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Thread: The Golf Swing

  1. #1 The Golf Swing 
    Time Lord zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    When my friend and I golf we always get into a discussion about who has the more powerful swing. My friend hits the ball very high and my drive has a much lower trajectory. Yet when it's all said and done we are about the same distance off the tee. We both believe the other guy has the more powerful swing. My buddy says that in order to hit the ball low for distance that I must be hitting it with greater force in order to keep the ball in the air long enough to get down the fairway. I say that because my friend hits it so high and for distance that it takes more power to overcome the gravitational force acting on his ball.

    Who's right? Does it take more power to hit a ball with a lower trajectory for distance than a ball with a much higher trajectory for what amounts to essentially the same distance from the tee?

    Granted, his ball does not bounce as far as mine on either soft or hard ground. For this reason I also believe he hits the ball with greater force. Again, what's happening here?


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  3. #2 Re: The Golf Swing 
    . DrRocket's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos
    When my friend and I golf we always get into a discussion about who has the more powerful swing. My friend hits the ball very high and my drive has a much lower trajectory. Yet when it's all said and done we are about the same distance off the tee. We both believe the other guy has the more powerful swing. My buddy says that in order to hit the ball low for distance that I must be hitting it with greater force in order to keep the ball in the air long enough to get down the fairway. I say that because my friend hits it so high and for distance that it takes more power to overcome the gravitational force acting on his ball.

    Who's right? Does it take more power to hit a ball with a lower trajectory for distance than a ball with a much higher trajectory for what amounts to essentially the same distance from the tee?

    Granted, his ball does not bounce as far as mine on either soft or hard ground. For this reason I also believe he hits the ball with greater force. Again, what's happening here?
    Neither one of you is right.

    The situation is much more complex than that.

    To a first approximation what gives you distance is a combination of the angle of departure and initial velocity. Initial velocity is a proportional to the momentum imparted when the club head strikes the ball, and is basically a function of the speed of the club head. It is a bit more complex than that because you continue to provide force through the shaft during the finite period of time that the head is in contact with the ball, but to a first approximation it is a matter of club head speed.

    If you neglect air resistance and aerodynamic effects, then the maximum distance is obtained when the initial departure angle is 45 degrees. So if your friend lofts the ball at about that angle and if your trajectory is appreciably lower, and if the distance traveled by the balls in the air are the same then it is likely that the ball on the lower trajectory is traveling faster.

    However, there are other important factors that can change this analysis. One is spin on the ball, particularly back spin. I have seen some people who drive with an very low initial departure angle and then have the ball take a very steep climb due to extreme spin, probably due to overcompression of the ball when it is hit. This effect can make a huge difference in the distance obtained and it makes it rather impossible to determine which ball had the higher initial energy off the tee.

    If your evaluation of distance includes roll as well as distance through the air then all bets are off. Roll is dramatically affected by both final impact angle and spin.

    There are also effects involved due to viscoelastic characteristics of the ball. Some balls will come off the tee faster and go farther than others, the swings being equal.

    Finally, it really does not matter who has the greater initial velocity, what counts is total distance from the tee, and more importantly, accuracy.


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  4. #3 Re: The Golf Swing 
    Time Lord zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrRocket

    Neither one of you is right.

    The situation is much more complex than that.
    I'll say :wink: Thanks for taking the time. It's a great sport...luv it.
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