QA Swing Speed Secrets


Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from The Golf Channel's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email
Dear Mr. Thomas:
I recently picked up a copy of Golf Digest and saw the swings of Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes featured. According to the article, both players swing the club (the driver) at the same speed: 126 MPH. However, Bubba Watson's average ball speed is 194 MPH while J.B. Holmes's average ball speed is 182 MPH.
My question, then, is if both players swing the club at the same speed (126 MPH) how come they have different ball speeds and hit the ball different distances? Wouldn't it be logical that if they share the same swing speed they would subsequently share the same ball speed and hit the ball the same distance? Is there anything that we can learn from this? Thanks! -- Tim Davis, Wadsworth, Illinois

Your question is very timely as I have addressed this issue in my June Newsletter on my website
First I think that the ball speed of 194 seems to be very high for a head speed of 126 mph. One can expect a ball speed of about a 1.5 times the head speed when hit on the sweet spot at swing speeds of about 110 mph. But even if the head speeds are the same the impact point may be different and ball speed may be affected. As far as distance is concerned this will be affected dramatically by the launch conditions. One set of launch conditions may be at the optimum for that ball and its speed and the other set no where close. This can make the difference of 10 to 15 yards. Hope this helps.
I can never remember, when adding lead tape, do you add it on the toe for a hook, or the heel for a slice, etc. Or do you buy three drivers like Phil!! -- Jeanie Matherly

Don't try to correct you slice or hook by shifting weight in your driver. These adjustments are to tweak your ball flight from a fade to straight or a draw to straight when you are hitting the ball consistently on the center of the face as in Phil's case.
If you add tape to the head you will need to add a significant amount to affect the flight but you will also affect the balance of the club. Adding tape to the head will increase the swing weight and the feel of the shaft etc. So make these adjustments with lead tape only if the club was too light to begin with or if you shortened the club by an inch or more. The better way is to find a club with weight ports and different weighted screws.
Assuming you know all this; if you change the weight to the heel ports you will do two things:
a) First, it will move the center of gravity (c.g.) closer the heel and allow you to take advantage of the gear effect by putting draw spin on the ball. This you know from hitting the ball on the toe of your driver which results in a slight draw (not a hook). This does not happen with clubs with the c.g. close to the face as in irons.
b) Second, because the weight has been moved closer to the heel (shaft) closing the face will be easier than if the weight was concentrated on the toe, so the face may be presented to the ball in a slightly closed position than it would with the weight on the toe.
Hi Frank,
I realize you're a very busy man, but I'm new to golf and am shopping for my first set of clubs. I have a Golfsmith around the corner and a small father and son shop that just made a set for a friend at a super price. I also ran across the Pinemeadows site for clone clubs and I like what they have to say and admit it appears they may have the best deal for me. I am on a budget being semi-retired and would really appreciate any advice you could give me. If it's any help I am very strong and in top physical condition.
Respectfully, Dudley Epps

If the clubs you refer to are legitimate club designs and models from component parts manufacturers then some of these clubs are very good and cost a lot less than the premium models. Watch out for counterfeits of brand names though.
I would also suggest that you look for a set of premium clubs which are a one or two years old. Generally these are marked down and because the laws of physics don't change every time a new model is introduced they will work very well. Technology has changed especially for woods in the last ten years but irons have not changed at the same pace. So a set introduced since 2000 may be your answer.
As this is your first set, I suggest that from your iron set you leave out the 3 and 4-iron. Start your set with a 5-iron to PW and a get a good sand wedge and a very good forgiving putter. A driver with a 44 inch shaft and a fairway wood (3 and/or a 5-wood) should work with a 26 degree hybrid. Your choice of irons should be from the Ultra- or Super- Game Improvement category. See for a complete listing of more than 300 irons types and models.
Dear Frank,
I currently play a 9* stiff shafted driver which carries about 260 yards and stops; there is little or no roll. I used to have other drivers, which rolled another 25-30 yards. What factor affects roll off of a driver? Is it the head design, the swing or shaft? Would a session on a launch monitor help me find a driver that carries as far but also rolls?
Thanks, Dave

If you carry the ball 260 yards then this would normally result in a roll of about 25 yards, on a fairway of average hardness. So the final distance should be close to 285 which is only a couple of yards short of the tour average.
Roll depends on incoming angle and ball speed. You have one of two problems; either the initial launch angle and/or the spin rate is too high. For your swing speed you should probably be launching the ball at about 12 degrees with a spin rate of 2,500 rpm. To achieve these conditions which will be optimum for you may have to;
a) decrease the loft and/or
b) get a lower spin ball and/or
c) Hit the ball a little higher on the club face. This will decrease the
spin an increase the launch angle.
You may have to switch to an X-stiff shaft but make this your last move.
Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to Helping Golfers. Frank is Chief Technical Advisor to The Golf Channel and Golf Digest. He served as Technical Director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN System and introduced the Stimpmeter to the world of golf. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email