IMPROVE MY GAME
Club Head Speed By Age Group: What Percentile Are You In?
Wed Feb 27, 2019 by Chris Finn
Over the past four years at Par4Success, we have been working with and testing juniors, amateurs, professionals and senior golfers in the state of North Carolina and throughout the country. Our mission has been to collect information and data on all of these “average” golfers to better understand how to help the 99 percent of us that love and play the game of golf.
From all of this testing, over 600 data points at this time, we have been able to identify a number of top metrics in the physical realm that you should be striving for if you want to play at your highest level. While we have identified over 10 critically important metrics for golfers, today we wanted to share the one that is most asked about...club head speed.
If you are in the golf industry, you have no doubt worked with a golfer who swings, looks at his/her speed and then turns to you to ask, “is that good?” If you are like us before we had this data, you likely pull from your memory bank of other golfers you have worked with to compare the person in front of you to them...not the most scientific or accurate approach.
This is one of the most important questions to answer as most of the data out there is on PGA and LPGA tour averages. To have 13 and 65 year olds comparing themselves to the 113 mph PGA Tour average or the 98 mph LPGA Tour average is silly (and, in some cases, potentially dangerous). It is like the average person comparing their wealth to Warren Buffet...let’s be serious and come up with a realistic and helpful comparison of where you are today and where you want to be in a few months and even decades from now.
On the LPGA and PGA Tours, it is very clear that length matters with most of the top money earnings belonging to the longer hitters. It is a reasonable assumption to make that the same would be true with amateurs, juniors and seniors around the world. The longer you hit it, the easier it should be for you to score better. You will have a shorter approach and hopefully avoid hitting a hybrid into every green.
Before we go any further, however, please do not mistake the previous statement to mean that you "have" to be a super long hitter to play on a professional Tour or to play at a high level. You can clearly make a living on Tour not swinging 120 mph and play at a very high amateur level not hitting it 300 yards. The stats clearly show, however, that length helps a ton when it comes to earning dollars on Tour.1
When children are little, all parents reading this remember being told by the physician what percentile your child's height and weight were. While this is a fun metric, it doesn't tell you how tall they will be, how good of an athlete they will be or anything else predictive of their future. It does, however, give you an objective metric to be able to understand where your child stands at that moment compared to other children of the same sex and age.
With our data, we have done exactly that for club head speed. The percentiles that follow below are meant to help you in a few ways depending on where you are in your golfing life.
If you are a junior golfer, the hope is that this data allows you to see where you stand compared to others in your age range and the older golfers at the next level. For example, if you are 10-16 years old and want to see how fast the college kids you will be playing against will be swinging, take a look at the 17-30 age group. The hope is that this gives you a target of where you may want to get to in order to be most competitive with the other players you are competing against.
If you are a working amateur in your 30-50’s, hopefully this gives you a realistic expectation of what is actually good for your age and how much your peers are losing on average over the years when it comes to speed. Use this data as a barometer to identify losses in power that would be abnormal for your age.
If you are 50+, the hope with this data is that you gain a realistic understanding of where you are vs where you could be. In fact, a 90 mph club head speed when you are 65 years old is not that good and there is likely lots of room for improvement!
Utilizing this data, industry professionals should be able to tell golfers who have forced themselves to accept that they are just getting old, that in fact, they are wrong. There is ample opportunity to improve and get better well into your 60’s if you have an organized and sport science based plan.
The next logical question for everyone not in the 99th percentile, of course, is probably "how do I get more club head speed?" That answer lies in science and one of the four quadrants of speed. The four quadrants that a player can gain speed in are improving technical efficiency, improving equipment to match the player’s needs of speed with consideration for accuracy, improving mobility to allow full rotational capacity and improving power. Power is the simple sum of how much force a player can generate plus how fast they can produce that force. Simply put, Power = Strength + Speed.
Depending on where a player is in their golf lifecycle, the solutions to speed may vary in order of importance. For example, if we have two players, a senior with poor mobility and a junior with hypermobility and compare them, their increased club head speed solutions will be very different. For this example, let’s assume that equipment and technical efficiency are equal in both players. The senior player will see greater improvement in club head speed with mobility improvements. The junior player will likely see greater improvements in their club speed with a focus on improving strength and control of their mobility.
This isn’t to say that both players should ignore the other areas of the four quadrants, but rather, that the greater majority of their time should be spent addressing the low hanging fruit first. For example, the hypermobile junior will still work on mobility, but instead of trying to increase it, they would work on better control of their end ranges and throughout their entire range of motion. This might happen during active rest breaks between strength and power training. This will have the added benefit of injury prevention as well.
The senior player will not ignore strength and speed training, but likely use eccentric strength training periods throughout the year. This will help further their mobility gains while also working on strength. See my earlier mytpi article on the benefits of eccentric training here. The senior player will also work on speed and deceleration drills (sport specific, vertical, horizontal and torsional) to increase their speed. This will all be done, however, after a significant focus on soft tissue work, mobility drills and attention to golf specific rotary centers.
Knowing what percentile you are in for your age/sex can be the starting benchmark for you and help you set goals to shoot for. It is important you utilize a sports science based plan designed to maximize your return on the your time spent as demonstrated above. Seek out the guidance of a golf fitness/medical and teaching professional who can help you assess where you are and identify the quadrants of speed that you need to focus on most.
A note about the data. It is important to note that the age groups with the larger sample sizes can be extrapolated out much more than those with smaller ones. This is just the beginning of the database we are collecting and numbers will only grow and become more helpful. If you are a 30-50 year old female, please reach out so we can fill your age group’s numbers in as there is clearly a gap in our data for your age group.
Be on the lookout for the upcoming article on the top tests that we found related to identifying your low hanging fruit when it comes to producing club head speed based on your age. These tests have a very high correlation to club head speed and can shed light for you as to which quadrant you should be focusing on to improve your club head speed. If you’d like to see our full full free research report with all of the numbers from age 10-65+ You can download the full free report here.
At Par4Success, our speciality is helping golfers play better golf, swing faster and hurt less. The average golfer based on our research and in our programs, will see over 3 mph gain (~10 yards) in less than 12 weeks and many see much more; 50% more when they use the specific type of power and strength training most dialed in for their age and developmental level. Let us know if we can help you reach your goals!
Chris Finn is a Licensed Physical Therapist, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Titleist Performance Institute Certified Medical Professional, Certified Precision Nutrition Coach, and trained to perform Trigger Point Dry Needling in North Carolina. Since starting Par4Success in 2012, Chris has and continues to work with Touring Professionals, elite level juniors & amateurs as well as weekend warriors. He has contributed to numerous media outlets including GolfWRX, is a published author, works with many of the nation’s leading coaches and instructors to improve their players and presents all over the country on topics such as Golf Performance, Junior Golf Athletic Development, Injury Prevention and Power/Speed improvement for golfers.
Rather disappointed to see where I fall on the chart relative to club head speed. I guess I have some.work to do. I assume all these speeds are using a driver??? What speed difference is there with a wedge or 5 iron??
Robert Schilling 1/26/2020 4:49 PM
I find this article very interesting, but your numbers are inflated and misleading. Low sample size and unrepresentative sample are obvious culprits, but it's very possible your measuring technology was flawed. TrackMan Combine data collected from over 10,000 golfers found the average clubhead speed for all men was 93.4 mph and their 99th percentile was 111 mph. In other words, your average of 113 mph for the 17-29 cohort is actually above TrackMan's 99th percentile! Also, you can't say 1 golfer out of 26 (17-29) or 1 golfer out of 96 (30-50) achieved a 126.1 mph clubhead speed, therefore that is the true 99th percentile. Maybe that one person in each group was extremely special. If you look at PGA tour averages since 2007, the 99th percentile is closer to 124-125 mph. In fact, there have been several years where NOBODY on the PGA tour averaged over 125 mph (not even Bubba, Tiger, John Daly). In that case, it seems there's really no practical benefit to swinging that fast. Anecdotally, I also find that targeting higher clubhead speed can be counterproductive if you're already high. I averaged around 113 mph with a 2 handicap, then I went on this stupid crusade for distance... decided to start doing deadlifts, flexibility exercises, etc. and while I achieved a single high speed of 127, my accuracy decreased, and I ended up playing less golf due to muscle fatigue. IMO, if you are already above 113, you should be really careful about increasing your speed, or do what you can to maximize distance through fitting. Even with 113, you can average over 300 yards.
Jason 4/4/2019 6:46 PM
Good points Jason. I'm sure Tiger in 1997 was able to swing well over 130 mph if not 135 mph, but as he matured, he realized that he needed to focus more on his accuracy. Even Bubba seems to tone it down and rarely goes all out because accuracy is just as important as distance. If you look at the guys on the long drive tour, they are lucky to hit 1 50 yard grid out of 10 balls. The average golfer will struggle mightily to square a clubface even with a swing in the 120 mph range. So I say just try to get to the PGA tour average or a speed where youc an hit a high percentage of fairways. Also realize that genetics play a huge role. Case in point is Kyle Berkshire who is a bigger than average guy but not particularly strong and when he turned 20, he randomly started hitting it 400 yards.
bc1979 5/5/2020 7:02 AM
Great insight Jason. We did note in the article that the sample size in each age group as broken down needs to continue to grow. We have grown the database by 20% since this was published. We are using flightscope so no concern if technology we are using is flawed, great question though. Average clubspeed for all men is not a very helpful number as it combines men in their 70s to 20 year olds, hence the start of building this database. Sorry to hear about your injuries, that is what the other parts of our database actually look at is how much speed can your body handle. It sounds like the 120s were above what your body was able do handle. Happy to chat offline with you about all this if your interested in more detail. My contact is on our website or my tpi profile. Thanks again for taking the time to read what we are doing!
Chris Finn 7/20/2019 4:02 PM
i believe you are premature in providing a percentile range of performance table for the club head speed at this time on the basis of two significant factors, one of which you have cited in you research to date. your sample sizes per group are inadequate to base a finding. you have identified trends but, extrapolating data based on that size sample will not provide valid results. the second concern i have is the process utilized in selecting participants( ie were the 10-16 age bracket participants lumped together despite level of experience, physical size, maturity, motivation etc.) I like the study and the measures/ training you are utilizing in the hope you can quantify exercises beneficial to the golf swing. I disagree with you putting out a graph / table based on your sample groups. Getting to conclusions on potential club head speed levels utilizing your measures this early in the process seems to biased, premature and not valid. information on participant selection is also necessary before publishing data trends
Jim Becker 3/11/2019 12:34 AM
Thanks so much for the insight Jim! We need people like you in the industry to help educate people who read this that it is not finite and that there are outliers. This was just the start and the goal was not to suggest this is finite for the exact reasons you suggested. There is no resource like this out there, hence it has to be built. Since this was published he database is close to 800 golfers now. It is a work in progress as stated in the article and we need people like yourself to continue to push our field forward and demand more and better data. The selection of 10-16 year olds obviously varies based on where they are biologically, but with a large enough sample size we should see a wash out of all outliers (talking hundreds of datapoints needed here per group). Thanks for not accepting this as final and pushing us to keep making it better.
Chris Finn 7/20/2019 4:08 PM
Agreed, these samples are way too low! Also, yes - the average 16 year old can probably outdrive a 10 year old by 50 or more yards. What's also missing is genetics. I hate to even bring this up because it's controversial, but I think certain people who have more type 2b fast twitch muscles are naturally faster swingers. When I was 14 years old, I hit my first drive over 300 yards. That same year, I was outsprinting seniors on the track team. You'd think I was some kind of athlete but I fatigued very easily and couldn't even do 10 pushups until I turned 15.
Jason 4/4/2019 7:00 PM
Agreed Jason we since have been able to shrink it to 10-13 and 14-16 and our goal is to get it to 2 year gaps all the way up to 80...long way to go though and lot more data to collect. Similar to the above comment, outliers with more fibers or experience will be accounted for when the sample size becomes large enough. Thanks for the insight!
Chris Finn 7/20/2019 4:10 PM
Great info here, Chris. I plan on printing out and sharing with my students as a guideline. On a personal note, your training is helping me and we haven't even begun to work on club speed yet!
Julieta Stack 3/9/2019 1:10 AM
Would definitely like to see a further breakdown of the 60+ group. I’m 69 and definitely know my swing speed has changed in the last 9 years.
Don 3/9/2019 12:05 AM