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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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The Wedge Guy: Getting more out of your wedges

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When I started SCOR Golf in 2011 and completely re-engineered the short end of the set, I took on “the establishment” and referred to our line of clubs not as “wedges” but as “scoring clubs”—I felt like the term “wedge” had become over-applied to clubs that really weren’t. While I’ve tempered my “respectful irreverence” a bit since then, I still think we are shackled by the terms applied to those high-loft clubs at the short end of our sets.

Think about this for a moment.

It all started with the invention of the sand wedge back in the late 1930s. This invention is generally credited to Gene Sarazen, who famously had metal welded onto the bottom of a niblick to give it bounce, and introduced the basic “explosion” sand shot. Over the next few decades, the sand wedge “matured” to a loft of 55-56 degrees and was a go-to staple in any serious golfer’s bag. In his 1949 book, “Power Golf”, Ben Hogan described the sand wedge as a very versatile tool “for certain shots” around the greens, and listed his maximum distance with a sand wedge as 55 yards.

Even into the 1970s, the pitching wedge was considered the ‘go-to’ club for short recovery shots around the greens. And because the typical pitching wedge was 50-52 degrees in loft, it was very versatile for that purpose. I remember that even as a scratch player in the 60s and early 70s, I would go days or weeks without pulling the “sand wedge” out of my bag—we didn’t have bunkers on that little 9-hole course so I didn’t feel like I needed one very often.

Fast forward into the 1980s and 1990s, people were hitting sand wedges from everywhere and the wedge makers began to add “lob wedges” in the 60-degree range and then “gap wedges” of 48 degrees or so to fill in for the evolutional strengthening of iron lofts to a point where the set match pitching wedge (or P-club as I call it) was 44-45 degrees typically. Along the way, the designation “G”, “S”, “L” and “P” were dropped and almost all wedges carried the actual loft number of the club. I think this was a positive development, but it seems we cannot get away from the pigeon-holing our wedges into “pitching”, “gap”, “sand” and “lob” nomenclature.

So that history lesson was a set-up for suggesting that you look at all your wedges as just “wedges” with no further limitations as to their use. I think that will free you up to use your creativity with each club to increase your repertoire of shots you have in your bag…more arrows in your quiver, so to speak.

For example, long bunker shots are much easier if you open the face of your 50- 54-degree wedge so you don’t have to swing as hard to get the ball to fly further. You’ll still get plenty of spin, but your results will become much more consistent. Likewise, that super-short delicate bunker shot can be hit more easily with your higher lofted wedge of 58-60 degrees.

When you get out further, and are facing mid-range shots of 40-75 yards, don’t automatically reach for your “sand wedge” out of habit, but think about the trajectory and spin needs for that shot. Very often a softened swing with your “gap” wedge will deliver much more consistent results. You’ll reduce the likelihood of making contact high on the face and coming up short, and you can even open the face a bit to impart additional spin if you need it.

Around the greens, your lower-lofted wedges will allow you to achieve more balance between carry and roll, as almost all instructors encourage you to get the ball on the ground more quickly to improve greenside scoring. For the vast majority of recreational/weekend golfers, simply changing clubs is a lot easier than trying to manipulate technique to hit low shots with clubs designed to hit the ball high.

Finally, on any shots into the wind, you are almost always better off “lofting down” and swinging easier to help make more solid contact and reduce spin that will cause the ball to up-shoot and come up short. Too often I watch my friends try to hit hard full wedge shots into our all-too-common 12-20 mph winds and continually come up short. My preference is to loft down even as much as two clubs, grip down a bit and swing much more easily, which ensures a lower trajectory with less spin…and much more consistent outcomes. It is not uncommon for me to choose a 45-degree wedge for a shot as short as 75-80 yards into a breeze, when my stock distance for that club is about 115. I get consistently positive results doing that.

So, if you can wean yourself from referring to your wedges by their names and zero in on what each can do because of their numbers, you will expand your arsenal of shots you can call on when you are in prime scoring range and hit it close to the flag much more often. And that’s really the goal, isn’t it?

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