April 23, 2021
Note: Blog post subject matter is discussed in more detail on the Athalonz Podcast.
How do we get more distance without compromising control? This is the holy grail of golf and other sports.
To begin, distance is a function of ball speed, launch angle, and spin rate. For this discussion, let’s focus on ball speed and assume launch angle and spin rate remain constant. So, how do we increase ball speed without compromising control?
It starts with understanding that our body has only two connections to the physical world: our feet connect to the ground and our hands connect to the club. Working from these connection points and exerting the same effort in our swing, we can improve ball speed in two ways. We can improve the energy our body generates and we can improve the energy transfer from our body through the club to the ball.
The energy our bodies generate is a direct result of our feet connecting to the ground. Our bodies push on the ground with our weight and muscle contraction; the ground pushes back with equal and opposite force. The ground pushing back is call ground reaction force. By directing more ground reaction force towards the body, we increase the energy our bodies create. An increase in energy will increase club speed by a several MPHs.
One may ask, “how does more force equate to more energy?” In physics terms, energy is force exerted over a distance (e.g., our swing). Thus, the more force we have to exert over the same distance means we generated more energy. Since our feet connect to the ground via our golf shoes; golf shoes effect the direction of ground force. A good golf shoe should assist in directing more ground reaction force towards the body. Athalonz golf shoes do this.
The second way to increase ball speed without increasing effort is to improve the energy transfer from the body through the club to the ball. For this discussion, we need to understand what produces ball speed. Ball speed, which is often called exit velocity, is derived from the conservation of momentum equation and the coefficient of restitution of the club and ball.
Coefficient of restitution is essentially a measure of how much the ball will “bounce off” of the club face. For example, if the club face were held stationary and the ball were dropped on to the club face, the COR dictates how far the ball would bounce back up. For most clubs, the rules proscribe a COR of 0.83, which means the maximum “bounce off” is 69% (0.832). Thus, if a golf ball were dropped from a height of three feet on to the club, it would bound back up 69% of three feet, or 2.1 feet.
As another example, for a 113 mph club head speed, the maximum bounce back speed would be 69% of 113, or 78 mph. Thus, the maximum ball speed for a ball hit with a club speed of 113 mph would be 113 plus 78, which equals 191 mph.
If we look at an average PGA drive, it carries 275 yards with a club speed 113 mph, a ball speed of 167 mph, a launch angle of 11 degrees, and a spin rate of 2700 rpm. I know what you’re thinking, you just said the maximum ball speed for a 113 mph club speed is 191 mph, so why is the pro ball speed only 167 mph?
That’s where the conservation of momentum comes into play. For golf, the conservation of momentum is expressed as: (effective mass of the swing)*(change in swing speed) = - (mass of the ball)*(change in ball speed).
The “effective mass of the swing” is primarily why the ball speed is 167 and not 191 mph. The effective mass of the swing is a function our body weight and the physical structure our body creates with the club up to and through the point of contact. The greater the effective mass and the lower the change in swing speed, the closer we’ll get to 191 mph ball speed with a 113 mph club speed.
Ideally, the effective mass of the swing resembles a brick wall hitting the ball. A “brick wall” body-club structure involves the back elbow locked in just above the back hip, the entire body pivoting as a single unit around the front hip up to and through contact, and the club is an extension of the arms.
Think about a boxer throwing a punch. He doesn’t casts his hand out away from his body even though he would generate more hand speed. Instead, the boxer keeps his arm and hand close to his body and uses his body to throw the punch with his body weight behind it. The same is true for hitting a golf ball and, for that matter, a baseball.
The golfer’s mass provides the mass for the “brick wall” structure, which is why most big hitters are big strong athletes. Their mass gives them more margin of error at the point of contact than a smaller athlete to consistently hit long distances.
The more our physical structure resembles the “brick wall”, the stiffer we want our club shaft. We want to minimize the change in velocity of the club at the point of contact, which increases with more flexible shafts. Flexible shafts help players that are primarily arm swingers who get little effective mass into their swing.
So, to improve ball speed without increasing effort, improve the ground-body connection to shift ground reaction force more towards the body and improve the effective mass of the swing. Not only will this improve ball speed, it will improve control.
Presently, there is little study on the effective mass of the swing. I believe there are significant gains available (e.g., several mph or more) to all players by improving the effective mass of the swing. The more it’s studied, the more will know on how to improve it.
I am the CEO and Founder of Athalonz, LLC., I am a founding partner of the patent boutique law firm of Garlick & Markison, I am a survivor of child abuse, and I am an inventor on over 300 patents.
Athalonz is a technology company based on Mesa, AZ. It develops and sells athletic footwear, which incorporates its patented technology that leverages the laws of physics to improve athletic performance. Website: athalonz.com
Garlick & Markison is a patent law boutique firm that assists clients in building a patent business within their business using proprietary tools and techniques. Website: texaspatents.com
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