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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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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: What’s your takeaway waggle?

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Two wonderful examples on the PGA Tour are Sung Jae Im and Justin Thomas. We explain how this takeaway waggle brings your awareness full circle to how your backswing matches the direction you want to start the ball on. With awareness and confirmation that the backswing fits and that you don’t have to rush through it. You get a sense of calm that you can accomplish the task you set out and your chances at consistency have increased exponentially.

 

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On Spec

On Spec: A deep dive into iron specs and “loft jacking”

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With so many new iron releases being announced, host Ryan Barath gets deep into the world of iron design and specs—most specifically loft.

The topic also revolves around trying to fit an iron-based on handicap and why that is a flawed model.

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Opinion & Analysis

The death of the 3-iron and what it means for your bag setup

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The 3-iron is almost extinct. It sounds like an odd statement, but it’s very true. Don’t believe me? Go try and buy one in a set. They are not easily found.

As we evaluate this topic, I’ll refrain from specs from “players” clubs as these are not the irons normally purchased. Yeah, it might skew the data, but even the players capable of playing the long irons are opting out of the 3 iron. And let’s be honest, should any of us be playing a blade 3-iron?

Mizuno only offers 4-PW in the JPX line now. Titleist only offers a 3-iron in T100s, while the rest are void of 3-irons. TaylorMade provides 4-PW in the P790, P790Ti, and P770. Callaway has done the same, only offering a 3-iron in the “players line” of clubs, while the rest is again void of the-iron. Cobra golf has also followed suit.

So are 3-irons just too hard to hit? Is that why no one is buying them, thus causing the OEMs to stop making them? The only ones left to buy are the “players” 3 irons, and those aren’t even reasonable unless you’re a professional.

What if I told you we were being deceived? What if I told you the 3-iron is still very much alive in all the iron sets available but under the guise of a different number?

Let’s hop into the “wayback machine” and take a quick look at the history of iron lofts.

The year is 1970, and the vast majority of irons available are blades. You know, the razor-sharp leading edges that are ready to break your wrist with a deep divot.

The image above is an actual snippet from a catalog from the ’70s. At this point, the 1-iron was virtually extinct, and in 1975, Lee Trevino was immortalized by his joke about how God couldn’t hit a 1-iron, which typically fell in the 18-degree range at the time. 2-irons were standard issue in the set, and the lowest loft you might find is 20 degrees.

Then the ’80s came, and things started to progress. As you might expect, lofts started to decrease. It wasn’t because of flight windows, or launch numbers, because they didn’t have that kind of technology readily available to measure those attributes. It was simply a quest for distance.

Then in the ’90s, you’d pretty much see all iron sets with 21-degree 3-irons, down to 48-degree PW’s, and 21 degrees being the norm for the lowest lofted 3-iron. 2-irons at this time were typically 18 degrees and available by request only.

Then came the 2000’s, an era we all should be familiar with. This is where things started to get interesting. Not only because lofts continued to be strengthened, but because the hybrid became a new option to replace the long irons. Adams Golf made a killing as it perfected this golf club, creating the Idea line that was in the bags of most of the senior tour players and many of the PGA Tour players. These were a fan favorite at retail too. The hybrid was an easy long iron to hit and quickly started to replace 3-irons in golf bags across the country and even on tour.

By this time the pitching wedge lofts started to get pushed to 46 degrees, which was a big jump, to be honest. In the 1970s, MacGregor was making pitching wedges with 49 degrees of loft. So, for the 90’s to be around 48 degrees, it wasn’t too much of a shock. But in the 2000s, we now saw PW’s drop to 46 degrees; a half club stronger. This is where the downfall began, in my opinion.

The first decade of the 21st century needed the gap wedge, also known as the approach wedge or utility wedge or just plain old “wedge.” Now, keep in mind, this club wasn’t anything new. The gap wedge existed ever since the beginning because at 50-52 degrees it was simply a pitching wedge from the ’70s. But it became a necessary element for the bag since the lofts of every iron were starting to move farther and farther away from the sand wedge.

Now in 2020, the average loft of the PW is 43.5 degrees, and the average 4-iron loft is 20.6 degrees. Turns out, the 4-iron from 2020 is .3 degrees stronger than the average 2-iron (20.9 degrees) from 1970. We have come full circle! Instead of maintaining those classic numbers, of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, PW, the new sets are labeled 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, P, G.

I wonder how many golfers out there carry a 4-iron thinking it’s a club they can hit? Probably too many! Obviously, the 3-iron is dead at this point, since it would actually carry the loft of the elusive 1-iron Trevino claimed was unhittable!

Now, it’s time to discuss how we got to this point. You’ll hear a lot of companies talk about “flight windows” or “launch angles” and how it was changed by engineering, lowering CG’s, and increasing speed through thin faces. Some will talk about how the ball has changed, and it just launches higher, and it requires the lofts to be strengthened, or it will just go too high!

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that is all a bunch of baloney, and here is why: They started making gap wedges as part of the set. If the launch was too high or the window was too different, why make a matching gap wedge with the same technology and have the loft of a pitching wedge from the 1990s? Wouldn’t that launch or window then be too high for that club too? And yet you still need to buy another gap wedge to fit the 52-degree range. If the average golfer bought a 2020 game improvement set today, they would find the set make up to be 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, PW (43.5 degrees), Gap #1 (48.6 degrees), Gap #2 (52 degrees). That means if you happen to carry a 56 and a 60 degree, you now have the same amount of label wedges (5) as you do irons (5)!

Five wedges in the bag! Does anyone think this is weird?

Furthermore, when was a higher launching iron shot a bad thing? Wouldn’t average golfers benefit from a steeper angle of descent so the golf ball stops quicker on the green?

I conducted a study where I tested a Titleist 716 MB 8-iron with 39 degrees of loft to a TaylorMade P790 9-iron with 40 degrees of loft. All the data was captured on the Foresight GC2 launch monitor. It wasn’t a perfect test since they didn’t have the same shaft or loft, but my findings were surprising none the less. They went the same distance, almost down to the decimal. The Titleist went 165.2 yards, and the TaylorMade went 165.1 yards. Launch was only .6 degrees different while peak height was less than four feet different. So, unless you are Tiger Woods, you are not noticing a difference out on the golf course.

Some of you might think, “so, the label on the bottom of the club changed, it’s all going the same distance. So, what’s the big deal?” To me, it’s the confusion it creates more than anything. By decreasing the lofts, you’re just making the numbered iron go farther, and you are creating even bigger problems by having large gaps with the sand wedge when all amateurs need those clubs. It’s also putting clubs into the hands of golfers when they have no business hitting, like the 4-iron with 20 degrees of loft. Titleist has already made a T400 5-iron with 20 degrees of loft, and that’s just silly.

There also is the argument that golfers love distance, and when they start playing and can hit a 7-iron relatively far, it helps grow the game. Growing the game isn’t a bad thing, but if they are new to the game, they shouldn’t have any preconceived notions of how far to hit a 7-iron, and that means loft at that point becomes irrelevant.

I will not refute that a 40-degree lofted game improvement iron will be slightly longer than an identical lofted players club, but I think you’d be surprised to see the actual difference is a maximum of about three yards longer. The technology works, but by no means is it so substantial that we need to change the label on the bottom of the golf club.

The bottom line is that loft is king, regardless of the technology involved, and I have seen, but one equipment company make a change backwards! This is TaylorMade with their P770 irons. In comparison the P790, they increased the loft by one degree in the short irons and up to two degrees in the long irons, to add height and spin to the irons to improve performance. Imagine that, more spin and height are an advantage! And that was backed by their testing and their data.

Now to even further nail down my point, it is worth noting that TaylorMade Golf offers the highest lofted Pitching Wedge in the industry at 49 degree, which are in the Tiger lofts of the P7TW irons. That same iron set has a 22.5-degree 3-iron. At 22.5 degrees, it is typically the lowest-lofted iron in the golf bag of the best iron player on the PGA Tour in 2019. Of course, he has the skill to play an iron with lower loft, but the point that history reveals to us is that the effective loft of playability for an iron is about 22 degrees and higher. Anything lower lofted than that is typically replaced with a hybrid. This is not just a trend for the amateur golfer either, and it is even happening on tour with the best players in the world.

We will probably never see the lofts rolled back, but the least we can do is update Lee Trevino’s quote, “if you ever find yourself in a thunderstorm, lift up your 4-iron, because not even God can hit a 4-iron.”

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