Fact or Fiction: A Higher Smash Factor is Optimal with a Wedge

Fact or Fiction: A Higher Smash Factor is Optimal with a Wedge


Smash factor is one of the most important performance metrics you can evaluate with your Mobile Launch Monitor (MLM). Smash factor refers to the relationship between the speed of the ball as it leaves your clubface and the speed of your swing. Ball speed divided by club speed, essentially. If your swing speed is 100 mph and your ball speed is 150 mph, your smash factor is 1.5. The higher the smash factor, the greater efficiency of your strike.   So more is better, right?  Fiction.  A higher smash factor may be desirable with a driver, but the opposite is true with a wedge. Rapsodo advisor Mark Blackburn explains: When you’re evaluating your smash factor data on an MLM, consider the context in terms of the shot objective and club being used.   As we move from Driver to wedge, the loft of the club increases and the angle of attack becomes more steep (more negative). Both of these factors produce a lower smash factor.   In addition to club design and swing mechanics, smash factor is influenced by shot objective.   Smash factor evaluates transfer of energy, not effectiveness of strike. With a driver, a golfer is generally trying to maximize distance and minimize spin.  However, with a wedge, a golfer is trying to control distance and maximize spin.   Therefore, while a less glancing blow (higher smash) with a driver is optimal, a MORE glancing blow with a wedge is desired (lower smash). Here’s Mark Blackburn explaining how and why smash factor should change through the bag. 

Evaluating smash factor and efficiency of strike is one of the most effective ways for a golfer to improve their ball striking.  More centered strikes generally produce greater distance and consistency. However, in order to optimize smash factor, a golfer needs to know when higher is better and when the opposite is true. Take this wedge-wizardry from Joaquín Niemann last month, for example. One of the most impressive shots you’ll see on TOUR this year, but also one of the lowest smash factors.

Deft touch from @JoacoNiemann. pic.twitter.com/vqwd0PL7DG

— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 13, 2022
The best golfers in the world know how to maximize smash factor to bomb it, but also minimize smash factor to spin it.