The distance golfers hit their drives has long been a discussion on driving ranges and in clubhouses throughout the world.
But thanks to the introduction of launch monitors in the modern game terms like driver swingspeed – or clubhead speed as it is also called – have now been added to the conservations on distance as players compare not only how many yards their drives are going but also how fast they are swinging their driver.
And the simple reason for this is that club/swingspeed is the key factor for determining a golfer’s ‘potential’ distance and the more of it you have the more chance you have of hitting long drives.
On average slow driver swingspeeds of less than 80mph will go a total distance of between 139 to 197 yards. Average clubhead speeds of around 85 to 95mph should go 199 to 256 yards while fast swingspeeds of 97 to 105mph can reach 243 to 288 yards. Very fast swingspeeds of 110mph and above should go 275 to 350 yards.
Given these numbers there is obviously a clear correlation between driving distance and swingspeed.
In short the more of it you have the further you should hit the ball and according to Trackman adding 1mph of swingspeed can increase your distance by up to 3 yards with the driver.
Indeed so important is swingspeed in the modern game that specific training equipment and programs are now available to help you with increasing it.
But while regular golfers are quite right to be thinking about how far their drives should go with their swingspeed, whether that be 85, 90, 95mph, or into the faster speeds approaching 100mph and above, it is vital you don’t focus on that number in isolation otherwise you will waste some of that hard-earned speed.
[Top tip: Improving your fitness and swing speed will make a huge difference to how far you hit the ball and has the potential to add 20 to 30 yards to drives and an extra club throughout the bag. If you want to know how you can achieve this check out two of the best ‘golf training’ programs that can get you there:
How Far Should You Drive With Your Swingspeed? Attack Then Strike!
Distance is, and always has been, critical to success in the game of golf – no matter what myths you may hear about the primal importance of the short game over the long game – and thanks to technology golfers are now readily aware of how more and more swingspeed can help them hit the ball further and score better.
Indeed Matt Fitzpatrick credited the increased distance he gained from using the Stack System to increase his driver clubhead speed as one of the key reasons behind his 2022 US Open win.
As a result it is inevitable that regular golfers will wonder how fast their own swingspeeds are and how far their drives should go with them.
As a whole golfers average male golfers drive the ball about 2.29 yards per mph of driver clubhead speed according to one of the leading experts on swingspeed training, Jaacob Bowden. Average women golfers achieve 2.14 yards per mph while PGA and LPGA Tour pros average 2.59 and 2.64 yards per mph respectively.
A sole focus on driver swingspeed, or any other individual launch monitor driver metric for that matter however, is not the ideal approach if you are looking to hit the ball as far as you can.
Yes, it is without question that there is a direct link between increased swingspeed and more distance, but if you chase swingspeed alone without understanding how it plays into the multiple factors that determine the actual distance you hit the ball you are likely going to be leaving some yards on the table.
“I’ve been doing [The Stack System] religiously week in and week out … I’ll be honest, it’s worked wonders.”Matt Fitzpatrick, 2022 US Open Champion
Because when it comes to swingspeed the real question is not really how far ‘should’ you hit your driver based on your swingspeed but rather how far ‘could’ you hit drive the ball based on it?
Swingspeed is only the key factor for determining a golfer’s POTENTIAL distance but it is ball speed – the speed of the golf ball immediately after impact – that is the single biggest factor in determining how far a golf ball ‘actually’ carries.
And ball speed together with ‘launch angle’ and ‘spin rate’ – often referred to together as a drive’s ‘launch conditions’ – are the 3 key factors that determine how far you drive the ball.
Where driver swingspeed comes into the equation is that in combination with ‘attack angle’ at impact it helps to determine the optimal mix of these three key factors (ball speed, launch angle, spin rate) that determine driver distance.
This may sound over complicated but essentially what it means is that driving distance is dictated by a golfer’s ability to convert clubhead speed into ball speed (i.e. how close can they strike the ball to the sweet spot) while getting the ball up in the air as quickly as possible at the best angle and without much spin on it.
So as we can see while swingspeed is an important ‘part’ of the distance picture it is not the only part and in distance terms is a supporting element of the equation that really determines how far you ‘could’ the ball.
For example if we simply look at the ‘strike’ of a drive – the key to energy transfer from the club (club/swingspeed) to the ball (ball speed) – experiments easily show the effect of mishits.
In a robot testing experiment carried out by golf technology expert Gene Parente of Golf Laboratories with Golf.com he discovered that if you strike the ball on the lower third of the clubface or anywhere past 1-inch off centre you will lose up to 8 yards of distance even if you increased your swingspeed from 95 to 105mph.
Parente’s tests also found that you will gain 13 yards with that same swingspeed increase ‘if’ you strike the ball both times in the centre of the driver clubface making it obvious how increased swingspeed is not rewarded if it is not married with a decent strike.
That is principally why average male golfers drive the ball only approximately 2.29 yards per mph of driver swingspeed compared to the 2.59 yards per mph PGA Tour pros achieve on average and the 2.64 yards per mph the top women players on the LPGA Tour get.
Because the best pros in the world strike the ball far far far more consistently nearer the sweet spot of the driver and so don’t waste nearly as much of the clubhead speed they generate as amateur golfers do.
[Editor’s note – to discover where the precise ‘sweet spot’ is on the driver face and why it is not in the dead centre check out our detailed look at this topic here.]
And if we now turn to a golfer’s ‘attack angle’ with their driver we will see why there has to be a range of distances to answer the question of how far an 85, 90, 95, 100, 105mph, etc driver swingspeed should go.
In technical terms ‘attack angle’ (or ‘angle of attack’) is the vertical up and down angle the driver is moving on during impact, and as we’ve already noted dictates, together with a golfer’s driver swingspeed, the optimal mix of the 3 most important factors for driver distance – ball speed, launch angle and spin rate.
We cover the subject of the ideal spin rates and launch angles for individual golfers here, but in summary the optimal launch angle for players varies depending on their swingspeed because of changes in lift (what makes the golf ball rise) and drag (what slows the ball down) at different speeds.
Players with slower swingspeeds for example need a higher launch angle as a result of their being less loft and drag on the ball at lower speeds while golfers with faster clubhead speeds need to be aiming for a launch angle that is much lower to maximise both carry and total distance.
So when a golfer has a negative ‘angle of attack’ more loft is required to launch the ball high. But if you increase the loft without changing the attack angle you generate more spin and that reduces the distance you hit the ball.
To maximise both carry and total distance with your driver therefore you should ideally have a positive angle of attack and as the attack angle increases the optimal launch and spin for the golfer changes.
This then results in variances in ball speed which ultimately is the key determinant of distance.
All of which in short means that if you want to know how far you could, rather than ‘should’ hit your driver with your swingspeed, you need to know more information than that to get the correct answer. You need to know your ‘attack angle’ and ‘launch conditions’ also otherwise you’re not going to get the complete picture.
To give you a good guide however of the ‘carry’ and ‘total’ distance ranges you should hit your driver with your swingspeed we have pulled together data from Trackman, one of the leading launch monitor makers, for golfers with swingspeeds from 75mph to 120mph and with very different attack angles from -5º to +5º.
|DRIVER SWINGSPEED||OPTIMAL CARRY DISTANCE||OPTIMAL TOTAL DISTANCE|
|60mph||–||139 to 155 yards|
|70mph||130 to 142 yards||159 to 169 yards|
|75mph||143 to 164 yards||166 to 187 yards|
|80mph||160 to 181 yards||176 to 197 yards|
|85mph||175 to 197 yards||199 to 223 yards|
|90mph||191 to 214 yards||215 to 239 yards|
|95mph||207 to 231 yards||243 to 256 yards|
|100mph||222 to 247 yards||244 to 272 yards|
|105mph||237 to 263 yards||260 to 288 yards|
|110mph||252 to 279 yards||275 to 305 yards|
|115mph||266 to 295 yards||290 to 321 yards|
|120mph||281 to 310 yards||305 to 350 yards|
Remember these distances are also based on these shots being hit with the optimal ball speeds, launch angles and spin rates for these swingspeeds and specific angles of attack so if you don’t fall into them you are likely falling outside those numbers too.
Talk of ‘ball speeds’, ‘launch angles’, ‘spin rates’, ‘attack angles’ etc in combination with swingspeed all may seem overly complex, and in truth it is best to seek help from a qualified instructor or club fitter to get a clear understanding of why you hit the ball as far as you do with your current driver swingspeed.
The key point of all this though is simply to bear in mind that while increasing your swingspeed is a definite pathway to hitting the ball further off the tee unless you are doing it in combination with other factors that matter you will likely not be benefitting from it.
Or worse actually losing distance in spite of it!
What Swingspeed Do You Need to Hit a 250-Yard Drive? Speed Isn’t Everything!
Hitting the ball a long way is good fun and once you start to hit the ball regularly over the 200-yard mark the next step golfers typically want to take is to reach 250 yards.
As we have already noted swingspeed is the key factor that determines a player’s ‘potential’ distance and as such many golfers want to know how fast they are going to need to swing to hit the ball 250 yards.
A swingspeed of close to 95 mph is needed to hit a total distance of 250 yards but a clubhead speed of around 103mph is required to carry the ball the same distance, according to Trackman. To reach these distances however these swingspeeds must be combined with the optimal launch angles, spin rates and ball speeds.
And it is that previous sentence, which we have already discussed, that is the key to remember here when it comes to golfers looking for answers to the question of what swingspeed they need to hit their driver whatever yardage they are aiming for.
Without a good strike to convert as much of that swingspeed to ball speed as possible, combined with a decent launch angle and lowish spin rate to ensure the ball gets up in the air as quickly as possible with a flight trajectory that maximises carry and total distance, and it is almost a question that is missing the point.
Yes without good driver swingspeed you are not going to hit the ball very far, but unless you are aware of the other important factors which affect distance (including the driver’s ‘angle of attack’ at impact with the ball) you will potentially be building habits which are hindering rather than helping your quest for more distance.
Trackman’s in-depth look at the optimized numbers for a golfer with a swingspeed of 95mph – displayed in the graph below – is a great example of how much that mix of the key ‘distance ingredients is impacted by his or her attack angle.
Looking at these numbers someone answering the question of what swingspeed you need to hit the ball 230 or 260 yards could legitimately give the same answer – 95mph.
But as we now know that answer, while technically correct in both instances according to Trackman’s data, doesn’t tell the story that will most help a player hit the ball as far as they ‘potentially’ can with their swingspeed.
Because if we can get this 95mph golfer, which is very close to the swingspeed of the average male golfer, to hit up on the ball with a positive 7º attack angle instead of with a negative one, and combine that with a good strike and launch conditions there is a 260+ yard rather than a 230-yard drive in it for them!
[Note – If you want to know what the average driver swingspeeds are for different handicap and age categories and how you compare check out our in-depth analysis here.]
How Fast Do You Need to Swing to Hit 300 Yards?
The ability to drive the ball 300 yards or more is considered by many to be the true definition of a long hitter.
And given the link between clubhead/swing speed and distance, it stands to reason therefore that you are going to need to have a fair amount of it if you are going to reach that landmark yardage.
Clubhead speeds close to 110mph are needed to drive a total distance of 300 yards if combined with a good strike to maximize ball speed, a launch angle of 12-14º and a spin rate of around 2300-2500rpms. To carry the ball 300 yards an extra 7mph of swing speed would be needed together with these same additional elements.
We are not going to labour the point again though about how a lot of speed is not the only factor that will determine whether you are swinging the club fast enough to hit it 300-yards because we hope it is clear enough by now that pursuing extra swingspeed on its own is not going to get you all the way there.
If you are not swinging at those speeds yet, but are determined to reach the 300-yard driving distance mark one day, you are going to have to work out a plan to get there whether that be through a fitness program or using one of the now readily available training programs focused on increasing golfers swingspeeds.
“You will be shocked at the amount of distance you will gain if you are currently doing nothing. I have a number of friends who have gone through speed training and fitness training and it’s not uncommon to see 20 to 30 yards longer with the driver and a club longer through the bag. It is well worth your investment in time if you want to get better.”Lou Stagner, Golf Stat Pro, Arccos Data Insights Lead, Co-Host of ‘Hack It Out Golf’ podcast
Just always keep in mind that the goal of extra driver clubhead speed can never be the sole focus.
It is a sound and intelligent goal if you want to keep hitting the ball further but it must be combined with striking the ball as consistently close to the driver sweet spot as you can and keeping your launch and spin numbers within the optimal ranges.
Because as tests have shown, and we have already discussed, when extra speed is not married with these things it is a bunch of extra effort that can actually cost you rather than gain you distance.
And remember too, none of these swing speed targets make any mention of a key distance factor over which none of us have any control whatsoever – the weather!
[Note – To find out how much the conditions you play in affect the distance a golf ball travels check out our in-depth look at this subject here.]
One last thing to bear in mind if you are measuring your driver swingspeed and keen to know how far you could be hitting the ball as a result.
And that is the launch monitor type you are using to measure your clubhead speed because different devices will give slightly different measurements.
There is for example typically a difference of just over 3mph between the numbers a Foresight Sports device such as the GCQuad will give you in comparison to a Trackman launch monitor.
In other words a swingspeed that measures 100mph on a GCQuad will likely come in at around 96 or 97mph on a Trackman device.
That is not because one of these devices is inaccurate. It is just because there is a slight difference between the way these devices measure clubhead speed.
Drivers especially are rotating and closing so quickly as they approach the ball that different parts of the head are traveling at different speeds. The toe of a driver for example is estimated to be traveling around 14% faster than the heel at impact.
As a result different devices measure different specific speeds of different specific points of the driver and therefore will give you ever so slightly different numbers.
[Note – Just so you know, and we are upfront as an affiliate program participant, Golfing Focus earns from qualifying purchases made through links on this page.]
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