Should You Swing the Driver at 80% Effort?

Last year (2013) on the PGA Tour, the average swing speed speed with a driver was 113 mph as measured by TrackMan® launch monitors at PGA Tour events. The highest average swing speed for 2013 was Charlie Beljan with an average speed of 124.45 mph. Charlie’s fastest swing was 130.12 mph, which was also the fastest on the PGA Tour for the entire year.

Interestingly, if the average PGA Tour player was swinging at 80% of their max, then their maximum speed should be a whopping 141.25 mph. This simply isn't the case. From my own observations on TrackMan®, players rarely gain more than 5 mph over their “normal” swing speed when asked to hit it as hard as they can. This is a great example of feel versus real.

Most golfers feel they are swinging at an effort level that is significantly less their maximum, but the reality is they are swinging at an effort only marginally less then their maximum. To illustrate, all other things being equal, a golfer with a maximum distance of 250 yards will only hit it 200 yards with an 80% swing. Who wants to hit it 50 yards less?

Because players tend to think they are so far under their max swing speed, when the ball starts going a little crooked, it's very common to hear them say “My swing was too fast - I need to slow it way down”.  My answer to this is “You want to hit it way shorter?” Don't think of it as slowing the swing down. Rather, think of it as smoothing the swing out. This difference in thought process is subtle but crucial.

When I ask players to smoothen out their swing and just take a little bit off, maybe 1- 2%, more often than not, the kinematic sequence tends to improve. The result? It can actually lead to an increase in swing speed. Additionally, the ball strike tends to be more centered which definitely leads to more ball speed and longer distance.

A swing is never too fast (unless the ball has gone too far) but it can be too quick. Too quick = poor sequence = loss of speed. So next time you think you’re swing is getting too fast, tell yourself it’s too quick and concentrate on just smoothing out your swing. You may feel like you’re swinging at 80%, but Trackman® will tell you differently. 

Padraig Dooley

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