Statistics on golf swings are all over the internet for any golf enthusiast to analyze. But, there is one aspect that sees less discussion and that’s the travel speed of the golf ball. Is it that important? Yes and no. While the speed of the golf ball does have a major influence on the distance, there are other factors that may give you more carry length than the actual velocity of the golf ball.
So, can you determine the maximum velocity of a golf ball? Yes. Testing equipment is used on golf balls to test all sorts of metrics under controlled conditions so that the manufacturers know what to improve. These metrics also allow serious golfers make better equipment choices when trying to optimize their performance.
What Affects the Velocity of a Golf Ball?
There are multiple forces at work that determine how fast a golf ball travels. Usually, in order to calculate a golf ball’s velocity, you can use a simple equation:
(club head speed x coefficient of restitution) / (1 + (ball’s mass / mass of clubhead))
Most professional swing speeds average around 109 mph, which is also the swing speed used in most testing situations. At this swing speed, you can expect to see a travel velocity of around 180 mph, depending of course on the club used.
The mass of golf balls has to be a constant 1.62 oz. regardless of the ball’s design, so the math shouldn’t be too hard. However, when it comes to determining the major contributor, it generally comes down to actually hitting the sweet spot on the club face.
Materials may also impact the speed. Titanium clubs seem to offer the best ball velocity under controlled test conditions.
Does Travel Speed Depend on Weather?
Not only does weather affect travel speed, but it also affects the distance as well as the golfer’s posture and technique.
A hot golf ball leaves the clubface at higher velocity than a cold ball. There are two main reasons for this. First of all, cold weather makes both the golf ball and the club colder, which inversely affects the efficiency of energy transfer.
Now, you already know how important aerodynamics is for golf. Because of this, the next reason should be obvious. Cold air is denser than warm air, which means that your golf ball will have to deal with a lot more friction and drag when traveling through the air.
This impacts the ball’s carry. There’s another human factor. The muscles aren’t as flexible and responsive in cold weather, so the speed of your swing will also be affected which will limit the travel speed of the ball.
In addition, warm weather is better for travel speed because of how it interacts with the rubber core and inner layers of the golf ball. The ball will leave the clubface with more velocity and more spin.
Different Clubs, Different Speeds, Different Angles
Take the following two shots as an example.
Swing with a driver at 113 mph and an angle of -1.3°. The ball reaches a top speed of 167 mph and carries for 275 yards.
Swing with a 3-wood at 107 mph and an angle of -2.9°. The ball reaches a top speed of 158 mph and carries for 243 yards.
The club does matter but so does the technique. Just because you’re using a driver doesn’t mean you can always achieve the highest ball speed. Angles, spin, and hitting the right spot can make a huge difference.
Top Speeds Achieved
In 2013, Ryan Winther managed to achieve a ball speed of 227.6 mph and got his name etched in the Guinness Book of World Records. Consider this. In 2017, the fastest ball speed recorded in a tournament was just 152.8 mph.
Although pro golfers average around 109 mph for swing speed, those in the top 10 or 20 often hit well into the 120-mph range. That’s where you really get to see the difference in skill level. All high-earning golfers use top-of-the-line equipment and yet only a handful of them achieve consistently fast swings and top ball speeds.
Due to the golf ball’s design and the ferocity of the swing, one would think that this is the fastest traveling object in sports. In contrast, during the Badminton Japan Open in 2017, an astounding 259.1 mph shot was recorded. One could say that it puts the speed of a golf ball to shame, but that would be misleading. The badminton shuttlecock can only maintain its speed for a tiny distance compared to a golf ball.