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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

The future of club fitting is going virtual

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Thanks to technology, you can buy everything from custom-made suits to orthotics online without ever walking into a store or working in person with an expert.

Now, with the help of video and launch monitors, along with a deeper understanding of dynamics than ever before, club fitting is quickly going virtual too, and it’s helping golfers find better equipment faster!

What really took so long?

The real advancements started in the coaching world around a decade ago. What used to require heavy cameras and tripods now simply requires a phone and you have a high-definition slow-motion video that can be sent around the world in a matter of seconds.

Beyond video, modern launch monitors and their ability to capture data have quickly turned a guessing game of “maybe this will work” into a precision step-by-step process of elimination to optimize. When you combine video and launch monitor elements with an understanding of club fitting principles and basic biomechanics, you have the ability to quickly evaluate a golfer’s equipment and make recommendations to help them play better golf.

The benefits of virtual fitting

  • Any golfer with a phone and access to a launch monitor can get high-level recommendations from a qualified fitter.
  • Time and cost-saving to and from a fitter. (This seems obvious, but one of the reasons I personally receive so many questions about club fitting is because those reaching out don’t have access to fitting facilities within a reasonable drive)
  • It’s an opportunity to get a better understanding our your equipment from an expert.

How virtual fittings really work

The key element of a virtual fitting is the deep understanding of the available products to the consumer. On an OEM level, line segmentation makes this fairly straightforward, but it becomes slightly more difficult for brand-agnostic fitters that have so many brands to work with, but it also shows their depth of knowledge and experience.

It’s from this depth of knowledge and through an interview that a fitter can help analyze strengths and weaknesses in a player’s game and use their current clubs as a starting point for building a new set—then the video and launch monitor data comes in.

But it can quickly go very high level…

One of the fastest emerging advancements in this whole process is personalized round tracking data from companies like Arccos, which gives golfers the ability to look at their data without personal bias. This allows the golfer along with any member of their “team” to get an honest assessment of where improvements can be found. The reason this is so helpful is that golfers of all skill levels often have a difficult time being critical about their own games or don’t even really understand where they are losing shots.

It’s like having a club-fitter or coach follow you around for 10 rounds of golf or more—what was once only something available to the super-elite is now sitting in your pocket. All of this comes together and boom, you have recommendations for your new clubs.

Current limitations

We can’t talk about all the benefits without pointing out some of the potential limitations of virtual club fittings, the biggest being the human element that is almost impossible to replicate by phone or through video chat.

The other key factor is how a player interprets feel, and when speaking with an experienced fitter recently while conducting a “trial fitting” the biggest discussion point was how to communicate with golfers about what they feel in their current clubs. Video and data can help draw some quick conclusions but what a player perceives is still important and this is where the conversation and interview process is vital.

Who is offering virtual club fittings?

There are a lot of companies offering virtual fittings or fitting consultations over the phone. One of the biggest programs is from Ping and their Tele-Fitting process, but other companies like TaylorMade and PXG also have this service available to golfers looking for new equipment.

Smaller direct-to-consumer brands like New level, Sub 70, and Haywood Golf have offered these services since their inception as a way to work with consumers who had limited experience with their products but wanted to opportunity to get the most out of their gear and their growth has proven this model to work.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Why wedge mastery is so elusive

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I have conducted numerous surveys of golfers over my 40-year golf industry career, because I have always believed that if you want to know what people are thinking, you simply have to ask them.

As a gearhead for wedges and a wedge designer over the past 30 years, most of my research and analysis is focused on these short-range scoring clubs and how golfers use them. What this research continually tells me is that most golfers—regardless of handicap–consider the wedges the hardest clubs in the bag to master. That’s because they are. I would even go so far as to say that the difficulty of attaining mastery even extends to the best players in the world.

Watching the Genesis Open this past weekend, for example, it seemed like these guys were hitting wedge approaches on nearly every hole. And while there were certainly many shots that covered the flag—like Max Homa’s approach on 18–there were also a great number that came up woefully short. Not what you would expect when a top-tier tour professional has a sand or gap wedge in their hands.

The simple fact is that wedges are the most difficult clubs in our bags with which to attain consistent shotmaking mastery, and that is because of the sheer design of the clubhead itself. For clarity of this article, I’m talking about those full- or near full-swing wedge shots, not the vast variety of short greenside shots we all face every round. To get mastery of those shots (like the tour pros exhibit every week), you simply have to spend lots of time hitting lots of shots, experimenting and exploring different techniques. There are no shortcuts to a deadly short game.

But today I’m talking about those prime opportunities to score, when you have a full- or near-full swing wedge into a par-five or short par four. We should live for those moments, but all too often we find ourselves disappointed in the outcome.

The good news is that’s not always all your fault.

First of all, you must understand that every wedge shot is, in effect, a glancing blow to the ball because of the loft involved. With 50 to 60 degrees of loft—or even 45 to 48 degrees with a pitching wedge—the loft of the club is such that the ball is given somewhat of a glancing blow. That demands a golf swing with a much higher degree of precision in the strike than say, an 8-iron shot.

I have always believed that most golfers can improve their wedge play by making a slower-paced swing than you might with a longer iron. This allows you to be more precise in making sure that your hands lead the clubhead through impact, which is a must when you have a wedge in your hands. Without getting into too much detail, the heavier, stiffer shaft in most wedges does not allow this club to load and unload in the downswing, so the most common error is for the clubhead to get ahead of the hands before impact, thereby adding loft and aggravating this glancing blow. I hope that makes sense.
The other aspect of wedge design that makes consistent wedge distance so elusive is the distribution of the mass around the clubhead. This illustration of a typical tour design wedge allows me to show you something I have seen time and again in robotic testing of various wedges.

Because all the mass is along the bottom of the clubhead, the ideal impact point is low in the face (A), so that most of the mass is behind the ball. Tour players are good at this, but most recreational golfers whose wedges I’ve examined have a wear pattern at least 2-4 grooves higher on the club than I see on tour players’ wedges.

So, why is this so important?

Understand that every golf club has a single “sweet spot”–that pinpoint place where the smash factor is optimized—where clubhead speed translates to ball speed at the highest efficiency. On almost all wedges, that spot is very low on the clubhead, as indicated by the “A” arrow here, and robotic testing reveals that smash factor to be in the range of 1.16-1.18, meaning the ball speed is 16-18% higher than the clubhead speed.

To put that in perspective, smash factor on drivers can be as high as 1.55 or even a bit more, and it’s barely below that in your modern game improvement 7-iron. The fact is—wedges are just not as efficient in this measure, primarily because of the glancing blow I mentioned earlier.

But–and here’s the kicker–if you move impact up the face of a wedge just half to five-eights of an inch from the typical recreational golfer’s impact point, as indicated by the “B” arrow, smash factor on ‘tour design’ wedges can be reduced to as low as 0.92 to 0.95. That costs you 40 to 60 feet on a 90-yard wedge shot . . . because you missed “perfect” by a half-inch or less!

So, that shot you know all too well—the ball sitting up and caught a bit high in the face—is going fall in the front bunker or worse. That result is not all your fault. The reduced distance is a function of the diminished smash factor of the wedge head itself.

That same half-inch miss with your driver or even your game-improvement 7-iron is hardly noticeable.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Breakthrough mental tools to play the golf of your dreams

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Incredibly important talk! A must listen to the words of Dr. Karl Morris, ham-and-egging with the golf imperfections trio. Like listening to top athletes around a campfire. This talk will helps all ages and skills in any sport.

 

 

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