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4 signs you need more loft on your driver

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There’s a old joke in the golf industry about golfers who need drivers with more loft. They are said to have a “Lack of (freaking) talent.”

That may have been true long ago, but what we’ve learned in recent years from new technologies such as Trackman is that certain players, regardless of their ability level, can improve their games with higher-lofted metal woods. That’s because golf equipment designers have learned how to make metal woods with variable center of gravity (CG) locations, which has a huge effect on ball flight. For example, one company’s 10.5-degree driver can actually create less spin than another company’s 8.5-degree driver.

Most golfers play drivers with too little loft, and for that reason I recommend they visit a reputable custom club fitter so they can learn what’s best for their game. If they can’t do that, I encourage them to at least test clubs with more loft than they think they need.

But before I convince you that your driver doesn’t have enough loft, let’s go through the 4 signs that you need more loft on your driver, which I’ll explain in more detail below.

They are:

  1. Your course conditions are soft.
  2. You have shot dispersion problems.
  3. You have a swing pattern that requires more loft.
  4. You have a forward CG driver.

No. 1: Your course conditions are soft

Take a moment to think about the course you usually play. Are the fairways hard, medium or soft? And do the course conditions change as the seasons change?

Below is a Trackman screenshot of the shot pattern I tend to see from amateurs regardless of the course conditions they play. They hit low, flat drives that rely on roll to achieve the overall distance they desire, often because they do not have enough loft on their driver.

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 10.30.46 AM

While this type of trajectory is not optimal, it can work, buy ONLY when the fairways are firm and fast. If you hit this type of shot on a soft fairway, you will find that even a very flat landing angle of 22.7 degrees won’t create enough roll for the trajectory to be effective.

When conditions are soft, golfers must carry the ball as far as they can — regardless of its landing angle — to achieve maximum distance. The shot pattern below with a higher apex height will help golfers optimize carry when conditions are soft. And the easiest way to achieve these more optimal launch conditions is to use a driver with more loft.

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 10.46.33 AM

As you can see, the higher launch angle (+3.2 degrees) and spin rate (+356 rpm) created a shot that carried 26.1 yards farther despite a small loss in ball speed (-2.1 mph). Wouldn’t you like to hit one, two or even three less clubs into every hole? That would make golf easier, wouldn’t it?

No. 2: You have shot dispersion problems

Do you have a tendency to hit the ball all over the golf course with your driver? If you do, you may not know that the curvature of your golf ball is greatly influenced by the loft of your driver itself. Think about how easy it is to curve the ball with your 5 iron and how hard it is to really curve — not push or pull — a high-lofted wedge.

Golfers who understand launch monitor terminology know that the more narrow the gap between their Angle of Attack and Dynamic Loft (called Spin Loft), the more something called the D-Plane will tilt. The more the D-Plane tilts, the more they will curve the golf ball. What this means is that loft is your friend if you struggle with too much shot curvature. And while more loft might not create the most overall distance, it will help you hit drives closer to the fairway when you are struggling off the tee.

Curvature (with center impact) is created when the face angle and club path are moving in different directions. For every additional degree difference in the face-to-path ratio, the spin axis of the ball will tilt more left or right. Further, the less spin loft you have, the more the spin axis will tilt with each additional degree of face-to-path ratio. This is shown in the chart below.

  • 10-degree Spin Loft: 5.7-degree Spin Axis
  • 20-degree Spin Loft: 2.9-degree Spin Axis
  • 30-degree Spin Loft: 2.0-degree Spin Axis
  • 40-degree Spin Loft: 1.5-degree Spin Axis

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 11.00.15 AM

In this example above, you see a face-to-path difference of 6.8 degrees, which makes the ball curve to the right. That’s a pretty big gap, but because of this shot’s 30.2-degree Spin Loft it created a shot with a manageable amount of curve. If this shot’s Spin Loft was lower, however, the ball would curve more to the right with the same face-to-path relationship.

To add more Spin Loft, simply use a higher-lofted club. So if you are hitting the ball sideways, a higher-lofted club will most likely help you will find more fairways.

No. 3: Your swing pattern requires more loft

There are many swing patterns that make it prudent for golfers to use a driver with more loft. A new club probably won’t fix a faulty swing pattern, but it will make your bad shots much better than they otherwise would have been.

Here are a few examples swing patterns that are helped by higher-lofted drivers, which are written in terms that right-handed golfers will understand. If you’re left handed, simply reverse the terms.

Pull Hooks: Whenever golfers hit shots that start left of their target and move farther left, they have a club face that is pointed to the left of the target at impact. Usually, the club path is also pointed left of the target, but not as far left as the club face. This combination tends to reduce the club’s static loft at impact and will create low, flat shots that will not carry as far as they should. Therefore, these types of golfers should add loft to their driver so they can maximize carry on their bad shots. And remember, the added loft will also help minimize curvature, keeping the ball in play more often.

Shut Club Face During the Swing: If your club face tends to be shut throughout the golf swing, you will also have a tendency to hit balls that begin left of the target. Shut club faces also tend to reduce Dynamic Loft and Spin Loft, causing shots to fly low and curve offline more than normal. Like pull hooks, adding loft to your driver will help mitigate these symptoms.

Lack of Overall Clubhead Speed: Golfers with slow club head speeds most often hit shots that fly too flat and low to the ground, substantially reducing carry distance — especially when they don’t have enough loft on their clubs. So if the conditions are not optimal for roll, then these types of golfers will hit the ball shorter than they should. Adding loft to your driver for these types of golfers is like lifting your garden hose higher when you’re watering your grass. A little extra lift, or loft, makes the job much easier. Too much, however, can make your shots fly even shorter. For these golfers in particular, it’s important to have your clubs fit by a professional to make sure that you’re maximizing the distance potential of your limited club head speed.

Lower-than-Normal Ball Flight: Just like the garden hose example. If you have a lower-than-normal ball flight you need more loft to increase your launch angle so you can carry the ball further.

Overly Steep Angle of Attack: When golfers hit down on a driver too much, they tend to de-loft the club as well. When this happens, the dynamic loft of the driver is too low for their ball speed, so they need to add loft so they can maximize their carry distance.

An exception to this rule is when golfers hit the ball low on the face with above average club head speed, as the added loft will cause the ball to spin too much and the ball flight will be too high. Most better players who hit down on their drivers tend to contact their drives on the upper portion of the face, however, increasing the need for loft because of something called Gear Effect. If you do this, you’re in good company. Dustin Johnson, arguably the best driver of the golf ball in professional golf, has a downward attack angle and a high contact point that requires more loft.

No. 4: You have a forward CG driver

When buying a new driver, golfers must be careful to select the correct CG location for their swing and tendencies.

Let’s take two of today’s most popular drivers: TaylorMade’s R15 and Ping’s G30. Both are fantastic clubs that have been used by the best players in the world to win on the PGA Tour, but they have very different CG locations.

The R15 has one of the most forward CG locations (closer to the face), while the G30 has a CG that is located much farther back from the face. For this reason, the R15 tends to spin less than the G30 with all things being equal. Thus, golfers can get away with using less loft on a rear-CG driver such as the G30 than they can with a forward CG driver like the R15.

If you think about the benefits of each design, you can see why different players use drivers with different CG locations. Loft for loft, the G30 will tend to launch higher, spin more, and have more forgiveness. When properly fit, it is common to see the R15 driver help golfers create more optimal launch conditions — a higher launch and less spin — but its forward-CG design lowers the forgiveness of the club on off-center hits.

It should be noted that both TaylorMade (Aeroburner) and Ping (G30LS Tec) make drivers with more rearward and more forward CG designs, respectively, in an effort to fit a wider range of golfers.

If forgiveness and consistency is what you want, rear-CG drives like the G30 and AeroBurner will help golfers gain more control and distance from their mishits. Those types of designs also make it ok to play slightly less loft than golfers may expect. If you’re looking to maximize distance on your best hits, however, the R15 and G30LS Tec are better options, as they can create more optimal launch conditions. You’ll want to use slightly more loft than you would expect, however.

That being said, error on the side of having too much loft if you identify with any of these 4 signs, as you now understand the benefits.

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Tom F. Stickney II, is 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 [email protected] and he welcomes any questions you may have.

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. geohogan

    Jul 13, 2022 at 10:54 am

    Complicating the issue is the wide tolerance in actual driver loft
    +/-1 degree means a driver marked 9 degree could be actually 8 degree or ass high as 10 degree. Best to check actual loft of each driver.. dont accept the loft stamp as true.

  2. humberto montero

    Feb 3, 2020 at 5:41 pm

    Hi Tom,

    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.

    I’m interest in start playing golf. I was wondering if height plays a role in order to buy a driver. I’m 6’2″ – 6’3″.

    Best,
    HM

  3. myron miller

    Aug 26, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    I just don’t understand some of the comments versus my swing. He says if your a senior you generally need more loft and need to hit the ball higher. I’ve found thru extensive launch monitor testing and personal testing on the course, that if I go with a higher launch angle, I generally hit the ball shorter. My good swings might get up to 80 mph if I’m lucky. I took identical taylor made r25s and one was a 10.5 degree and the other was 9.5. Consistently I get about 10-15 yards further with the 9.5 than I do with the 10.5. Tried a 12 degree SLDR and never had a launch angle over 9 degrees.

    My best launch angle for distance (carry) is about 11-12 degrees. getting to 14-15 yields about 15-20 yards less (160-170 with higher angle versus 180-200 with lower launch. And I can easily measure the carry distance as I play in florida where lots of the courses have zero roll. Ball leaves divot and backs up in the fairway. And I found that the best overall distance was with a high draw/hook.

    I do tend to have a positive AofA though as I don’t hit down but slightly up on the ball (2-4 degrees usually).

    So I’d say I fit the conditions for higher lofted clubs except that they don’t work at all for me. As the saying goes, been there, bought the tee shirt and it didn’t fit. I’d love to have 15020 more yards but don’t see how yet. My old optimized r-425 taylor made with aldila dvs-60 shaft still seems to be the best. New tech just doesn’t provide more carry or roll.

    ANd I certainly don’t believe several launch monitors on what they say about roll. How many people play where they get 40-70 yards of roll or more. 20-30 is what most people get at the courses I play (and that’s for the bigger hitters, often its less than 20 down to minus yardage.).

  4. Mac n Cheese

    Aug 26, 2015 at 8:03 am

    I like this, but not the first point. I play on 4 different courses so if I went off of number 1 I would need 4 drivers to rotate between. I find that carry distance is what you should be concerned with most when it comes to a driver, not roll. Roll to me is dependent upon the course, like you mentioned, but carry is not. For players who play more than 1 course, getting a driver that fits that course is a bad idea. Also the time of day makes a difference as well. However; carry is completely independent of the course you play and if you maximize your carry distance with an appropriate loft of driver, there is no harm to your game, and the faster rolls will give you more distance than slow rolls, but at least your carry is max!

  5. Mike

    Aug 22, 2015 at 10:45 am

    Tom, I agree with certain points of your article but I just would like to ask a question. For the two different charts of trackman data in #1 did you have the person hit two different drivers or the same?

  6. ph00ny

    Aug 21, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    Wouldn’t someone like me who hits the ball extremely high need lower loft on softer condition? I recently played in a relatively long course and struggled with fairway being soft. My drives would land on fairway and create a huge divot and bounce back a pace or two. It was pretty frustrating.

    I thought about getting a new driver setup with lower spin and lower ball flight. I want to see some rolls on tee shots!!!

  7. Doug Lounsbury

    Aug 21, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    Tom, according to data found on another reputable site your comparison of the Aeroburner and R-15 is incorrect. The Aeroburner CG is higher and further forward than the R15 giving is slightly lower MOI and less forgiveness. Both the R15 and Aeroburner have CG’s further back than the SLDR.

  8. Steve

    Aug 21, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    What the article doesnt state is location. I lived in the northeast where high bombs were untouched by wind and that was the play for me throughout the bag. Now i live in south Florida where it blows 25 mph and high bombs are a death sentence. Need a more peircing flight

  9. Bob

    Aug 21, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    And that is the reason for more actual loft on every driver then what is stamped or stated on the sole of the club.

  10. Old Tom

    Aug 21, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    I agree in principle with everything outlined in this article except the, “shot pattern below with a higher apex height will help golfers optimize carry when conditions are soft. And the easiest way to achieve these more optimal launch conditions is to use a driver with more loft.”
    You do make reference to the positive attack angle between the two Trackman photos, but you don’t give it enough emphasis. The swing change, not the static driver loft angle is what dramatically changed the carry distance here. There is an overall change of 5 degrees from negative to positive attack angle that changes the dynamic launch of the driver. This has zero do do with the static driver launch. Bottom line, if you want more carry, you should always first start with understanding your driver attack angle and optimize that number first. If you’re swinging sub 100mph, you need a positive attack angle or you will constantly be compensating with spin, shaft, and loft. Find that swing change first before buying a new driver.

    • Bacon

      Aug 21, 2015 at 2:55 pm

      I noticed the same thing. -1.0 vs. +4.0 AoA is a big change when you’re insinuating that a driver with more loft produced those results.

      • KK

        Aug 22, 2015 at 7:57 am

        Word.

        • Mike

          Aug 22, 2015 at 10:49 am

          However the guy is less efficient when he tries to hit up on the driver this much case in point his smash drops from 1.49 to 1.44. A change in loft of the head shaft etc might make him hit it more efficiently, ultimately leading to more distance.

          • Old Tom

            Aug 24, 2015 at 12:31 pm

            I’m not an expert, but a student of the game with a growing understanding of trackman data. I’m guessing this ball was hit middle toe, and slightly impacted by gear effect. Hence lowering the smash factor and increasing the spin (should be less when hit 4 up and center face). No doubt, if this player stays with this new swing, they will eventually need a new driver, or more reasonably changes to their existing adjustable one.

  11. Gubment Cheeze

    Aug 21, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Just another way to say get fit

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Kelley: How to easily find your ideal impact position

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If you look at any sport, the greats seem to do more with less. Whether it be a swimmer gliding through the water or a quarterback throwing a pass, they make it look it easy and effortless.

In golf, there are a variety of distinct swing patterns to get into a dynamic impact position. I believe in efficiency to find that impact position for effortless power and center contact. Efficiency is defined as “the ability to produce something with a minimum amount of effort.” This can easily apply to the golf swing.

It all starts with the address position. The closer we can set up to an impact position, the less we have to do to get back there. Think of it like throwing a ball. If your body is already in a throwing position, you can simply make the throw without repositioning your body for accuracy. This throwing motion is also similar to an efficient direction of turn in the golf swing.

Once you set up to the ball with your impact angles, if you retain your angles in the backswing, the downswing is just a more leveraged or dynamic version of your backswing. If you can take the club back correctly, the takeaway at hip-high level will mirror that position in the downswing (the desired pre-impact position). In the picture below, the body has become slightly more dynamic in the downswing due to speed, but the body levels have not changed from the takeaway position.

This stays true for halfway back in the backswing and halfway down in the downswing. Note how the body has never had to reposition or “recover” to find impact.

At the top of the swing, you will notice how the body has coiled around its original spine angle. There was no left-side bend or “titling” of the body. All the original address position angles were retained. From this position, the arms can simply return back down with speed, pulling the body through.

The key to an efficient swing lies in the setup. Luckily for players working on their swing, this is the easiest part to work on and control. If you can learn to start in an efficient position, all you need to do is hold the angles you started with. This is a simple and effective way to swing the golf club.

www.kelleygolf.com

Twitter: KKelley_golf

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Wedge Guy: Short iron challenges — and a little insight (hopefully!)

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In my experience, almost all golfers could benefit from better short iron play. The ability to hit it closer to where you are looking with your 8-, 9- and P-irons will do more for your scoring than most anything else you can do. So, why is it that so many golfers just don’t hit the quality shots with these clubs that they do and should expect?

I chose this topic in response to an email from Phillip S., who wrote:

“I’m hitting straight and consistent most of the time but I’ve got a big problem between my 8-iron and everything else below.  I can hit my 8-iron 140-145 fairly consistently every time.  I hit my 9-iron somewhere between 110-135.  My pitching wedge is a mystery….it varies between 85 -125 yards.  No matter how “hard” I swing, I can’t seem to hit my short irons consistent distances.  It’s maddening to hit a great drive followed by a pitching wedge short of the green from 110 yards away.  What am I doing wrong?

Well, Phillip, don’t feel alone, because this is one of the most common golf issues I observe. It seems that the lion’s share of technology applied to golf clubs is focused on the long stuff, with drivers and hybrids getting the press. But I firmly believe that the short irons in nearly all “game improvement” designs are ill-suited for precise distance control, hitting shots on the optimum trajectory or knocking flags down. I’ve written about this a number of times, so a little trip back in Wedge Guy history should be enlightening. But here are some facts of golf club performance as applied to short iron play:

Fact #1. Short irons are much more similar to wedges than your middle irons. But almost all iron sets feature a consistent back design for cosmetic appeal on the store racks. And while that deep cavity and perimeter weight distribution certainly help you hit higher and more consistent shots with your 3- or 4- through 7-iron, as the loft gets in the 40-degree range and higher, that weight distribution is not your friend. Regardless of your skill level, short irons should be designed much more similar to wedges than to your middle irons.

Fact #2. As loft increases, perimeter weighting is less effective. Missed shots off of higher lofted clubs have less directional deviation than off of lower-lofted clubs. This is proven time and again on “Iron Byron” robotic testers.

Fact #3. It takes mass behind the ball to deliver consistent distances. Even on dead center hits, cavity back, thin-face irons do not deliver tack-driver distance control like a blade design. In my post of a couple of years ago, “The Round Club Mindset,” I urged readers to borrow blade-style short irons from a friend or assistant pro and watch the difference in trajectories and shotmaking. Do it! You will be surprised, enlightened, and most likely pleased with the results.

Fact #4. The 4.5-degree difference between irons is part of the problem. The industry has built irons around this formula forever, but every golfer who knows his distances can tell you that the full swing distance gap gets larger as the iron number increases, i.e. your gap between your 8- and 9-iron is probably larger than that between your 4- and 5-iron. Could there be some club tweaking called for here?

Fact #5. Your irons do not have to “match.” If you find through experimentation that you get better results with the blade style short irons, get some and have your whole set re-shafted to match, along with lengths and lie angles. These are the keys to true “matching” anyway.

So, Phillip, without knowing your swing or what brand of irons you play, I’m betting that the solution to your problems lies in these facts. Oh, and one more thing – regardless of short iron design, the harder you swing, the higher and shorter the shot will tend to go. That’s because it becomes harder and harder to stay ahead of the club through impact. Keep short iron shots at 80-85 percent power, lead with your left side and watch everything improve.

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Clement: Easily find your perfect backswing plane with this drill

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When you get on one of these, magic will happen! You can’t come too far inside or outside in the backswing, and you can’t have arms too deep or shallow at the top of the backswing nor can you be too laid off or across the line either! SEAMLESS!!

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