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Hit it like a girl for more distance

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This story was selected as one of the 15 best GolfWRX stories of 2015!

Did you know that your club speed is much more likely to resemble that of an LPGA Tour player than a PGA Tour player? Sure all golfers want to swing like Rory, Tiger, Jordan or Jason, but due to differences in swing speed that may not be optimal for you. In fact, less than 2 percent of all amateur golfers, regardless of handicap, have a driver club speed that is equal to or greater than the PGA Tour average of 113 mph.

So… what can we learn from LPGA Tour players that can help all golfers perform better? EFFICIENCY. As a whole, LPGA Tour players are the most efficient group of golfers on the planet. This article will look specifically at the driver and how you can attain greater distance.

First, see the following chart, which shows the distribution of driver club speed across all male amateur golfers, regardless of handicap. Over 50 percent of all male golfers have a driver club speed between 87 mph and 103 mph.

GolfWRX_Chart

Next, we will overlay the ranges of the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour players onto that same chart. It is easy to see that the male golfing population is much more similar to the LPGA Tour than the PGA Tour in swing speed. In fact, the club speeds seen on the LPGA Tour represent more than two-thirds of the male golfing population.

GolfWRX_Chart

Now let’s look at what makes the LPGA Tour players so efficient. The first thing to notice is smash factor. Smash factor represents how efficiently club speed is turned into ball speed. And more ball speed means more distance. Both the LPGA Tour and PGA Tour players average a 1.49 smash factor. That is very efficient.

On the other hand, the average smash factor for all male amateurs is 1.41. Even though 1.49 versus 1.41 may not sound like a big difference, it equates to 15 yards for someone with a club speed of 94 mph, which is the average club speed for both the LPGA Tour and the male amateur. The following chart shows how much distance is lost versus the average LPGA Tour player based only on smash factor.

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 4.05.51 PM

The other main reason for LPGA players’ efficiency is their attack angle. Club speed and attack angle dictate a golfer’s potential distance with the driver. TrackMan first started collecting data on the range at PGA and LPGA Tour events in 2007. During that year, we worked with more than 100 players on both the men’s and women’s side. It quickly became apparent that the women did something that most men did not — they hit up on the ball with the driver. The LPGA Tour averaged a positive attack angle with their driver, whereas the PGA Tour averaged a negative attack angle. That holds true still to this day.

How does attack angle translate into potential distance? We will use a club speed of 94 mph again to illustrate the differences. The following chart shows the optimal launch, spin, and carry based on the club speed and attack angle.

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 4.06.41 PM

The average attack angle on the LPGA Tour is +2 degrees and the average for the male amateur is -2 degrees. This difference in attack angle means the LPGA player can carry the ball 9 yards farther than the male amateur if both players create the optimal launch and spin. Also, keep in mind that this 9-yard difference is in addition to the 15-yard difference that we saw earlier due to smash factor.

Now, neither group has the perfect launch and spin, but let’s look at what each group does produce on average.

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 4.07.25 PM

The average LPGA player generates nearly ideal spin, but launches it slightly low side for optimizing carry. This combination reduces maximum carry slightly, but allows them to create a little more bounce and roll. On the other hand, the male amateur has a good launch angle but produces more spin than desired. This combination will slightly reduce the carry, as well as the bounce and roll.

It’s important to note that having a positive attack angle and high smash factor doesn’t automatically mean you will maximize distance. An efficient impact position as well as a properly fitted club are critical pieces of the equation. That is why it is important to find a Certified TrackMan Professional who can help you achieve your optimal values.

To review:

  • Create a positive attack angle to maximize potential distance.
  • Generate a high smash factor to create maximum ball speed.
  • Produce an impact position that delivers the club efficiently to the golf ball.
  • Get fit for a driver that allows you to take full advantage of your swing.

Don’t be afraid to hit like a girl because that is the standard that we should all try to achieve!

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Justin Padjen, business development for TrackMan, has worked with more than 200 PGA and LPGA Tour professionals, including multiple world No. 1's. His knowledge of the science of golf has led to audiences with the top players, coaches, universities, and manufacturers in the world. Justin studied Electrical Engineering at North Carolina State University before earning a Master’s in Sports Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University. His current focus is TrackMan University, which is revolutionizing the way golf is taught and understood.

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. devilsadvocate

    Sep 19, 2015 at 10:44 am

    Low points for the comments today… Great article and good points made….

  2. devilsadvocate

    Sep 19, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Wow low points for the comments section today… Upward attack angle favors distance over accuracy which is why lpga tour players tend to hit up on the tee ball. Downward attack angle puts more backspin and less sidespin which favors accuracy at the cost of distance which is why MOST pga tour players hit down on it, read MOST not ALL… Some pga tour players do hit up on it for more distance ala spieth bubba j Thomas etc

  3. marcel

    Sep 16, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    great article. i have always known I am an average lady golfer 😉

  4. Larry

    Sep 16, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    Not sure what the author is trying to say. Other than club head speed what are the key differences between page and lpga players? Are they doing something different technique wise? If they are its not clear to me what it is.

    • devilsadvocate

      Sep 19, 2015 at 9:55 am

      Lol the entire article is dedicated to answering that question

    • devilsadvocate

      Sep 19, 2015 at 4:16 pm

      Technique – play the ball more forward, tee it higher, stay behind the ball on your downswing as much as you can and swing out to the right more to counter gear effect with your new upward attack angle… Remember that with the ball teed higher you should address the ball towards the toe if you ground your driver before you swing because it is slightly closer to you than it would be if it were on the ground…. Enjoy your added carry and roll

  5. other paul

    Sep 15, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    I will stick with hitting it like a man. Far and offline (Almost got the hook beat by turning it in to a push draw)And hitting down a little. Nothing screams hack like hitting the ground before the ball when its on a tee which is what happens when I try to swing up at it. Swinging level is much easier.

    • Cliff

      Sep 22, 2015 at 1:08 pm

      You can’t beat a hook with a push draw! Good try tho lol!

  6. jakeanderson

    Sep 15, 2015 at 4:56 am

    i am sorry, but i find this article terribly misleading. while it is true that swing speed-wise the average male golfer correlates more with the average lpga-professional, the differences in flexibility and strenght must not be understated. a great many amateurs swing the way they do, because they lack flexibilty. in contrast lpga-players are extremely flexibel, even compared with pga-tour players. therefore the best role-models for average players are champions tour players, because they share the same physical limitations.

    • Jack

      Sep 16, 2015 at 12:05 am

      If amateur golfers could really swing like LPGA players, then they’d all be scoring below part, even from the white tees. It’s not even close. But I get what the article is trying to say. We should try to emulate the technically proficient swings of the LPGA players. We’re more likely to match their swing speed the the PGA guys. Most guys like to say they have 120mph swings etc, but the truth is most swing in the 80’s and can at most hit 90’s with some training.

      And the key point that’s lost is that their swing is a lot better than any of ours. That’s what we need to improve on.

  7. Dpavs

    Sep 14, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    Good article. This is something that most PGA teachers I have spoken to have said for a while now… most amateurs should be watching and emulating the LPGA, not the PGA players because characteristically they are closer to the gals than the guys.

    Also anyone who thought this was sexist at all… all I can say is good grief… there’s a line that is simply not acceptable and should not be crossed we all know that… but maybe its high time to get off those all too too politically correct soap boxes and lighten up already.

  8. Philip

    Sep 14, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    Don’t you think the title and context of the article is misleading? You are obviously not telling average male golfers to emulate the swings of young “way more flexible” women with different body structures – that’s like asking an older male elephant to gallop like a young female gazelle – traction anyone? As far as the four points you conclude with, they are also used by PGA Tour golfers – nothing to do with swinging like a “girl”? Besides, a great swing is a great swing due to technique – not sex! Based on trackman data PGA players smash factors from as low as 1.424 to as high as 1.539 and launch angles ranging from -2 to almost 20 degrees. I think the average male golfer would be better off studying PGA players – not just watching them play – and consider trying out technique that they notice quite a few different type of players doing in a similar way, as there is likely a very good reason why.

    • Nomnom

      Sep 15, 2015 at 3:12 am

      I’d say swing like Bernhard Langer for the rest of your life

    • other paul

      Sep 15, 2015 at 1:29 pm

      Good points. Why swing like an average player on tour though? Why not try and learn the swings of the elite players instead?

      • Philip

        Sep 15, 2015 at 2:41 pm

        Agree – since I do not have a TV I use PGA Tour Live as my source and so far I have improved my grip for my swing, my driver, my putting setup and how I approach playing a course from studying the best players shown to-date as they play the entire round. I find marquee coverage a great learning aid.

  9. Bryan P

    Sep 14, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    “You swing like a girl!” *Sandlot voice*

    …”Thanks!”

  10. KCCO

    Sep 14, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    I’ve always thought and was told I was supposed to hit slightly up on my driver, and have had success. I really don’t know, so that’s why I’m asking. Isn’t that the purpose of having ball on a tee and more forward in your stance? I always thought the idea was to catch the ball on a slight up swing. And I though it was mentioned, but I’ve seen my smash factor all most max out by shortening my driver, and have repetitive or consistent ball marks on the face of my driver. I don’t have exact numbers to prove, but can say 8 outta 10 balls are on exact same location of driver, where I would be lucky to acheive that maybe 5-6 outta 10 on the correct spot of my driver, only by visual and smash factor numbers as proof, but that 3/4 inch shorter driver shaft may have lost a few feet, but higher smash, more consistent sweet spot equals better off the tee for me. Just my .02

  11. Nevin

    Sep 14, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    Very good article. I think that many amateur male golfers would play better by emulating the tempo and swings of the LPGA pros. I know it helps my game more when I watch the LPGA.

  12. Brian

    Sep 14, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    This is EXACTLY why I swing the way I do. I’ve spent so much time this year getting tempo down so that I don’t need to swing hard. Good, solid contact and a shot in the middle of the fairway is much more important to me than an extra ten yards. I’ll just go a club up and be on in two, thanks.

    I left my swing video in the forums the other day and someone said it had some characteristics of Lexi Thompson’s, so I went and watched some analysis of her swing. I have to say that I’m okay with that.

  13. Dudley Rogers

    Sep 14, 2015 at 11:02 am

    What a sexist article! I guess since most of your readers are males, you can get away with saying something like this. Have you not seen the #LikeAGirl campaign that Always is pushing? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs

  14. mlecuni

    Sep 14, 2015 at 10:58 am

    Hey Justin, very nice article.
    Do you think, we can learn about the shaft/flex/fcm, they use on LPGA to improve too ?

    Thanks !

  15. LK

    Sep 14, 2015 at 10:20 am

    I don’t think anyone would argue that LPGA players are as strong as the average man so I hope people use this as reinforcement of the fact that it is not muscle or effort alone that determines how far you hit the ball. The big difference is that most average golfers really have no idea how to efficiently use their bodies and gravity in the golf swing. I have never understood why so many men refuse to give up the “hack” swing and actually try to retrain their bodies to be efficient. The arms and hands are not the motor of the golf swing.

  16. Tom Stickney II

    Sep 14, 2015 at 10:16 am

    Fantastic article.

  17. AllBOdoesisgolf

    Sep 14, 2015 at 10:13 am

    the hypocrisy of when it’s ok to use certain phrases is astounding…

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One of the continuing trends in golf clubs – particularly drivers – is the pursuit of increasingly lighter shafts; this obsessive goal has given us the premise that the lighter the club, the faster you can swing it. And that idea is driven by the relentless pursuit of distance at all levels, and for all golfers.

But as long as he is, for example, Dustin Johnson ran away with the Masters because he was exactly that – a “master” at ball control and precision. DJ outperformed almost everyone in the field in terms of fairways and greens. That gave him more birdie putts, better looks because of his precise approach shots, and many fewer tough par saves.

But my topic today is to pose the question: “Is lighter really the key to being longer for all of us “recreational” golfers?”
Let me begin by saying that “recreational” doesn’t mean any lack of seriousness or dedication to the game. Hitting better shots and shooting lower scores is the goal for all of us who care about our golf games, right? What I mean is that we do not make our living playing the game. We do not practice incessantly. We do not spend hours at the gym every day specifically preparing our bodies to optimize our golf skills.

Today I’m going to put on my “contrarian” cap and challenge this assumption of “lighter is longer” on a couple of bases.
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The simple fact is, the speed at which you can fire these big muscles is not going to be measurably impacted by removing another half ounce or less of weight from your driver. But what that removal of weight can do is to possibly allow for your hands to be faster, which would aggravate the problem I see in most mid- to high-handicap players. That problem is that their body core is not leading the swing, but rather it is following the arms and hands through impact.

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