Not So Fast! The Swing Speed Study
Everyone wants to hit the golf ball farther, and add swing speed. A lot of it has to due with what we see on TV in the professional game. There is no question that at the pro level golf has evolved to a power game, and it all started with Tiger Woods rising to the top.
The name of the game is to hit it as far as possible off the tee, keep it in play, and be proficient enough with your wedge and putter to convert birdies.
The stats back it up too. Mark Broadie’s revolutionary strokes gained analysis, and his book Every Shot Counts clearly shows distance can be king. Golfers can separate themselves more from each other in their ability to score lower by hitting the ball farther.
I’ve written about this before, and I don’t deny these findings. I just believe the takeaway for everyday golfers can become a little murky. I’ve seen plenty of players excel at this game without tremendous distance. That being said, I’m not against any golfer trying to figure out ways to hit the ball farther.
If you want to hit the ball farther I think you have a few options:
- Increase your swing speed (most people advocate this method)
- Hit the ball closer to the sweet spot (I like this one personally)
- Make sure you are playing with the correct equipment (also believe in this)
I believe number 2 and number 3 are reasonable ways to add distance to anyone’s game, and I’ve written articles about that before. However, in my opinion adding speed to your swing is not the slam-dunk that most people think. I don’t think it’s completely necessary either.
What is Reasonable?
Tour pros swing speed with their drivers anywhere from 110-125mph. These are the speeds required to launch the ball 300 yards and farther. Any time they can add a few miles per hour to their swing, it could mean the difference of making cuts and cashing bigger paychecks.
Their livelihoods are literally at stake.
This website is intended for everyday golfers, and my goal is to help filter out all of the noise out there and get you thinking realistically about your game.
You are not playing golf to cash a paycheck. Hopefully you are playing first and foremost to have fun and enjoy yourself, and have a secondary desire to lower your handicap over time.
In order to add speed to your swing and hit the ball much farther, you will likely need to start some kind of serious fitness regimen, and put in a lot more practice. I’m certainly not against you doing that, but it will just require more of your time.
As recreational golfers that have jobs and other obligations in our lives, that time is usually not there for us.
But what if I told you that you don’t necessarily need to increase your swing speed to lower your scores?
A Little bit of Swing Speed Data for You
I was interested to find out the relative swing speeds of golfers based on their handicap level, so I had my friends over at Swingbyte run an analysis. Their popular swing analyzer is used by thousands of golfers when they practice, and it’s an interesting way to see what is going on in various golfers’ games when you take a top-level view.
We took driver and 7-iron swing speeds (around 800k shots total) and separated them by handicap level. As you can see there is a very clear correlation between playing ability and swing speed. As handicap goes down, swing speed goes up.
This is not a complete surprise at all.
What is interesting is just how fast the lower handicaps are performing relative to the players in the 20-35 region. They’re not all that different. For example, a golfer in the 30 handicap region had a swing speed of 88 mph versus 95 mph when you get to single digits.
With players in the 0-5 handicap range, drivers are topping out at about 95 mph and 7 irons are about 75 mph. Depending on how efficient their swings are, this could represent upwards of 250 yards with the driver and about 140 yards with the 7-iron.
Wait a second, that’s not that far?
Distance is Nice, but…
Again, I will never dispute that hitting the ball farther can help you lower your scores. What I can dispute is that you don’t need tremendous distance in order to reach your golfing goals.
I have seen plenty of players who can’t hit their drives more than 230 yards shoot in the 70s without breaking a sweat. What you see on TV is just not realistic, and you should stop using that as even a remote benchmark for your game.
I hope seeing the data from Swingbyte will help you realize that some of the best amateur golfers are not swinging as fast as you think they are. If you want to set a goal for yourself to add 3-5 mph to your swing I think that is extremely reasonable, and can be within your reach. However, going from 90mph with your driver to 110mph is probably not going to happen unless you are willing to go to some extremes.
Most golf courses are going to be in the 5800 – 6500 yard range, which does not require 275+ drives, or 170 yard 7-irons to score well. If you were playing on a 7300-yard professional setup, then yes I would tell you to start thinking about working on swinging the club much harder.
There are other parts of the game you can focus your time on rather than just trying to play the distance game (ahem, your short game). Pounding a golf ball incredibly far is just not in the cards for most golfers, and that’s OK. You can still score extremely well without doing it.
If you are interested in finding out some ways you can add distance without increasing your swing speed check these articles out:
If you really want to increase your swing speed then check out my review of SuperSpeed Golf. This is a great system that actually works if you put the work in.