“There are no absolutes in golf. Golf is such an individual game and no two people swing alike.” – Kathy Whitworth
By Ian Hardie
Like a lot of the things that I have written about on Golf Habits, the question above is a fairly common one that golfers have asked me over the years and for the vast majority of the time I have been involved in the game of golf
That question was usually based around the golfer having recently watched a South African Golf Professional called Ernie Els
Otherwise known as “The Big Easy”
A nickname that I assume resulted through a combination of his (unusually for a professional golfer) 6’5” height – with his extremely fluid and well controlled golf action
With 67 professional victories worldwide since he turned professional in 1989 – 4 of which have been Major championships – Ernie Els has epitomised that ‘slow and easy’ looking swing that most other golfers seem to think that golf pros have
Recently though, this question is usually followed by the name – Lydia Ko – the record breaking young golfer from New Zealand who just a couple of months back at the age of 17
Became the youngest player of either gender to be ranked No. 1 in professional golf
The golfers that ask that question normally then go on to make such comments as:
“She swings the club so slowly and effortlessly” or “She makes it look so easy”
There is no doubt that this teenage phenomenon has a great looking golf action combined with an abundance of talent and an extremely bright future ahead of her in the world of golf
It’s the next thing that the golfers usually say that concerns me:
“I’m going to slow my swing down like Lydia’s so I can play better!”
This is because what the golfers think they see Lydia Ko and Ernie Els doing while they are playing golf with actions that look effortless
Giving the impression that they aren’t trying to hit their golf ball hit very hard
Is an illusion that your brain is being fooled into thinking is real
Before I get to explaining why that is though – it’s probably going to be a good idea to bring you up to speed on ‘swing speeds’ as they relate to golfers
After spending a bit of time digging around the interweb I managed to compile some good data that would support what I wanted to show you and as Murphys Law dictates – at the very last place I looked, I found a chart which basically shows everything!
You can find it on this page here – then go down to the bit that says ‘DRIVER SWING SPEED & GOLF BALL DISTANCE’
A word of warning for those of you reading who are still under the false impression that ‘technique’ is solely responsible for how far your golf ball travels
The chart illustrates the strong correlation between club head speed and distance
By the way, you can read more about that in this book if that’s something that interests you
So here are some basic facts about Driver swing speed as it relates to golfers that I have put together – please note that these are potentially not perfectly accurate as they are gained from different places at different times and of course a lot of factors go into whether the golfer is operating at that speed all the time
So take everything I talk about below as a rough guide or average!
On the PGA Tour the golfer’s driver speeds basically range between 100mph and 125mph with 113mph being about average
While over on the LPGA Tour the golfers driver speeds range between 85mph and 105mph with 94mph being about average
Gender and biology are the reasons behind the differences for those figures and as neither of those are even remotely in my area of expertise – I’m going to leave it at that for now
What I can do though is contrast those speeds with those of Long Driving competitors whose driver swing speeds peak at around 150mph or so and the ‘Average golfers’ swing speed
That with a driver that ranges somewhere between 70mph and 95mph
When you take all those figures into account – it starts to explain the variation in distance that different types of golfers hit the golf ball with their drivers – doesn’t it?
However, that’s not the most interesting thing that I found as I put together all the data
That came when I took a look at the driver swing speeds for the two golfers that I talked about earlier – you know, the one’s whose swings look so ‘slow and easy’
At least, that’s the illusion that your brain fools you into thinking is real
Ernie Els apparently has a driver swing speed of 113mph – which puts him right on the average for the PGA Tour and about 9% down on the fastest PGA Tour swing speed
Does that surprise you at all?
How about the fact that ‘The Big Easy’ actually has a driver swing speed that is 11% faster than the slowest PGA Tour pro?
That contrasts the perception that he has an effortless swing – doesn’t it?
It gets better though, as Lydia Ko apparently has a driver swing speed of 94mph
Which puts her right on the average for the LPGA Tour and about 9% down on the fastest LPGA Tour swing speed
Did you just realise something there?
How about this – the ‘slow and easy’ driver swing of Lydia Ko is operating around 10% faster than the slowest LPGA Tour pro’s does
That also contrasts the perception that golfers have about her effortless swing – doesn’t it?
Which is why I get concerned when I hear golfers say that “they are going to slow their swing speed down like Lydia’s” as the reality is
That not many of them have a swing speed even close to hers for a start!
I’m going to come back to that point later but before I do I have a couple of other things I want to talk about
The first of which is the interesting similarity that both Ernie Els and Lydia Ko have with both of their driver swing speeds being 9% slower than the fastest on their respective tours
But still around 10% faster than the slowest swing speeds
That’s something that’s worth looking at further as is the second bit I want to point out
Upon reading those things above – you might reasonably expect that as those statistics are the same and knowing that Ernie Els is a fairly solid 6’5” male that for Lydia Ko to have similar numbers – that she would be in the same ball park height wise
Being taller and stronger in relation to the other golfers on the LPGA Tour
At 5’5” tall – she’s hardly in that category – which is something that I’m going to talk about soon in ‘Why do some golf pros swings look so slow and easy – part two?’