Distance with the Driver– Where is it?

By Bruce Dowell
February 9, 2015


Take a guess….

What is the number one thing that students are constantly looking for?

The answer is more distance, especially distance with the driver. The chase for huge gains in distance is important to most players and their improvement, but it’s not always about clubhead speed, as many believe.

Driving Series

The things that I’m looking for include ball speed, smash factor, angle of attack, backspin rate, and vertical launch angle (VLA).

Surprisingly, clubhead speed ranks down the list of importance for me when both teaching and clubfitting.

How does spin rate, vertical launch angle (VLA) and ball speed can improve your current distance?

I don’t initially work to increase club speed! Why?

First, most golfers already swing as fast as they can while still having an idea of where the ball is going to go.

Second, many also don’t have the time or desire to work out and do the things necessary to gain speed by building strength and fitness routines. I find that many will swing more aggressively as they gain confidence and see better, longer shots.

The first thing I’m looking at is the ball speed.

Something to note is:

  • If Player A swings his driver 100 MPH with 125 MPH ball speed (smash factor 1.25)
  • Player B swings his driver 100 MPH with 150 MPH ball speed (smash factor 1.50)

Player B will hit it further.

Player B will have contact more in the center of the face along with a much more efficient swing at 100 MPH. So I’d be working on the leaking power sources in the golf swing of Player A with the hopes to get him closer to Player B.

The next place for big gains is how the driver is working for a particular player.

Below is an example of the amazing distance changes a student can have when getting the right combination of smash factor, backspin rate, and VLA:


I use the FlightScope X2 radar unit with my students. One of the features is the shot optimizer, which shows how a shot would fly under optimal conditions. In the shot included here, the student would gain 39 yards with ideal launch conditions while gaining only three (3!!!!) MPH club head speed.

In the picture, you can see the player was averaging 98.9 MPH with a 1.45 Smash Factor. His Vertical Launch was 10.1 degrees and backspin rate was 2655. You can see the optimal shot blue line that travels a little over the green line that represents the shot patterns.

The optimal numbers shot launches higher, at 16.7 degrees, carries farther, with less spin, and still rolls the same amount as the other shots. The optimal amount of spin keeps the shot from ballooning and not getting maximum distance.

Here’s a thought for you:

Imagine you’ve got a water hose and someone is standing near you. You spray the person with a strong stream of water, and they run away from you. As you stand still, you try to keep spraying them as they run. As they get farther from you, you have to raise the nozzle and the stream of water to keep spraying them. If you hold it as the same height and keep the same trajectory, you won’t be able to hit them very long.

That’s how you want your tee shots to fly!

Do yourself a favor in 2015, and learn to maximize your distance with the driver. Get fit for your driver with a radar unit and learn how to use the club to see big increases. Swinging for the fences isn’t the only way to bomb your drives!

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