the simple science behind smashing drives

Tiger Woods attacks the driver.

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When it comes to long drives, the magic number for some golfers is 300 yards.

But for many average players, breaking the 300 mark can be difficult unless you’re betting on the moon or on rock-hard fairways. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Yes, roll-friendly conditions can do wonders for distance, as we see week after week on the PGA Tour, but most golfers don’t play in PGA Tour conditions. This means it is especially important for weekend players to understand their swings and equipment to ensure they are performing to their potential off the tee.

The formula for distance

Just like you can’t build a house without a foundation, you can’t get distance without club head speed.

The general rule of thumb for optimizing shot performance is: For every mile per hour of clubhead speed golfers achieve (as a combination of carry and roll), add 2.75 yards of distance. To hit a ball 300 yards under normal conditions requires a clubhead speed of about 109 miles per hour. Clubhead speed is directly related to ball speed, which depends on the quality of the shot, i.e. how central it is to the clubface.

There are exceptions to this rule under various conditions, and clubhead speed is not the only factor. As Ping’s chart below shows, hitting the ball with an upward (positive) attack angle helps increase launch and decrease spin, which is the secret to distance.

Ping’s optimal launch and spin chart.


If you’re not a naturally ball-hitting golfer, your first step should be to work with a professional to help you learn the basics off the tee. Your choice of driver and your specifications also play a role, so fit also plays a crucial role in achieving more ideal launch conditions.


Data shows how far golfers of all handicap levels hit their drivers


Ryan Barath

Because even if you don’t create the perfect starting conditions with your current swing and rider, it is possible to adjust your equipment to optimize it. This is where knowing what to look for on the range or at the shooting range can help with big changes quickly.

Lastly, as mentioned above, clubhead speed is the deciding factor when it comes to increasing ball speed and distance, and even if you aren’t actively working on increasing clubhead speed, there are still ways to increase ball speed increase speed.

One of these is using a higher MOI (more forgiving) driver, which can help better maintain ball speed around the face on mishits. Or, if you want to try something that might be counterintuitive to increase speed, try slowing down or shortening the driver to a shorter length to improve contact with the clubface.

Ball speed decreases quickly as shots are missed around the face. So if you find that sweet spot a little more often and under the right conditions, you might find yourself making one of the most beautiful walks in golf: 300 yards to hit your second shot.

Ryan Barath Publisher

Ryan Barath is GOLF Magazine and senior equipment editor at He has an extensive background in club fitting and assembly and has over 20 years of experience working with golfers of all levels, including PGA Tour players. Prior to joining the team, he was lead content strategist for Tour Experience Golf in Toronto, Canada. the simple science behind smashing drives

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