This article is an excerpt from a book I wrote with Jim McLean entitled, The Ultimate Guide to TrackMan Swing Analysis. For more information about purchasing the book, click here.
Are you a TrackMan user? Check out the color feedback app I developed with TrackMan. The app provides color feedback and tips on 5 key TrackMan parameters to help you quickly interpret the data and improve your numbers.
HOW TO COMPRESS THE BALL
I decided to write this article after seeing some golfers achieve a higher SMASH FACTOR more easily than others. It inspired me to research all the factors that contribute to ball compression. Being more knowledgeable about these factors will help anyone on their journey of becoming a better ball striker.
Compression describes the degree to which speed is transferred to the golf ball from the club head. In Trackman language, this is measured in SMASH FACTOR, which is the ratio of BALL SPEED to CLUB SPEED. That means we can use SMASH FACTOR as an indicator for ball compression. Why is compression good? Compression basically means the ball was struck solidly, which is arguably the most important factor when becoming a good ball striker. The following will help you learn about the factors that contribute to compression and some of the adjustments you can make in your swing to begin striking the ball more solid.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that center (sweet spot) contact is an important factor when learning to compress the ball and increase SMASH FACTOR. Center contact means the club head’s center of gravity matches up with the golf ball’s center of gravity at impact. When this happens, a high degree of speed is transferred to the ball. As contact moves away from the sweet spot, ball compression and SMASH FACTOR decrease. We call this a miss hit. The purpose behind perimeter-weighted clubs is to expand the sweet spot and give you forgiveness on these miss hits by not losing much compression and SMASH FACTOR. However, the feel of a well struck shot can be sacrificed when the sweet spot is expanded.
To improve center contact, the first step is to identify your impact pattern. At Pure Drive Golf we use impact spray to help our golfers learn where their common miss is located on the club face such as heel, toe, high, low, or fat. Identifying this pattern is critical so you know which adjustments to work on to improve center contact. I’ve outlined these adjustments in The Ultimate Guide To TrackMan Swing Analysis. I’ve also included them in the Pure Drive Golf App (available on the Apple App Store).
Another factor that influences ball compression is SPIN LOFT, which is the difference between DYNAMIC LOFT and ATTACK ANGLE. These are the vertical forces at impact. When these forces are close together, the golf ball experiences more compression at impact. However, there is a balance to consider. When SPIN LOFT is too low, it can reduce SPIN RATE, decrease max HEIGHT, and flatten the LANDING ANGLE. This is great for optimizing distance with a driver, but not for optimizing control with irons. With irons, the goal is to be within a range that is optimal for a shot that lands and stays on the green.
To lower SPIN LOFT, our research indicates that a good grip combined with a good sequence on the downswing can drastically lead to lower DYNAMIC LOFT and a more shallow ATTACK ANGLE. In addition, it helps golfers retain some degree of lag and strike the ball with forward shaft lean. All these factors will help reduce SOIN LOFT and increase compression. I’ve outlined in detail these adjustments in The Ultimate Guide To TrackMan Swing Analysis and the Pure Drive Golf App.
To maximize compression with a driver, it’s important to have a positive ATTACK ANGLE (upward angle of attack) because it requires less DYNAMIC LOFT to launch the ball optimally. This will lower SPIN LOFT and improve compression. Our research indicates that ball positioning at setup and upper center (sternum) positioning at impact have a big influence on ATTACK ANGLE. To hit up on the ball, your upper center must be behind the ball and your ball position opposite your front heel. After you learn how to hit up on the ball, lower the static loft on your driver and this will automatically lower your SPIN LOFT and maximize compression.
Another factor that influences compression is FACE TO PATH. This is the difference between FACE ANGLE and CLUB PATH at impact. These are the horizontal forces at impact. To improve compression you want to minimize FACE TO PATH as much as possible. This helps improve compression and SMASH FACTOR because the club face will be pointing in a similar direction to where the club head is moving.
However, a perfectly straight shot does not always guarantee maximum compression. A draw shot produces more compression because a closed FACE TO PATH means there will be less DYNAMIC LOFT and less SPIN LOFT. If you’ve played golf long enough you know the feeling of hitting a “hot hook,” because the ball feels like it explodes off the club face. Hitting a slice has the opposite effect because an open FACE TO PATH increases the DYNAMIC LOFT and SPIN LOFT. Therefore, there’s science behind why hitting a draw can improve your ball compression. Our research indicates that having good club face control throughout the swing, good body sequencing and trail arm positioning on the downswing are critical factors that contribute to hitting a draw. I’ve outlined these in detail in The Ultimate Guide to TrackMan Swing Analysis and the Pure Drive Golf App.
To recap, the most effective means to improve compression is to focus on center contact because without it you will never compress the ball. You can further maximize compression by minimizing SPIN LOFT and FACE TO PATH with a good grip and a good sequence – as well as hitting up on the ball with a driver and hitting a draw with all clubs. This is the common formula we see when golfers have consistently high average SMASH FACTOR numbers. If you learn to incorporate some of these, or all of them, you will learn to strike the ball more solid and maximize compression.