Should You Swing the Driver at 80% Effort?

Wed Mar 5, 2014 by Padraig Dooley

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

  • Andreas Lohmar

    Could not agree more. I always felt that the secret is in the transition at the top of the swing. I am observing this a lot more on the LPGA where the ladies have to be spot on when it comes to the kinematic sequence because "muscling" the ball is not an option.

  • Anonymous User

    Great article, one or two of the opinions below bother me. Write your own article folks. Lee Owens.

  • Dave Knight

    The question would be...How do you know you're actually swinging 80%. You may be simply focusing on a smooth swing and in doing so, may actually be swinging just as fast, if not faster, than your perceived 100% swing.

  • Kristopher Brown

    Great article! I have had great success with amateurs and touring professionals on smoothing out the transition, which is the change of direction from the backswing to the forward swing. Their sequencing improves which increases body and clubhead speed.

  • Anonymous User

    I would add that it helps to hit it on the sweet spot/center as well. I have the Titleist D3 and have noticed the ball goes just as far with a more controlled swing (80%) then when I try to smash it.

  • Anonymous User

    Interesting article. The reality is, of course, if a player understood how to fold their left elbow on the through swing then they could hit as fast or slow as they liked and never worry about the hideous concept of Rhythm.

  • Anonymous User

    Its all about your rythum and building the speed in your swing so that's it is fastest in the bottom of the swing.

  • Anonymous User

    That is fine for a finely tuned athlete but mere mortals not at their physical peak can not cannot coordinate such a fast move.

  • Anonymous User

    Great observation! I have used that thought with my own swing when the ball starts going off line. Being 65, I think mainly about swinging smooth and hitting it more solid.

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