Proper loft fitting involves more than just the loft of the driver. Since loft is the main factor of shot distance, trajectory and backspin for each club in the bag, the clubfitter has to consider several factors for each golfer when making the recommendation for the best lofts for each club.
Factors for determining loft
Key to this is the right set makeup for each golfer. As such the most important golfer inputs that are used to help determine the best initial lofts prior to hit testing are shown above.
The following is an overview of the key points in loft determination for the driver, woods, hybrids and irons.
[quote_box_center]The higher the clubhead speed and the more upward the angle of attack, the lower the driver loft should be for optimal tee shot performance.
The lower the clubhead speed and the more downward the angle of attack, the higher the driver loft should be for optimal tee shot performance.[/quote_box_center]
Launch angle is the No. 1 most important launch monitor parameter to observe and react to in determining the golfer’s best driver loft. Spin outputs come a distant second behind visual observation of the ball flight and the golfer’s clubhead speed. The higher the clubhead speed, the more possibility there may be for a spin issue to be considered in the fitting of the loft. But never should the spin output of the launch monitor trump the importance of the observation of the ball flight shape.
Too many golfers focus too much on the backspin measurement for the driver on a launch monitor – ball flight shape tells you more about driver backspin fitting than a launch monitor.
Learn what a driver shot hit with too much backspin looks like. Achieving the best launch angle and ball flight shape is more important than achieving the best backspin measurement.
Loft is the No. 1 way to change backspin and launch angle. The shaft will change spin and launch angle for golfers with later-to-releases, but only SLIGHTLY. The only way the shaft can reduce backspin for a golfer with an actual high spin problem is if the new shaft is stiffer overall and or stiffer in the tip section than the golfer’s current shaft. It is NEVER wise to increase stiffness in a shaft beyond what is the golfer’s proper flex and bend profile as the way to try to reduce the spin.
When the golfer does actually have a problem of too much backspin with the driver — one that is verified with a visual analysis of the ball flight shape — 98 percent of the time it is a problem that has to be resolved by a swing change and not from an equipment change.
Knowing the lowest fairway wood loft and lowest iron loft that the golfer can hit consistently well up in the air to achieve proper carry distance is the key for choosing:
- The golfer’s first fairway wood after the driver.
- The number of hybrids or high-lofted fairway woods a golfer needs.
- The first iron in a golfer’s set.
This is why proper loft fitting also involves deciding what the golfer’s best set makeup will be at the same time.
If you doubt the golfer’s own evaluation of the lowest loft wood and iron they hit consistently well, always recommend more loft for the first fairway wood after the driver and one more hybrid or high-lofted fairway wood before starting the iron set makeup.
The current lofts of the golfer’s irons play a role in iron loft fitting because no golfer wants a new set of irons that he hits shorter in distance per each number. There is nothing wrong with very low lofts in an iron set as long as the correct judgment is made for the golfer’s set makeup recommendation. For example, the stronger the lofts in the irons, the more hybrids or high-lofted woods there would be and the higher the number of the first iron.
Much lower-lofted iron sets may require a change in the set makeup such that the golfer’s first iron may need to be a 6 iron or even a 7 iron. Never fit a golfer with a loft that he/she cannot hit well up in the air to fly with reasonable consistency.
Loft gaps between clubs should be greater as the golfer’s clubhead speed is slower
- 4-degree gaps: 5 iron swing speed of 80 mph or more
- 5-degree gaps: 5 iron swing speed of 65-to-75 mph
- 6-degree gaps: 5 iron swing speed under 65 mph
Nine times out of 10, when a golfer hits the ball VERY high the reason is a swing error in which the golfer is releasing the club in a way that allows the clubhead to pass the hands before impact and thus adds dynamic loft to the clubhead to result in the very high flight. In such cases, lower loft(s) will only help a little. The remedy to bring the ball down to a reasonable height will almost always be lessons to correct the impact position error.
Clubhead center of gravity (CG) can help more with loft fitting to achieve a little bit better trajectory for proper carry distance in the fairway woods first, hybrids second and irons last. But the effect of CG on shot height is ALWAYS proportional to the golfer’s club head speed and angle of attack.
[quote_box_center]The higher the clubhead speed, the more the CG can visibly affect the trajectory of a given loft angle and vice versa.
The more downward the angle of attack, the less the CG can visibly assist the trajectory from a given loft angle.[/quote_box_center]
In other words, the slower the clubhead speed and more downward the angle of attack, the less the CG has any effect on shot height and the more that loft becomes the only factor to improve shot height and with it, proper carry distance for optimizing distance.
- What length should your clubs be?
- What lofts should your clubs be?
- Face angle is crucial for a proper fitting
- The best way to fit lie angle
- How to choose the right club head design
- Tom Wishon’s keys to set makeup
- Getting the right size grip, time after time
- What shaft weight should you play?
- What swing weight should your clubs be?
- What shaft flex should I use?
This story is part of a 10-part series from Tom Wishon on professional club fitting.
Best irons of 2021 Part 1 on GolfWRX Radio
What are the best irons of 2021? GolfWRX Staffers Brian Knudson and Ryan Barath break down the 2021 Best Irons lists that were published this week.
The Wedge Guy: Playing your best
No matter what our experience, ability and handicap, all of us golfers have one thing in common–we want to play the best we can every time we tee it up. But unfortunately, that is not always the case. Having a bad day on the course is just part of the game, it seems, regardless of your skill level. But there are things we can do to make that happen less often, and other ways to get back on track when a round begins to go awry.
Let’s start with giving ourselves the best chance of a good round every time.
Setting up a good round
It all starts on your drive to the course, or even when you are getting dressed to go play. Think about good shots you’ve been hitting recently, and good swings you’ve made. Picture drives that were long and straight, iron shots that just hunted the flag, recovery shots that saved par and putts that dropped. I know it’s a cliché, but there really is no substitute for positive thoughts when it comes to golf.
When you get to the course, whether you change shoes in the parking lot or the locker room, S-L-O-W….D-O-W-N. Savor the fact that you have a round of golf in front of you —not work, not yard or house chores. It is time for F-U-N!
Give yourself a chance to perform your best golf right from the first tee
If it’s worth taking a few hours out of your day, it’s darn sure worth taking an extra 10-15 minutes to give yourself a chance. Stretch your legs and back/shoulder muscles that have shortened up from a few days or a week at the office and/or even a few hours of sleep. This is crucial to performing your best. Take a dozen or two back and forth horizontal swings with your sand wedge to get the blood flowing. These aren’t “practice swings” but more like baseball swings to further stretch out your shoulders and back and upper arms and get the feel of the club in your hands.
And for Pete’s sake, hit at least a dozen or so shots before you go to the first tee. At least a few chips and/or pitches and some putts. You have to get the feel of impact refreshed to have a chance.
Getting the derailed train back on track
We all are going to hit bad shots, no matter what kind of game you have, but what wrecks a round is when you get it going sideways for more than one hole. When that happens, the round can still be saved, but the key is to remove the stress caused by the bad shots or holes and build on something you can believe in. It is normal to find yourself tightening up as a result of a bad hole or two, so take an extra minute to “step outside”. Walk away from your group (since you are probably last to hit now anyway), and take some deep breaths. Get your tension down and get positive thoughts back into your head. Take some practice swings with those positive thoughts back in mind.
Here are what I find to be four keys to getting the train back on track
Reach for the 3-wood. If you have hit a couple of bad drives, drop back to the 3-wood, and get one in the fairway. It won’t be all that much shorter than your driver, and it will build some confidence. If the driver is the problem, in fact, bench it for the rest of the round.
Play to the “safe” side. If your iron shots are not sharp, play to the safe side of the greens and give yourself a chance to avoid the big number and put a par or two on the card. When you get your “mojo” back, you can fire at the flags again.
Play the fault. If you are blocking shots right, or a hook has raised its ugly head, play it! That is, if you can’t find the fault and fix it quickly. The range is the place to fix things, the course is for scoring. Unless you can find the fix quickly, just “dance with who brung you.”
Loosen up. A few bad shots will cause us to build body tension, and the first place that manifests is in our grip pressure. You cannot hold a golf club lightly enough, in my opinion–your body won’t let you. But you sure can get into a death grip quickly when the tension mounts. Run a mental check on your grip pressure and lighten up, particularly in the right thumb and forefingers. It will change things immediately.
So, there are my thoughts on playing your best. I’ll bet the readers have their own suggestions, too, so let’s all share our ideas, OK? This should be fun and informative for all of us.
And as always, if you have a topic you would like me to address in a future column, just shoot me an email to [email protected].
Club Junkie: Rapsodo MLM Personal Launch Monitor, Srixon XV balls, TaylorMade SIM2 Max 3-wood
I have been using a Rapsodo MLM for most of the year to track my practice and give me some numbers on my range sessions. The MLM is great for tracking your bag, distances, dispersion, and ball speed. Use it indoors into a net or on the range; the MLM has so many features. New Srixon XV golf balls are softer and more playable for the golfer who doesn’t need super low spin.
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