Spinning the Wedges - Smash Factor

Smash factor is a measurement of the ball speed relative to the club speed. I have learned that with wedges, when smash factor is 1.0 spin rates have the potential to be maximized. This video discusses the value in having the ball and the clubhead travel at the same speed and gives you a few ideas on how to make that happen...

Things to remember:

  • Avoid too much shaft lean and feel the hands and the shaft lining up at impact
  • This should give you a sense of using the bounce or sole of the club more through impact
  • Don't be afraid to allow the lead wrist to unhinge/extend as soon as possible through impact

Keep in mind that while very high spin rates are sexy, your final objective should be control. Better control and predictability means better results. Don't allow a quest for more spin erode your ability to get the ball close to the hole!

Thanks for watching and check in soon for my next in the Spinning the Wedges series on Spin Loft.

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A Golfer's Instinct

It never ceases to amaze me how important instinct is in any golfer's swing - that instinct to position their body or the club in such a manner as to give any shot the best possible chance of finishing at the target. Good golf instincts are the result of years playing the game, but also to a lesser degree, a player's innate talent.

In order to test and better understand this instinct I came up with an idea - I would change my normal grip to 90 degrees open and then 90 degrees closed as shown below and test my ability to adjust to the vastly different clubface angles - yet still attempt to get the ball to the target.

Now, as you might imagine, with an approximate 180 degrees difference between the face angle for these two shots I didn't get up and hit it beautifully straight away, but I was amazed that it only took 2-3 swings with each to adjust and get the ball to fly pretty much toward the target.

The image below shows the drastic difference that was required at impact in order to produce an acceptable result for each option. (The "weak" grip option is on the left while the "strong" grip option is on the right) It's also important to understand that the difference you're looking at is not from grip alone, quite the contrary. It is primarily my instinct to get the ball to the target that leads to the changes.

The TrackMan data shows how much the change in face angle altered both the shape of the swing and my impact alignments. There was more than a 10 degree difference between my clubpath with each swing and the swing plane (VSP) with each swing - both numbers that golfers tend to be very consistent with.

What can you take away from this test:

  • A golfer's primary instinct is to have the ball finish at the target. This instinct might cause them to swing and respond in unusual ways, but they are doing all they can to generate a successful outcome
  • Face angle can greatly influence the appearance and effectiveness of any golf swing
  • An open face throughout the swing will often encourage an out-to-in clubpath, while a closed face throughout the swing will often encourage an in-to-out clubpath
  • An open face will often promote a lower swing plane while a closed face will often elevate the swing plane through impact
  • Practicing unusual techniques and methods that are well outside your comfort zone will actually improve your instincts to make the ball go to the target and ultimately make you a better golfer

The next time you go out to practice, work towards bettering your golf instinct. As Chris Como once said:

 Repeatability does not necessarily come from just trying to be more repeatable. Learn to solve similar 'problems' in a variety of ways...

Think, and practice, a little outside of your box.

Controlling the Clubface

Here's a great drill that will help to create awareness of where the clubface is angled at impact...

Keep in mind that the clubface is PRIMARILY responsible for where the ball launches, while the clubpath is PRIMARILY responsible for the curvature of the shot. If you know the predominant shape of your shots, the key is to launch the ball in the proper direction - this drill will help! Give it a try and please let me know if you've made any progress.

Swingbyte vs TrackMan

swingbytevstrackman I was recently contacted by Swingbyte and asked to test their device to see how the data it generated held up against data generated by TrackMan. Please remember this is not a contest and I am not saying that TrackMan is perfect (I'm not sure there is such a thing), but I do believe TrackMan is the benchmark when it comes to reporting club and ball data in golf and I was interested to see how a $150 swing aid held up.

Swingbyte is a swing analyzing device that attaches to your club just below the grip and sends data to a mobile phone or tablet via Bluetooth. With a price point of $150 it provides a tremendous amount of data and sifting through the information on the App might be a little confusing at first, but with patience you will eventually find what you're looking for.

Having used TrackMan for a long time one of the notable things I've found with passionate golfers is that the direction the clubhead is travelling through impact (attack angle and club path) is generally quite consistent. When testing/comparing other devices to TrackMan, whenever I see a dramatic change from one swing to the next in either attack angle or club path numbers a red flag goes up. With the Swingbyte I hit pitching wedges, 7 irons and drivers and I primarily keyed in on club speed, attack angle, club path and face angle. Here are my ratings out of a possible 5 stars:

swingbyte

Club Speed:

If you purchased the device to simply know your club speed you are ahead of the game. It is important to enter detailed specs from each club into the App, but once you've got that done the feedback is surprisingly accurate. All the numbers I saw were within 4 mph of where TrackMan reported. (4.5 out of 5)

Attack Angle:

It is important to know that TrackMan and Swingbyte report attack angle from slightly different portions of the swing and thus differences should be expected, however I thought the device did a fairly accurate job most of the time. With the irons I felt the numbers indicated were close enough to "actual" in order to be actionable. It did seem that attack angles with the driver were a little too ascending. Their were also a few crazy numbers reported, but as you use the device more you'll easily be able to recognize any outliers. (3.5 out of 5)

Club Path:

These numbers were a long way from what TrackMan was reporting and I would not put too much into this particular parameter.  For example with the driver TrackMan reported my average club path on multiple shots was 0.2 degrees out to in, while Swingbyte indicated that every swing I made was from in to out with a range of 1.7 degrees to 13.6 degrees from in to out. (1 out of 5)

Face Angle:

Even with TrackMan I seldom give much credence to the reported face angle as it is too easily influenced by off center hits and I most often use the reported number to determine where the ball was struck on the face. The original Swingbyte reports face angle at impact relative to where it was aligned at address. Assuming you have aligned the device on the club correctly, start with a square clubface and no twisting occurs, you might get an actionable reading - otherwise, I'd move on. (1 out of 5)

The problem Swingbyte has faced is that it could not latch onto a target - it only registered where the device was aligned at address. This means that any data regarding club path and face angle is based around where the device was aimed at address. The Swingbyte 2 addresses this issue. Founder and CEO, Alex Pedenko had the following to say:

You can now point your iPad and it will know what your target is and figure out all the numbers based on that. So now you have true, accurate numbers about what you did, not just in general but relative to the target line, relative to where you want it to go.

I am hoping that these upgrades will make this already useful device even better. While the device is not perfect (what is?) and should not replace quality coaching I feel that with a few practice sessions any golfer can start to gain a better understanding of what they need to do in order to make progress.

Optimal Driver Numbers on TrackMan

With so many questions after my two most recent posts I thought it would be enlightening to show you what we see when using TrackMan.  This particular driver was hit by Rick Hartmann - my boss and the Head Professional at Atlantic Golf Club.  Rick played on the European Tour for ten years and is a fantastic driver of the ball.  This is a good drive, but not anything unusual for Rick (it was into a very slight headwind).  These particular numbers are very close to optimal and should be something we should all be working towards regardless of what our club speed might be.  Of course that is if you happen to like high, long draws...

If you want to be efficient with your driver here is an explanation of what I look for:

  • The Attack Angle (0.9 degrees up) is positive - a good sign for maximum efficiency as an upward hit is better than a downward hit (if you want to hit it as far as possible).
  • Notice how (because the Swing Plane is very close to 45 degrees) that the Attack Angle + Club Path = Swing Direction.  Not unusual really, this is a helpful indicator in understanding what factors effect  the club path.
  • The Spin Loft is close to 11 degrees - a solid number that seems to work for most golfers.  Spin Loft = Dynamic Loft - Attack Angle. Think of spin loft as a measure of 'ball compression'.
  • In order to hit good draws the face must be open relative to the target at impact and here you see how the Face Angle is open (2.7 degrees) with the Club Path being further to the right (3.5 degrees). Couple that with a centered hit and you've got lovely push draws.
  • A centered hit is vital and that's why I like to keep Face to Path alongside Spin Axis.  If the hit is in the heel the face angle would be closed ( a negative number) and the spin axis would be tilted to the right (positive) and vice versa for a toe hit.  Here you see how with the face slightly closed to the path, you should get a baby draw, and that's exactly what we got - all from a centered hit.
  • Club Speed and Ball Speed are fairly self explanatory, but if you divide the club speed into the ball speed you will get 1.48 which equals the Smash Factor.  Smash factor is merely a measure of how efficiently you translated club speed into ball speed and is not purely a measure of how well you struck the ball. The maximum smash factor for a driver 1.53. (I have seen 1.54 twice!)
  • The Height of the shot, which is measured from flat and not necessarily the ground, is right where I'd like to see it for this particular club speed.  PGATour average swing speed is 112mph and they hit all their clubs 90 feet in the air. At around 108mph I think 88 feet high works very nicely.
  • Launch Angle and Launch Direction are largely influenced by the club face and I like both here.  I look for draws to launch to the right of the target (positive) and the launch angle to be somewhere between 10 and 16 degrees depending on the players club speed.
  • The Spin Rate for this shot is a touch high, but I would attribute that to a shaft that is softer than what the golfer should be using.  I'd like to see the spin rate at this club speed be somewhere between 2000 and 2200.
  • Side Total indicates that this ball is straight down the center and finished less than 4 feet right of the intended target line - just another ho-hum 280 yard drive down the pipe.

Somewhat advanced I know, but after the response to my last few posts I know there are thousands of golfers out there who are looking for a better understanding of what really happens at impact and what they should be working towards for maximum efficiency.  If you can duplicate these numbers you won't need me for much...at least not for the driver.