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Use caution when “Lofting Up”



By now, most golfers have forgotten the sound and feel of a wooden driver against a balata ball, not to mention how small the original metalwood drivers were compared to today’s multi-material, adjustable behemoths.

It’s funny, but when I ask my students what they remember about their old metal drivers they always talk about how little loft they had.  I too remember that when I could “hit” the 7-degree Burner Driver from TaylorMade I thought I had reached the pinnacle of golfdom. Today, I don’t think I could even make contact with that low of a loft anymore, not to mention hit a fairway with it! I like the bigger club heads, no doubt.

Stickney metalwood comparison

Of course back then, golf balls tended to spin much more than they do today, and the center of gravity was located much higher in the head than it is on today’s drivers. That necessitated the super low lofts, but now all that has changed.

This summer, TaylorMade came out with a super low-spinning driver, the SLDR, which has changed the driving game for the masses. And later this week, Callaway will release its low-spin driver head for 2014, the Big Bertha Alpha. I’m not discounting the technology from any other manufacturers, but these two models are proving to be the two of the lowest-spinning heads on the market. And I’ve found that low-spin drivers can be advantageous for many golfers.

TaylorMade in particular is preaching that golfers should “Loft Up” with its SLDR driver, and has launch marketing campaigns that show that said professional used to use “x loft” but now uses much more with the SLDR and now hits it farther. The campaigns go on to say that if golfers don’t create enough spin to keep the ball in the air for the proper amount of time, they must increase their launch angle through loft to gain yardage. The lack of spin with these drivers coupled with the added height will also cause the ball to run more when it hits the ground, because the lack of backspin will stop the ball from climbing too much into the air and landing too vertically.

While all this is 100 percent true, there is one thing that golfers MUST control, or “lofting up” will not help them as much as it does other people. In fact, it might even cost golfers some yardage if they do not pay attention to the facts below.

contact point metalwood

The mark above is one that is too low on the face. Most of the ball is below the center line of the driver, which will cause the following things to happen with the launch monitor numbers below.

metalwood trackman screen

  • The ball will tend to launch too low: 13.6 degrees for this ball speed.
  • This low impact point causes the ball to have too much backspin: 3133 rpm in this case.
  • The added loft with increased backspin will cause the ball to “climb” too much to its apex. See the bell curve look from launch to apex?
  • It’s not the 96.7 feet height that is the problem. It’s the fact that the ball started low and “spun” up to its peak height.
  • This added height will cause the ball to fall out of the air too vertically, landing with an angle of descent above 40 degrees. That decreases roll.

So, for golfers who tend to hit the ball low on the face consistently, adding loft creates more backspin and a steeper landing angle. That will reduce roll upon landing and they will NOT hit the ball as far as they’d like. The key for them is to alter their vertical impact so the higher lofted driver can perform more optimally!

higher impact point metalwood

Here you can see the old mark on the lower portion of the face and the new sample one I hit on the upper portion of the face a touch above the center line.  When golfers hit the ball high in the vertical part of the face, they will see that the ball has less spin, more height and will have a shallower landing angle. Let’s check out the launch monitor numbers on this shot vs the previous one shown earlier.

metalwood trackman screen 2

  • This shot has less spin: 2395 rpm.
  • This shot launched higher off the face of the driver and thus had a higher overall height.
  • This ball’s landing angle was a touch high at 43 degrees — not bad, but under 40 would be more optimal — due to a touch more spin than I’d like. But I did still get 19 yards of roll.
  • A 260 carry will work for this clubhead speed, but optimal launch/spin conditions could equate to 266 carry and 299 overall if the spin was down a touch and the angle of attack was a touch higher.

So, when you hit the ball higher on the face with your driver you’ll get added launch, more overall height, lower spin, greater carry and a shallower angle of descent. That all equates to MORE distance, period! That’s why I like low spin drivers, provided golfers hit them on the right part of the face.

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Tom F. Stickney II, is a specialist in Biomechanics for Golf, Physiology, and 3d Motion Analysis. He has a degree in Exercise and Fitness and has been a Director of Instruction for almost 30 years at resorts and clubs such as- The Four Seasons Punta Mita, BIGHORN Golf Club, The Club at Cordillera, The Promontory Club, and the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. His past and present instructional awards include the following: Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, Golf Digest Top 50 International Instructor, Golf Tips Top 25 Instructor, Best in State (Florida, Colorado, and California,) Top 20 Teachers Under 40, Best Young Teachers and many more. Tom is a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 25 people in the world. Tom is TPI Certified- Level 1, Golf Level 2, Level 2- Power, and Level 2- Fitness and believes that you cannot reach your maximum potential as a player with out some focus on your physiology. You can reach him at tomst[email protected] and he welcomes any questions you may have.



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  3. Jimk

    Jul 9, 2014 at 5:23 am

    Just so that people are aware, the tour pro with the most efficient Driver distance is Bud Cauley. He is a shortish guy with around 110mph swing speed. He has the 3rd best carry efficiency and the best total distance on tour, relative to his Clubhead speed. Bud uses a Titleist 910 D2 with 7.5 degrees of loft. He simply hits up on the ball more than most pros and is fairly accurate as he can shape the ball consistently well. Finished 4th recently as well at the Greenbrier Classic. The most important factor in any Driver is finding the fairway. Hogan once went 70 holes without missing a fairway, using a driver that appeared to have almost no loft on it, very heavy and very stiff. It wasn’t uncommon for him to hit every fairway and every green in regulation…amazing, considering that he was a long hitter for his time. Fairways and scoring is what matters most. Find a driver that finds the most fairways and you will shoot your best results. I wouldn’t like to try hitting a draw with a driver that is maxed out at 1700/17 for straight shots, the ball would fall out of the sky far too soon with numbers more like 1300/13. I have tried, tested and played many different drivers over the years and these experiences has taught me to find a driver that I hit fairly straight, lose minimal distance when I try to fade the ball or draw the ball, and it looks and sounds good. Sound for me is massive. When you find a driver with the correct loft (for you) where distance loss is minimal when shaping the ball left or right, then that club is maxed out for your swing. Different drivers have different lofts that work best for me. Only someone like Moe Norman can hit a driver straight every time, so find a driver that you can shape the ball into the fairway and stick with it. A good Driver is like a good partner, find one that gives you the least drama, least amount peaks and valleys in your life, sounds and looks good, and stick with it 🙂

  4. 1badbadger

    May 7, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Guys, look past the difference in swing speed for a moment and don’t focus on the distances…pretend that those numbers aren’t even there. When looking at launch data, there are many numbers, and I’m not saying they’re not important, but some are more important than others. The one that can affect your trajectory and results the most is the backspin rates. Sure, it’s good to have an ideal launch angle and smash factor, but those things won’t make up for too much or not enough spin. Spin trumps everything, and Tom showed how much difference there is in spin between hitting the ball in the proper spot vs. slightly low. I think it’s eye opening. My misses are almost always low on the clubface…I rarely catch one too high on the face, so this catches my attention. Many players would look at that first impact mark and consider it perfect…it’s right in the middle of the club! But knowing how much the spin can spike is important. When spin gets 500, 800, 1000 rpms higher than ideal, it will cause your ball flight to be inefficient and there is a loss in performance. Sometimes it’s not as noticeable as others (windy conditions tends to magnify it for example) but it has an effect. The thing to take away from this example is how much the spin can increase if impact is slightly low…just think how much it would be if impact was another groove or two lower!

  5. Neil

    Apr 29, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    Nicely written. However, I get from the article that you believe the second shot went further because of a more center hit. The spin was definitely lower because you hit it in the center of the club face instead of on the bottom. However, your club head speed on shot #2 was 10 mph more than shot #1. This is the number one reason your shot went further. 10MPH club head speed difference is huge.

    • Scott

      Apr 30, 2014 at 12:23 pm

      Hey, Let’s not let facts get in the way of the results. How about adding onto the article for people that hit the ball all over the club face that the ball will fall out of the sky with the lower spin drivers? In all that I have read and experienced, lower spin will equal lower distance for a number of players.

  6. Nick

    Mar 3, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    Optimal launch conditions are created when the CG of the ball impacts the face above the CG of the driver. From a physics perspective, the CG projects through the face at a point that is perpendicular to the actual CG of the driver.

    Low/forward CG drivers are, in fact, more forgiving in terms of ball speed, launch angle and spin rates because the CG projects lower in the face than back of high CG drivers. In layman’s terms, a greater percentage of the club face on a low/forward CG driver will produce high launch/low spin characteristics than a traditional back or high CG driver.

  7. Kev

    Mar 1, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Thanks for doing this! I would love it if the manufacturers would have a template for their drivers with the robot data. Obviously they have it.

    Have data for various swing speeds, and as you point out its importance- data for impact on various points on the face, including high middle and low center, toe, heel, etc. They could also publish for their stock shaft and an alternate shaft. Would make life a lot easier.

    But in the interim, what you are suggesting here is a simple test we can all try with our drivers and a launch monitor- with face tape, hit with about the same swing speed while teeing it high middle and low.

    I see the swing speed disparity as an issue. It’d be great to see the same swing as best as you can, even +/- 3mph. 10mph is a big difference and 106mph is great, btw! In reality, if you have the control to hit the face low, center and high at say 90, 95, 100, and 105 and wouldn’t mind posting those pix and data, you would, in addition to settling the matter once and for all re: spin, perhaps also win the Pulitzer prize for outstanding golf journalism (should they ever offer one, one day.) 😉

  8. Willy

    Feb 13, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Instead of picking the artical apart you should take notice of this! Go hit 10 putts out of different places on the face and see the difference the ball travels.. Exactly the same principal

  9. Shallowface

    Feb 13, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    I never did that Tom. I’ve been reading your writings here and elsewhere for years and have always appreciated them.

    I simply asked for more examples, and am looking forward to seeing them.

    Being called a troll (not by you) for asking a question is pretty aggravating too.

  10. Tom Stickney

    Feb 13, 2014 at 9:59 am

    Also….if your need is only carry distance I would stay away from lower spinning drivers such as the sldr or alpha.

    • Shallowface

      Feb 13, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      What little time I’ve gotten to spend on launch monitors shows I have too much spin (often approaching 4000). Too downward of an AoA.
      But, I’m able to make the adjustment of hitting up on it and it hasn’t made any difference.
      Thinking about trying something in the 11-13 range with an X flex. I’ve seen some success stories with this combo, even with people that didn’t have the clubhead speed one would normally associate with an X. It’s about the only thing I haven’t tried.
      Trouble with me, it’s gotta be a cheap experiment. 🙂

      • Nick

        Mar 3, 2014 at 10:42 pm

        If you struggle with a negative angle of attack, you probably have a out-to-in path as well. Try a shorter, heavier shaft.

        You can test this at your local golf shop. Put a fairway wood shaft in a driver and see if your launch monitor numbers improve. If they do, then cut your driver down to something in the 44-44.5″ range. It will improve your distance and consistency.

  11. Rob

    Feb 12, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Thank you, all information if liked.
    But, don’t buy into the trolls.
    Just keep giving the info.

    How about the numbers from the small old driver in the pix and the

    • tom stickney

      Feb 12, 2014 at 3:16 pm

      Thanks…found that photo on the net. Wish I had it to compare…would be fun. Just need a better player to hit it other than me! 🙂

  12. tom stickney

    Feb 12, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    I’m pointing out the facts of impact location that pertain to ANY clubhead speed. I will be putting up two similar swing speeds to show you the same things happen for anyone that doubts this process.

    In the future please do not suggest that I lack credibility because you are 100% off-base! I do these article for FREE for you to read in order to better educate the readers. I don’t have to spend my valuable time writing, but I choose to so that YOU can be a better golfer.

    • Martin

      Feb 12, 2014 at 7:02 pm

      If you put your words out there on a subject a lot of people have opinions about I guess you will always risk being criticised 🙂 I should know. I have been a journalist for 20 years now…

  13. David McCuiston

    Feb 12, 2014 at 1:09 am

    I’ve read that in the past that Taylor Made consumer model drivers loft were under reported to help golfers get away from too low of lofted drivers.

    Do we know if the SLDR drivers are more accurately labeled loft wise? The loft up campaign seems like the might get away from understating the loft. Perhaps they have to get people used to the idea first. The correct launch angle is more important I guess, than what the actual loft is.

    • Tom Stickney

      Feb 12, 2014 at 8:24 am

      That I don’t know but I will say that if you want to buy a new driver take a few heads to your local repair shop to see what the actual loft is so you can compare apples to apples

      • Jeff

        Apr 29, 2014 at 3:15 am

        Where would you recommend getting actual lofts checked on driver heads in palm desert? Would the pga superstore or Golfsmith be able to do it or would you be able to recommend someone. Also I read an article by Bronson Wright, a club fitter out of Orange County, and apparently they also check COR on the driver faces as some come several points shy of the limit. I haven’t heard of anyone doing this in palm desert but I’d be interested to check to see how big the cor dispersion is.

      • Lee

        Apr 30, 2014 at 2:35 pm

        There are some great video’s on youtube from the TM Tour van where they open a draw and there are all the heads – hand selected, measured 8.1, 7.9, 8.2…. .5/1 closed, open etc. This is what the pro’s get surely in 2014 our $/£ is good enough to get the same service?

  14. Shallowface

    Feb 11, 2014 at 7:01 am

    In Example 1:

    In Example 2:

    Not saying that the idea in this article isn’t valid, but the two examples offered don’t prove it. The distance differences are almost entirely due to the clubhead speed.

    Love that old Burner driver! Hard to believe, but a lot of us played pretty darn well with that tiny clubhead.

    • Tom Stickney

      Feb 11, 2014 at 10:08 am

      Will be adding examples that are closer in speed soon.

    • KK-DBAG

      Feb 12, 2014 at 6:53 pm

      The club speed is irrelevant in the samples shown. I believe tom is trying to show that where the ball makes contact on face drastically changes ball flight pattern due to the high loft/ more spin if struck low on face. Regardless of SS, where the ball comes off the face can totally change spin characteristics (more or less RPM’s) and in turn changes shape of how the ball climbs and how it falls….appreciate the analysis Tom

  15. kev

    Feb 10, 2014 at 11:11 pm

    word of caution when trying to hit higher on the clubface of a driver… will fracture the face on the upper edge.

    • Tom Stickney

      Feb 11, 2014 at 12:44 am

      I wish I had enough power to have that happen! Ha. Agree. Try to keep the entire ball just under the crown of the driver.

  16. Andrew

    Feb 10, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    While I agree with the premise that overlofting the club will most definitely create problems if the player is not impacting the ball properly, those two swings have a swing speed difference of 10 mph. That isn’t just simple swing-to-swing variation either. That is the major factor in creating those distance numbers you used.

    • Tom Stickney

      Feb 11, 2014 at 12:45 am

      These were two sample swings showing the usual issues with improper vs proper impact points.

  17. MJ

    Feb 10, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    The SLDR is a great driver. The technology is very cool to me as I am an engineer and this stuff interests me. I got my 9.5 a few months ago. I went to the range and found that I was hitting it pretty solid by leaving it on std and 1 tick towards draw. I went over to see my buddy who has a good launch monitor (a CG) to test it on. By the time we finished, I had dramatically lowered my spin and raised my launch. We got relatively close to the 17/1700 (couldn’t get the launch up enough). Some minor swing adjustments could help this. I ended up on higher and one tick from all the way at fade! So I am hitting an 11 degree driver. I am a +3 and like the article says I have always hit low lofted drivers. I had an 8 degree R11S last year that was turned down to 7 degrees. I increased my distance a decent amount (not dramatically) but my accuracy really improved.

    I was thinking that I was going to balloon this thing on the course but that was not even close to the case. I hit 71% of the fws the first day out. I am going to get it looked at next week by a guy with a Trackman to see if my descent angle is okay as well as other variables.

    By the way, I am also going to get that new Alpha driver. It is great! I hit it the other day and liked the way it felt. I will compare the two and see.

    • Tom Stickney

      Feb 11, 2014 at 12:46 am

      Can’t go wrong with either one…

  18. Martin

    Feb 10, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Nice add for the SLDR driver! 🙂 I bet you wont put a SLDR with any of the crappy stock shafts TM offers in your bag!? Of course its nice to see a straight drive roll down the fairway, but I prefer to work the ball with my driver, more spin helps me control the shot better, and if I dont try to hit it as hard as I can everytime, I get the amount of spin i prefer: longer carry, less roll and the ball have a better chance staying in the fairway and I can still reach the greens. This talk about added length from the tee makes the golf equipment companys go nuts about finding balls that spins less and drivers and fairwaywoods that decreases spin. This trend wont help recreational golfers play better. It hasnt so far! And I am running out of great spinning and soft golf balls like older Pro V1s.It is really annoying…

    • Tom Stickney

      Feb 10, 2014 at 8:37 pm

      There are new softer spinny balls coming out as I type…very low compression ones you might like.

      Recreational golfers are not gaining the benefits of the low spinning drivers bc they cannot control their impact points.

      • David McCuiston

        Feb 12, 2014 at 12:58 am

        I’ve noticed the large drivers tend to feel the same across the face. Probably due to having better spring effect all the way across. The older smaller Tour Burner drivers made it easier to tell when you hit the sweet spot.

        I tend to hit all over the face with the large face drivers to a degree, it seems this may be due to feedback feel? What’s to be done, practice more with impact tape or talcum powder on the face?

        Is it possible it is harder to hit the sweet spot on larger drivers?

  19. Daniel R

    Feb 10, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    In the first example the club path is -6.7, this is not only an indicator of an over the top move, but an EXTREME over the top move. The second example has an club path that indicates the club came from the inside properly. Coming over the top leads to slicing, ballooning and a much higher spin rate. These two swings are a stretch for comparisons sake.

    • tom stickney

      Feb 10, 2014 at 7:24 pm

      Coming over the top can also lead to low darting hooks as well which might have little spin

  20. luke keefner

    Feb 10, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    I live in the northeast, it never stops raining so roll doesn’t even come into the equation. Doesn’t spin keep the ball in the air longer and allow the ball to carry farther? My club head speed is around 100mph and I have to dig my ball out of the sloppy fairways. This is all a moot point for me. Winter will never end here…

    • tom stickney

      Feb 10, 2014 at 7:25 pm

      If conditions suggest all carry then, yes, you need a touch more spin to keep the ball in the air longer with all things being equal.

  21. NG

    Feb 10, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    SLDR is the best driver on the market, period. I was using 8.5 and now I’m using 10*. I consistently miss it low on the face which is why I decided to purchase SLDR because it spins less and impacts low on the face spin more. If you strike it low on the face I’d encourage all golfers to purchase an SLDR!LOFT UP IS THE REAL DEAL!

    • tom stickney

      Feb 10, 2014 at 5:21 pm

      NG…I’d have to agree 100%. I have not tested the alpha from callaway so I’ll be interested to see how it does compared to the sldr. But anything that reduces spin for the higher ball speed player is a wonderful thing.

    • Paul

      Feb 10, 2014 at 6:16 pm

      Isn’t this the opposite of what the article just explained? Lower on the face produces more spin, right?

      • NG

        Feb 12, 2014 at 4:33 am

        Correct Paul, however SLDR is the lowest spinning driver on the market from any spot on the face. Therefore Sldr will reduce spin on miss hits making it more efficient and essentially complimenting a negative aspect of impacts low on the face…

  22. Scott

    Feb 10, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    How much lower spin are these clubheads actually?? Does anyone have real numbers and real comparisons? It doesn’t appear to me that anyone on tour is hitting it any longer with these heads than before.

    • hebron1427

      Feb 10, 2014 at 5:09 pm

      I hit an R1 and SLDR with the same shaft, same swing speed (within a few MPH). Ball speed was 165 with the R1 and 169 with the SLDR. Launch angle was 13-ish with both. carry distances were the same, but R1 spin was 3700 RPM and SLDR was 2650. Obviously, the total distance was dramatically different.

    • tom stickney

      Feb 10, 2014 at 5:20 pm


      They are hitting the ball longer with less effort which tightens their dispersion patterns and makes the drivers worth their weight in gold.

  23. Micah

    Feb 10, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    So your student miss hit the ball but got a Smash Factor of 1.51? I would agree that his spin was way too high but it seems in my limited knowledge that the spin would have more to do with the difference in attack angle or dynamic loft. The student’s landing angle was also better.

    I would really like to see more data. It would elucidate your point much better if you had your student correct the impact point on the face and you also hit shots yourself that were high on the face, in the proper spot, and low on the face and showed those numbers.

    With the limited data provided I’m not sold on your argument but I’m intrigued by your thesis. I hope you don’t feel like I’m trolling, I enjoy your writing, I just want more information.

    • tom stickney

      Feb 10, 2014 at 2:03 pm

      Smash factor isn’t an accurate indicator of compression. You can snap hook it and get a sf of 1.52 at times. Hopefully you could spend a few minutes on a launch monitor with some dr sholl’s and you’ll better understand the launch/spin issue. I’ll try to publish some shots with me hitting lower on the face, it’s just a timing thing with my schedule etc. 🙂

      • Conrad

        Feb 10, 2014 at 2:39 pm

        cant you get a Sf of 1.55 if you hit it off the toes. as the toe is swinging its adding speed?

      • snow52

        Feb 12, 2014 at 1:35 pm

        Tom – can you comment on the smash factor of the first example? I thought the maximum SF was 1.50. Thanks for your great articles.

  24. Martin

    Feb 10, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Would have been a better demonstration of the concept with more similar swings.

    • tom stickney

      Feb 10, 2014 at 2:03 pm

      Will try to hit more shots and upload…thanks

  25. tom stickney

    Feb 10, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    teeing it higher and lower can help…you’ll need to experiment.

  26. Mark

    Feb 10, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    Doesn’t the fact that the 2nd example had 10 mph more clubhead speed make as big of a difference (or more) than the impact spot on the club face? Would like to see this example with same clubhead speed for truer comparison.

    • tom stickney

      Feb 10, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      You are correct…this was a student swing versus one I did for comparison. The fact remains that vertical impact is key.

  27. jabrch

    Feb 10, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Great explanation Tom! Thanks. Love your work on WRX!

  28. johnleg

    Feb 10, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    Doesn’t the effect of roll of a curved face somewhat help the effect of higher backspin lower on the face? The roll should, in theory, help de-loft the club on lower than centerface shots.

    • tom stickney

      Feb 10, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      Vertical gear effect accounts for the low launch but the high spin is caused by the impact point.

  29. GJR

    Feb 10, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Hi Tom,

    I just went to a huge local event in the Twin Cities and hit my Ping G20 9.5* Tour Stiff against the SLDR. (Just a quick back ground on me – I’ve been golfing for only 5 years and have never broken 80. I’m a mid 80’s average score.)

    Overall the distance was almost exactly the same, but, the SLDR produced lower spin. Apparently I was spinning around 4500 and getting about 283 total distance with my Ping. But with the SLDR my spin was apparently around 2200, same launch angle, but my distance was 280.

    I’m not expecting you to dissect my swing, but my driver club head speed is 105 average (103-107). The Taylor Made rep was telling me that the lower spin was much better for me and while he wasn’t pressuring me at all to buy the driver, he was obviously trying to get me to understand that it was a better performing driver for me.

    I’m still trying to understand things like launch angle, spin rate, etc, and how that correlates to my swing. I’m mainly self taught and when I’m at the range I just go by feel and ball flight.

    This is a very long winded way of asking – Why would I want to consider switching? Don’t I ultimately care about accuracy and distance? If it’s all the same does spin really matter in my case?

    • tom stickney

      Feb 10, 2014 at 12:53 pm

      Spin always matters…if you are spinning your ping 4000 rpms you are leaving yardage in the bag! I personally don’t care what driver you play as long as you have optimal launch conditions (within reason) but 4000 is WAY too much. 🙂

    • nik dallos

      Feb 10, 2014 at 4:59 pm

      Was the golf expo this last weekend? Where did they have it?

      • GJR

        Feb 11, 2014 at 10:06 am

        Nope, no golf expo. It was a Taylor Made fitting party for a local golf reality show called ‘Hack To Jack’ and I’m trying to get onto the show. It was held at the Minnesota Golf Academy. The actual Twin Cities Golf show is this weekend at the Convention Center. I’ll be there Friday afternoon.

  30. Jon Ryzinski

    Feb 10, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Great article Tom!

    How does the 17/1700 Taylormade claims to be optimal really stand up? Is that really optimal, or is it’s basis relying on specific factors from the golfer (such as AoA, clubhead speed, etc…).

    We hear a lot about the 17/1700, but i’m curious if that is what I should be striving for. Thanks!

    • tom stickney

      Feb 10, 2014 at 12:54 pm

      Thank you…17/1700 has been proven by swing robot testing and is starting to be adopted by golfers…only time will tell if this can be done by the masses. If the brains say it’s optimal then I’d say it works, but can YOU make it work? That’s the question that remains to be answered by all of us.

  31. Mike

    Feb 10, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Teeing it high should help offset hitting to low on the face?

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The Wedge Guy: My top 5 practice tips



While there are many golfers who barely know where the practice (I don’t like calling it a “driving”) range is located, there are many who find it a place of adventure, discovery and fun. I’m in the latter group, which could be accented by the fact that I make my living in this industry. But then, I’ve always been a “ball beater,” since I was a kid, but now I approach my practice sessions with more purpose and excitement. There’s no question that practice is the key to improvement in anything, so today’s topic is on making practice as much fun as playing.

As long as I can remember, I’ve loved the range, and always embrace the challenge of learning new ways to make a golf ball do what I would like it to do. So, today I’m sharing my “top 5” tips for making practice fun and productive.

  1. Have a mission/goal/objective. Whether it is a practice range session or practice time on the course, make sure you have a clearly defined objective…how else will you know how you’re doing? It might be to work on iron trajectory, or finding out why you’ve developed a push with your driver. Could be to learn how to hit a little softer lob shot or a knockdown pitch. But practice with a purpose …always.
  2. Don’t just “do”…observe.  There are two elements of learning something new.  The first is to figure out what it is you need to change. Then you work toward that solution. If your practice session is to address that push with the driver, hit a few shots to start out, and rather than try to fix it, make those first few your “lab rats”. Focus on what your swing is doing. Do you feel anything different? Check your alignment carefully, and your ball position. After each shot, step away and process what you think you felt during the swing.
  3. Make it real. To just rake ball after ball in front of you and pound away is marginally valuable at best. To make practice productive, step away from your hitting station after each shot, rake another ball to the hitting area, then approach the shot as if it was a real one on the course. Pick a target line from behind the ball, meticulously step into your set-up position, take your grip, process your one swing thought and hit it. Then evaluate how you did, based on the shot result and how it felt.
  4. Challenge yourself. One of my favorite on-course practice games is to spend a few minutes around each green after I’ve played the hole, tossing three balls into various positions in an area off the green. I don’t let myself go to the next tee until I put all three within three feet of the hole. If I don’t, I toss them to another area and do it again. You can do the same thing on the range. Define a challenge and a limited number of shots to achieve it.
  5. Don’t get in a groove. I was privileged enough to watch Harvey Penick give Tom Kite a golf lesson one day, and was struck by the fact that he would not let Tom hit more than five to six shots in a row with the same club. Tom would hit a few 5-irons, and Mr. Penick would say, “hit the 8”, then “hit the driver.” He changed it up so that Tom would not just find a groove. That paved the way for real learning, Mr. Penick told me.

My “bonus” tip addresses the difference between practicing on the course and keeping a real score. Don’t do both. A practice session is just that. On-course practice is hugely beneficial, and it’s best done by yourself, and at a casual pace. Playing three or four holes in an hour or so, taking time to hit real shots into and around the greens, will do more for your scoring skills than the same amount of range time.

So there you have my five practice tips. I’m sure I could come up with more, but then we always have more time, right?

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The Wedge Guy: Anyone can be a better wedge player by doing these simple things



As someone who has observed rank-and-file recreational golfers for most of my life – over 50 years of it, anyway – I have always been baffled by why so many mid- to high-handicap golfers throw away so many strokes in prime scoring range.

For this purpose, let’s define “prime scoring range” as the distance when you have something less than a full-swing wedge shot ahead of you. Depending on your strength profile, that could be as far as 70 to 80 yards or as close as 30 to 40 yards. But regardless of whether you are trying to break par or 100, your ability to get the ball on the green and close enough to the hole for a one-putt at least some of the time will likely be one of the biggest factors in determining your score for the day.

All too often, I observe golfers hit two or even three wedge shots from prime scoring range before they are on the green — and all too often I see short-range pitch shots leave the golfer with little to no chance of making the putt.

This makes no sense, as attaining a level of reasonable proficiency from short range is not a matter of strength profile at all. But it does take a commitment to learning how to make a repeating and reliable half-swing and doing that repeatedly and consistently absolutely requires you to learn the basic fundamentals of how the body has to move the club back and through the impact zone.

So, let’s get down to the basics to see if I can shed some light on these ultra-important scoring shots.

  • Your grip has to be correct. For the club to move back and through correctly, your grip on the club simply must be fundamentally sound. The club is held primarily in the last three fingers of the upper hand, and the middle two fingers of the lower hand. Period. The lower hand has to be “passive” to the upper hand, or the mini-swing will become a quick jab at the ball. For any shot, but particularly these short ones, that sound grip is essential for the club to move through impact properly and repeatedly.
  • Your posture has to be correct. This means your body is open to the target, feet closer together than even a three-quarter swing, and the ball positioned slightly back of center.
  • Your weight should be distributed about 70 percent on your lead foot and stay there through the mini-swing.
  • Your hands should be “low” in that your lead arm is hanging naturally from your shoulder, not extended out toward the ball and not too close to the body to allow a smooth turn away and through. Gripping down on the club is helpful, as it gets you “closer to your work.
  • This shot is hit with a good rotation of the body, not a “flip” or “jab” with the hands. Controlling these shots with your body core rotation and leading the swing with your body core and lead side will almost ensure proper contact. To hit crisp pitch shots, the hands have to lead the clubhead through impact.
  • A great drill for this is to grip your wedge with an alignment rod next to the grip and extending up past your torso. With this in place, you simply have to rotate your body core through the shot, as the rod will hit your lead side and prevent you from flipping the clubhead at the ball. It doesn’t take but a few practice swings with this drill to give you an “ah ha” moment about how wedge shots are played.
  • And finally, understand that YOU CANNOT HIT UP ON A GOLF BALL. The ball is sitting on the ground so the clubhead has to be moving down and through impact. I think one of the best ways to think of this is to remember this club is “a wedge.” So, your simple objective is to wedge the club between the ball and the ground. The loft of the wedge WILL make the ball go up, and the bounce of the sole of the wedge will prevent the club from digging.

So, why is mastering the simple pitch shot so important? Because my bet is that if you count up the strokes in your last round of golf, you’ll likely see that you left several shots out there by…

  • Either hitting another wedge shot or chip after having one of these mid-range pitch shots, or
  • You did not get the mid-range shot close enough to even have a chance at a makeable putt.

If you will spend even an hour on the range or course with that alignment rod and follow these tips, your scoring average will improve a ton, and getting better with these pitch shots will improve your overall ball striking as well.

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Clement: Don’t overlook this if you want to find the center of the face




It is just crazy how golfers are literally beside themselves when they are placed in a properly aligned set up! They feel they can’t swing or function! We take a dive into why this is and it has to do with how the eyes are set up in the human skull!

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