News & ToursMay 18, 2016

Is Jason Day the most explosive driver in golf history?

From a physics standpoint, Day has no peer.
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Jason Day might be the hottest player in golf. He might be clearly the No. 1 player in the world, following his wire-to-wire win at the Players. He might be at the height of his physical talents. But he is also one thing that few, if any, players on the planet are right now.

From a physics standpoint, he is quite nearly the most efficiently explosive driver of the golf ball there’s ever been.

While Day drives it far with nearly any club he chooses to use off the tee (driver, 3-wood, 2-iron, 4-iron, etc.), it is how he hits those 300-plus-yard blasts that it is remarkable, particularly when you look at his launch conditions. Certainly there are plenty of Day’s driving statistics that one can quibble with (he’s 150th in driving accuracy and doesn’t rank in the top 100 in distance from the edge of the fairway), but for pure efficiency of impact, his launch numbers are near perfection.

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Launching the ball efficiently, as we’ve heard time and again, is about hitting the ball high with relatively little spin. Launching it high means better carry, less spin means the ball’s energy is directed more forward than up. In addition, shots launched with less spin land hotter and roll farther. According to PGA Tour statistics based on Trackman launch monitor measurements, Day’s spin rate is the fourth lowest on tour this year (2,126 rpm), almost 16 percent below the tour average. Meanwhile, his launch angle of 12.38 ranks 20th, 18 percent above the tour average.

The key to Day’s distance is when you combine those two launch parameters. The ratio between launch angle and spin, or spin per degree of launch angle, determines just how efficient your launch conditions are. Generally speaking, at tour speeds, the lower that ratio, the better. Day’s ratio is 171.7. Only Darren Stiles and Ernie Els are better. (Note: There is a point of diminishing returns, especially if you don’t generate high swing speeds, but for average golfers if you can get that ratio between 200-225, you’re in good shape to maximize distance.)

Day’s swing speed makes that spin-launch ratio extra special. At nearly 118 miles per hour, Day is much faster than either of those players, eight miles an hour better than Els and 18 miles per hour better than Stiles. In fact, of the top 20 players in spin per degree of launch, Day is one of only three players with a swing speed over 115 miles per hour. (The others are J.B. Holmes and Justin Thomas.)

In fact, since 2007 (when the statistics were first kept), Day is the only player with spin-launch ratio that low and a swing speed that high. There hasn’t been a player in the last 10 seasons with a swing speed over 115 miles per hour and a spin-launch ratio better than Day’s.

By the numbers, Day is exceptional off the tee. But, of course, with Day, who’s won seven times in his last 17 starts, there may be only one number that matters: 1.