Golf tip: How understanding smash factor can help your short game
It has been a late start to spring and while we may have gone to a dome to take a few swings, the most neglected part of our game during the winter is our short game.
We might be able to refine some putting stroke mechanics on our carpet at home, but when it comes to practicing touch around the greens, there are not many places to practice it indoors.
One concept you might not have considered when hitting those first few short-game shots of the season is its "smash factor."
Smash factor is the ratio between the speed of the ball and how fast the club was moving. Smash factor is more commonly used for full swing or driver fittings to assess the quality of strike. A great smash factor with a driver is 1.5. For example, if you swing your driver 100 mph we would expect a solid strike to produce a ball speed of 150 mph and smash of 1.5.
So, how does this help with short game?
If you hit a normal chip or pitch shot at a distance of less than 50 yards using a 56-60 degree wedge, we would expect to see ball speed similar to club speed on a solid shot, which equals a smash of about 1.0. This speed is similar to how fast a ball would leave your hand if you tossed it, and the reason I prefer all students learn to use their lofted clubs as their baseline short game shots.
For those of you that typically chip with a club with less loft, such as an eight- or nine-iron, your baseline smash factor is closer to 1.2-1.3.
Do you struggle with hitting lofted clubs around the greens?
The most common fault I see starts at setup. In my experience, most amateurs set up with the handle of the club leaned too far forward and the ball too far back in their stance. This form actually leaves you less margin for error. Couple that setup with the intention of literally trying to hit down on the ball, you have disaster.
Start with the sole of the club flat on the ground, the shaft "neutral," not forward or backwards, and a stance that is very narrow.
From there, imagine the club head is a brush and the ground around the ball is your canvas. This change in setup will help you get the ball in the air more consistently with a smash factor of around 1.0, and give you the ability to make adjustments for different shots.
Need to hit a shot higher or shorter? Open the club face and reduce the smash.
Need more distance? Swing faster or take more club and increase smash.
Bunker shots? We are not hitting the ball so smash is lower than 1.0. Therefore we need more club speed. This is the understanding that those with good short games know and others miss.
Now you know ,too.
• Garrett Chaussard is a PGA Professional and director of Instruction at Skokie Country Club. He played on the University of Illinois golf team, competed on the PGA Tour of Canada and has played in USGA events. You can follow him on Instagram @gchaussard and read his blog at garrett-chaussard.squarespace.com.
• Editor's note: With assistance from the Illinois PGA, the Daily Herald provides golf tips each Wednesday from a PGA Professional.