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Misconceptions of Smash Factor with Dr. Sasho MacKenzie

If you’ve consumed a single piece of golf content in the last year, you’ve probably heard a conversation about the importance of speed. Whether through training or technique, the golf world is obsessed with speed. 

We’ve discussed in the past why speed is important, but this post is why efficiency is important. And when, at times, it’s not important.

One of the calculations of our Mobile Launch Monitor is Smash Factor. Essentially, Smash Factor is a measure of the efficiency of the strike. It’s an after the fact calculation that divides the ball speed by club head speed. Smash factor tells a golfer how much energy from the swing (club head speed) they are applying to the ball (ball speed). 

We talked to Rapsodo Advisor Dr. Sasho MacKenzie about the importance of smash factor and, specifically, common misconceptions with smash. 

Misconception #1: A Higher Smash Factor is Always More Desirable

While an optimal smash factor with a driver is ~1.5, that’s not true for every club in your bag. From driver to wedge, the optimal smash factor will actually decrease. This is primarily because 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 the smash factor.

Dr. MacKenzie explains:

A 1.4 smash factor with a 7 iron is possible, but not desirable. Smash factor represents the relationship between club head speed and ball speed, but it doesn’t represent the relationship between speed and proximity to the hole. If you blade a 7 iron, it’ll probably have a higher smash factor than a flushed one, but will likely be nowhere near the hole.

Misconception #2: Smash Factor is More Important Than Speed

This is not necessarily true.  Smash factor represents efficiency of the strike, not effectiveness of the swing.  If ball speed increases and smash factor decreases, it isn’t always a sign for alarm.

In the video above, Dr. MacKenzie referred to the “glanciness” of the blow as being a key reason for a decrease in smash factor. Essentially, the higher the spin, the lower the smash.

Prioritizing efficiency (e.g. smash) is a good example of the fallacy of chasing a metric vs chasing a result. Higher spin and lower smash isn’t necessarily a worse scoring strategy. 

Consider this: Jon Rahm (who works with Rapsodo Advisory Board member Dave Phillips) prefers a fade off the tee. Essentially, as a right-handed golfers, he plays most effectively if his club path is more left than his club face.  This ball flight is more effective for him than a 0 degree face to path, but it’s less efficient in terms of transfer of energy from club to ball.

Shot dispersion, not smash or spin, should be the key factor in determining whether a shot is more successful.  If your speed is going up, but your smash is going down, it might be that you’ve found a more dependable face to path relationship. After all, as they say, faders eat filet.

Misconception #3: A Lower Smash Factor Indicates Inconsistency

While there is generally a strong relationship between smash factor and handicap, a lower smash factor does not necessarily represent inconsistency. 

Smash factor is a representation of the off-centeredness of strike, not the consistency of strike. An easy way to determine the strike location is to spray Dr. Scholls or Strike Spray on the face of a club. 

These two golfers might have a similar smash factor, but strikingly different consistency.

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Both golfers have an inefficient strike, but only one golfer has an inconsistent strike. Dr. Sasho MacKenzie refers to this as a systematic miss. It’s not necessarily a product of the swing, but the set-up. If he or she simply moved half an inch closer to the ball, they might find the center of the face consistently. 

Smash Factor is one of the essential metrics in golf, but it’s also somewhat misunderstood. If you don’t understand common misconceptions, it’s difficult to highlight best practices. 

  1. Higher smash isn’t always better 
  1. Smash isn’t always more important than speed 
  1. Smash isn’t necessarily an indicator of consistency  

To learn more about smash factor and how to incorporate the Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor in your practice sessions, visit rapsodo.com/blog.