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Use caution when “Lofting Up”

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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 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]

65 Comments

65 Comments

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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
    beginning?

    • 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 golfwrx.com 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:
    231.8/96.0=2.41
    248.9/96.0=2.59

    In Example 2:
    260.2/106.2=2.45
    279.2/106.2=2.63

    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…..you 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

      Scott–

      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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Clement: This wrist position can add 30 yards to your drive

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Drop the mic on how the wrists should load and be positioned for compressive power, accuracy, and longevity! There is a better way, and this is it!

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Short Game University: How to hit wedges 301

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In golf, there is nothing harder than judging a flop shot over a bunker to a tight pin out of long grass. Why? Because there are so many variables to account for — in addition to what you can and cannot do with a wedge. In fact, up until very recently in the world of wedge design, we were limited to only increasing the landing angle to stop the ball, because relying on spin from this lie and this close to the green was next to impossible.

Now with the advent of things like raw faces, different CG locations, new groove design, and micro-ribs between the grooves, we can now spin the ball out of lies that we never could have done so before. This is not to say that you can now zip the ball back from these types of lies, but we are seeing spin rates that have skyrocketed, and this allows us to not open the face as much as we needed to do before in order to stop the ball.

Before we get into the shot around the green itself, let’s talk a bit about wedge design. For that, I called a great friend of mine, Greg Cesario, TaylorMade’s Staff Manager to help us understand a bit more about wedges. Greg was a former PGA Tour Player and had a big hand in designing the new Milled Grind 3 Wedges.

Cesario said: “Wedge technology centers on two key areas- the first is optimizing its overall launch/spin (just like drivers) on all shots and the second is optimum ground interaction through the geometry of the sole (bounce, sole width, and sole shape).”

“Two key things impact spin: Groove design and face texture. Spin is the secondary effect of friction. This friction essentially helps the ball stick to the face a little longer and reduces slippage. We define slippage as how much the ball slides up the face at impact. That happens more when it’s wet outside during those early morning tee times, out of thicker lies, or after a bit of weather hits. Our Raised Micro-Ribs increase friction and reduce slippage on short partial shots around the round – that’s particularly true in wet conditions.”

“We’ve been experimenting with ways to find optimal CG (center of gravity) placement and how new geometries can influence that. We know that CG locations can influence launch, trajectory and spin. Everyone is chasing the ability to produce lower launching and higher spinning wedge shots to help players increase precision distance control. In that space, moving CG just a few millimeters can have big results. Beyond that, we’re continuing to advance our spin and friction capabilities – aiming to reduce the decay of spin from dry to fluffy, or wet conditions.”

Basically, what Greg is saying is that without improvements in design, we would never be able to spin the ball like we would normally when it’s dry and the lie is perfect. So, with this new design in a wedge like the Milled Grind 3 (and others!), how can we make sure we have the optimal opportunity to hit these faster-stopping pitch shots?

  1. Make sure the face is clean and dry
  2. Open the blade slightly, but not too much
  3. Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the AoA
  4. Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

Make sure the face is clean and dry

If your thought is to use spin to stop the ball quicker under any situation, then you must give the club a chance to do its job. When the grooves are full of dirt and grass and the remaining exposed face is wet, then you are basically eliminating any opportunity to create spin. In fact, if you decide to hit the shot under these conditions, you might as well hit a flop shot as this would be the only opportunity to create a successful outcome. Don’t put yourself behind the eight-ball automatically, keep your club in a clean and dry condition so you have the best chance to do what you are capable of doing.

Open the blade slightly, but not too much

Without going into too much extra detail, spinloft is the difference between your angle of attack and your dynamic loft. And this difference is one of the main areas where you can maximize your spin output.

Too little or too much spinloft and you will not be able to get the maximum spin out of the shot at hand. With wedges, people equate an open clubface to spinning the ball, and this can be a problem due to excessive spinloft. Whenever you have too much dynamic loft, the ball will slide up the face (reduced friction equals reduced spin) and the ball will float out higher than expected and roll out upon landing.

My thought around the green is to open the face slightly, but not all the way, in efforts to reduce the probability of having too much spinloft during impact. Don’t forget under this scenario we are relying on additional spin to stop the ball. If you are using increased landing angle to stop the ball, then you would obviously not worry about increasing spinloft! Make sure you have these clear in your mind before you decide how much to open the blade.

Opened slightly

Opened too much

One final note: Please make sure you understand what bounce option you need for the type of conditions you normally play. Your professional can help you but I would say that more bounce is better than less bounce for the average player. You can find the bounce listed on the wedge itself. It will range between 4-14, with the mid-range bounce being around 10 degrees.

Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the angle of attack

As we know, when debris gets in between the clubface and the ball (such as dirt/grass), you will have two problems. One, you will not be able to control the ball as much. Secondly, you will not be able to spin the ball as much due to the loss of friction.

So, what is the key to counteract this problem? Increasing the angle of attack by setting the wrists quicker on the backswing. Making your downswing look more like a V rather than a U allows less junk to get between the club and the ball. We are not using the bounce on this type of shot, we are using the leading edge to slice through the rough en route to the ball. Coming in too shallow is a huge problem with this shot, because you will tend to hit it high on the face reducing control.

Use your increased AoA on all of your crappy lies, and you will have a much better chance to get up and down more often!

Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

The final piece of the puzzle through the ball is speed through the pivot. You cannot hit shots around the green out of tall grass without keeping the club moving and having speed. A reduction of speed is obvious as the club enters into the tall grass, but you don’t want to exacerbate this problem by cutting off your pivot and letting the arms do all the work.

Sure, there are times when you want to cut off the body rotation through the ball, but not on the shot I am discussing here. When we are using spin, you must have speed to generate the spin itself. So, what is the key to maintaining your speed? Keeping the rear shoulder rotating long into the forward swing. If you do this, you will find that your arms, hands, and club will be pulled through the impact zone. If your pivot stalls, then your speed will decrease and your shots will suffer.

Hopefully, by now you understand how to create better shots around the green using the new wedge technology to create more spin with lies that we had no chance to do so before. Remembering these simple tips — coupled with your clean and dry wedge — will give you the best opportunity to be Tiger-like around the greens!

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An awesome drill for lag that works with the ball!

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Many lag drills have come and gone in this game because they have a hard time working when the ball is there! How many times do you hear about someone having a great practice swing and then having it all go away when the ball is there? This one is a keeper!

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