Why is Smash Factor so Important?
Smash factor is a golf term that might sound intimidating, but to me it is the most important metric for ball striking. It is simply defined as the ball speed divided by clubhead speed. I like to think of it as how efficiently you are hitting the golf ball. For example, if your swing speed was 100mph and your ball speed was 135mph, then your smash factor would be 1.35.
Every player wants to know how to hit a golf ball farther. It is all we read about and hear about from the mainstream golf media. Essentially you have two options:
- Swing faster
- Increase your strike efficiency
I have maintained that for the majority of adult golfers, option number one is more difficult. I believe option number two is more within your reach.
The ultimate objective is to increase the speed of the ball when it comes off the clubface. Smash factor is really about how much energy you are able to transfer from the golf club to the ball.
Swing Speed is Only Half the Equation…
Let’s say we had two golfers with a 100 mph swing speed with their drivers. Golfer A generates a ball speed of 130mph, and golfer B generates a ball speed of 140 mph. Therefore their smash factors are 1.3 and 1.4 respectively.
Golfer B has hit the ball farther than Golfer A because they are striking the ball more efficiently. The USGA has limited smash factor to 1.5 when manufacturers submit new club designs. This means that theoretically a golfer who swings 100 mph with the driver will be maxed out at 150 mph ball speed.
So how do you increase your smash?
Let’s talk the two scenarios necessary to get there…
Increasing Your Swing Speed
Swing speed is a major piece of the puzzle when discussing smash factor. All things being equal, if you increase your clubhead speed the ball will go farther. However, for a golfer who is currently swinging their driver 90-95mph it might be a tall order to get to the 100mph region.
There are a few factors at play here, and I will try to be simple in my explanation.
If you want to max out your clubhead speed then you’ll need to explore some kind of workout regimen. Simply trying to swing harder is not going to work. You will probably not strike the ball as well (which will actually hurt your smash factor), and you could injure yourself.
There are two options available for you – hit the gym and/or try overspeed training.
Personally I have done both. The overspeed training option works pretty well, and I think for most of you it will produce the quickest results. You can find out more about a product that can help here. Additionally, you could start a golf-specific workout regimen in the gym. You can increase your flexibility, help prevent injury, and it will likely enable you to swing a club faster.
If you are interested in pursuing that option we have a golf-specific fitness routine for our Insider Members from one of the top trainers in the industry.
Be advised that both of these options will require more time and effort on your part, and it will be outside of your golf practice.
Improving Your Strike
The second option available for you to increase your smash factor is improving your strike. Personally this is what I recommend to most golfers. Simply put, you are trying to learn how to strike the ball closer to the center of the clubface.
This is arguably the most important skill any golfer can learn. Modern club design has come a long way in helping with off-center strikes. However, there is no question that your ball speed will increase the most when you strike it closer to the sweet spot.
To be honest I feel that the instructional world has not paid enough attention to this concept. There is no perfect way to swing a golf club in order to do this, but all of the great ball strikers share this ability. To date, the only person I have seen do a spectacular job teaching golfers online is an instructor named Adam Young. He made a course called the Strike Plan, which I highly recommend checking out if you really do want to learn how to increase your smash factor.
This is a skill I always track myself during my practice sessions. Typically I have a tendency to strike the ball closer to the heel of the club. I experiment with minor changes in my setup and swing in order to move it closer to the center of the club. It is relatively easy to track with a dry eraser pen or Dr. Scholls Odor X spray.
Working With What You’ve Got to Increase Smash Factor
For the majority of golfers I never recommend drastic changes to their golf games. I know most of you reading this have jobs, family obligations, and many other things that prevent you from practicing and playing golf as much as you would like to.
That is exactly why I believe that for most players who are looking to add club distance you should be more concerned on where you are making contact with the ball on your clubface. If you are someone who is already into fitness and working out, then yes adding clubhead speed could be a reasonable solution as well.
Generally speaking though, I think all golfers are capable of increasing their smash factor by paying attention to where they are striking the face of their clubs, and then experimenting with ways to make changes. Some of the resources I have listed in this article can certainly help with that.
If you want to actually track your progress you could get a portable launch monitor like the SC300 from Voice Caddie (read my full review here). Good luck smashing the ball!
Michael Purvis says
You write that your tendency is to strike closer to the heel and that you experiment with setup and swing changes to get closer to the sweet stop. I’d be curious what changes you try to make to get that to happen. I have a similar tendency, although really only with my driver. I can certainly miss the sweet spot with my other clubs, but, from practicing with face tape and foot spray (and seeing the wear marks on my hybrids and woods), I am pretty confident my heel tendency is most prevalent with my driver. What I try to do is close my stance (including my shoulders, not just my feet), line up the toe of the club at the ball, move the ball more in the center of my stance, try to keep my hands close to my back thigh on the backswing and downswing, and ensure I’m swinging on an inside-outside plane. I have found the Orange Whip to be helpful in diagnosing whether my arms are swinging away from my body and also whether I’m on an inside-out plane because it is very easy to see the big orange “clubhead”. Sometimes all of this works, but I’d be curious what you try, if you wouldn’t mind sharing.
Michael – I would say the changes I make are a bit more minor. Most of the time I simply challenge myself to strike the toe of the club without any changes in my posture, swing plane, or setup. I am not consciously thinking about anything in my body other than trying to strike the toe of the club. Interestingly enough, it will generally cause me to strike the center of the face. While this might not work perfectly for everyone, when you have a specific goal in mind like that it can allow your body to self organize in a natural way without having to “force it”
Ann Rafuse says
The ball doesn’t go very far with a 70 mph swing speed, even when the smash factor is 1.50. If this is the case, it sounds like the only option is to work on getting stronger, faster, fitter — correct?
Ann – You are correct. Theoretically if you max out your smash factor (which is incredibly difficult to do by the way), then you will have to add swing speed to make the ball go farther. As I stated in the article, I am not against anyone taking on a workout routine in order to do this. You just have to be aware that it will take some work in order to see results. Personally I am a huge fan of fitness and would encourage anyone to work out more, and not just for your golf game!
Jared M says
You mention the golf-specific workout routine in the Insider Members area but I can’t find it.
Jared – you can find them in the videos section (they are grouped together). Each video has a link to a document that gives you a weekly plan to follow at the gym.
Doug Berger says
I have enjoyed the few articles I have read written by you. I plan to search for more. What brought me to reading your thoughts on smash factor is due to a recent cervical surgery (laminoplasty c2 – c-7). For those suffering from cervical stenosis I highly recommend laminoplasty a procedure that offers much more mobility than laminotomy.
OK, I am into 2 months of an estimate 6-9 month recovery, and I plan to play a round of golf Monday.
I have my hitting area 10×10 with 2 launch monitors. Swing speed, distance has suffered. I have already found by going to a 45 gram A flex is helping swing speed. My previous driver was Reg 65 G 10.5. I learned by accident the smash factor was making a good impact on distance. By increasing smash factor I could afford a drop in swing speed and still increase distance. My old driver is a D4 my new driver is D1.
OK bottom line the lighter combination compared to my old driver.. my focus was only swing speed. Old Driver 70/75 New Driver 90/95 .. I was shocked not to see a jump in distance and then I saw a very low smash factor. Solution? Keep the club head speed focus on increasing smash factor.