Explaining Smash Factor in Golf

Smash factor is ball speed divided by clubhead speed.
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"Smash factor" is a relatively new term in the lexicon of golf gearheads. It is a measurement of a golfer's ability to translate clubhead speed into ball speed with a given golf club, expressed as a ratio between ball speed and clubhead speed. In other words, smash factor equals ball speed divided by clubhead speed.

Increasing your smash factor will lead to an increase in the distance you are hitting your golf shots.

It's also a lot of fun to say: smash factor!

Example: Computing Smash Factor

It's actually simpler than it sounds.

For example, if Golfer Bob swings his driver at 100 mph, and produces a ball speed (the speed at which the ball travels off the clubface following impact) of 150 mph, then Golfer Bob's smash factor with his driver is 1.5. 

Why? Because we divide Bob's ball speed (150) by his clubhead speed (100). And 150 divided by 100 is 1.5, so Bob's smash factor is 1.5.

(And how do you know your clubhead speed and ball speed? You'll need access to a launch monitor for that.)

Smash factor will differ between golfers according to their abilities (and their equipment). And it also differs from club to club for the same golfer: as loft goes up, smash factor should go down. (Lower-lofted clubs like the driver will produce the highest smash factors; higher-lofted clubs like the wedges will have lower smash factors.)

What Smash Factor Tells You

The higher the smash factor, the more efficient the golfer is at translating clubhead speed into ball speed — which usually means making better contact with the ball, e.g., an impact position on the clubface that is more centered.

If your smash factor is low, you might be swinging poorly, making less-than-ideal contact, or you might have equipment that is ill-fitting to your swing.

As Jack Nicklaus once put it, there are only two ways to hit the ball farther with the same equipment: swing faster, or swing better. Smash factor tells us that you can increase distance by slightly reducing your swing speed if that results in better control of your swing, i.e., a more centered strike position at impact.

Smash Factor in Golf Equipment

Some golf equipment manufacturers have begun citing smash factor in marketing their clubs, too, as a way of touting the energy transfer between clubface and ball at impact, e.g., "Driver Z produces a smash factor of X."

Just as a faster swing does not necessarily mean a higher smash factor (if it leads to worse impact position), likewise two different drivers can produce different smash factors despite being swung at the same speed depending on their technical details. (Meaning that one of those drivers is better at transferring energy than the other.)

And the golf ball itself can, everything else being equal, raise or lower one's smash factor based on how it is designed and how efficiently it uses the energy of the impact.

It's a System, Really

So one can really think of smash factor as a measurement of the entire system of energy generation and transfer in the golf swing: the golfer's swing speed and knack for putting the clubhead onto the golf ball in the best possible position, combined with the ability of the club and ball to maximize the transfer of the energy of impact.

In other words, improving one's smash factor is another good reason to consider a clubfitting.

Of course, if you're a recreational golfer who plays sporadically or doesn't obsess with the score, don't get lost in the details of things like smash factor. Just go have fun.