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Wishon: What lofts should your clubs be?

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Proper loft fitting involves more than just the loft of the driver. Since loft is the main factor of shot distance, trajectory and backspin for each club in the bag, the clubfitter has to consider several factors for each golfer when making the recommendation for the best lofts for each club.

Factors for determining loft

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Key to this is the right set makeup for each golfer. As such the most important golfer inputs that are used to help determine the best initial lofts prior to hit testing are shown above.

The following is an overview of the key points in loft determination for the driver, woods, hybrids and irons.

[quote_box_center]The higher the clubhead speed and the more upward the angle of attack, the lower the driver loft should be for optimal tee shot performance.

The lower the clubhead speed and the more downward the angle of attack, the higher the driver loft should be for optimal tee shot performance.[/quote_box_center]

Launch angle is the No. 1 most important launch monitor parameter to observe and react to in determining the golfer’s best driver loft. Spin outputs come a distant second behind visual observation of the ball flight and the golfer’s clubhead speed. The higher the clubhead speed, the more possibility there may be for a spin issue to be considered in the fitting of the loft. But never should the spin output of the launch monitor trump the importance of the observation of the ball flight shape.

Too many golfers focus too much on the backspin measurement for the driver on a launch monitor –  ball flight shape tells you more about driver backspin fitting than a launch monitor.

Learn what a driver shot hit with too much backspin looks like. Achieving the best launch angle and ball flight shape is more important than achieving the best backspin measurement.

Loft is the No. 1 way to change backspin and launch angle. The shaft will change spin and launch angle for golfers with later-to-releases, but only SLIGHTLY. The only way the shaft can reduce backspin for a golfer with an actual high spin problem is if the new shaft is stiffer overall and or stiffer in the tip section than the golfer’s current shaft. It is NEVER wise to increase stiffness in a shaft beyond what is the golfer’s proper flex and bend profile as the way to try to reduce the spin.

When the golfer does actually have a problem of too much backspin with the driver — one that is verified with a visual analysis of the ball flight shape — 98 percent of the time it is a problem that has to be resolved by a swing change and not from an equipment change.

Knowing the lowest fairway wood loft and lowest iron loft that the golfer can hit consistently well up in the air to achieve proper carry distance is the key for choosing:

  1. The golfer’s first fairway wood after the driver.
  2. The number of hybrids or high-lofted fairway woods a golfer needs.
  3. The first iron in a golfer’s set.

This is why proper loft fitting also involves deciding what the golfer’s best set makeup will be at the same time.

If you doubt the golfer’s own evaluation of the lowest loft wood and iron they hit consistently well, always recommend more loft for the first fairway wood after the driver and one more hybrid or high-lofted fairway wood before starting the iron set makeup.

The current lofts of the golfer’s irons play a role in iron loft fitting because no golfer wants a new set of irons that he hits shorter in distance per each number. There is nothing wrong with very low lofts in an iron set as long as the correct judgment is made for the golfer’s set makeup recommendation. For example, the stronger the lofts in the irons, the more hybrids or high-lofted woods there would be and the higher the number of the first iron.

Much lower-lofted iron sets may require a change in the set makeup such that the golfer’s first iron may need to be a 6 iron or even a 7 iron. Never fit a golfer with a loft that he/she cannot hit well up in the air to fly with reasonable consistency.

Loft gaps between clubs should be greater as the golfer’s clubhead speed is slower

  • 4-degree gaps: 5 iron swing speed of 80 mph or more
  • 5-degree gaps: 5 iron swing speed of 65-to-75 mph
  • 6-degree gaps: 5 iron swing speed under 65 mph

Nine times out of 10, when a golfer hits the ball VERY high the reason is a swing error in which the golfer is releasing the club in a way that allows the clubhead to pass the hands before impact and thus adds dynamic loft to the clubhead to result in the very high flight. In such cases, lower loft(s) will only help a little. The remedy to bring the ball down to a reasonable height will almost always be lessons to correct the impact position error.

Clubhead center of gravity (CG) can help more with loft fitting to achieve a little bit better trajectory for proper carry distance in the fairway woods first, hybrids second and irons last. But the effect of CG on shot height is ALWAYS proportional to the golfer’s club head speed and angle of attack.

[quote_box_center]The higher the clubhead speed, the more the CG can visibly affect the trajectory of a given loft angle and vice versa.

The more downward the angle of attack, the less the CG can visibly assist the trajectory from a given loft angle.[/quote_box_center]

In other words, the slower the clubhead speed and more downward the angle of attack, the less the CG has any effect on shot height and the more that loft becomes the only factor to improve shot height and with it, proper carry distance for optimizing distance.

Related

Tom Wishon

  1. What length should your clubs be?
  2. What lofts should your clubs be?
  3. Face angle is crucial for a proper fitting
  4. The best way to fit lie angle
  5. How to choose the right club head design
  6. Tom Wishon’s keys to set makeup
  7. Getting the right size grip, time after time
  8. What shaft weight should you play?
  9. What swing weight should your clubs be?
  10. What shaft flex should I use?

This story is part of a 10-part series from Tom Wishon on professional club fitting.

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Tom Wishon is a 40-year veteran of the golf equipment industry specializing in club head design, shaft performance analysis and club fitting research and development. He has been responsible for more than 50 different club head design firsts in his design career, including the first adjustable hosel device, as well as the first 0.830 COR fairway woods, hybrids and irons. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: February 2014 Tom served as a member of the Golf Digest Technical Advisory Panel, and has written several books on golf equipment including "The Search for the Perfect Golf Club" and "The Search for the Perfect Driver," which were selected as back-to-back winners of the 2006 and 2007 Golf Book of the Year by the International Network of Golf (ING), the largest organization of golf industry media professionals in the USA. He continues to teach and share his wealth of knowledge in custom club fitting through his latest book, "Common Sense Clubfitting: The Wishon Method," written for golf professionals and club makers to learn the latest techniques in accurate custom club fitting. Tom currently heads his own company, Tom Wishon Golf Technology, which specializes in the design of original, high-end custom golf equipment designs and club fitting research for independent custom club makers worldwide Click here to visit his site, wishongolf.com

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. John

    Jul 4, 2017 at 11:31 am

    Tom, i think your sort of wrong with your slowing down part of the arms and the speed of the club head? what actually is happening is central-fugal force. if you (agree) keep the angle between writs and club head to late. the weight of the club head increases (G Force) as its released. actually if there is no tension in the hands you should not be forcefully releasing the club? this should happen naturally. again due to swing plain and G force (the whip effect) as the club head move toward the ball the length of the arc is increasing and there for gravity take over and the actually speed of the head slows the hands down as the club and arm angle increases. more golfers do not understand this effect as there body / arms are to busy fighting to try to get or keep the club on plain… the out to in wing path is a result of allowing the hand to actually swing down on the incorrect path (out of control) allowing central fugal force to throw the hand away from the body. But the brain work much after than the eye and somehow with good eye and hand coordination the club get to the ball in a slight out to in path. the club head could be actually square but pulling across the ball that causing the slice. fundamentally to belief? the draw is actually an open club face delivers from the inside going out (not a closed club face) it may be closing but not actually closed at impact

  2. Kourt

    Nov 21, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    Hi Tom I was wondering if you’ve ever seen a benefit in a high swing speed player to having only 3 degree loft gap in the higher lofted irons? Say for example switching from 48, 52,56,60 to 48,51,54,57,60.
    I currently have 4 degree gap covering 24-60 in irons. I feel like having more options inside 160 yards (which is where I find im hitting the majority of my approach shots on almost all courses I play) would be more effective then having another long iron or hybrid in the bag.
    I have about 15 yard gap between wedges currently and only about a 10yard gap in the longer irons.
    Since the majority of scoring opportunities come from inside 160 yards for me, and outside 200 yards even on my best swings its rare to be inside 15 ft, do you think decreasing the gap to 3 degrees would shrink the yardage gaps or is it too small of a change to even notice much improvement?

  3. Justin

    Jan 15, 2015 at 9:55 am

    Do you feel that club length has any impact on swing path and not vice versa? (i.e. longer club lengths promoting a more in to out path whether due to swing weight, feel, etc…?)

    • Tom Wishon

      Jan 15, 2015 at 7:23 pm

      Justin
      Absolutely the length of the driver has an extremely important relationship to the swing path and to the release. From our extensive work in this area, the longer the length of the driver, the more tendency there is to release the club earlier AND to swing over the top and more outside in. Of course, the more athletically inclined the golfer, the more the golfer can “fight off” these effects to still retain his path and release. But no question for the average to less skilled player, longer driver lengths really make it difficult for them to ever learn how to swing with an inside out to square path and to be able to hold the release longer on the downswing.

      The reason this happens is because the longer the driver length, the higher the MOI of the fully assembled driver (not talking MOI of the head here, talking MOI of the whole club). And the higher the MOI of the full driver, the more load it puts on the golfer and the weak parts of his swing. hence with avg to less skilled players, the longer length in essence “attacks” their weak points which typically are their path and release.

  4. Ken

    Jan 14, 2015 at 11:48 am

    I’m a low-launch low-swing-speed senior, and I sort of agree with you. But I think the confusion comes from the fact that Tom appears to be talking about trying to get high-launch, high-spin players to come down by giving them a stiffer shaft with a high bend.

    In your case, I’ll bet that the low-bend shafts are also softer than the high bend ones, and that combination should help bring the ball flight up.

    There’s also the fact that going the direction you did often gives players like us a much better feel for the action of the shaft, allowing us to better time the release, which improves the ball flight.

    K

  5. Eugene Marchetti

    Jan 14, 2015 at 11:29 am

    Your articles are always full of very useful information. Do you ever reccomend matching your set to the course you play the most. I played 73 rounds last year with 62 on the same course built in 1927 of only 6100 yards. Extremely small greens and tree lined fairways put the emphasis on accuracy not distance. There are five holes were a driver and even a three wood gets you in trouble and our two par fives are really long par fours. Therefore I don’t carry a three wood but hit a 16 degree four wood as my first wood, after my driver. Also, i found my 3 hybrid 18 degrees goes too far on a couple of holes which land in a hazard or sand trap so my set, after the woods, starts with a 21 degree four wood. I think matching your set to the course is extremely important. Again, thanks for your informative articles.

  6. myron miller

    Jan 14, 2015 at 10:41 am

    I like the article overall and got some good information out of it. One point I’m confused about. You said the shaft can change launch angle only slightly and then only for later-releases. My confusion comes about in my own personal experience. Being a tad on the old side, my distance has obviously decreased significantly. In the typical golfer desire for more distance, I’ve tried a lot of different shafts in my driver. What was really interesting is that those with the bend point near the tip produced significantly higher launch angles than those with the bend towards the grip with mid-average bend shafts still being lower than the low bend shafts.

    And by significantly different, I’m talking launch angles running from 6-8 degrees on high bend to 13-17 degrees for the tip flexible, with the obvious reductions in distance from the lower launch angle. To the best of my knowledge and the fitters I worked with, nothing on my swing changed, just the shaft bend profile. We tried to keep the same overall flex as much as possible.

    And of course, I realize that this is a specific case and not generally true, but?

    Do you understand my confusion and help explain what I am not understanding here?

    • Tom Wishon

      Jan 15, 2015 at 11:06 am

      If the shafts with a softer tip section bend profile did bring about a higher flight, then you must have a later to late-ish release to allow this effect to happen. Let me explain how this works so it can be a little more clear.

      As we start the downswing, as long as we keep the wrist hinge angle between the arms and the shaft, the club and the arms are both moving at the same speed. Once we start to unhinge that angle, the arms begin to slow down while the club begins to accelerate. This happens because upon the start of the release, the energy in the arms is being sent to the club. So with the arms giving up their energy to the club, they have to start slowing down, while the club with its increased energy from the arms begins to speed up.

      With the arms slowing down and the club speeding up, the accelerating clubhead now starts to push forward against the slowed arms. Because @2/3’s of the mass of the club is in the head, the head now starts to push the shaft into a forward bend shape. And as the shaft bends forward, the loft on the head increases dynamically. So if you have a more flexible shaft or more flexible tip section in the shaft, the amount of forward bend is greater, which means the dynamic loft increase is greater too. And that’s what causes the higher flight from the softer shaft.

      BUT. . . this all depends on how much the shaft is still in its forward bending position when the clubhead gets to the ball. If the release of the wrist hinge angle is early in the downswing, the forward bend of the shaft happens well before the head gets to the ball. As such the shaft then can have time to bend forward from the effect of the release, but because the early release causes this too soon in the downswing, the shaft can bend back to straight by the time of impact, which means the shaft’s stiffness design can’t have any effect on the height of the shot.

      This is all a PROGRESSIVE ACTION. Meaning, the very latest release causes the shaft to bend forward the most, a sort of late release causes the shaft to be bent forward but not as much as with the very late release, a midway release causes the shaft to be bent forward a tiny bit but not as much with the later or very late release. But then the early to early/midway release causes the forward bending too soon so the shaft can rebound back to have no effect on trajectory. So this is all progressive in its effect on shot height as the release becomes a little later and a little later and a little later.

      Hence for you to see a height change from the softer tip shaft, you do have to have somewhat of a late-ish release but definitely not an early release. Hope this helps.

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