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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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