Analytics 101

Smash Factor: Golf's Measure of Contact

June 27, 2022
6 min

Smash Factor: Golf's Measure of Contact

If you have ever been to a golf club fitting or have hit balls with the use of a launch monitor, you will have seen a data point called smash factor. Many know that the optimal smash factor number with a driver is a 1.5, but what does that number mean?

Here we will discuss how smash factor is related to clubhead speed and ball speed. We will also cover the question of how the different clubs in the bag have different smash factors and some drills to promote center strikes of the golf ball.

Simply put, smash factor is a measurement of the amount of energy the clubface delivers to the golf ball on contact.

There is a math equation involved that gets us the data number The equation is ball speed divided by clubhead speed.

For example, if I swing my driver at 100 miles per hour of clubhead speed and my ball speed off the clubface is 145 miles per hour, then I would have achieved a smash factor of 1.45. PGA Tour average smash factor with a driver is 1.49.

Another interesting fact about smash factor is that, according to USGA regulations, golf club manufacturers must limit their smash factor to 1.5 or the club will be non-conforming to the rules of golf. This means certain elements of the club, such as the trampoline effect the clubface has, are regulated.

Smash factor is an efficient way for club manufacturers, professional golfers and regular golfers to measure the effectiveness of the strike they put on the golf ball with each club in the bag.

Smash factor is important because it helps the golfer assess how well they are striking the golf ball.

One of the biggest indicators of a high smash factor is center contact of the golf ball. Golf clubs are manufactured to optimize distance and velocity with centered strikes. So, if you’re not consistently hitting the center of the clubface your ball speed will likely be lowered, even if your clubhead speed is higher, thus lowering your smash factor. 

Smash factor is also an important data point when selecting golf clubs at a club fitting. If you have ever been through a golf fitting process, smash factor is something your club fitter will mention with each club you hit. For example, if you are getting a lower smash factor number with a Callaway driver compared to a TaylorMade driver, it can be an indication that the TaylorMade driver fits your golf swing better. 

Smash factor is not the same for every golf club, as the loft of each club and length of each club will impact swing speed and ball speed.

We’ve mentioned that an optimal smash factor with a driver is 1.5. This is because the driver is the club golfers swing the fastest throughout the golf bag. This is because of the length of the driver and the relatively light weight of the driver.

For example, tour average smash factor on the PGA Tour with a 6 iron is 1.38. This is because the launch angle of a 6-iron is higher than it is with the driver and the swing speed is lower, resulting in a lower ball speed and smash factor number. It wouldn't be advantageous to have a significantly higher smash factor with a higher lofted club because it would be a sign that the player has less control over where the trajectory of the ball and where it will land.

Similarly, a pitching wedge, which has around 46 degrees of loft, has an optimal smash factor number between 1.20 and 1.30. This is among the shortest and heaviest clubs, so clubhead speed is naturally lower. And as previously mentioned, the higher loft will also lower ball speed because the energy being transferred to the ball is lower.

So, smash factor differs with every club in the golf bag because swing speeds change with each club throughout the bag and higher lofted clubs promote less ball speed off the face. Here in this chart, you can see professional averages for each club. Notice that with some clubs, the women professionals on the LPGA have more consistent contact in the center of the face, leading to higher smash factors.

PGA and LPGA smash factor averages
PGA & LPGA Smash Factor Averages

Many professional stats are unrealistic to shoot for, but most players can work on their smash factor and come relatively close to these numbers, establishing new baselines.

There are many drills that golfers can employ to improve smash factor.

As we have covered, smash factor comes down to the effectiveness of the strike from the golf club to the golf ball to produce optimal ball speed and distance.

One drill to check the centeredness of the strike is to spray Dr. Shoals or athletes foot spray on your club face and then hit a golf ball. When the swing is complete you can check to see where the clubface hit the golf ball as it will leave an imprint.

If the imprint shows up on the heel or the toe of the club, you will know that you are not getting the maximum amount of power and contact to the golf ball. This drill can also be accomplished by putting tape on the clubface.

A toe strike will have a right-to-left trajectory and a heel strike will have a left-to-right trajectory for a right-handed golfer.

A good drill if you are struggling with heel strikes is to place a water bottle (or another object) on the outside of the golf ball. When you swing, you should avoid contact with the water bottle thus hitting the ball more from the inside and promote more of a centered strike.

 Another drill to promote centeredness of contact is to place two alignment sticks parallel to each other on the ground. Place a ball in-between both alignment sticks. When you swing, if you hit the inside alignment stick, you are inevitably hitting the ball off the toe. If you hitt he outside alignment stick, you are likely hitting the ball from the heel. The goal is to avoid both alignment sticks and hit the center of the club face.

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