UNDERSTANDING THE NUMBERS
The key launch monitor data explained
If you can interpret and follow the information pumped out by launch monitors such as Trackman and GC2, you will be able to have a more meaningful conversation with your fitting professional.
1 Club speed This is how fast the clubhead is travelling at impact in miles per hour. It will be highest with the driver and gradually decrease as you move through the set and the clubs get shorter. Faster is obviously better and many coaches see club speed as a good indicator of a golfer’s potential. PGA Tour averages are 113mph with driver, 90mph with a 7-iron and 83mph with a wedge; 90mph with driver is a club golfer’s average.
2 Ball speed This is how fast the ball launches off the clubface in miles per hour. It’s a product of your swing speed and the efficiency of your strike. Faster is better and longer, and it will decrease as you move down the set from driver to pitching wedge. The average on the PGA Tour is 167mph with driver, 120mph with a 7-iron and 102mph with a pitching wedge. That typical 90mph driver speed for a club player will produce a ball speed of about 140mph.
3 Smash factor This shows how efficiently you transfer energy from the club to the ball. It’s calculated by dividing ball speed by club speed. A smash factor of 1.50 is regarded as optimal, but the design of modern drivers means you can see higher numbers. The higher the number, the better you are hitting the ball. The PGA Tour average with a driver is 1.48, 1.33 with a 7-iron and 1.23 with a wedge. You may see higher numbers if you’re being fitted into game-improver and distance-oriented irons.
4 Attack angle This is the angle the clubhead is travelling at impact in relation to the horizontal ground at zero. A positive number means you’re hitting up on the ball and a negative number means you’re hitting down on the ball. The further you are from zero, the steeper you are hitting up or down. You want to hit up with modern drivers – the PGA Tour average is -1.3° but the best drivers hit up by around 4°. You want to hit down for all other clubs with increasing steepness as the loft increases. The PGA Tour average is -4.3° with a 7-iron and -5.0° with a pitching wedge.
5 Launch angle This is the angle the ball launches off the clubface in degrees from horizontal. Higher is generally better, but you have to strike the right balance with your ball speed and spin to produce the optimal flight.
6 Spin rate This is the amount of spin on the ball in revolutions per minute. The more spin there is, the faster it will lose speed and the more it will climb during its flight. Many modern clubs are hitting the ball further by reducing spin. But you need a combination of spin, ball speed and launch angle to keep the ball in the air, so players with more club speed and a higher launch angle can get away with less spin and hit the ball further. The average on the PGA Tour is 2,686rpm with driver, 7,097rpm with a 7-iron and 9,304rpm with a pitching wedge. Between 2,000-3,000rpm is generally a good number with the driver and irons should be 1,000 times the club (so 8,000rpm with an 8-iron), but don’t be surprised to see 1,000rpm less than this as modern irons get higherlaunching and lower-spinning.
7 Carry distance The distance in yards the ball travels through the air before it lands. Longer is usually better, but that has to be in conjunction with a height and landing angle that enables you to stop the ball on a green if it’s an approach club. Although a more useful number than total distance in a fitting, you must be mindful of the total.
8 Total distance This is the distance the ball will travel in total before it comes to rest in yards. You have to be mindful of whether your fitter is talking about carry or total distance as they don’t always go hand in hand. A ball releases more after it lands if it has a lower flight, less spin and a shallower landing angle so it could have a shorter carry and more total distance. The key is to find the right mix for you with each club.
9 Dynamic loft The actual loft on the clubface at impact in degrees from vertical. Shaft lean, attack angle and club path influence this. Dynamic loft influences launch angle, ball speed and spin. There isn’t a right and wrong here as it all depends on what works with how you deliver the clubhead and the club’s technology. Generally, dynamic loft of the driver should be more than its stated loft because you hit up on the ball and all other clubs will decrease in loft at impact because you’re hitting down.