In an era of modern golf where technology allows for a more fearless approach, increasing swing speed has become critical in professional golf.
It's not even just about distance off the tee — although pounding a driver has become a big part of the game. Swing speed also greatly impacts a professional's ability to get the ball out of thick rough or to approach a green with a shorter club.
PGA Tour swing speed is far from the only measure of success for professionals, but the top players in the game tend to also be near the top of the charts in swing speed. The same can't be said for other skills like putting, so it's fair to talk about swing speed as a critical advantage or disadvantage for players.
The average golfer will have trouble keeping up with PGA Tour swing speeds and should focus on their own averages, but it's natural to be curious about how fast the top players are able to swing while still maintaining control. In a way, it provides some idea of where we all stand relative to those who play the game for a living.
In this article, we will go over where the average PGA Tour swing speed stands for each club.
It's important to note that speed is measured two different ways in golf. Notably, there is a key difference between clubhead speed and ball speed.
Clubhead speed is how fast the club is traveling when it reaches the ball. It's very difficult for most golfers to dramatically increase their clubhead speed because it usually takes flexibility or strength improvements to your body in order to attain this. Most golfers, including professionals, have a difficult time increasing clubhead speed while still maintaining enough control to maintain accuracy.
For that reason, a lot of pros search for small increments in clubhead speed. When most people say "swing speed", they are specifically referring to clubhead speed.
However, ball speed is a more efficient measure of speed. Ball speed is how fast the ball is traveling just after impact. Faster clubhead speeds generally result in faster ball speeds, there isn’t an exact correlation. A more efficient golf swing with a lower clubhead speed can produce a faster ball speed than another player who swings faster but may not consistently catch the center of the face.
Clubhead speed and ball speed also relate to smash factor, a measurement of solid contact. It's important to keep this in mind, because clubhead speed is not the end all be all for gaining distance in golf.
Everyone wants to know how fast a PGA Tour player swings their driver. It is, of course, the club that can be swung the fastest due to the shaft length (usually around 45 inches and no longer than 46 inches) and relative lack of weight.
That is consistent with where the average was in the previous season. The leader on the list is Cameron Champ at 124.7 mph, while Brian Stuard is dead last at 104.8 mph. There are 21 players at 120 mph or greater, which is really an incredible mark.
Every mile per hour of clubhead speed is worth a little over three yards. As you can imagine, that can add up quickly. If you were to gain 10 mph of clubhead speed, that could potentially be well over 30 yards in distance, all other variables being equal.
For example, a swing of 120 mph averages out to just over 290 yards of carry. That is not even total distance, which can be a lot farther depending on conditions.
However, it's worth repeating that measuring distance comes from ball speed. Clubhead speed is inherently related to ball speed, but it's not a true indicator. You can take a wild, 115 mph hack at a golf ball and not have it go very far because of off-center contact. Ball speed accounts for how solid the contact is.
As previously mentioned, fairway woods generally can't be swung as fast as drivers because they have shorter shafts and have clubheads with more loft, allowing a higher launch. That is by design, especially for professional golfers looking to land fairway woods quickly once they hit the green.
A PGA Tour player averages around 108 mph with a 3-wood and 104 mph with a 5-wood. When you get into the 7-wood (yes, they are fairly popular amongst the pros) and hybrids, that average goes down to around 100 mph.
As the loft of the clubhead becomes greater, there is not only less speed being generated, but there is also more spin. For instance a 5-wood usually has over 4,200 RPMs of spin, which is far higher than a driver that has around 2,700 RPMs of spin on average.
The equation of clubhead speed, ball speed, spin rate and launch angle are all critical factors in determining appropriate carry yardages.
When you get into swing speed with irons, you see a descending trend in clubhead speed as clubs get shorter.
A 3-iron is roughly around 99 mph in clubhead speed. From there, it's roughly a 2 mph drop for each club. That leaves a 4-iron around 97 mph, a 5-iron around 95 mph, a 6-iron around 93 mph, a 7-iron around 91 mph, an 8-iron around 89 mph and a 9-iron around 87 mph.
Wedge clubhead speed varies greatly depending on the type of shot a professional is trying to play. However, the average for a pitching wedge is around 84 mph, a gap wedge is near 83 mph, a sand wedge is around 82 mph and a lob wedge is near 79 mph.
While the average PGA Tour swing speed is in the range of 110-124 mph with a driver, almost all professional tour players could increase their swing speed. The sacrifice, however, would be control and accuracy.
A golfer can be successful at nearly any swing speed. We've seen that on the PGA Tour where players can be successful at either end of the range, although it's a definitive advantage to have a higher swing speed.
At the end of the day, the biggest key to be able to have clubhead speed within the framework of an efficient swing. That is how a PGA Tour player maxes out their ball speed.