In the golf world today, speed is king. Despite many attempts to dodge the “distance debate”, it is clear from watching any golf broadcast, listening to any golf conversation, or looking at almost any product on the golf market that the the driver ball speed to distance ratio is an essential number to understand. There has always been a massive love affair with speed and power in the game, and by now, it has grown to nearly a frenzy.
With the advances in launch monitor technology, everyone has new numbers and data points to track and discuss. As we’ve learned more and more about the physics of the game, it’s not just yardage that measures a golfer now. The major numbers used by professionals and their coaches are:
- Carry yardage
- Smash factor
- Club speed
- Ball speed
- Hand speed
- Ground forces
- Unleashing kinetic chains
The driver ball speed to distance number is now broadcast on almost every single tee shot that we see on television. Everyone is talking about it, from PGA Tour professionals to world long drive competitors to weekend warriors. Who’s breaking 200 in practice? Who hit 190 in competition? What is my ball speed? Is it good enough? What’s a good ball speed, and is it possible to have too much?
Let’s take a look at these questions, and more, as we break down everything you need to know about driver ball speeds and how to give the numbers some meaning as far as they relate to professional and weekend golfers alike.
In This Guide
- Driver Ball Speed To Distance Averages
- What Is Ball Speed?
- What Factors Influence Ball Speed?
- How Does Ball Speed Affect Distance?
- How To Increase Ball Speed
- Driver Ball Speed To Distance Chart
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Thoughts
Driver Ball Speed To Distance Averages
Different demographic groups and handicap levels maintain different average driving distances. These differences stem from different physical capabilities, swing mechanics, and overall experience in the game.
According to numbers from Trackman and the USGA, the average male golfer carries a handicap somewhere around 15-16, swings the driver 93mph, produces a 132mph ball speed that results in approximately a 205-225 yard total drive, depending on roll out.
It should be noted that not only do average players swing it slower, but they are a long way from getting the most out of that 93mph. According to Trackman’s data set, if that 93mph swing were a pure strike with the appropriate launch angle and spin, it could travel as far as 255 yards. So the average golfer is leaving 30 yards on the table without even swinging faster (more on this later).
Male 5 Handicap Average
The average 5 handicap male golfer has a swing speed in the low 100s, a ball speed in the 140s, which results in a total drive approaching 240 yards.
These golfers are more efficient with their strike, but still not as optimal as the pros, and have significantly more speed than the average male.
The data is less robust for the average female golfer, but Foresight Sports estimates around a 78mph swing on average, with a ball speed of 111mph producing a shot that travels 150-160 yards, but again they are leaving a lot on the table. With a perfect strike and launch this swing speed could produce a drive up to 30 yards farther, just like their male counterparts.
The good news is that there are differences between men's and women's golf clubs that are specifically intended to help women get the most out of their game, too!
Female 5 Handicap Average
The average 5 handicap female golfer is going to bump that ball speed number up to 125 with a swing speed around 85-90mph. This will produce drives that travel close to 200 yards.
Scratch Golfer Average
A scratch male golfer is typically producing ball speeds close to 150-160mph from a swing that approaches 105-110mph, at least on average. This produces drives of about 260 yards.
PGA Tour Average
The PGA TOUR average ball speed in 2023 is 172mph from a swing of 115mph producing a total drive of about 290 yards. These are their numbers measured in competitive tournaments when dealing with pressure, fatigue, etc. and much more outlandish numbers can be produced by the longer drivers or guys just messing around in practice or speed training.
The very longest drivers on the PGA TOUR can produce ball speeds up to 190mph in competition off of swings that break 125mph, carrying the ball over 300 yards in the air and generating 330+ yards of total distance.
In the competitive long drive scene, golfers routinely swing the club over 130mph, produce ball speeds over 200mph, and hit drives over 350 yards. The current world records are roughly 170mph swing speed and 240mph ball speed (which would carry a golf ball over 400 yards).
What Is Ball Speed?
Ball speed is quite simply how fast the ball is traveling as soon as it leaves the club face. It will be traveling much slower by the time it reaches its destination. It is typically captured by a radar or high-speed photo device placed near the ball or tee box.
What Factors Influence Ball Speed?
Ball speed is mainly determined by the speed of the club at the moment of impact (swing speed) and the quality of the strike (smash factor). It should be noted that two players with equal ball speed can hit the ball different distances due to other factors such as spin rate, angle of attack, and the amount of hook or slice on a shot.
Club Head Speed
This is basically how fast you can swing the club. As you can imagine, achieving high ball speed requires faster club head speed, but you also need a good strike in order to transfer that speed to the ball.
You can increase your club head speed through the use of training aids like the Orange Whip!
Length Of Club
One of the most important factors in club head speed is the length of the club. Naturally, each club in the set gets a longer shaft, and long drivers and even some PGA Tour pros have experimented with drivers up to 48 inches in length, but in 2022 a rule was passed that allows tournament organizers to limit the length to 46 inches and this was adopted by all high-level tournaments.
Each extra inch on the driver could add one or two miles per hour to your swing speed, which is huge at the highest levels. The extra length also makes it harder to make consistently solid contact with the golf ball.
Weight Of Club
All else being equal, lighter clubs swing faster. This is undeniable as per the laws of physics, and is absolutely true when using robots or machines to test golf clubs.
However, humans are not robots, and we react and respond very differently sometimes based on our perception of what we are swinging. A club with a little more weight can help some golfers move better in the transition from the backswing to the downswing. Because of that some people actually can swing a slightly heavier club faster than they can swing a lighter club.
Similar to other components of a driver, weight can vary between brands. Finding the driver that feels the best for you can be a simple matter of trial and error!
RELATED: Ping G425 Driver Review
Quality Of Impact (Smash Factor)
The ratio of club head speed to ball speed is known as smash factor, and is a very relevant metric to understanding any conversation about club speed, ball speed, and distance. With legal clubs and balls, the maximum smash factor is 1.5. Most elite drivers of the golf ball keep their smash factor very close to this number, while pure strikes with higher-lofted clubs will produce lower and lower smash factors (more indirect contact and spin/height).
Modern drivers and materials push the limits of how responsive a driver face can be, and the PGA TOUR has even instituted limits and programs to check and measure drivers of golfers to see how often manufacturing tolerances or wear-and-tear actually push drivers outside of the limitations of the rules.
Without getting too scientific, the thinner the face of a driver, the more it can have a kind of spring or trampoline effect, increasing the smash factor.
The PGA TOUR checks players’ drivers by measuring an attribute they call COR or coefficient of restitution, a technical term for how “hot” a driver face is. It is even possible for drivers to become illegal and “too hot” over time as the face wears thinner.
MOI (Moment Of Inertia)
MOI comes into play since the rules of golf cap the ability of manufacturers to increase smash factor. The big area of research has been to make the smash factor stay high for strikes that are farther and farther away from the center of the club face. We often call this "forgiveness".
The physics of what happens when a driver hits a ball off-center at 120 miles per hour or more are extremely complex and can produce some counterintuitive results. By using higher-MOI drivers that do not deflect off-line as easily on off-center strikes, golfers can more comfortably swing harder rely on the driver to keep the ball in play.
The other not-to-be-forgotten component of ball speed is the ball! Anyone who has been to a practice facility with “range rocks” or been to a limited-flight driving range can attest that the golf ball can play a huge role in ball speed.
By far the attribute you will hear talked about most is how “soft” a golf ball feels. The general application is that softer balls will compress more and therefore “jump” back off of the club face more (think: rubber ball effect) and also golf balls change compression and feel based on temperature, so we see the same effect of golf balls flying farther in hot weather.
You will often see golf balls marketed as “distance” golf balls that are softer, and are more popular amongst amateur players and players with low swing speeds.
A ball can be going fast and spin at the same time, but in golf almost always when you are adding spin you are losing speed. Very crudely you can imagine a more square blow has less spin while a more glancing blow creates more spin (but less speed).
That said, it is actually possible to have too little spin, to where the ball flight is unpredictable and sub-optimal, and some pro players actually seek out golf balls that spin more than their competitors in order to complement their swing tendencies.
How Does Ball Speed Affect Distance?
Ball speed is useful because it basically incorporates swing speed and strike quality wholly, and knowing just this one number tells us not just how hard somebody is swinging but how squarely they hit the ball as well. Nobody is really interested in swinging fast if you can’t also hit the ball well at the same time.
Because of this, ball speed is a great catch-all metric for measuring and comparing things swing-to-swing and player-to-player. The only other factor you need to determine distance is the launch angle of the ball. There are optimal launch angles for each club to maximize carry or maximize total distance based on the ball speed that a player is producing, and isolating these two aspects of distance (ball speed and launch angle) has been a huge boon for coaches and club fitters.
How To Increase Ball Speed
We know what you really want to know. Everyone who has ever played golf wants to hit the ball farther. There are a few factors that you need to understand in order to accomplish this, and we are going to give you the scoop on them!
As we saw with our comparison between the average golfer and the professional golfer, the average golfer is thirty yards shorter than the professional at the same swing speed. This is by far the area where you can have the biggest gains in the fastest amount of time.
Work on contact drills, get out the foot powder spray, learn what center contact looks like and sounds like - even on short little chips. Learn what it feels like in your hands and train your brain to find it dynamically as a force of habit. Even if you swing a little softer, consistently hitting the center of the club face will result in longer drives.
RELATED: How To Clean Golf Clubs
The next best way to increase ball speed is to learn to de-loft your clubs at impact, or to play with a slight amount of forward shaft lean. With the driver, you don't want any forward shaft lean at impact as this will create a less efficient launch angle.
Remember that smash factor goes up as our clubs go down in loft. It is often said that pros hit their 7-irons so far because they are turning it into a 5-iron at impact. When you change from any iron to a longer iron, the loft decrease is significantly more responsible for the extra distance than the couple of MPH of extra club head speed.
A lot of the new research into speed training has revealed that a lot of speed is a neurological or psychological component. There are also physiological and biomechanical things that happen when you swing hard that can be beneficial, as well, but the consensus is that you basically need to train your brain to go fast, and to feel comfortable with what may have once felt like an “out of control” swing. Always make sure you are warmed up and listen to your body, but swinging as hard as physically possible for a short time in practice helps to increase your highest potential speed over time.
Another good drill for this is to alternate between swinging an alignment stick or an upside-down club (extremely lightweight) and then swinging two clubs at once (extremely heavy) but using the same mechanics/feels you would use to swing the extremely fast and light stick. This also helps emphasize the difference between swinging “hard” and swinging “fast.”
Check out the above video of Bryson Dechambeau training for speed to see how he attained such incredible results!
One of the biggest problems with adding speed is that our bodies and brains are very entrenched in a certain way of doing something to produce a result. Because of this, the faster we swing, the more our bad habits show up and tendencies that may have been hidden in our swing can start rearing disastrous results.
In order to combat this, it's important to understand the feel of swinging fast and on-plane with a proper release, and then ingrain that feeling through slow-motion training. As shown in the video above, Ben Hogan was famous for this drill. It helps the brain actually learn the new motion and equally as importantly it takes the new movement pattern or sequencing that encourages an ultra-fast swing and starts training the brain to connect it with good contact, release, and low point control at speeds where you can actually perceive what is going on and learn new moves.
Last but not least, weight training and resistance training are a huge go-to for increasing speed. While it’s not the end-all and be-all, and absolutely does not have to revolve around building bulk mass, these exercises certainly produce results, especially for those currently starting from zero. We highly recommend the GolfForever training system to maximize distance as well as reducing your risk of injury.
Outside of gym routines, some things that can really help are just swinging two clubs at once or swinging a club with a head cover on it, without even hitting a ball. Also exercises like hurling medicine balls underhanded into a wall can really train not just the right muscle groups but the sequence patterns to really produce a lot of explosive pushing and pulling forces using the whole body to drive the motion.
Check out the GolfForever training system for one of the best golf specific workout programs currently on the market!
Driver Ball Speed To Distance Chart
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you calculate distance from ball speed?
Calculating distance from ball speed isn’t a matter of simple arithmetic, but if we assume some other things are held constant we can see the relationship.
In the most basic form, distance created from ball speed all depends on the launch angle. A ball hit straight up in the air at 100mph is not going to carry as far as a ball that never gets above head-high at 100mph … but neither one of them will carry as far as a ball launched at the optimal angle.
This chart from PING does a great job of really digging into some of the variables at play in the relationship.
What ball speed do you need to hit 250 yards?
According to research by Trackman, a swing speed of about 93 miles per hour could produce a 250 yard drive if the strike and launch conditions are perfect. This means that these conditions would be the bare minimum speed needed to hit it 250 yards on a course with average conditions.
Many golfers who are not perfectly optimized with strike and launch angle will, however, need to swing in excess of 100mph in order to produce a 250 yard drive.
How many yards per 1 mph ball speed?
This is a very crude approximation, but given some normal conditions for a driver launch, you can expect to gain about 2 yards for every 1mph of ball speed that you add.
How fast do you need to swing to carry 300 yards?
In order to carry the golf ball 300 yards, your swing speed needs to be right around 120 miles per hour. If you start to optimize launch angle and spin, you can start breaking 300 yards of carry around 120mph. It should be noted that 300 yards of carry is a far different benchmark than 300 yards of total distance. 300 yards of total distance could be achieved by a swing as slow as 105mph, according to Trackman’s driver optimization charts.
Check out this golf driver buying guide to find out the most important aspect of a driver that will help you maximize your distance.
Ball speed is a new metric in golf, but it’s almost ubiquitous in its application amongst golf nerds as well as talking heads and on TV broadcasts. It is a great metric because it not only measures raw power, but also puts a premium on a precision strike, and this number can only be pumped up by combining the two in concert.
So, focusing on ball speed in training emphasizes extra force without losing track of quality contact and good impact conditions, which is what actually translates to the results we want on the course. Because of this, ball speed is a very informative catch-all metric that can imply a lot of things about the quality of the shot that swing speed or total distance alone might not.
In order to correlate driver ball speed to distance, you have to know how high the ball was hit (or launch angle). Too high or too low are both sub-optimal, and the modern art of club fitters, coaches, and radar-heads is to find the blending point of ball speed, spin, and launch angle to optimize the results for a given player’s physical abilities.
So whether it’s through speed training, strength training, slow-mo, fast-mo, or just changing your intention of how high or how hard to hit it, or even just emphasizing good contact without focusing on speed, there’s a ton of room for improvement out there for most golfers, so now that you know the factors involved and how to adjust them, don’t be afraid to get out there and start making gains!