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Swing speed: How do you compare?

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How fast a golfer swings the club has had an increasingly higher correlation to how much money the top PGA Tour professionals make in recent years—this is no secret.  

What has been a secret, until now, is how fast other golfers your age swing and how you compare. No one has known, or if they have, they didn’t share it. We are going to reveal in this article, based on the research and data we have been collecting for over six years, where you stand compared to where you could be. No longer will you be held captive to father time and the belief that you are doomed to get worse with age!

After reading this article, you will see what is possible for you, depending on where you are in your golf life based on the cold, hard facts of science. The data sample we have is almost 800 golfers large and ranges from ages 10 to 80.  The really cool thing about this article, though, is that we aren’t stopping there. We are then going to dive into the top three tests that you can do at home that correlate to clubhead speed at an incredibly high level.  

If you find yourself in the 25th percentile for club speed but 90th percentile for the power tests, you have more speed in you right this second, we just have to get it out of you. It might be figuring out which of your four rotary centers are locked up or could be a simple nervous system fix such as over-speed training. All it takes is a simple assessment and application of the correct fix and you are good to go!

If, however, your swing speed is in the 75th percentile and your power numbers are only in the 25th percentile, you are swinging faster than your body can handle. The only way you are getting faster and minimizing the risk of injury is by improving your physical abilities.  

You are likely already maximizing your equipment and technique as far as they will take you at this moment. Your low-hanging fruit is in either the mobility or the power quadrants of speed. This is again easily determined with a simple assessment so that you can apply the correct fix to your problem. If, however, you skipped the assessment and just started over-speed training or something other than what you actually needed, your likelihood for injury is probably quite high.

So let’s get into it…

STEP 1 – Power Assessment

The three tests that we measured in our research to look at their relationship to club speed were standing shot put from both sides (6 lb medicine ball), seated chest pass (6 lb medicine ball) and vertical jump. The correlations for each test to club speed for the entire sample are below. A correlation of 1.0 means that there is an exact relationship between the two variables, a correlation of 0.0 means there is absolutely no relationship. As you can see, vertical jump had the lowest correlation while shot put right (strong side) had the strongest correlation.

Shot Put R 0.822

Shot Put Left 0.809

Seated Chest Pass  0.802

Vertical Jump  0.644

For a more in-depth look at each test’s correlations to the club speed within each specific age group, I would encourage you to download the entire free report here.  

Below are the charts for the power tests and their percentiles for each age group (click the image to expand) 

Each of these tests is the first step for you to take to objectively assess where you are in terms of your ability to produce power.  Complete each test, write down your numbers and then write down what percentile you fall into.  

The next step is putting in your swing speed, assessing the relationship and then coming up with a plan.

Step 2 – Swing Speed Assessment

This is the one everyone is excited about.  Find your age group bracket and see where you fall in the percentiles.  Write this number and your percentile down and compare it to your power numbers.  See anything interesting yet? 

Swing Speed Data Table

Percentiles 25th 50th 75th 90th 99th
10-13 years old
Males 73.0 82.0 90.1 98.0 104.6
Females 70.7 77.3 82.6 87.9 95.1
14-16 years old
Males 98.5 103.9 107.8 111.5 115.1
Females 85.0 87.2 92.2 96.4 101.8
17-29 years old
Males 108.8 112.9 117.3 122.1 127.2
Females 87.0 93.4 96.6 98.8 102.3
30-39 years old
Males 102.2 107.9 112.3 118.3 128.5
Females
40-49 years old
Males 97.0 100.8 106.1 110.4 114.5
Females NA NA NA NA NA
50-59 years old
Males 96.5 100.2 104.0 109.4 114.3
Females 72.7 73.9 80.9 86.0 87.4
60-69 years old
Males 87.6 94.0 97.8 100.2 104.0
Females 71.9 73.5 75.2 76.7 79.6
70+ years old
Males 84.6 93.7 96.9 100.2 107.5
Females 69.1 71.1 72.1 72.9 73.0

Step 3 – Asses Mobility

This is the most important step but also the least exciting. In order to complete step four, which is going to be coming up with your plan, you need to know how your mobility is at your four main rotary centers. Normally we charge $10 for this at-home assessment, but since you are reading it here at GolfWRX we are giving it to you for free.

Click here to download the free assessment.  

Once you complete these simple mobility tests, we’ll give you the email to send your results to so we can send you some simple fixes complementary.

Write down your mobility results next to your power numbers, swing speeds and your percentiles for all categories. At this point, you should have a simple yet clear picture of you as a golfer.

Step 4 – Your Plan 

This is where the magic happens.  At this point, you have done more than 90 percent of golfers, golf instructors, and golf fitness gurus. You assessed objectively where you are today, all the major physical quadrants of your power profile. And it should not have taken you more than 15 minutes.  

Now, look at all your numbers and first, identify any mobility restrictions you have. These are the most important ones to address first. Without question. Do the fixes we send you.

Next, take a look at your power percentiles vs. your club speed percentile.  

Three Possible Outcomes

More RPM Under the Hood

If your power percentiles are higher than your speed percentile, you have more speed in your tank right this instant, we just need to let it out!  

Fix any mobility restrictions you have and that will gain you speed. If you had no mobility restrictions, solutions such as over-speed training could be huge for you! That being said, avoid high volume protocols. We have found in some of our other research that you can gain the same speed numbers with a lot fewer swings.  If you’re interested in learning more about these, stay tuned. I would also recommend looking at your equipment for ideal fit and your technique for maximal efficiency. Your solutions could lie in those areas as well.

The Ticking Time Bomb

If your power percentiles were lower than your speed percentile, you are swinging faster than your body wants to.  You likely have optimized your equipment and technique to a degree. You are essentially defying nature. This sounds great until you understand the injury risk potential that exists for you.  

Making sure your mobility is up to par is step one. If you want a sure-fire way to assure injury, swing faster than your body is capable of handling and do it without rotational mobility. Guaranteed poor outcome in that situation.

The next thing you need to do is get involved in a golf performance program of some sort that works on the specific areas of detriment that were identified in the power testing.  

This doesn’t mean to start training the tests, however. This means that you should be implementing exercises and drills that train up the skills necessary to maximize power output in a pushing, rotational and vertical manner. Depending on your training experience and background, oftentimes seeking out help from a professional in designing this part of the solution is a wise move. 

The Balanced Golfer

If you find that all your percentiles were pretty much the same, congratulations! You are a balanced golfer. As with the other two types, check your mobility and make sure you close any gaps there first. The next step for you will likely be a balance approach of technique, equipment, mobility, and strength conditioning for golf.  

Once you figure out where you land, you likely will have questions about where to go next. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for complimentary calls to discuss your results and give you suggestions of what to do next.

Happy speed gains!  

 

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Chris Finn is the founder of Par4Success and a Licensed Physical Therapist, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Titleist Performance Institute Certified Medical Professional and trained to perform Trigger Point Dry Needling in North Carolina. He is regarded as the premier Golf Fitness, Performance & Medical Expert in North Carolina. Since starting Par4Success in 2011, Chris has and continues to work with Touring Professionals, elite level juniors & amateurs as well as weekend warriors. He has contributed to numerous media outlets, is a published author, a consultant and presents all over the world on topics related to golf performance and the golf fitness business.

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. des

    Aug 9, 2019 at 2:14 pm

    Why stop at 70? How about us 88 year olds.

  2. Steve Pratt

    Aug 8, 2019 at 12:35 am

    Hey Chris,

    I want to know if the correlation goes both ways.

    If I train and improve my shot put/chest press/vertical leap numbers can I expect equal percentage gains in clubhead speed? Let’s say those are the only 3 exercises I do.

  3. Patricknorm

    Aug 7, 2019 at 10:26 am

    I forgot the author’s name, but again people struggle with statistics and their interpretation. I under these charts and can’t really disagree with the numbers based on the number of tournaments I play each year and the broad spectrum of abilities I play with. For example two of my kids ( male and female) played elite hockey and their swing speeds are precisely correct in the upper speed ranges. I’m 65 and play tournament golf and I’m about average for distances and often out driven by much faster swingers.
    I’ve had both knees replaced so, my vertical jump and leg strength is terrible. I know if I strength my legs I’ll hit my driver further. Easier said than done.

  4. Brett

    Aug 6, 2019 at 1:00 pm

    Are these all scratch players? Watching club fittings I rarely see people as fast as your 50% category

    • Chris Finn

      Aug 9, 2019 at 4:17 pm

      Thesea are handicappers ranging from scratch to in the 20’s. The biggest thing to consider here is that the 50th and ups generally are involved in a golf performance program which increases their speed and power numbers. These is your normal country club golfer spectrum

  5. Revanant

    Aug 6, 2019 at 11:37 am

    These numbers seem way out of proportion.

    If I’m in my 20s and in average shape, I should have tour average swing speed?

    • Chris Finn

      Aug 9, 2019 at 4:27 pm

      “Average” shape in your 20’s would put you in the 105-113 range most likely. Remember, though, there are 4 main factors that impact speed (equipment, technique, mobility & power). From a physical standpoint, most “average” shape guys in their 20’s likely have the ability physically to swing this fast, but technique and power output coordination will likely keep them short. It is important to take note of this sample size that the 17-29 year old sample size is mostly Div 1 golfers and professionals.

  6. Skeptic 123

    Aug 6, 2019 at 8:31 am

    I’m guessing that it is just a statistical anomaly that the 99th percentile swing speed for 70+ is higher than for a 60-69 yr old. 107 for a septuagenarian is pretty unbelievable.

  7. Pinhigh27

    Aug 6, 2019 at 6:06 am

    Sample population isn’t representative of average people, maybe high level golfers. Average for 17-29 is 113? Give me a break, maybe among good players. 90th percentile 122?

    Your people are more likely to swing faster to begin with because they’re probably better players and looking to swing faster.

    When talking about average persons potential you need to use data from average people, not a highly skilled subset.

  8. Large chris

    Aug 6, 2019 at 4:35 am

    The comparison between power output and swing speed percentiles is useful definitely, but the absolute percentile swing speed figures are ridiculous.

    These presumably are just test results of serious golfers who have been at your facility. No way the median 50% of male golfers in their thirties (of all golfers) is 108mph lol

    • Joe Frigo

      Aug 6, 2019 at 6:23 am

      lol totally agree with this! im 31 and my range is usually 108 – 112. When I play with my friends im definitely the fastest swing and the other 3 are around 100. optimal launch and spin being considered, that means half the men in their 30’s can potentially hit 300 yard drives

      • Large chris

        Aug 6, 2019 at 7:43 am

        And the top 1% (eg a million players if there are a hundred million male golfers in their thirties on the planet) are swinging at 128.5mph so they would all be longer than anyone on the PGA tour. BAHAHAHAHA.

        Better explanation of who has been tested is required.

        • Joe Frigo

          Aug 6, 2019 at 8:14 am

          hahahaha seriously…. an explanation on who was tested is definitely needed!

          I worked at a pga superstore and fitted for 3 years. I know my 108 – 112 avg isn’t the fastest by any means. but it was very very rare for someone to come in and swing faster than that

        • Chris Finn

          Aug 6, 2019 at 10:00 am

          tour average is 113 mph…exactly the same as our 17-29 year old demographics. The top tour players can swing in the high 120’s and some of the younger guys do top out in the 130′ if they go after it.

          • Chris Finn

            Aug 6, 2019 at 10:02 am

            the guys swinging in the 90-99th percentiles are not your average players, but the cool thing is that this data shows you what is possible at different ages and stages in the golf career.

            • Large chris

              Aug 6, 2019 at 1:05 pm

              Well the golfers in the 90-99% percentile should be the top 10% of all swing speeds for all golfers.
              Not some undefined mysterious elite…. if this is a breakdown of mini tour players (figures still sound high) then please edit the article to say so.

    • Judge Smails

      Aug 6, 2019 at 9:10 am

      And there is no way that the median for 70+ is 94MPH. I remember Gary Player – one of the best athletes in the history of the game – saying his clubhead speed at age 75 was 93MPH. There are probably 50 super seniors at our club, and not one of us can get anywhere near 93. Most of us would be happy to hit 93MPH of BALL SPEED!

      • Chris Finn

        Aug 6, 2019 at 10:04 am

        This is just the average for 70 year olds who are participating in a targeted golf performance plan. most 70 year old golfers aren’t doing that which is why they don’t swing as fast. Hopefully this helps to give hope back to the guys in the 70’s who are in the 70’s and 80s mph that other guys are doing it and they likely can do better than where they are now.

    • Chris Finn

      Aug 6, 2019 at 9:58 am

      definitely the sample size is of golfers who are playing more than 4 times per year. These are players who practice and on average play 30ish times per year or more

  9. MattM

    Aug 5, 2019 at 11:39 pm

    Sweet so I’m 99th percentile in all power categories just need to get the swing speed to catch up then.

  10. Luke A Gentry

    Aug 5, 2019 at 10:23 pm

    When measuring the distances the medicine ball is thrown, do you include roll or mark the spot that it lands.

  11. Ashton

    Aug 5, 2019 at 6:24 pm

    I find myself in the 90th+ percentile in all categories except vertical leap.
    I’d say that coincides directly with the amount of beer consumed and the waste size increasing.
    I’d be curious if there’s another test that is more efficient than vertical leap – say leg press/squat.
    What was the reasoning behind vertical leap? it takes into play the core and leg strength effectively, but would you say it also is a good indication of ability to fire the lower half in the swing?

    • Chris Finn

      Aug 5, 2019 at 9:32 pm

      Thanks for the read Ashton! Swing speed is an expression of power while squat and leg press are measures of strength…2 different but related physical skills. There is some research showing a weak relationship between squat and swing speed. The best relationship is actually based around how high you jump and how much you weigh. If a 100 lb person jumps 20″ and a 200lb person jump 20″ the heavier person is creating more power and will likely swing faster. We are currently building up our database with all that information, but this is a great start with the absolute data of just how high.

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Opinion & Analysis

Clark: A teacher’s take on Brandel Chamblee’s comments

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Because I’m writing to a knowledgeable audience who follows the game closely, I’m sure the current Brandel Chamblee interview and ensuing controversy needs no introduction, so let’s get right to it.

Brandel Chamblee, a former PGA Tour player, now plays a role as a TV personality. He has built a “brand” around that role. The Golf Channel seems to relish the idea of Brandel as the “loose cannon” of the crew (not unlike Johnny Miller on NBC) saying exactly what he thinks with seeming impunity from his superiors.

I do not know the gentleman personally, but on-air, he seems like an intelligent, articulate golf professional, very much on top of his subject matter, which is mostly the PGA Tour. He was also a very capable player (anyone who played and won on the PGA Tour is/was a great player). But remember, nowadays he is not being judged by what scores he shoots, but by how many viewers/readers his show and his book have (ratings). Bold statements sell, humdrum ones do not.

For example, saying that a teacher’s idiocy was exposed is a bold controversial statement that will sell, but is at best only partly true and entirely craven. If the accuser is not willing to name the accused, he is being unfair and self-serving. However, I think it’s dangerous to throw the baby out with the bathwater here; Brandel is a student of the game and I like a lot of what he says and thinks.

His overriding message in that interview is that golf over the last “30-40 years” has been poorly taught. He says the teachers have been too concerned with aesthetics, not paying enough attention to function. There is some truth in that, but Brandel is painting with a very broad brush here. Many, myself included, eschewed method teaching years ago for just that reason. Method teachers are bound to help some and not others. Maybe the “X swing” one player finds very useful, another cannot use it all.

Brandel was asked specifically about Matthew Wolff’s unique swing: Lifting the left heel, crossing the line at the top, etc. He answered, “of course he can play because that’s how he plays.” The problem would be if someone tried to change that because it “looked odd.” Any teacher worth his weight in salt would not change a swing simply because it looked odd if it was repeating good impact. I learned from the great John Jacobs that it matters not what the swing looks like if it is producing great impact.

Now, if he is objecting exclusively to those method teachers who felt a certain pattern of motions was the one true way to get to solid impact, I agree with him 100 percent. Buy many teach on an individual, ball flight and impact basis and did not generalize a method. So to say “golf instruction over the last 30-40 years” has been this or that is far too broad a description and unfair.

He goes on to say that the “Top Teacher” lists are “ridiculous.” I agree, mostly. While I have been honored by the PGA and a few golf publications as a “top teacher,” I have never understood how or why. NOT ONE person who awarded me those honors ever saw me give one lesson! Nor have they have ever tracked one player I coached.  I once had a 19 handicap come to me and two seasons later he won the club championship-championship flight! By that I mean with that student I had great success. But no one knew of that progress who gave me an award.

On the award form, I was asked about the best, or most well-known students I had taught. In the golf journals, a “this-is-the-teacher-who-can-help-you” message is the epitome of misdirection. Writing articles, appearing on TV, giving YouTube video tips, etc. is not the measure of a teacher. On the list of recognized names, I’m sure there are great teachers, but wouldn’t you like to see them teach as opposed to hearing them speak? I’m assuming the “ridiculous” ones Brandel refers to are those teaching a philosophy or theory of movement and trying to get everyone to do just that.

When it comes to his criticism of TrackMan, I disagree. TrackMan does much more than help “dial in yardage.” Video cannot measure impact, true path, face-to-path relationship, centeredness of contact, club speed, ball speed, plane etc. Comparing video with radar is unfair because the two systems serve different functions. And if real help is better ball flight, which of course only results from better impact, then we need both a video of the overall motion and a measure of impact.

Now the specific example he cites of Jordan Spieth’s struggles being something that can be corrected in “two seconds” is hyperbolic at least! Nothing can be corrected that quickly simply because the player has likely fallen into that swing flaw over time, and it will take time to correct it. My take on Jordan’s struggles is a bit different, but he is a GREAT player who will find his way back.

Brandel accuses Cameron McCormick (his teacher) of telling him to change his swing.  Do we know that to be true, or did Jordan just fall into a habit and Cameron is not seeing the change? I agree there is a problem; his stats prove that, but before we pick a culprit, let’s get the whole story. Again back to the sensationalism which sells! (Briefly, I believe Jordan’s grip is and has always been a problem but his putter and confidence overcame it. An active body and “quiet” hands is the motion one might expect of a player with a strong grip-for obvious reason…but again just my two teacher cents)

Anyway, “bitch-slapped” got him in hot water for other reasons obviously, and he did apologize over his choice of words, and to be clear he did not condemn the PGA as a whole. But because I have disagreements with his reasoning here does not mean Brandel is not a bright articulate golf professional, I just hope he looks before he leaps the next time, and realizes none of us are always right.

Some of my regular readers will recall I “laid down my pen” a few years ago, but it occurred to me, I would be doing many teachers a disservice if I did not offer these thoughts on this particular topic!

 

 

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Opinion & Analysis

A trip down Magnolia Memory Lane: Patron fashion at the 1991 Masters

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Like a lot of golfers out there, I’ve been getting my fix thanks to the final round Masters broadcasts on YouTube via the Masters channel. Considering these broadcasts go back as far as 1968, there is a lot we could discuss—we could break down shots, equipment, how the course has changed, but instead I thought we could have a little fun taking a different direction—fashion.

However, I’m not talking players fashion, that’s fairly straight forward. Instead, I wanted to follow the action behind the action and see what we could find along the way – here are the 1991 Highlights.

I love the “Die Hard” series as much as anyone else but one fan took it to a new level of fandom by wearing a Die Hard 2 – Die Harder T-shirt to Sunday at the Masters. This patron was spotted during Ian Woosnam fourth shot into 13. Honorable mention goes to Woosie’s gold chain.

There is a lot going on here as Ben Crenshaw lines up his put on 17. First, we have the yellow-shirted man just left of center with perfectly paired Masters green pants to go along with his hat (he also bears a striking resemblance to Ping founder Karsten Solheim). Secondly, we have what I would imagine is his friend in the solid red pants—both these outfits are 10 out of 10. Last but not least, we have the man seen just to the right of Ben with sunglasses so big and tinted, I would expect to be receiving a ticket from him on the I20 on my way out of town.

If you don’t know the name Jack Hamm, consider yourself lucky you missed a lot of early 2000s late-night golf infomercials. OK so maybe it’s not the guy known for selling “The Hammer” driver but if you look under the peak of the cabin behind Woosie as he tees off on ten you can be forgiven for taking a double-take… This guy might show up later too. Honorable mention to the pastel-pink-shorted man with the binoculars and Hogan cap in the right of the frame.

Big proportions were still very much in style as the 80s transitioned into the early 90s. We get a peek into some serious style aficionados wardrobes behind the 15th green with a wide striped, stiff collared lilac polo, along with a full-length bright blue sweater and a head of hair that has no intention of being covered by a Masters hat.

Considering the modern tales of patrons (and Rickie Folwer) being requested to turn backward hats forward while on the grounds of Augusta National, it was a pretty big shock to see Gerry Pate’s caddy with his hat being worn in such an ungentlemanly manner during the final round.

Before going any further, I would like us all to take a moment to reflect on how far graphics during the Masters coverage has come in the last 30 years. In 2019 we had the ability to see every shot from every player on every hole…in 1991 we had this!

At first glance, early in the broadcast, these yellow hardhats threw me for a loop. I honestly thought that a spectator had chosen to wear one to take in the action. When Ian Woosnam smashed his driver left on 18 over the bunkers it became very apparent that anyone wearing a hard hat was not there for fun, they were part of the staff. If you look closely you can see hole numbers on the side of the helmets to easily identify what holes they were assigned to. Although they have less to do with fashion, I must admit I’m curious where these helmets are now, and what one might be worth as a piece of memorabilia.

Speaking of the 18th hole, full credit to the man in the yellow hat (golf clap to anyone that got the Curious George reference) who perfectly matched the Pantone of his hat to his shirt and also looked directly into the TV camera.

It could be said the following photo exemplifies early ’90s fashion. We have pleated Bermuda shorts, horizontal stripes all over the place and some pretty amazing hairstyles. Honorable mention to the young guys in the right of the frame that look like every ’80s movie antagonist “rich preppy boy.”

What else can I say except, khaki and oversized long sleeve polos certainly had their day in 1991? We have a bit of everything here as Tom Watson lines up his persimmon 3-wood on the 18th. The guy next to Ian Woosnam’s sleeves hit his mid-forearm, there are too many pleats to count, and somehow our Jack Hamm look-alike managed to find another tee box front row seat.

You can check out the full final-round broadcast of the 1991 Masters below.

 

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole Episode 119: Gary Player joins the 19th Hole!

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Hall of Famer Gary Player gives an exclusive one-on-one interview with Host Michael Williams about his life in golf, his thoughts on the current game and his tips for thriving even in difficult times.

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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