Swing speed is one of those invisible numbers in golf that you rarely hear about. However, swing speed is just as crucial to ball travel and the overall distance of a club. Just like proper stance, back-swing, and ball contact, swing speed can be measured and adjusted.
There are several instances when you should know your swing speed. One of the most important times is when you are being fitted for new clubs. Your swing speed will help determine which type of shaft, head, and weight your clubs should be. This article will look at various ways to calculate your golf swing speed.
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Why Swing Speed Matters
Swing speed is less about ball control and more about ball distance. For this reason, you generally only worry about swing speed for your driver and fairway woods. Depending on your swing speed (and assuming you contact the ball squarely), the faster you swing, the further the ball will go.
Mathematically speaking, for every mile per hour (MPH) of swing speed, the golf ball will travel 2.3 yards. Calculating and knowing your golf swing speed will give you a rough estimate of how far you can drive the ball. Of course, this doesn’t take into consideration environmental factors, such as headwind, humidity, and temperature.
As a bonus, the ball will also roll further with faster swing speed. On average (again, in ideal conditions), you can get an extra 0.7 yards of ball roll for every MPH. This means that total ball travel is three yards for every MPH you can swing the club.
Do You Need a Machine to Calculate Golf Swing Speed?
I will answer this question with another question. How accurate do you want to be? The answer is a resounding yes; you will need machinery or electronics to calculate an accurate swing speed. High-speed cameras, infrared technologies, or other sensors are required to get a reliable and consistent swing speed.
That being said, if you are happy with generalities and not so much with absolutes, there is a mathematical method to determine your speed. First, let’s look at some various ways you can get an accurate swing speed.
Measure Swing Speed Using Radar
Radar is one of the most accurate methods out there to determine the actual swing speed. It is also one of the most expensive. For home use, purchasing a radar set up to assess swing speed is an expense most can’t justify.
However, if your local pro shop or range sells customized clubs, they most likely have a radar speed testing environment set up. You may have to pay to use it, but it cheaper than buying the equipment yourself.
With a radar testing setup, you will use a clip on the club that is read by the radar device. After a few swings, you can get instant feedback that is accurate within 0.01%. By placing the clip on various clubs, you can determine your swing speed for your entire bag if you were so inclined.
Measure Swing Speed Using a Golf Simulator
If you have a golf simulator, they will record your golf swing speed. Depending on the type of simulator you use, the accuracy can be hit or miss. For example, a golf simulator studio such as those made by SkyTrak or OptiShot 2 will use infrared sensors during ball contact to determine the head speed of the club. Your swing speed will be highly accurate.
Other models like the mobile PhiGolf units or Rapsodo simulators use clips on the clubs to determine speed, trajectory, and other data points. However, they read from the grip of the club and not the shaft or club head, so their data reports aren’t as accurate. It is still closer than guessing, though, and you can get a decent speed average for your driver using these less expensive models.
Measure Swing Speed Manually
Finally, there is the old-fashioned way of using mathematics. You can manually determine your golf swing speed by averaging your distance and working backward. Here is how it works.
We know that in ideal circumstances, the ball will travel 2.3 yards per mile per hour of swing speed. If you take the average distance of your drives and divide by 2.3, you will get the MPH of your swing.
As an example, if you hit 30 golf balls on the range with your driver and the majority of your shots travel 210 yards, you divide 210 by 2.3 and get a swing speed of about 91 MPH.
Here is where it gets tricky. First, you need to be able to determine where your ball makes initial contact with the ground. Remember, for every MPH of swing speed your ball will roll an additional 0.7 yards. So we have to remove that from the equation.
Issues with the Math
Most driving ranges don’t have yard by yard distance markers. Instead, they will have markers at milestone yardages, 50, 100, 200, 250, etc. Unless you have a spotter and a range finder device, you may not be able to determine precisely how far your ball travels to initial ground contact.
If you divide by 1.75 instead, this will give you the estimated ball speed at impact. This is a more accurate measurement over the 2.3 divisor that measures club speed at impact. As for the roll distance, you can divide by 1.5 to get the ball speed, including the roll.
While it can be confusing, it can also be widely inaccurate. There are a lot of factors that must be measured to give you your exact swing speed. For example, if you hit 30 golf balls, most likely, not all of them will end up in the same spot.
While your swing speed may be the same for each ball, the impact spot, stance, and even humidity can make the ball travel different distances or directions.
If you are looking for a quick estimate, though, the math formula of average distance divided by 2.3 will give you a close swing speed in MPH. Have you ever measured your swing speed? How close was your mathematical average to actual speed as measured by a simulator or radar? Let us know in the comments below!