Put simply, smash factor is the relationship between ball speed and clubhead speed, a measure of both speed and efficiency in golf.
With a rise in the use of technology like FlightScopes and simulators, more and more people are becoming aware of data, like smash factor, that would have once only got attention from the top pros.
So, how does smash factor measure efficiency?
Whenever you swing a driver – or another club, but smash factor seems to be predominantly a driver-based obsession – the amount of clubhead speed you can maintain and turn into ball speed will largely influence the distance you hit the ball.
A smash factor number is calculated by dividing ball speed by clubhead speed, with an outcome of 1.5 seen as the ‘holy grail’ of an efficient golf swing.
If you swing the club fast and also have a high ball speed, then you will likely hit the ball a long way and have a high smash factor.
If you swing with a lower clubhead speed which produces a lower ball speed, you won’t hit the ball as far, yet your smash factor may still be OK.
The big issue we want to avoid is having a high clubhead speed and a low ball speed, ultimately producing a low smash factor and shots that don’t travel as far as you might have hoped.
If you find yourself in this position – swinging the club fast but failing to see the ball fly off the face with rapid ball speed and a high smash factor – what do you do about it?
To improve smash factor in golf, you need to marry-up clubface and path, as well as find the middle of the club. If you collect the ball out of the heel or the toe, you will lose ball speed. These glancing strikes will reduce the efficiency of your contact and negatively impact smash factor numbers.
I think it is important, however, to determine what you are trying to achieve prior to mindlessly commencing a journey to improve your smash factor.
Since it is just a ratio formed between clubhead speed and ball speed, you can actually hit the ball farther with a decrease in smash factor, dependent on how fast you are swinging the club.
Ultimately, if you are trying to up your smash factor by becoming more efficient and getting a bit extra out of your current swing, then you can definitely make this happen through some simple training and tweaks to your current swing.
Below, I’ll explain in greater detail how you can boost your smash factor numbers next time you step in front of a FlightScope monitor or golf simulator.
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How do you increase your smash factor in golf?
To increase your smash factor in golf, you need to focus on clubface and path alignment; making a central strike; and mastering attack angle. Aligning clubface and path will stop you making inefficient glancing contact, with similar benefits reaped from finding the middle of the club. Optimising attack angle will impart ideal spin on the ball for maintaining speed and maximising distance.
Let’s take a look at each of these factors in greater detail below to explore why they all influence smash factor numbers.
Factor 1: Clubface and path alignment
When you strike the ball, you ideally want the club path to be on-plane and the clubface pointing straight at target.
Not only will this create a straight shot, but it will reduce sideways movement which will only decrease ball speed and hurt your smash factor.
If you are looking for speed and distance, hitting a straighter shot with little to no sideways spin will see you maintain smash factor and distance.
If you need help to determine whether you do in fact have an open or closed clubface at impact, make some slow swings with a magnetic alignment rod to get real-time feedback.
Factor 2: Central strike
It should go without saying that a central strike is key to increasing the quality and efficiency of your ball-striking, and therefore smash factor.
Shots that are struck high on the face or out of the bottom grooves aren’t going to reap the rewards of the sweet spot that will impart the maximum amount of clubhead speed and convert it into ball speed, increasing your smash factor.
Similarly, strikes out of the toe or heel aren’t going to retain the energy from your swing as well as those out of the centre, with heel strikes likely to slice and toe strikes likely to draw.
Too much shape on the ball is going to lose some of that energy from your swing, lowering your ball speed.
To determine whether you are, in fact, striking the ball out of the middle of your club, try using some impact tape on your golf clubs when at the range.
This will leave a clear and observable mark on your clubface, showing exactly where you strike the ball so that you can work on addressing any nasty habits.
Factor 3: Attack angle
If your attack angle is too steep or too shallow, you won’t impart the full force of your clubhead speed onto the ball, losing much of this energy in ball speed.
Depending on the loft of the club and the angle at which you deliver it, you’ll impart a different spin rate on the ball; and if you fall out of an appropriate ‘window’ for the club you are using, you’ll probably see ball speed decrease.
Ideally, you want to try and optimise the attack angle and loft of the club so that they don’t stray too far apart from one another.
If you present too much loft in addition to striking the ball in too much of a downward fashion, then you will see a decrease in ball speed and smash factor along with it.
Check out a 2014 video from TrackMan below, where PGA Tour player Jason Dufner puts his swing to the test to determine his smash factor:
What contributes to smash factor in golf?
The main factors that contribute to smash factor are attack angle, strike and clubface versus path alignment. Getting all three of these things working in an optimal way will ensure you retain as much clubhead speed as possible when you strike the ball, turning it into ball speed. However, if you have a good smash factor number but don’t hit the ball very far, you may need to increase your swing speed.
It can be a frustrating thing for many golfers, but if you have an efficient, yet slow swing, you might see a solid smash factor number of 1.45 or more yet not hit the ball very far.
Ultimately, this is because – despite the fact you retain energy from your swing when you contact the ball – you don’t generate enough energy in the first place, hence need to find more by jacking up your swing speed.
One of the simplest and most popular methods to do so – it is used by hundreds of pros – is the Super Speed Golf Training System.
This product comes with three differently weighted headless clubs, both heavier and lighter than your usual clubs.
By following their training system of making swings on both dominant and non-dominant sides, you should find swinging your regular clubs faster a lot easier, generating more clubhead speed.
If you are able to pair this with a good path and efficient contact, you should be able to keep smash factor high, gaining greater distance as a result.
Is 1.3 smash factor good in golf?
A smash factor of 1.3 would be considered good for an amateur’s 6-iron, but not so good with driver. According to TrackMan, the average golfer who plays off a 14.5 handicap achieves a smash factor of 1.44 with their driver, so anything less than this could be considered below average. However, for a 6-iron, the pros achieve around 1.38 smash factor, so a bit above 1.3 would be a good target for amateurs.
As I have discussed earlier, smash factor can be a little deceiving, as it is more so a measure of efficiency than raw power and speed.
PGA tour pros achieve a smash factor of about 1.49 with their driver, exactly the same as a scratch level amateur.
However, tour players are likely striking the ball with a greater clubhead speed, rendering this smash factor far more impressive and likely hitting it longer, too.
Even 10 handicappers on average hit 1.44 smash factor, a mere 0.04 less than a PGA Tour player.
This is why it is important to look at all three factors as a package – clubhead speed, ball speed and smash factor – to work out where the strengths in your game lie and the areas you should single out for improvement.
What is the highest possible smash factor in golf?
The maximum achievable smash factor sits at around 1.5, curtailed by equipment design and general laws of physics. Some elite golfers are able to sneak above 1.5 ever so slightly, but this is quite rare. In theory, one could achieve a higher smash factor, but in practice, it is very unlikely average golfers would be able to achieve a smash factor above 1.5.
Ultimately, there’s a reason why 1.5 is considered the holy grail in terms of smash factor numbers, as it really signifies that we have gotten the most out of our swing and clubs.
If your driver reaches a smash factor of 1.5, you are essentially matching it with the pros (albeit perhaps not with clubhead speed and ball speed).
What is a good smash factor for a 6-iron?
A good smash factor for a 6-iron is in the 1.35-1.39 range, as this would place you in a similar range to PGA and LPGA tour players. On average, male tour players achieve a smash factor of 1.38 with their 6-iron, and female tour players 1.39. While you may not be able to replicate these exact numbers, something slightly less should be achievable for most amateurs.
As you move to higher-lofted clubs, you should see a gradual decrease in smash factor, given the purpose of the club changes from power and distance to finesse and accuracy.
By the time you reach pitching wedge, a good smash factor figure reduces to about 1.25.
Essentially, smash factor is a measure of how much clubhead speed is translated into ball speed, and friction on the clubface is a key reason why this figure might fall.
With your wedges, you are trying to increase the amount of time the ball spends on the clubface to impart spin, so this undoubtedly is going to see a drop in smash factor due to friction.
Can smash factor be too high in golf?
Yes, it is possible for smash factor to be too high, especially when using clubs of higher lofts. With your driver, you should be aiming for a smash factor of up to 1.5, whereas a pitching wedge will see better results at a smash factor number of 1.25. This is because, as you move into higher-lofted clubs, the onus is less on power transfer and distance, and more so on spin and accuracy.
Launch monitors are the only real way to fine tune your smash factor numbers, and for a long time they have been well and truly outside of the price range of the common golfer.
In recent years, a large number of simpler, cost efficient options have entered the market, such as the Voice Caddie SC 200 Portable Golf Launch Monitor.
A few thousand dollars can seem like an excessive purchase for most golfers, but a few hundred, especially if you love hitting the range on a weekly basis, could be a worthwhile purchase and help to transform your game.
What is the average golfer’s smash factor?
TrackMan data has shown the average golfer’s smash factor is around 1.44 with driver. This is based upon the average golfing handicap of 14.5. However, there isn’t a huge amount of difference between amateur golfers at a higher standard (single figures) and a lower standard (20+).
It is important to note that smash factor isn’t the be all and end all and is just one measure of golfing ability.
It is usually quite a good indication of strike and contact, but may not translate to distance if you don’t have a high clubhead speed.
Smash factor is just one piece of the golfing puzzle and a fairly new one at that, given it has only risen in focus and popularity with the advent of accessible launch monitors and technology.
While it is an excellent metric to determine whether you are getting the most out of your swing, purely increasing smash factor is not necessarily a recipe for more distance: you may actually need to generate more clubhead speed in the first place.
Nonetheless, if you are determined to get better, enough so that you are willing to buy a launch monitor, then smash factor is vital data worth your experimentation to create the most efficient swing you are capable of.