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4 signs you need more loft on your driver

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There’s a old joke in the golf industry about golfers who need drivers with more loft. They are said to have a “Lack of (freaking) talent.”

That may have been true long ago, but what we’ve learned in recent years from new technologies such as Trackman is that certain players, regardless of their ability level, can improve their games with higher-lofted metal woods. That’s because golf equipment designers have learned how to make metal woods with variable center of gravity (CG) locations, which has a huge effect on ball flight. For example, one company’s 10.5-degree driver can actually create less spin than another company’s 8.5-degree driver.

Most golfers play drivers with too little loft, and for that reason I recommend they visit a reputable custom club fitter so they can learn what’s best for their game. If they can’t do that, I encourage them to at least test clubs with more loft than they think they need.

But before I convince you that your driver doesn’t have enough loft, let’s go through the 4 signs that you need more loft on your driver, which I’ll explain in more detail below.

They are:

  1. Your course conditions are soft.
  2. You have shot dispersion problems.
  3. You have a swing pattern that requires more loft.
  4. You have a forward CG driver.

No. 1: Your course conditions are soft

Take a moment to think about the course you usually play. Are the fairways hard, medium or soft? And do the course conditions change as the seasons change?

Below is a Trackman screenshot of the shot pattern I tend to see from amateurs regardless of the course conditions they play. They hit low, flat drives that rely on roll to achieve the overall distance they desire, often because they do not have enough loft on their driver.

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 10.30.46 AM

While this type of trajectory is not optimal, it can work, buy ONLY when the fairways are firm and fast. If you hit this type of shot on a soft fairway, you will find that even a very flat landing angle of 22.7 degrees won’t create enough roll for the trajectory to be effective.

When conditions are soft, golfers must carry the ball as far as they can — regardless of its landing angle — to achieve maximum distance. The shot pattern below with a higher apex height will help golfers optimize carry when conditions are soft. And the easiest way to achieve these more optimal launch conditions is to use a driver with more loft.

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 10.46.33 AM

As you can see, the higher launch angle (+3.2 degrees) and spin rate (+356 rpm) created a shot that carried 26.1 yards farther despite a small loss in ball speed (-2.1 mph). Wouldn’t you like to hit one, two or even three less clubs into every hole? That would make golf easier, wouldn’t it?

No. 2: You have shot dispersion problems

Do you have a tendency to hit the ball all over the golf course with your driver? If you do, you may not know that the curvature of your golf ball is greatly influenced by the loft of your driver itself. Think about how easy it is to curve the ball with your 5 iron and how hard it is to really curve — not push or pull — a high-lofted wedge.

Golfers who understand launch monitor terminology know that the more narrow the gap between their Angle of Attack and Dynamic Loft (called Spin Loft), the more something called the D-Plane will tilt. The more the D-Plane tilts, the more they will curve the golf ball. What this means is that loft is your friend if you struggle with too much shot curvature. And while more loft might not create the most overall distance, it will help you hit drives closer to the fairway when you are struggling off the tee.

Curvature (with center impact) is created when the face angle and club path are moving in different directions. For every additional degree difference in the face-to-path ratio, the spin axis of the ball will tilt more left or right. Further, the less spin loft you have, the more the spin axis will tilt with each additional degree of face-to-path ratio. This is shown in the chart below.

  • 10-degree Spin Loft: 5.7-degree Spin Axis
  • 20-degree Spin Loft: 2.9-degree Spin Axis
  • 30-degree Spin Loft: 2.0-degree Spin Axis
  • 40-degree Spin Loft: 1.5-degree Spin Axis

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 11.00.15 AM

In this example above, you see a face-to-path difference of 6.8 degrees, which makes the ball curve to the right. That’s a pretty big gap, but because of this shot’s 30.2-degree Spin Loft it created a shot with a manageable amount of curve. If this shot’s Spin Loft was lower, however, the ball would curve more to the right with the same face-to-path relationship.

To add more Spin Loft, simply use a higher-lofted club. So if you are hitting the ball sideways, a higher-lofted club will most likely help you will find more fairways.

No. 3: Your swing pattern requires more loft

There are many swing patterns that make it prudent for golfers to use a driver with more loft. A new club probably won’t fix a faulty swing pattern, but it will make your bad shots much better than they otherwise would have been.

Here are a few examples swing patterns that are helped by higher-lofted drivers, which are written in terms that right-handed golfers will understand. If you’re left handed, simply reverse the terms.

Pull Hooks: Whenever golfers hit shots that start left of their target and move farther left, they have a club face that is pointed to the left of the target at impact. Usually, the club path is also pointed left of the target, but not as far left as the club face. This combination tends to reduce the club’s static loft at impact and will create low, flat shots that will not carry as far as they should. Therefore, these types of golfers should add loft to their driver so they can maximize carry on their bad shots. And remember, the added loft will also help minimize curvature, keeping the ball in play more often.

Shut Club Face During the Swing: If your club face tends to be shut throughout the golf swing, you will also have a tendency to hit balls that begin left of the target. Shut club faces also tend to reduce Dynamic Loft and Spin Loft, causing shots to fly low and curve offline more than normal. Like pull hooks, adding loft to your driver will help mitigate these symptoms.

Lack of Overall Clubhead Speed: Golfers with slow club head speeds most often hit shots that fly too flat and low to the ground, substantially reducing carry distance — especially when they don’t have enough loft on their clubs. So if the conditions are not optimal for roll, then these types of golfers will hit the ball shorter than they should. Adding loft to your driver for these types of golfers is like lifting your garden hose higher when you’re watering your grass. A little extra lift, or loft, makes the job much easier. Too much, however, can make your shots fly even shorter. For these golfers in particular, it’s important to have your clubs fit by a professional to make sure that you’re maximizing the distance potential of your limited club head speed.

Lower-than-Normal Ball Flight: Just like the garden hose example. If you have a lower-than-normal ball flight you need more loft to increase your launch angle so you can carry the ball further.

Overly Steep Angle of Attack: When golfers hit down on a driver too much, they tend to de-loft the club as well. When this happens, the dynamic loft of the driver is too low for their ball speed, so they need to add loft so they can maximize their carry distance.

An exception to this rule is when golfers hit the ball low on the face with above average club head speed, as the added loft will cause the ball to spin too much and the ball flight will be too high. Most better players who hit down on their drivers tend to contact their drives on the upper portion of the face, however, increasing the need for loft because of something called Gear Effect. If you do this, you’re in good company. Dustin Johnson, arguably the best driver of the golf ball in professional golf, has a downward attack angle and a high contact point that requires more loft.

No. 4: You have a forward CG driver

When buying a new driver, golfers must be careful to select the correct CG location for their swing and tendencies.

Let’s take two of today’s most popular drivers: TaylorMade’s R15 and Ping’s G30. Both are fantastic clubs that have been used by the best players in the world to win on the PGA Tour, but they have very different CG locations.

The R15 has one of the most forward CG locations (closer to the face), while the G30 has a CG that is located much farther back from the face. For this reason, the R15 tends to spin less than the G30 with all things being equal. Thus, golfers can get away with using less loft on a rear-CG driver such as the G30 than they can with a forward CG driver like the R15.

If you think about the benefits of each design, you can see why different players use drivers with different CG locations. Loft for loft, the G30 will tend to launch higher, spin more, and have more forgiveness. When properly fit, it is common to see the R15 driver help golfers create more optimal launch conditions — a higher launch and less spin — but its forward-CG design lowers the forgiveness of the club on off-center hits.

It should be noted that both TaylorMade (Aeroburner) and Ping (G30LS Tec) make drivers with more rearward and more forward CG designs, respectively, in an effort to fit a wider range of golfers.

If forgiveness and consistency is what you want, rear-CG drives like the G30 and AeroBurner will help golfers gain more control and distance from their mishits. Those types of designs also make it ok to play slightly less loft than golfers may expect. If you’re looking to maximize distance on your best hits, however, the R15 and G30LS Tec are better options, as they can create more optimal launch conditions. You’ll want to use slightly more loft than you would expect, however.

That being said, error on the side of having too much loft if you identify with any of these 4 signs, as you now understand the benefits.

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. myron miller

    Aug 26, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    I just don’t understand some of the comments versus my swing. He says if your a senior you generally need more loft and need to hit the ball higher. I’ve found thru extensive launch monitor testing and personal testing on the course, that if I go with a higher launch angle, I generally hit the ball shorter. My good swings might get up to 80 mph if I’m lucky. I took identical taylor made r25s and one was a 10.5 degree and the other was 9.5. Consistently I get about 10-15 yards further with the 9.5 than I do with the 10.5. Tried a 12 degree SLDR and never had a launch angle over 9 degrees.

    My best launch angle for distance (carry) is about 11-12 degrees. getting to 14-15 yields about 15-20 yards less (160-170 with higher angle versus 180-200 with lower launch. And I can easily measure the carry distance as I play in florida where lots of the courses have zero roll. Ball leaves divot and backs up in the fairway. And I found that the best overall distance was with a high draw/hook.

    I do tend to have a positive AofA though as I don’t hit down but slightly up on the ball (2-4 degrees usually).

    So I’d say I fit the conditions for higher lofted clubs except that they don’t work at all for me. As the saying goes, been there, bought the tee shirt and it didn’t fit. I’d love to have 15020 more yards but don’t see how yet. My old optimized r-425 taylor made with aldila dvs-60 shaft still seems to be the best. New tech just doesn’t provide more carry or roll.

    ANd I certainly don’t believe several launch monitors on what they say about roll. How many people play where they get 40-70 yards of roll or more. 20-30 is what most people get at the courses I play (and that’s for the bigger hitters, often its less than 20 down to minus yardage.).

  2. Mac n Cheese

    Aug 26, 2015 at 8:03 am

    I like this, but not the first point. I play on 4 different courses so if I went off of number 1 I would need 4 drivers to rotate between. I find that carry distance is what you should be concerned with most when it comes to a driver, not roll. Roll to me is dependent upon the course, like you mentioned, but carry is not. For players who play more than 1 course, getting a driver that fits that course is a bad idea. Also the time of day makes a difference as well. However; carry is completely independent of the course you play and if you maximize your carry distance with an appropriate loft of driver, there is no harm to your game, and the faster rolls will give you more distance than slow rolls, but at least your carry is max!

  3. Mike

    Aug 22, 2015 at 10:45 am

    Tom, I agree with certain points of your article but I just would like to ask a question. For the two different charts of trackman data in #1 did you have the person hit two different drivers or the same?

  4. ph00ny

    Aug 21, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    Wouldn’t someone like me who hits the ball extremely high need lower loft on softer condition? I recently played in a relatively long course and struggled with fairway being soft. My drives would land on fairway and create a huge divot and bounce back a pace or two. It was pretty frustrating.

    I thought about getting a new driver setup with lower spin and lower ball flight. I want to see some rolls on tee shots!!!

  5. Doug Lounsbury

    Aug 21, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    Tom, according to data found on another reputable site your comparison of the Aeroburner and R-15 is incorrect. The Aeroburner CG is higher and further forward than the R15 giving is slightly lower MOI and less forgiveness. Both the R15 and Aeroburner have CG’s further back than the SLDR.

  6. Steve

    Aug 21, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    What the article doesnt state is location. I lived in the northeast where high bombs were untouched by wind and that was the play for me throughout the bag. Now i live in south Florida where it blows 25 mph and high bombs are a death sentence. Need a more peircing flight

  7. Bob

    Aug 21, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    And that is the reason for more actual loft on every driver then what is stamped or stated on the sole of the club.

  8. Old Tom

    Aug 21, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    I agree in principle with everything outlined in this article except the, “shot pattern below with a higher apex height will help golfers optimize carry when conditions are soft. And the easiest way to achieve these more optimal launch conditions is to use a driver with more loft.”
    You do make reference to the positive attack angle between the two Trackman photos, but you don’t give it enough emphasis. The swing change, not the static driver loft angle is what dramatically changed the carry distance here. There is an overall change of 5 degrees from negative to positive attack angle that changes the dynamic launch of the driver. This has zero do do with the static driver launch. Bottom line, if you want more carry, you should always first start with understanding your driver attack angle and optimize that number first. If you’re swinging sub 100mph, you need a positive attack angle or you will constantly be compensating with spin, shaft, and loft. Find that swing change first before buying a new driver.

    • Bacon

      Aug 21, 2015 at 2:55 pm

      I noticed the same thing. -1.0 vs. +4.0 AoA is a big change when you’re insinuating that a driver with more loft produced those results.

      • KK

        Aug 22, 2015 at 7:57 am

        Word.

        • Mike

          Aug 22, 2015 at 10:49 am

          However the guy is less efficient when he tries to hit up on the driver this much case in point his smash drops from 1.49 to 1.44. A change in loft of the head shaft etc might make him hit it more efficiently, ultimately leading to more distance.

          • Old Tom

            Aug 24, 2015 at 12:31 pm

            I’m not an expert, but a student of the game with a growing understanding of trackman data. I’m guessing this ball was hit middle toe, and slightly impacted by gear effect. Hence lowering the smash factor and increasing the spin (should be less when hit 4 up and center face). No doubt, if this player stays with this new swing, they will eventually need a new driver, or more reasonably changes to their existing adjustable one.

  9. Gubment Cheeze

    Aug 21, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Just another way to say get fit

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Instruction

Walters: Avoid these 3 big chipping mistakes!

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Chipping causes nightmares for so many amateur golfers. This s mainly due to three core mistakes. In this video, I talk about what those mistakes are, and, more importantly, how to avoid them.

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The Wedge Guy: The importance of a pre-shot routine

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I believe one of the big differences between better recreational golfers and those not so good—and also between the tour professionals and those that can’t quite “get there”—is the consistency of their pre-shot routines. It is really easy to dismiss something that happens before the ball is even struck as irrelevant, but I strongly urge you to reconsider if you think this way.

To have a set routine to follow religiously before every shot gives you the best chance to execute the shot the way you intend. To do otherwise just leaves too much to chance. Indulge me here and I’ll offer you some proof.

It’s been a while back now, but I still remember an interesting account on this subject that used the final round of the 1996 Masters—when Nick Faldo passed a collapsing Norman—as his statistical proof. This particular analyst reviewed the entire telecast of that final round and timed the routine of both players for every shot. What he discovered was that Norman got quicker and less consistent in his pre-shot routine throughout his round, while Faldo maintained his same, methodical approach to every shot, not varying by more than a second or so. I think that is pretty insightful stuff.

A lot of time has passed since then, but all competitive tour professionals pay very close attention to their pre-shot routines these days. I urge you to watch them as they go through the motions before each shot. And notice that most of them “start over” if they get distracted during that process.

While I do not think it is practical for recreational golfers to go into such laborious detail for every shot, let me offer some suggestions as to how a repeatable pre-shot routine should work.

The first thing is to get a good feel for the shot, and by that, I mean a very clear picture in your mind of how it will fly, land and roll; I also think it’s realistic to have a different routine for full shots, chips and pitches and putts. They are all very different challenges, of course, and as you get closer to the hole, your focus needs to be more on the feel of the shot than the mechanics of the swing, in my opinion.

To begin, I think the best starting point is from behind the ball, setting up in your “mind’s eye” the film-clip of the shot you are about to hit. See the flight and path it will take. As you do this, you might waggle the club back and forth to get a feel of the club in your hands and “feel” the swing that will produce that shot path for you. Your exact routine can start when you see that shot clearly, and begin your approach the ball to execute the shot. From that “trigger point”, you should do the exact same things, at the exact same pace, each and every time.

For me (if I’m “on”), I’ll step from that behind-the-shot position, and set the club behind the ball to get my alignment. Then I step into my stance and ball position, not looking at the target, but being precise not to change the alignment of the clubhead–I’m setting my body up to that established reference. Once set, I take a look at the target to ensure that I feel aligned properly, and take my grip on the club. Then I do a mental check of grip pressure, hover the club off the ground a bit to ensure it stays light, and then start my backswing, with my only swing thought being to feel the end of the backswing.

That’s when I’m “on,” of course. But as a recreational player, I know that the vast majority of my worst shots and rounds happen when I depart from that routine.

This is something that you can and should work on at the range. Don’t just practice your swing, but how you approach each shot. Heck, you can even do that at home in your backyard. So, guys and ladies, there’s my $0.02 on the pre-shot routine. What do you have to add?

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6 reasons why golfers struggle with back pain: Part 1

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This article is co-written with Marnus Marais. Since 2011, Marnus has worked with some of the world’s best players on both the PGA Tour and European Tour, helping them to maintain optimal health and peak physical performance. His current stable of players includes Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, and Louis Oosthuizen, amongst others.

You find more information on Marnus and his work at marnusmarais.com

 

Back pain is by far the most common complaint among regular golfers. It is estimated that up to 35 percent of amateur golfers endure lower back injuries. And in our experience working with tour players, the prevalence is even higher in the professional ranks! 

Back pain can affect our ball striking and short game, diminish our enjoyment of the game, or even stop us playing altogether. It can make us feel anxious about playing (and making the pain worse) and just generally disappointed with current performance falling way short of our expectations. 

There is certainly no shortage of information on the topic of back pain, and with myriad back pain products and supplement options available, confusion about the best path to pain-free golf is one of the main reasons we don’t actually do anything effective to alleviate our suffering! 

We aim to present in this article an easy-to-digest explanation of the common causes of back pain, alongside some simple and practical ways to address the underlying issues. 

The recommendations we make in this article are generic in nature but effective in many of the low back pain cases we have worked with. However, pain can be complex and very specific to the individual. You should seek the personalized advice of a medical or exercise professional before undertaking any form of remedial exercise.

Reason 1 – Lack of mobility in 2 key areas

Certain areas in the body need to be more stable, and others need to be more mobile. The lumbar spine falls into the stable category, partly due to its limited capacity for rotation and lateral flexion (side bending). We know the unnatural golf swing movement imparts both rotational and side bending forces on the spine, so it’s an area we need to keep stable and protected. 

In order to avoid excessive low back rotation in life and especially in the golf swing, it’s very important that we try to maximize the range of movement in other areas, most notably the joints above and below the low back, where the majority of rotation in the golf swing should take place:

Area 1 – Hips

We need sufficient range of movement to turn into, and out of, both hips. For example, if we can’t turn and load into our lead hip due to a lack of internal rotation mobility, we tend to compensate with excessive rotation and side-bending in the lower back.

Suggested Exercises – Hip Mobility

Foam roll glutes, you can also use a spiky ball

90 90 hip mobility drills, fantastic for taking the hips through that all important internal rotation range

90 90 Glute Stretch – great for tight glutes / hips

Area 2 – Thoracic Spine (mid to upper back)

Having sufficient rotation in our thoracic spine to both left and the right is extremely important. The thoracic spine has significantly greater rotational capabilities compared to the lumbar spine (low back). If we maximise our mobility here, we can help protect the lower back, along with the cervical spine (neck).

Suggested Exercises – Thoracic Mobility

Foam rolling mid / upper back

 

Cat / Camel – working the T-Spine through flexion and extension

 

Reach backs – working that all important T-Spine rotation

Reason 2 – Alignment and Muscle Imbalances

Imagine a car with wheel alignment issues; front wheels facing to the right and back wheels facing to the left. Not only will the tires wear out unevenly and quickly, but other areas of the car will experience more torque, load or strain and would have to work harder. The same thing happens to the lower back when we have body alignment issues above and/or below.

For example, if we have short/tight/overactive hip flexors (muscles at the front of the hips that bend our knee to our chest) on one side of the body; very common amongst golfers with low back pain. This would rotate the pelvis forward on one side, which can create a knock-on effect of imbalance throughout the body.

If the pelvis rotates in one direction, the shoulders naturally have to rotate in the opposite direction in order to maintain balance. Our low back is subsequently caught in the middle, and placed under more load, stress and strain. This imbalance can cause the low back to bend and rotate further, and more unevenly, especially in the already complex rotation and side bending context of the golf swing!

Below is a pelvic alignment technique that can help those with the afore mentioned imbalance

Reason 3 – Posture

Posture can be described as the proper alignment of the spine, with the aim of establishing three natural curves (low back, mid/upper back and neck).

 

The 3 major spinal curves – 1-Cervical, 2 – Thoracic, 3 – Lumbar

Modern lifestyles and the associated muscle imbalances have pushed and pulled our spines away from those three natural curves, and this had a damaging effect on our spinal health. Our backs are designed to function optimally from the neutral illustrated above, and the further we get away from it, the more stress we put on our protective spinal structures. 

Aside from promotion of pain, poor posture also does terrible things for our golf swings; reducing range of motion in key areas (hips, mid back and shoulders) and creating inefficiencies in our swing action, to give us a double whammy of back pain causes.

Fortunately, re-establishing good posture is really simple and you can combine the information and exercises featured in the videos below with the mobility exercises featured in the Reason 1 section above. The equipment used in the videos is the GravityFit TPro – a favorite of ours for teaching and training posture with both elite and recreational players.

 

In the next installment of this article, we will cover reasons 4, 5 and 6 why golfers suffer from back pain – 4) Warming Up (or lack thereof!), 5) Core Strength and 6) Swing Faults.

 

If you would like to see how either Nick or Marnus can help with your golfing back pain, then check out the resources below:

Marnus Marais – marnusmarais.com

Nick Randall – golffitpro.net

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