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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

The Wedge Guy: Short game tempo

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One of my favorite things to do is observe golfers closely, watching how they go about things from well before the shot to the execution of the swing or stroke. Guess the golf course has become kind of like going to the lab, in a way.

One thing I notice much too often is how “quick” most golfers are around the greens. It starts with grabbing a club or two from the cart and quickly getting to their ball. Then a few short jabs at a practice swing and usually a less-than-stellar result at a recovery.

Why?

If you are going to spend a morning or afternoon on the course, why hurry around the greens? I tend to be a fast player and despise five-hour rounds, but don’t fault anyone for taking a few seconds extra to get “right” with their recovery shot. You can still play “ready golf” and not short yourself in the close attention to execution. But let me get back to the specific topic.

Maybe it’s aggravated by this rush, but most golfers I observe have a short game tempo that is too quick. Chips, pitches and recoveries are precision swings at less than full power, so they require a tempo that is slower than you might think to accommodate that precision. They are outside the “norm” of a golf swing, so give yourself several practice swings to get a feel for the tempo and power that needs to be applied to the shot at hand.

I also think this quick tempo is a result of the old adage “accelerate through the ball.” We’ve all had that pounded into our brains since we started playing, but my contention is that it is darn hard not to accelerate . . . it’s a natural order of the swing. But to mentally focus on that idea tends to produce a short, choppy swing, with no rhythm or precision. So, here’s a practice drill for you.

  1. Go to your practice range, the local ball field, schoolyard or anywhere you can safely hit golf balls 20-30 yards or less.
  2. Pick a target only 30-50 feet away and hit your normal pitch, observing the trajectory.
  3. Then try to hit each successive ball no further, but using a longer, more flowing, fluid swing motion than the one before. That means you’ll make the downswing slower and slower each time, as you are moving the club further and further back each time.

My bet is that somewhere in there you will find a swing length and tempo where that short pitch shot becomes much easier to hit, with better loft and spin, than your normal method.

The key to this is to move the club with the back and through rotation of your body core, not just your arms and hands. This allows you to control tempo and applied power with the big muscles, for more consistency.

Try this and share with all of us if it doesn’t open your eyes to a different way of short game success.

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Instruction

The Wedge Guy: The core cause of bad shots

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You are cruising through a round of golf, hitting it pretty good and then you somehow just hit an absolutely terrible shot? This isn’t a problem unique to recreational golfers trying to break 80, 90, or 100 — even the best tour professionals occasionally hit a shot that is just amazingly horrible, given their advanced skill levels.

It happens to all of us — some more frequently than others — but I’m convinced the cause is the same. I call it “getting sloppy.”

So, what do I mean by that?

Well, there was a USGA advertising campaign a while back feature Arnold Palmer, with the slogan “Swing Your Swing.” There’s a lot of truth to that advice, as we all have a swing that has — either frequently or occasionally – produced outstanding golf shots. While there is no substitute for solid mechanics and technique, I’ve always believed that if you have ever hit a truly nice golf shot, then your swing has the capacity to repeat that result more frequently than you experience.

The big question is: “Why can’t I do that more often?”

And the answer is: Because you don’t approach every shot with the same care and caution that you exhibit when your best shots are executed.

To strike a golf ball perfectly, the moon and stars have to be aligned, regardless of what your swing looks like. Your set-up position must be right. Your posture and alignment have to be spot-on. Ball position has to be precisely perfect. To get those things correct takes focused attention to each detail. But the good news is that doing so only takes a few seconds of your time before each shot.

But I know from my own experience, the big “disrupter” is not having your mind right before you begin your swing. And that affects all of these pre-shot fundamentals as well as the physical execution of your swing.
Did you begin your pre-shot approach with a vivid picture of the shot you are trying to hit? Is your mind cleared from what might have happened on the last shot or the last hole? Are you free from the stress of this crazy game, where previous bad shots cause us to tighten up and not have our mind free and ready for the next shot? All those things affect your ability to get things right before you start your swing . . . and get in the way of “swinging your swing.”

So, now that I’ve outlined the problem, what’s the solution?

Let me offer you some ideas that you might incorporate into your own routine for every shot, so that you can get more positive results from whatever golf swing skills you might have.

Clear your mind. Whatever has happened in the round of golf to this point is history. Forget it. This next shot is all that matters. So, clear that history of prior shots and sharpen your focus to the shot at hand.

Be precise in your fundamentals. Set-up, posture, alignment and ball position are crucial to delivering your best swing. Pay special attention to all of these basics for EVERY shot you hit, from drives to putts.

Take Dead Aim. That was maybe the most repeated and sage advice from Harvey Penick’s “Little Red Book”. And it may be the most valuable advice ever. Poor alignment and aim sets the stage for bad shots, as “your swing” cannot be executed if you are pointed incorrectly.

See it, feel it, trust it. Another piece of great advice from the book and movie, “Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days In Utopia”, by Dr. David Cook. Your body has to have a clear picture of the shot you want to execute in order to produce the sequence of movements to do that.

Check your grip pressure and GO. The stress of golf too often causes us to grip the club too tightly. And that is a swing killer. Right before you begin your swing, focus your mind on your grip pressure to make sure it isn’t tighter than your normal pressure.

It’s highly advisable to make these five steps central to your pre-shot routine, but especially so if you get into a bad stretch of shots. You can change things when that happens, but it just takes a little work to get back to the basics.

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Stickney: To stack or not to stack at impact?

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As you look at the impact positions of the best players in the world, you will find many different “looks” with respect to their body and club positions. Some of these impact positions might even appear unique, but don’t be fooled. They all have one thing in common: preserving the players’ balance throughout the impact interval! In fact, if you are not in-balance, then you will lose power, consistency, and have trouble controlling your launch dynamics from shot to shot.

This balance is a necessary key to playing well and one area that can be easily understood with a few graphics shown on GEARS 3D. As you examine the photo in the featured image, you can see a few things:

  • The player on the left has “fallen” backwards through impact slightly moving his head out of the circle established at address
  • The player on the right is more stacked at impact — meaning that his chest, zipper and hands are all in the same place at the same time (within reason)
  • The player on the left has reached this same position in the swing with different segments of the body reaching the ball at different times
  • There will be a difference of impact shaft lean between the two players due to one player reaching impact “together” and the other shoving his hands more forward as he falls back
  • The player on the right is more “connected” through impact…won’t be the longest hitter but will be able to find the ball in the fairway more often
  • The player on the left is putting more pressure on the rear portion of the lower back which could have a potential for injury if he’s not careful

Now, obviously there are pro and cons to both positions. Overall, if you want to be consistent and in-balance more often that not, I would suggest you try your best to focus on being “stacked” when you hit the ball.

Let’s dive in a touch deeper to show you what happens physiologically on 3D when you fall back through impact and I think it will really drive the point home.

  • At address notice the Vertical Spine Number 96.2, this is showing us where the spine is positioned at address
  • You can see the head is in the center of the bubble

  • On the way to the top of the swing you can see that the spine has moved “away” from the target laterally a slight bit to 98 degrees
  • The head has dropped downward and has also moved laterally as well- more lean over the right leg to the top

Now here is where the problem comes in…as you work your way to the top, it’s ok of your head moves a touch laterally but in transition if it stays “back” while your hips run out from under you then you will begin to fall backwards on the way to your belt-high delivery position.

  • We can see at the delivery position that the spine has continued to fall backwards as the hips rotate out from under the upperbody
  • When this happens the hands will begin to push forward- dragging the handle into the impact zone
  • Whenever you have too much spin out and fall back the hands move forward to accommodate this motion and this reduces your Angle of Attack and decreases your dynamic loft at impact
  • This will cause balls to be hit on the decent of the club’s arc and reduce loft making shots come out lower than normal with a higher spin rate and that means shorter drives

Now let’s examine impact…

  • The player on the left has reached impact in a more disconnected fashion versus the player on the right as you compare the two
  • The player on the right has a shaft lean at impact that is less than a degree (.75) while the player on the left has a much more noticeable forward lean of the shaft thereby reducing dynamic loft at impact

  • The player on the left’s spine has moved from 96.2 to 112.9, a difference of 16.7 degrees while the player on the right has only moved back a few degrees. We know this because his head has stayed in the bubble we charted at address
  • The hips have run out from under the player on the left in the downswing and this causes the head to fall back more, the hands to push forward more, and the impact alignments of the club to be too much down with very little dynamic loft (as also shown in the photo below)

Whenever the hips turn out from under the upper body then you will tend to have a “falling back effect of the spine and a pushing forward of the hands” through impact.  Notice how the hips are radically more open on the player on the right versus the left- 27.91 versus 42.42 degrees.

So, now that we can see what happens when the hips spin out, you fall back, and you fail to be “stacked” at impact let’s show you a simple way you can do this at home to alleviate this issue.

  

  • A great drill to focus on being more stacked at impact is to make slow motion swings with the feeling that the upper portion of your arms stay glued to your chest
  • These shots will be full swings but only 20% of your total power because the goal here is connection which allows everything to reach impact together and in-balance
  • The second thought as you make these swings is to pay attention to your head, if you can focus on allowing it to stay “over the top of the ball” at impact you will find that it will stay put a touch more so than normal. Now this is not exactly how it works but it’s a good feeling nonetheless
  • Once you get the feeling at 20% speed work your way up to 50% speed and repeat the process. If you can do it here then you are ready to move up to full swings at top speed

Finally, don’t forget that every golfer’s hips will be open at impact and everyone’s head will fall back a touch — this is fine. Just don’t over-do it! Fix this and enjoy finding the ball in the fairway more often than not.

Questions or comments? [email protected]

 

 

 

 

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