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Hit it farther with the right attack angle

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If you have ever had a lesson or a club fitting using a launch monitor, you have heard the term “angle of attack.” Simply put, angle of attack is a measurement of how much a golfer is hitting up or down on the ball at impact.

With different clubs and under different situations, golfers can utilize a positive or upward angle of attack, one that is more level, or even a negative or downward angle of attack. With the shortest clubs, a golfer’s AoA tends to be more downward. A golfer’s middle clubs are not quite as downward (but still down), and their long irons, hybrids and fairway woods are almost level (but still down). The the AoA with a driver should be more upward, however, for maximum benefit. As always, there are many situations where these AoA numbers can be altered for different effects, but the general outline I just described is usually the way it works.

Most of the time, amateurs have an AoA that is too downward with the driver. This can be caused by a faulty set up, poor swing path or an improper pivot motion through impact. If you possess some or all of the swing flaws above then your driver will have a launch angle that is too low. This generally results in flat, low drives that rely more on roll than carry to achieve distance. Sometimes this can be a good thing, such as when golfers are playing in heavy winds or when the ground is very hard, but with the agronomy on most golf courses today, golfers need to fly their drives as far as possible to achieve maximum distance.

In this article, I am going to explain how a golfer’s set up can influence AoA so that they can optimize their driver’s ball flight ad overall distance.

How to raise your AoA

Higher Angle of Attack

As stated, most amateurs tend to hit too much down on the golf ball causing low ball flight that usually results in decreased distances. If this describes your game, then follow the changes below and your angle of attack will change from too much down to more of an ascending hit. Life off the tee will be much better!

  1. Tee the ball up as high as possible.
  2. Play the ball more forward in your stance.
  3. Tilt your spine away from the target slightly at address.

Whenever a golfer tees the ball up higher, they will automatically raise their angle of attack because it’s much easier to hit up on the ball when it is teed in this manner. Hence, a lower tee height will cause the ball to come out flatter — more on that later.

Playing the ball more forward in your stance tends to raise your AoA because the swing bottom is just under the left shoulder, and if you play the ball in front of your left shoulder you will hit more up as well.

Finally, tilting your spine away from the target at address alters the low point of your swing and causes you to hit more “up” on the ball, ensuring a higher AoA.

Now let’s examine the data on the Trackman showing a ball hit with these setup changes with a sample student.

Capture2

  • You can see that the attack angle is now 5.1 up (the average amateur needs at least 3 to 4 degrees up!).
  • The launch angle was 17.2 degrees, which is not too bad for a ball speed of 147 mph.
  • The dynamic loft of this shot was 18.8 degrees, giving us a carry distance of 255 yards.
  • You can finally see that the landing angle is 41.5 degrees, which shows this ball is landing at just under a 45 degree angle. That’s good for roll.

These simple set-up changes caused the ball to launch higher and carry farther; not bad for this level of player. Now let’s examine the opposite end of the spectrum.

How to lower your AoA

If you are one of the rare golfers who tend to hit too “up” on the ball, or you want to hit the ball flatter due to wind and/or course conditions, then follow these simple setup changes and your angle of attack will be slightly more downward.

Lower Angle of Attack

  • Tee the ball slightly lower — you should only see half the ball above the face of the driver at most.
  • Move the ball back in your stance slightly so that it is more centered (you will have to experiment with this option — there is no magical ball position, just the one that works for you).
  • Center the spine at address so that you are more “over the top of the ball at address.”

By lowering the ball’s tee height, you will instantly lower your AoA and thus flatten your ball’s flight — this is great for hitting tee shots into the wind or for maximum driver control.

Whenever you move the ball back in your stance, you place the ball behind your forward shoulder (which marks the low point of the swing). This new position will decrease your AoA. As stated earlier, this should be a very minor change. Putting the ball too far back in your stance at address with the driver can cause major issues with distance and control if you overcook it!

By centering the spine at address, you place the eyes directly over the top of the ball, not behind it, and this makes people hit more down on the ball.

Now let’s examine the data on the Trackman showing a ball hit with these setup changes with a sample student:

Capture

  • You can see that the attack angle is now 3.0 down.
  • The launch angle was 4.7 degrees, which causes the ball to come out much flatter than usual.
  • The dynamic loft of this shot was 6.7 degrees, giving us a carry distance of 202 yards.
  • When the ball comes out flatter, you will see that the landing angle is also decreased at 17.2 degrees — this causes the ball to roll a mile.

These simple setup changes caused the ball to launch much lower, but as you can see distance is usually compromised.

Remember, you cannot have an angle of attack that is too high, nor can you have one that is too low — both compromise your ability to control the ball and gain the distance you require to play better. Take your time and experiment with these changes — remember a little change in your setup goes a LONG way in influencing your angle of attack!

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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: [email protected]

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Pingback: Best driver 2021: By club fitters for you! – GolfWRX

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  6. petie3_2

    Apr 14, 2015 at 12:01 am

    It’s not where the first shot lands, it’s where the second shot lands that’s important. Many times a longer drive just means it’s farther OB. Straight is good.

  7. jt

    Jul 1, 2014 at 11:24 pm

    I really have a problem getting proper backspin with my driver. I used a launch monitor today and on average my Launch Angle is 14 deg, which I think is ok.
    However my backspin rate is about 1000 rpm on average after taking about 10 swings. My driver is a Ping G15 10.5 and I swing about 90-95mph.
    I have always been told I should hit ball on an upswing. Do I need to start hitting down on the ball?
    Right now I am forced to use my 3 wood on the course. My 3 wood has about 2200 rpm of backspin.

    For driver, I tee it up where half the ball is above my clubface, so it should be a fairly typical tee height.

    Any help would be appreciated, this low spin rate is baffling me.

  8. paul

    Apr 21, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    Good article. I used to practice hitting my 3 wood in the winter by painting a little ball on a rug in my garage. That got me doing very well with my woods in the spring. Problem was I always hit low shots with my driver now. If I put the ball higher I just tend to hit higher on the face.

  9. Joe Merlin, PGA

    Jul 14, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Tom,

    It’s good to see the range at Promontory is getting some use. I worked there in 2007 for a summer internship and enjoyed it. Great post, when using technology for analyzing golf swings, do you show your students the data or do you find doing so confuses them? Any other interesting thoughts you may have on this topic would definitely be welcomed.

    Best,

    Joe

  10. Matthew McFarland

    Jul 4, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    This article expresses some valuable points about the effect of AoA on driver distance. I find it to be the most common factor when dealing with amateur players who suffer from a lack of driver distance. However, I feel that this article is incomplete. You can’t discuss the AoA without explaining the effect of spin rate, and more importantly, total distance.

    There is actually very little difference in the distance in the two drives illustrated here. Most of the time a higher AoA proves to be more beneficial in maximizing driver distance, in this example, the shot where the student hit down on the ball proved to be the better outcome. It’s important to understand how altering the AoA changes the balls spin rate. The effect of AoA is mainly factored in to the final outcome of a drive by its impact on the ball’s spin rate.
    – A lower AoA will cause a higher spin rate.
    – The lower the spin rate, the less friction the ball will create when it makes contact with it’s landing surface and the further it will travel along it’s path. A low spin rate will also leave the balls flight path more vulnerable to becoming impacted by the wind.
    -A smoother surface, such as the fairway, will create less friction on the ball than a rougher surface, such as…well you know where that is.

    Imagine these two drives were hit on a course.
    If the fairway runs 20 yards right of target:
    The first drive would likely come to rest very near it’s landing point 255 yards away, in a penalized lie because it was 45 yards to the right. Meanwhile the second drive lands in the fairway 202 out and most likely rolls out to the 240 range before coming to rest in the rough.
    If the fairway runs 40 yards right of target:
    The first drive lands into the rough at a slightly high angle and gets maybe 10 yards of roll to 265. The second drive, landing 13 yards right, will most likely run its full path in the fairway. At 152mph it will have a very good chance of exceeding 265, while remaining in the fairway.

    Therefore when trying to maximize driver distance, you must evaluate the potential total distance of a shot. A golfer needs to understand the relationship the spin rate has on total distance, so they can properly utilize a high and low AoA.

  11. B MAC

    Jun 27, 2013 at 8:40 am

    I play off 5 and hit the ball really low I bought a nike covert driver and had to set it to 12.5 degrees and still hit it low so I left it at home after reading this I used your tips for Raising your AOA and hit it really high might even have to drop it back down !! Thankyou so much

  12. Bart carter

    Jun 26, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    Making contact with the ball is now a major achievment, with any club in the bag. Forget the A.O.A.

  13. Damon

    Jun 25, 2013 at 12:44 am

    Great article Tom. One thing I will touch on that you mentioned is that attempting to achieve a high AoA often leads many golfers to have difficulty making consistent center-face contact. Hitting up on the ball only yields more distance if sweet spot contact isn’t compromised. I’ve found steep attack angles usually correspond with over-the-top moves and when a golfer gets the path, sequence and transition working better the AoA naturally improves.

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Instruction

What to look for in a golf instructor: The difference between transformative and transactional coaching

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Golf instruction comes in all different styles, methods, and formats. With that said, you would think this would be a good thing due to there being so many different types of people in the world. However, it is my opinion that the lack of standardization within the industry makes it confusing for the athlete to determine what kind of golf instruction they should seek out.

Before we can discuss what may or may not be the best type of instruction for yourself, first we need to know what our options are. Whether we are taking a “broad-spectrum approach” to learning or a more personalized approach, it is important to understand that there are differences to each, and some approaches are going to take longer than others to reach goals.

Broad-Spectrum Approach

Welcome to the world of digital golf instruction, where tips from the most famous coaches in the world are a click away. The great thing about the internet and social media for a golfer is there has never been more access to the top minds in the field—and tips and drills are plentiful. With that said, with there being so many choices and differing opinions, it can be very easy to become distracted with the latest tip and can lead to a feeling of being lost.

I would describe “internet coaching”—or YouTube and Instagram surfing—as transactional coaching. You agree to pay, either a monthly fee or provide likes or follows and the professional provides very generalized tips about the golf swing. For athletes that are new to golf or golf instruction, this tends to be the first part of their process.

There are people who prefer a more transactional approach, and there are a ton of people having success working together over the internet with their coach. With that said, for someone who is looking for more of a long-term individualized approach, this may not be the best approach. This broad-spectrum approach also tends to be the slowest in terms of development due to there being a lot of trial and error due to the generalized approach and people having different body types.

Individual Transactional Coaching

Most people who are new to golf instruction will normally seek out their local pro for help. Depending on where you live in the country, what your local pro provides will vary greatly. However, due to it being local and convenient, most golfers will accept this to be the standard golf lesson.

What makes this type of instruction transactional is that there tends to be less long-term planning and it is more of a sick patient-doctor relationship. Lessons are taken when needed and there isn’t any benchmarking or periodization being done. There also tends to be less of a relationship between the coach and player in this type of coaching and it is more of a take it or leave it style to the coaching.

For most recreational or club-level players, this type of coaching works well and is widely available. Assuming that the method or philosophies of the coach align with your body type and goals athletes can have great success with this approach. However, due to less of a relationship, this form of coaching can still take quite some time to reach its goals.

Individual Transformative Coaching

Some people are very lucky, and they live close to a transformative coach, and others, less lucky, have had to search and travel to find a coach that could help them reach their goals. Essentially, when you hire a transformative coach, you are being assigned a golf partner.

Transformative coaching begins with a solid rapport that develops into an all-encompassing relationship centered around helping you become your very best. Technology alone doesn’t make a coach transformative, but it can help when it comes to creating periodization of your development. Benchmarks and goals are agreed upon by both parties and both parties share the responsibility for putting in the work.

Due to transformative coaching tending to have larger goals, the development process tends to take some time, however, the process is more about attainment than achievement. While improved performance is the goal, the periods for both performance and development are defined.

Which One is Right for You?

It really depends on how much you are willing to invest in your development. If you are looking for a quick tip and are just out enjoying the weather with your friends, then maybe finding a drill or two on Instagram to add to your practice might be the ticket. If you are looking to really see some improvement and put together a plan for long-term development, then you are going to have to start looking into what is available in your area and beyond.

Some things to consider when selecting a coach

  • Do they use technology?
  • What are their qualifications when it comes to teaching?
  • Do they make you a priority?

As a golf coach who has access to the most state-of-the-art technology in the industry, I am always going to be biased towards a data-driven approach. That doesn’t mean that you should only consider a golf coach with technology, however, I believe that by having data present, you are able to have a better conversation about the facts with less importance placed on personal preference. Technology also tends to be quite expensive in golf, so be prepared if you go looking for a more high-tech coaching experience, as it is going to cost more than the low-tech alternative.

The general assumption is that if the person you are seeking advice from is a better player than you are, then they know more about the golf swing than you do. This is not always the case, while the better player may understand their swing better than you do yours, that does not make them an expert at your golf swing. That is why it is so important that you consider the qualifications of your coach. Where did they train to coach? Do they have success with all of their players? Do their players develop over a period of time? Do their players get injured? All things to consider.

The most important trait to look for in a transformative coach is that they make you a priority. That is the biggest difference between transactional and transformative coaches, they are with you during the good and bad, and always have your best interest top of mind. Bringing in other experts isn’t that uncommon and continuing education is paramount for the transformative coach, as it is their duty to be able to meet and exceed the needs of every athlete.

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The importance of arm structure

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How the arms hang at address plays a vital role in the golf swing. Often overlooked, the structure in which we place the arms can dictate one’s swing pattern. As mentioned in the article How Posture influences your swing, if you start in an efficient position, impact is much easier to find making, the golf swing more repeatable and powerful.

To start, I opt to have a player’s trail arm bent and tucked in front of them with angle in the trail wrist. While doing so, the trail shoulder can drop below the lead with a slight bend from the pelvis. This mirrors an efficient impact position.

I always prefer plays to have soft and slightly bent arms. This promotes arm speed in the golf swing. No other sports are played with straight arms, neither should golf.

From this position, it’s easier to get the clubhead traveling first, sequencing the backswing into a dynamic direction of turn.

@peterthomson

When a player addresses the ball with straight arms, they will often tilt with their upper body in the backswing. This requires more recovery in the downswing to find their impact position with the body.

A great drill to get the feeling of a soft-bent trail arm is to practice pushing a wall with your trail arm. Start in your golf set-up, placing your trail hand against the wall. You will instinctively start with a bent trail arm.

Practice applying slight pressure to the wall to get the feeling of a pushing motion through impact?. When trying the drill with a straight trail alarm, you will notice the difference between the two? arm structures.

www.kelleygolf.com

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What is ground force in the golf swing?

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There is no doubt about it, the guys and gals on tour have found something in the ground—and that something is power and speed. I’m sure by now you have heard of “ground reaction forces”—and I’m not talking about how you “shift your weight” during the golf swing.

Ground force in the golf swing: Pressure and force are not equal

With respect to ground force in the golf swing, it’s important to understand the difference between pressure and force. Pressure is your perception of how your weight is being balanced by the structure, in this case, the human body. Your body has a center of mass which is located roughly one inch behind the belt buckle for men and about one inch lower in women. When we shift (translate and/or torque) the center of mass, we create a pressure shift as the body has to “rebalance” the mass or body. This pressure shift can help us understand some aspects of the golf swing, but when it comes to producing power, force and torque are where it’s at.

Pressure can only be expressed in relation to the mass or weight of the body. Therefore, if you weigh 150 pounds, you can only create 150 pounds of pressure at one time. However, when we direct that mass at a larger object than our mass, all of a sudden that larger mass directs an opposite and equal reactionary force. So now, when a human being “pushes” their legs against the ground and “feels” 150 pounds of pressure, they now get 150 pounds of force directed back towards them from the ground, creating a total of 300 pounds of force that allows them to jump off the ground in this scenario.

If ground reaction forces don’t have anything to do with the “weight shift,” then what do they affect? Everything!

Most people use the same basic ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies. However, almost everyone has chocolate chip cookies that taste slightly different. Why is that? That is because people are variable and use the ingredients in different amounts and orders. When we create a golf swing, whether we are aware of it or not, we are using the same basic ingredients as everyone else: lateral force, vertical torque, and vertical force. We use these same three forces every time we move in space, and how much and when we use each force changes the outcome quite a bit.

Welcome to the world of 3D!

Understanding how to adjust the sequencing and magnitude of these forces is critical when it comes to truly owning and understand your golf swing. The good news is that most of our adjustments come before the swing and have to do with how we set up to the ball. For example, if an athlete is having a hard time controlling low point due to having too much lateral force in the golf swing (fats and thins), then we narrow up the stance width to reduce the amount of lateral force that can be produced in the swing. If an athlete is late with their vertical force, then we can square up the lead foot to promote the lead leg straightening sooner and causing the vertical force to happen sooner.

While we all will need to use the ground differently to play our best golf, two things need to happen to use the ground effectively. The forces have to exist in the correct kinetic sequence (lateral, vertical torque, vertical force), and the peaks of those forces need to be created within the correct windows (sequencing).

  • Lateral force – Peak occurs between top-of-swing and lead arm at 45 degrees
  • Vertical torque – Peak occurs between lead arm being 45 degrees and the lead arm being parallel to the ground.
  • Vertical force – Peak occurs between lead arm being parallel to the ground the club shaft being parallel to the ground.

While it may seem obvious, it’s important to remember ground reaction forces are invisible and can only be measured using force plates. With that said, their tends to be apprehension about discussing how we use the ground as most people do not have access to 3D dual force plates. However, using the screening process designed by Mike Adams, Terry Rowles, and the BioSwing Dynamics team, we can determine what the primary forces used for power production are and can align the body in a way to where the athlete can access his/her full potential and deliver the club to the ball in the most effective and efficient way based off their predispositions and anatomy.

In addition to gaining speed, we can help athletes create a better motion for their anatomy. As golfers continue to swing faster, it is imperative that they do so in a manner that doesn’t break down their body and cause injury. If the body is moving how it is designed, and the forces acting on the joints of the body are in the correct sequence and magnitude, not only do we know they are getting the most out of their swing, but we know that it will hold up and not cause an unforeseen injury down the road.

I truly believe that force plates and ground reaction forces will be as common as launch monitors in the near future. Essentially, a launch monitor measures the effect and the force plates measure the cause, so I believe we need both for the full picture. The force plate technology is still very expensive, and there is an educational barrier for people seeking to start measuring ground reaction forces and understanding how to change forces, magnitudes, and sequences, but I’m expecting a paradigm shift soon.

 

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