Rapsodo Rapid Review with Mark Blackburn: No Laying Up
Chris “Soly” SolomonNot only does Soly run one of the most entertaining and well-informed accounts on Twitter, he has a ton of game, playing off a near-scratch handicap in amateur events. Like seemingly everyone in golf, adding speed has become a key priority in his quest for lower scores. Soly currently cruises in the low to mid 160’s ball speed (about average for a high level male amateur golfer) and is hoping to break into the low-170’s. For perspective, a ball speed of 170 mph would rank around 130th on the PGA TOUR this year. In this Rapid Review, Mark Blackburn shares what Soly can do to optimize ball speed. We just posted a blog about misconceptions related to smash factor, specifically that a higher smash isn’t necessarily desirable with a wedge. However, with a driver, higher is generally more indicative of a more efficient, centered strike. As Mark highlights in the video above, Soly’s smash factor of 1.43 could be a product of his club path which travels from out to in and produces a more glancing blow on the ball. By adopting a more neutral path, Soly might be able to create impact conditions that deliver more energy to the ball. 1.43 isn’t an optimal smash factor, but it’s definitely playable for a high-level amatuer. That said, the LOWEST average smash factor on the PGA TOUR is 1.46. Professional golfers tend to be pretty competent at finding the center of the clubface. If speed is the goal, improving smash factor is an important variable to consider, but not THE most important. As Dr. Sasho Mackenzie shared in a previous post about smash factor, if speed is your goal then ball speed is a more important metric than smash. If ball speed is up and the dispersion is reasonable, you can afford to be slightly off the center of the clubface.
Tron SchusterWhether his on course scripting or hot takes on Twitter, there’s never a dull moment with Tron. A golf highlight of his was once being described on a KFT broadcast as a spicy curmudgeon and trolling his way into the Golf Channel coverage window. As if golf isn’t already hard enough, Tron committed to play every round for a year. Here’s Mark’s review of his lefty move:
One thing you’ll notice about Tron’s swing is the mechanical or technical changes he’s made to add speed. By holding his club in his fingers (vs deeply in his palms), he’s able to hinge and release the club more effectively. This can be a huge contributor to speed. Watch bombers like Jon Rahm or Luke List. They lag and release the club as aggressively as anyone in golf and it’s a big reason why they are among golf’s longest drivers. Additionally, Tron lifts his lead heel to create more width in the backswing. Most weekend golfers don’t have the mobility of an LPGA or PGA TOUR player so lifting the lead heel can be an effective way to compensate and create additional speed.
Neil - who played defensive back at Columbia in college - might be the best raw athlete of the group. You don’t have to take our word for it though. Just check out his clubhead speed in this Rapid Review:
123 mph club head speed is pretty absurd for an amatuer golfer. What’s more, he’s just scratching the surface of his potential in terms of ball speed and distance. As Mark notes above, 176 mph ball speed with a 123 mph swing represents considerable potential to improve efficiency of strike. One of the reasons why Neil is able to create such elite speed is his ability to take a long backswing without losing dynamic posture. This demands uncommon mobility and also creates the potential for Neil to generate elite speed by allowing him more time/distance to apply force to the club. Our advisor Dr. Sasho Mackenzie published an important study around the science behind clubhead speed (we reviewed in a blog about speed here). He found that there are only 4 things that determine how fast a golfer can get the club head moving:
- The average force you apply to the grip in the direction that the grip is traveling
- The distance that you move that grip. We can call this the hand path
- How much you rotate the club through the swing
- How much torque you apply through that rotation
“If the average golfer increases their backswing hand path by 4 inches, they could increase their golf club head speed by 2.4 mph. It’s about what you’d get from lifting your lead heel and allowing your pelvis to rotate a little more. You don’t have to lift your lead heel if you have the flexibility of an Adam Scott. Most amateurs don’t have the range of motion of an Adam Scott.”Podcasting isn’t a visual medium, but we thought you’d enjoy learning a little bit more about the swings that belong to some of the prominent NLU voices. All in all, pretty impressive moves for a bunch of bloggers.