Clubhead speed – is it hype?

Personal trainer and fitness columnist Shawn O’Neil on the scoring improvements to be found in hitting the ball further

We talk a great deal about clubhead speed, particularly when discussing tour golf, but when we bring the discussion back to amateur and club golfers, is the idea of increasing clubhead speed – rather than focussing on other areas of the swing – just hype?

Well, I for one can’t say this emphatically enough, it is absolutely not!

Research and data from golfers at every level tells us that improving the distance we hit the golf ball improves scores. While this can be improved by things like increasing the efficiency of ball speed produced by your clubhead speed, and optimising launch and spin numbers, increasing clubhead speed is where the vast majority of amateur golfers will find the biggest gains.

I would always recommend improving all aspects of your swing to make the biggest and most efficient improvements, but areas such as striking, launch and spin have their ceilings and once they’re optimised, there is little improvement to be found.

Clubhead speed is the engine room that determines your potential for distance – and it’s the factor in which you can move the needle the most.

We know that increasing clubhead speed by 10mph will yield an extra 25-30 yards off the tee. In turn, we’ll be closer to the green, hitting shorter clubs, and our proximity to the hole increases as a result.

This was demonstrated brilliantly in a YouTube video starring PGA Tour winner Joel Dahmen and Golf Digest’s Sam Weinman – an 11-handicapper. For this round, Joel played to the hole from Sam’s tee shots, while Sam got to use Joel’s.

It’s worth noting, Joel is an average PGA Tour player from the tee – he ranks 157th in driving distance (six yards behind tour average) and 26th in driving accuracy (0.7 fairways above tour average) with a strokes gained off the tee score of +0.2 per round.

In the end, Sam shoots a nine over-par 81 with a quadruple and a triple bogey on his card. Joel on the other hand shoots a three over-par 75 – far below his expectations and showing how a shorter driving distance has a big effect on even the very best players.