The Las Vegas Grand Prix took place this weekend and got us thinking about whether it was possible to measure the power golfers create in their swing the same way engineers measure the engine power of a car.
At first, the task seemed simple enough, but after talking with a few engineers, physicists, and subject matter experts, it turns out that the formula is a little more complicated than we thought. Lucky for us, Michael Jacobs, one of our Top 50 Teachers, has already got the process down to a science, literally.
According to Jacobs, calculating the power, or HP, of a golf swing is an extremely detailed and personal process. This requires measurements of the golfer’s physical proportions, exact swing data, and measurements of the club itself.
However, as Jacobs has helped many players determine their swing HP over the years, he was able to share the following statistics to give you an idea of what your HP might be.
Power for the driver:
Long-distance champion 6.8 horsepower
PGA Tour Pro 5.6 horsepower
5 Handicap Man 4.03 horses
13 Handicap Men 3.1 horses
18 Female Handicap 2.3 horses
If you want to measure the HP of your swing, Jacobs shared some insight into the physics of it all:
“Power is the speed at which you perform mechanical work in the golf swing. In this case, it’s the club we’re doing the mechanical work on,” says Jacobs. “Mechanical work is a way of explaining Newton’s second law of motion. The distance force X and the angular displacement torque X are the measurements used to derive the mechanical work.
If you’re not as interested in the science, but are looking to squeeze a little more power out of your swing, Jacobs suggests starting by focusing on your sequencing and timing—something he expands on more in Science of Speed, its Golf Digest Schools series.
To train your swing timing and learn how to generate the most speed and power at impact, Jacobs suggests trying his half-shot driver drill.
Pilot’s half shot:
Enter a normal setup with your driver. Bring your club to the top of your backswing, then swing down, stopping just short of impact. Do this several times, noting where your driver is when you reach the lowest point of your swing.
Now ask yourself: Am I calibrating my club to hit in the optimal position every time?
The second half of this exercise will teach you how to calibrate your point of impact. To do this, Jacobs advises doing half swings, no higher than your hip, with your driver. These small swings will help you practice “maxing your speed” at impact, which will translate into maximizing your speed on the ball on full shots with your driver. Practice these small swings for a few minutes before testing full swings.