.

  8. DRod

    Feb 28, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    I will take a different approach; he is driving the ball terribly since his return. This is the worst I’ve seen Tiger off the tee. It could be a number of things, regardless of these numbers. Does he even have a driver that fits his swing? I don’t think he does. He’s experimented with several shaft combinations, both on the range and now the last two tour stops. Neither worked. This data means nothing…he needs to figure out his swing and that might entail equipment changes, including the ball. Just my 2-cents.

  9. Bob Jones

    Feb 28, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    We care about this because . . .?

  10. sean coxe

    Feb 28, 2018 at 11:55 am

    Would the ball he’s using have any effect?

  11. Scott sinclair

    Feb 28, 2018 at 11:49 am

    I watch people hit balls on Trackman all day and Taylor Made drivers definitely have an amped up swing speed. Since Trackman gets the ball speed correct the smash factor will always be low.
    Also the Callaway Rogue reads slightly lower swing speeds (from my experience) and therefore the smash factor is always high.
    It is possible this was done on purpose on both companies behalf or not.

  12. OG

    Feb 28, 2018 at 9:56 am

    Did it ever occur to any of you that maybe he was intentionally aiming for the heel on the face for say, a heel-cut? Smash factor would be lower of course.

  13. Iain

    Feb 28, 2018 at 6:13 am

    That would mean every players data was wrong or do you think it was only Tigers that was wrong,!?

  14. Mike C

    Feb 27, 2018 at 8:40 pm

    The smash factor makes no sense. Neither does a 6° Launch.

    • Ogo

      Feb 27, 2018 at 11:17 pm

      It only makes no sense to the ignorant and anti-science no hope duffers.

  15. Woody

    Feb 27, 2018 at 7:14 pm

    Sure anyone on tour can go 128 for one hole…and to everyone who complains about numbers. It’s a golf website, these articles are meant to fill dead space.

    • Ogo

      Feb 27, 2018 at 11:21 pm

      High driver speed – higher risk and better/worst results. No secret here.

  16. Doug

    Feb 27, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    I think the explanation is somewhere in the middle… bad reading, mishit, wind, etc. But if we accept that Tiger wasn’t hitting the sweet spot with his new TM M3 and it’s touted Twist Face technology to compensate for the mishit, does that mean Taylormade may have some explaining to do? It might make me start to window shop!

    • foreright

      Mar 6, 2018 at 10:27 am

      supposedly tour players don’t actually use the twist face

  17. CrashTestDummy

    Feb 27, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    Too many factors involved (AOA, spin rate, launch angle, wind, turf conditions, smash, etc) to determine carry distance and total distance. However with that being said, I have found that all launch monitors are not 100% accurate exact science even though the numbers portray it as. Obviously, there is discrepancies with readings, but it doesn’t really matter a few yards here or there. The score is the important fact.

    • Ogo

      Feb 27, 2018 at 11:16 pm

      Only if launch monitors were as accurate as your Scotty/Bettinardi/Ping/Odyssey/Other Studio Tour Only putters…. and PXG clubs. Your need for perfect accuracy from launch monitors just reveals your high standards of performance.

  18. Dana Upshaw

    Feb 27, 2018 at 6:18 pm

    I can’t begin to count the number of “caved” TM driver faces I saw the last six years I operated my shop. First hint was low smash readings with center hits. Radius gauge confirmed flat or caved faces. Hand the client a new club and with same swing speed smash goes up.

    Easy driver carry computation is swing speed x 2.5. Watch the “pro tracer” numbers and run the numbers. You’ll generally be within a few yards of what PT will show for carry. Exceptional ballstrikers who produce high launch/low spin can use a 2.6 factor.

  19. SK

    Feb 27, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    If Tiger was swinging ~126 mph average and his Smash Factor was depressed at ~1.436 average that can only mean he is not impacting the ball with a squared off club face.
    His clubhead path may be on line but if his driver face is skewed slightly that will result in an undesirable initial ball path and errant spin axis which will lower the SM as well as push or pull the ball which he is doing. Simple vector physics.

  20. Nick

    Feb 27, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    Not a chance he was swinging 128. Come on Brandel – it is so easy to tell by his swing that he’s not. 128 looks and sounds different than that! He’s probably around 119-122 Not a chance. He’s swinging fast for sure. 128 is like an LD guy in regular play.

    • What?!

      Feb 28, 2018 at 1:48 pm

      LD guys swing at 145mph or faster, with a regular 45 length they still top out over 140. 128 is not outside the realm, the top guys on tour have hit that number. In fact a newbie in last years US Open hit 130mph on the radar with a tour swing.

  21. Johnnythunders

    Feb 27, 2018 at 5:38 pm

    Who cares? Why this age of fascination with computer generated numbers. Wow high ball speed, he’s back! Wow low smash factor, he sucks.

    Did he win? No, 12th is all the matters.

    • The dude

      Feb 28, 2018 at 10:16 pm

      Idiot

      • njrp

        Mar 1, 2018 at 7:56 pm

        He lost again…get over it. I would be focussed on instead on how there is no way Tiger won’t blow out his four time operated on back swinging that fast. The only reason he did not blow out his back at a younger age because he let his knee take all the torqueing. Once he had to protect that knee he started to blow out his back.

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Opinion & Analysis

A road trip to St. Andrews

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In 2017, my son Brian and his wife Lauren, proposed a family trip to Scotland. Both of them have traveled a surprising amount for a couple barely 30 years old, but for us it would be a huge trip. We couldn’t get it scheduled for 2018 but everything lined up for October, 2019, a trip that might even include playing the Old Course in St. Andrews, if we got lucky. The amazing Lauren made all the arrangements, beginning with multiple email exchanges with the staff at the Old Course, who were extremely gracious and encouraging in their communications.

Unlike most other courses, in order to play the Old Course, you have three options: One is to book a very expensive trip through a travel broker who will guarantee a tee time. This is the only way to make your arrangements in advance, but you’re paying thousands for the package, which would include at least three other days of golf. Sounds great but above our budget. Secondly, you can take a real gamble and just show up at the starter’s window the day you are hoping to play, and get in line as early as 3 a.m., put your name on the list and then wait, maybe all day, maybe hopelessly. It’s no way to budget an entire day on your vacation. The third way is to use what is called the “ballot system,” submitting your request for a tee time via email to standrews.com, 48 hours ahead and hopefully getting a spot.

Now, it’s not as grim a prospect as it may sound for planning to play golf in St. Andrews. The above only applies to getting onto the Old Course. We were able to make a tee time for the Jubilee Course, one of six other courses (Jubilee, Castle, New Course, Eden, Strathtyrum, and Balgove), all part of the St. Andrews Links complex, “The Home of Golf” as their brochure proclaims. Since we were scheduling our trip for the tail-end of the golf season, the gentleman from St. Andrews wrote that he was cautiously optimistic we would be successful using the ballot system.

This wasn’t just a golfing vacation, the five us had an outstanding time touring the west coast of Scotland, including the Oban Whisky distillery, the Harry Potter train in Glencoe, Ben Nevis—the highest peak in the UK, Fort William, and the spectacular Highlands, the town of St. Andrews, and finally the marvelous city of Edinburgh. We ended up spending one night in St. Andrews, at The Saint, a lovely four-room hotel, a 10-minute walk from the Old Course. That evening, walking down cobblestone streets, with the R&A clubhouse coming into view, was like walking in a dream.

Our day started out by driving directly to the new Links Clubhouse, which has wonderful views of the courses from the restaurant. We had lunch, and I must admit to being a bit nervous over my chicken bacon mayo sandwich. We’d parked our bags in the locker room down below, it’s just what you’d expect in terms of world-class accommodations and feel. I could just imagine the pros suiting up there as they prepare to play in The Open.

Our day of golf at the Jubilee Course was spectacular, although it got off to a rainy start, but the weather cleared by the fourth hole. Mary, Jill, and Lauren formed our gallery as we teed off, then they went for a walk around the lovely town. I parred the first hole and told Brian that made my entire trip to Scotland. I was on fire, shooting 42 on the front nine but hitting only three fairways and two greens in regulation. Brian shot 45. We’d decided on match play, and I was up by three on the 11th hole. Brian then said the fateful words, “You haven’t hit into a pot bunker all day!” Which I promptly did. My game immediately tanked while he proceeded to make a total of nine pars, shooting 42 on the back, and won the match 2 & 1. Our gallery re-appeared on the 17th hole, the sun was shining, and we were in golf heaven! We ended the day with a pint at the famous Dunvegan Pub by the R&A clubhouse.

Earlier in the day, Brian had received an email from St. Andrews, unfortunately stating that we had not been selected for the ballot to play on the Old Course the next day. He resubmitted our request for the following day with fingers crossed. We headed to our next stop, Edinburgh, looking forward to exploring this ancient yet cosmopolitan city. During our walking tour, Brian received the email notification that we’d scored an 11 a.m. tee time on the Old Course for Friday. He and I would be making a road trip back north while the ladies spent the day in Edinburgh.

It was about an hour ride back to St. Andrews but traffic was quite manageable and we arrived at 9:30, plenty of time for breakfast at the Links Clubhouse. I felt that anticipatory excitement I always have right before marshaling at a big event, like a U.S. Open, where the atmosphere of the place is nearly overwhelming. Not really nervousness, but we were about to play the Old Course! Isn’t that every golfer’s dream? To say Brian was wound up tight would be an understatement, he could barely choke down half a scone. The walk over toward the starters shack, where we would meet our caddies, with the R&A clubhouse right there at the first tee was unreal.

The clerk was so gracious, taking our 130 Scottish pounds green fee (about $160), and handing us a very nice valuables pouch complete with an amazingly detailed yardage book, tees, pencils, divot tool, and scorecard. We were then approached by our two caddies, who between them had nearly 30 years of caddying experience. I got John, whose personality was perfect for me, quiet, calm, not too chatty, yet personable. Brian’s guy, Steve was just right for him as well, right from central casting with a thick Scottish brogue. He instantly bonded with Brian to become his playing partner/coach, which was just what he needed to get over the first tee jitters.

The starter, Richard, approached us as we made our way over to the first tee, greeting us much like you see them do at the start of the Open Championship. He made our presence there seem extra special, despite the fact he’d probably done the same routine 10 thousand times. He even took our picture. We were then introduced to our two other playing partners, both former members of the course, so they didn’t need caddies to show them the way. These guys were hilarious, self-deprecating, with brogues so thick I could understand maybe one word in three, not the best golfers by any stretch, which was somehow quite reassuring and certainly less intimidating. Brian proved to be the best golfer in our foursome by far although he had a rough start, hitting his drive into the Swilcan Burn.

I was really calm on the tee, it helped that there were very few spectators as it was drizzling and maybe 50 degrees. John told me where to aim, (“at that gorse bush off in the distance”) and I was able to do exactly that. As we walked off the first tee Steve said “now you can all breathe again!” I found having a caddy to be such a wonderful added dimension to this whole experience—not just as a guide to point out where in the world I should be aiming on this alien golf layout, but also to set an expectation for me on each shot which I then tried my best to fulfill. The greens weren’t too scary as I felt used to the speeds having played Jubilee, but having John read the subtle breaks and provide aiming points was terrific.

I played bogey golf through the first 12 holes but the rain only intensified and despite John’s best effort to keep things dry, the final 6 holes were a mess. Brian was one up on our match at the turn, then went on to win decisively at 5 up, with a total for the day of 5 pars and a birdie, including par on 17, the famous Road Hole. As the day went on, we found ourselves saying over and over to each other, what a wonderful experience this was despite the conditions. Steve took the traditional picture of us on the Swilcan Bridge, on our way to finishing on 18, which Brian almost parred. He later said he had such a tremendous feeling of accomplishment, having conquered the Old Course.

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TG2: Brooks and Peter Kostis rip Patrick Reed

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Brooks Koepka and Peter Kostis both talk about Patrick Reed and his cheating allegations. Brooks was on SiriusXM and Kostis on No Laying Up don’t hold back their feelings on cheating. Kostis also has some PGA Tour beef, saying that they don’t care about the television broadcast.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

Watch for players lofting up at altitude at the WGC-Mexico Championship

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This week, at the PGA Tour’s WGC-Mexico Championship, we are going to watch some of the best and longest players on the planet play what will effectively be one of the shortest courses on tour.

Now, 7,341 yards is by no means a cakewalk, and there are shorter courses from a pure yardage perspective played on tour—Harbour Town, as an example, only plays at 7,099 yards from the very back. The difference is Harbour Town is played at sea level while Club de Golf Chapultepec is at over 7,500 feet of elevation, and when you factor in the altitude difference between the two courses, they play very differently—more on the math in a moment.

The altitude will also factor in how some players will be setting up their equipment and we could see some adjustments. The most obvious is lofting up the driver or fairways woods to increase carry, which is something Tiger Woods specifically mentioned last year.

The biggest misconception when talking about playing golf at altitude is that the ball doesn’t spin the same in thinner air and players “loft up” to maintain spin. Let’s get into the physics to bust this “spinning less” myth and simplify the science behind playing at altitude,

The golf ball is an inanimate object, and it has no idea it’s at altitude; the air will not have an impact on how much the ball will actually spin. Yes, increasing loft should, by almost every imaginable measure, increase spin but the air it travels through will not change the spin rate.

However, playing at altitude has an effect, Let’s break down what happens

  • Thinner air exerts less drag force (resistance/friction) on the ball. The ball moves more easily through this less dense air and won’t decelerate as quickly as it flies. But note that the faster an object moves the more drag force will occur
  • Less resistance also means that it is harder to shape shots. So you when you see Shot Tracer, the pros are going to be hitting it even straighter (this makes Tiger’s fairway bunker shot last year even more unbelievable)
  • Less force = less lift, the ball will fly lower and on a flatter trajectory

Time for some math from Steve Aoyama, a Principal Scientist at Titleist Golf Ball R&D (full piece here: The Effect of Altitude on Golf Ball Performance)

“You can calculate the distance gain you will experience (compared to sea level) by multiplying the elevation (in feet) by .00116. For example, if you’re playing in Reno, at 1 mile elevation (5,280 ft.) the increase is about 6% (5,280 x .00116 = 6.1248). If you normally drive the ball 250 yards at sea level, you will likely drive it 265 yards in Reno.”

Not every player will be making changes to their bag, and some will instead focus on the types of shots they are hitting instead. When speaking to Adam Scott earlier this week, I was able to ask if he planned on making any changes heading into Mexico the week after his win at the Genesis Invitational.

“It’s very rare for me to make club changes week-to-week beyond playing in the Open Championship and adding a longer iron. The one thing I focus on when playing at altitude is avoiding partial shots where I’m trying to reduce the spin because as spin goes down the ball doesn’t want to stay in the air. I’ve experienced partial shots with longer clubs that end up 25 yards short, and because of that I want to hit as many full shots as possible”

With Club de Golf Chapultepec sitting just over 7,800 feet above sea level, we’re looking at 9.048 or an increase of just over 9 percent. That makes this 7,341-yard course play 6,677 yards (+/- where the tees are placed).

 

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