Not So Fast! The Swing Speed Study

Dan Gold
Written by
Last update:

What is Reasonable?

One of the most commonly asked questions about the game of golf revolves around how far players should hit a golf ball. There are plenty of methods to improve your driver swing, including buying the latest, greatest equipment. Or changing your swing mechanics to achieve greater distance. Your results alone will determine whether you have made the right change.

Golf, after all, is a results oriented game. There are many players who struggle with their driving distances. However, like most slicing or hooking problems, the distance problem is often a symptom to an underlying cause, dictated by the player’s swing speed. Before you start tweaking your swing mechanics, you might want to determine if you have the club speed and strength to create sufficient swing speed.

There are plenty of ways to measure swing speed, including expensive radar devices. However, using some basic physics, we can calculate whether a golfer has enough club head speed to hit the ball hard and far.

Swing Speed by Handicap Level

It has been assumed that the best golfers in the world have incredible swing speeds. In fact, there are the fastest swings in the world. But before we look at how fast it really is, let's look at some facts about swing speed.

The Fastest Club Head Speed among Golfers Is in the Neighborhood of 165 mph to 169 mph

Of that group, a smaller group has reached the 170 mph to 180 mph mark.

Looking at golfers with handicaps of two to seven, we find that the average male amateur hits the ball at 88 mph with an average of 3.4 to 3.7 mph of ball speed in the air.

The ball speeds for the ladies in that handicap range is about 73 mph with the golfers averaging between 2.6 and 3.0 mph of ball speed in the air.

The swing speeds are higher as with a higher handicap you golfers will be driving the golf ball further… making a swing speed of 100 mph plus pretty easy to achieve.

From these discoveries, we know that it is possible for amateur golfers to reach speeds of 100 mph or more and that the greats probably reach well beyond common belief.

Next, let's take a look at data that suggests how slow the average swing is.

Distance is Nice, but…

The ideal swing speed is often debated and an often generalised number that has been thrown about a lot, yet I have not seen any testing or studies to back up that claim with any valid data.

I decided that I would test this theory, just for my own knowledge. So I set up my net and ball return and began to swing randomly, aiming for the ball return. I could then see when my club head speed fell to zero. This was repeated several times with both a driver and a short iron.

What exactly was my method?

The most efficient way of testing swing speed in simple terms is to place a club head on a pendulum. As the pendulum swings, the rate of speed is reduced by friction, in this case by the club head and ball.

When the pendulum comes to rest, the club head’s speed is equal to the swing speed of the person using it.

But I didn’t have a pendulum, so I made a very simple rig to approximate the same effect.

Firstly, I bought a ball return net. It’s the type you see in places like supermarkets etc. and is built to free fall between a set height and a set time.