If you play golf, you’re probably familiar with the term ‘smash factor’. In scientific terms, it is a measurement of how much energy a golf club can transfer into a golf ball, and it has a direct correlation to the ball speed that you can expect to generate with every club in your bag.
Perhaps more importantly, it is a metric that can help you calculate how efficiently you are striking the ball, and it could help explain why aren’t hitting the ball as far as you would like to, based on your current swing speed.
What Is Smash Factor?
Smash Factor = Ball Speed / Clubhead Speed
Why Is It Important?
Smash Factor (SF) is important because it has a direct impact on how far you can hit the ball, relative to your swing speed. For instance:
- If your swing speed is 100 mph, and your SF is 1.4, your ball speed will be 140 mph.
- If your swing speed is 100 mph and your SF is 1.5, your ball speed will be 150 mph.
Provided launch angle (angle of attack), backspin and sidespin are the same, it’s pretty obvious that a golf ball that launches at 150 mph will travel further than a golf ball that launches at 140 mph. Based on this, it makes perfect sense to incorporate smash factor drills into your training regime.
How do you improve your smash factor?
For this answer, I will turn to the trusted advice of Mike Malaska in his eBook, Distance for all. According to Mike, there are two relatively easy ways to improve your contact.
Drill 1: The 3-Tee Drill for Center Face Hits
Place three tees in the ground, in a straight line.
- One outside the toe of the club.
- One should be in the middle. This is the one you put the ball on.
- One inside the heel of the club.
Now you simply have to practice hitting your driver off the middle tee, without making contact with either of the outside tees.
Drill 2: Fade, Straight, Draw
Again with your driver:
- Hit 3 fades
- Hit 3 straight shots
- Hit 3 draws
- Repeat this process several times
According to Mike, learning how to work the ball left to right and right to left will give you a much better practical understanding of where the center of the face really is. You should start to feel the sweet spot of your driver relatively quickly after doing this drill a couple of times.
Drill 3: Impact Tape or Impact Spray
As mentioned earlier, the ultimate goal when working on smash factor is to align the sweet spot of your golf club with the center of the golf ball. While this can be done by feel alone (or using a trackman) one of the most affordable ways to do it is with impact tape or impact spray.
As soon as you hit a ball with impact tape, it will become immediately obvious where you are striking the ball on the face of the golf club. Be prepared for a big surprise. There’s a strong chance that you are nowhere near the actual sweet spot of your driver.
In my case, it’s fundamentally obvious that I hit my irons too close to the hosel, because my wedges are actually worn in between the center of the face and the hosel. Impact tape or impact spray is literally the perfect remedy for this. It gives you quick, direct feedback on where you are making contact with the ball, and it’s relatively affordable. If you’re serious about improving your smash factor, you must incorporate this into your training.
Sidenote – It’s worth pointing out that impact spray for golfers is actually Foot Odour spray from Dr Schools. It might be a bit strange to carry this in your bag, but it definitely does the trick. Kudos to Jacob Bowden for this tip.
Can Smash Factor Exceed 1.5?
In short, the answer is yes. It is possible to achieve a smash factor that is marginally higher than 1.5, meaning 1.51 and 1.52 are indeed possible when using measurement devices like Trackman. However, the accepted limit for professionals, world long drive champions, and amateurs remains 1.5. If you are harboring hopes of exceeding this limit, your ball speed numbers will bring you back down to earth.
The reason for this limit is fairly simple. The USGA has stipulated that conforming (legal) golf drivers may not exceed a COR limit of .830. COR stands for coefficient of restitution, which could be interpreted as the maximum amount of energy that a driver can deliver into a golf ball. If you use a non-conforming driver like the Krank Formula 11 series, you can unlock a COR of .890, which could easily generate a smash factor that exceeds 1.5.
This should also explain why the latest drivers don’t actually travel all that much further than the previous generation (you need only look at PGA tour driving stats for confirmation of this fact). At the end of the day, they all need to conform to the USGA’s .830 COR limit, which is the most important factor in determining how far a driver can actually hit a golf ball.
Is optimizing smash factor the best way to increase your distance off the tee?
Not necessarily. If you have significant issues with the quality of your contact, then it may be valuable to focus on drills and exercises that can improve your contact/smash factor. However, if you’ve been playing the game for a while, you might find that you are already much closer to the 1.5 limit than you realize.
To further substantiate this point, consider this data from hankhaney.com:
- Scratch of Better – 1.49
- 5 HCP – 1.45
- 10 HCP – 1.45
- Average Golfer (14.5) – 1.44
- Bogey Golfer – 1.43
This data from trackman indicates that a good amateur player (10 handicap or better) is already within 5% of the maximum smash factor that they can ever hope to achieve. If this is the case, then why do the pros hit the ball so much further than amateurs? The answer is clubhead speed, combined with near-maximum smash factor, and an optimal angle of attack. This explains why there is such a big difference between amateurs and professionals in terms of ball speed.
Ball Speed = Clubhead Speed x Smash Factor (1.5)
When you look at the problem from this perspective, it should be fundamentally obvious that increasing your clubhead speed is the most effective way to increase your ball speed, and by extension the distance that you are able to hit a golf ball.
Think of it this way. When dealing with good golfers:
- Swing speed = Variable
- Smash Factor = Constant
More importantly, it is entirely possible to increase your swing speed. This is the primary reason that Bryson DeChambeau is now able to hit the ball over 400 yards with regularity.
- Bryson Dechambeau 2019: 118 mph average club head speed (1.5 SF)
- Bryson Dechambeau 2021: 133 mph average club head speed (1.5 SF)
Fortunately you don’t have to bulk up like Brysone in order to start swing the club faster. If you are determined to increase your distance off the tee, the SuperSpeed Swing Training System is literally the best way for you to do so.