Increase your smash factor for longer drives

Most golfers when they reach a certain age notice that their swing speed starts to diminish and as that starts to happen the ball does not travel as far.

If this is of concern to you there are different approaches you can take to try and improve your distance.

The first and most obvious is that you can try to increase your swing speed to bring it back up to where it once was.  Some golfers try to achieve this using strength building exercises and an increase in flexibility, two things we tend to lose as we get older.

The problem faced by many, however, is that due to a lifetime of accumulated injuries and ailments increasing one’s strength and flexibility many no longer be a viable option.

The good news is that there are other things you can do to increase the distance you hit the ball without swinging faster.  You can increase the efficiency of your swing in terms of energy transfer to the ball and increasing the ball speed as it leaves the club face.

Smash factor is a measurement of the efficiency of club to ball contact.

The speed of your golf swing is an important factor in terms of distance but how far the ball travels is determined by how fast the ball is moving when it leaves the club face.  Ball speed is not determined solely by the speed of your swing.

As a general rule the closer you hit the ball to the center of the face the more efficient the energy transfer will be.  As well, modern driver faces flex on contact with the ball and in order to take full advantage of the ‘trampoline effect’, contact with the center of the club face is crucial.  Off center hits can reduce ball speed and distance by as much as 20 percent.

If you do not have access to a launch monitor to measure your swing speed, ball speed, and smash factor,  here are some simple steps you can take to determine how solid your club to ball contact is.

  1. Spray some foot powder on your club face (Dr. Scholl’s works well) and hit a shot. This will provide instant feedback.  If your contact is towards the heel or toe or low or high off the face of the club, you can make an adjustment to bring contact closer to the middle of the face.  You may simply be able to mover a little closer to or further away from the ball or tee it a little higher or lower to improve the point of contact.
  1. Modern 460cc titanium drivers work best when you launch the ball high with low spin. If you tee the ball low and swing down on the ball like you would with an iron you will achieve high launch but you will also impart a lot of backspin on the ball which will result in a high balloon shot that climbs quickly but lacks distance.   Tee the ball a little higher which facilitates an upward or ascending blow.  This will help you to achieve the desired high launch but with much lower spin and will increase distance.
  2. If your tendency is to hit down on the ball with your driver, widen your stance a bit. A wider stance moves a little weight back in your stance and promotes an ascending clubhead at impact.


Longer, Straighter, Higher, Faster

The average handicap for players in United States has remained largely unchanged for the last 40 years

As a golf nut, I watch, read and listen to most everything that has to do with golf. That means I watch infomercials, read new product reviews, listen to golfers who have just purchased new equipment, and try out new equipment when the opportunity arises (which it seems to quite frequently).

I have yet to come across a golfer who says, “I just got this new driver because my old one just went too far”.  I hear a lot more of, “this new driver goes 20-30 yards further than my old one”.  Commercials and infomercials convey the same message. They will usually tell you something (sometimes a lot) about a new product and conclude with a testimonial or two about how, “I’ve never hit a club that went, this far”, or for that matter “this straight” or “this high” or “this low” depending on the product being sold.  This scenario applies to drivers, fairway woods, hybrids and irons.

And it goes beyond clubs.  Ball manufacturers are in on the act as well.  Despite the fact that the USGA has restrictions on how far balls can  go, companies persist in telling us that their ball, although USGA approved, goes further than the competition.

Golf tee manufacturers are in on the act as well claiming that their tees will help you drive the ball an extra 2 to 3 yards off the tee.

As indicated in an earlier article, in golf there is no substitute for distance, so if a manufacturer can prove, or at least claim with a straight face, that their  clubs will make the ball go further, or that their ball goes further than other balls, golfers tend to buy it.

In my mind there have been but a few eureka moments in golf in the last 30-40 years where manufacturers changed the game and the way the average golfer plays it in a dramatic way.

1   cast perimeter weighted irons (the Ping revolution);

2  the move from wooden woods to metal woods;

3  the move from the smaller steel heads to the 460 cc titanium heads with thin faces that tend to sling-shot the ball when hit off the center of the face (the trampoline effect);

4  the introduction of hybrids.

As well, let’s not forget shaft material.  Although the big leap occurred before my time, going from hickory to steel was the big jump but even after the introduction of steel shafts manufactures have dabbled in aluminum, titanium and other metals.  The standard nowadays, especially for long clubs, is graphite. With its lower overall wight and precision engineered kick points, graphite has proved to be a consistent performer  when it comes to distance and determining ball flight.

Lastly, the ball.  Where would we be without solid core, multi-layered, soft covered balls  like the ProV1 and its many competitors.

Be careful that you don’t buy new equipment that will make the ball go so far that it makes the current course you play obsolete (he said tongue firmly panted in cheek).

How has this affected the average golfer?  Lets say for the sake of argument you hit the ball 240 yards off the tee and you hit your 7 iron around 150 yards.  That means you should be very comfortable playing par 4’s  up to 390 yards in length, (a 240 yard drive and a 150 yard approach shot).  Lets add-on some of the main  game improvement claims:

Driver         20 -30 yards

Irons           10-15 yards

Ball              10-15 yards

Tees             3-4 yards

Now you play that same 390 yard par 4.  You are hitting your driver from 270 to 285 yards off the tee leaving you an approach shot between 105-120 yards.  And because of the improvements in irons and balls,  an approach  shot that previously would have required anywhere from a gap wedge to a 9 iron now requires only a flop wedge or a sand wedge.

Here is the punch line:  With all your game improvement investments on full display  you hit your flop wedge onto the green and 3 putt for a bogie.  Everything has changed yet nothing has changed.

Despite all the game improvement equipment  that has been introduced you still cannot buy a game.  According to the USGA the handicaps for American golfers have been static for the last 40 years despite all the equipment improvements.