Driver Launch Angle = Distance
Players make three significant errors in swinging the golf club when it comes to hitting the golf ball long.
1. They use a Driver which has insufficient loft for their club head speed.
2. They use a Driver which is too long for them to consistently make contact with the sweet spot of the club.
3. They have a descending angle of attack which creates a low launch angle and too much backspin.
Watch this video of a golfer who has plenty of club speed but a poor angle of attack which costs him distance.
I'd suggest you see a PGA professional to get help with your swing to improve your angle of attack. In the meantime, you can get a Driver which has more loft so that you can get a higher launch angle and more distance; and a Driver which is not too long so you can make solid contact more often.
Optimum Golf Club Driver Loft
The optimum loft of the Driver depends on your club head speed and your angle of descent/ascent (whether the club is travelling downwards or upwards at impact). As I said earlier, see your PGA Professional for some lessons to improve your swing so that you can get close to a zero angle of attack.
Now, even the best players in the world have negative angles of attack. The average on the PGA Tour is -1 degree.
So let's assume you've made some changes to your swing so that your angle of attack is close to zero. The distance a golf ball flies depends (given that atmospheric conditions are the same) on the speed of the ball, the launch angle of the ball and the amount of backspin.
Below is an image of a Driver approaching the ball with a descending angle. The ball direction (launch angle) depends on the loft of the club and the club direction. To acheive maximum distance, one needs the combination of maximum ball speed and optiumum launch angle for that speed. The greater the loft of the club, however, the less will be the ball speed (higher loft = more glancing blow).
In terms of the physics of the trajectory of a golf ball, at a given ball speed, there is a optimum launch angle that produces maximum range. Below is a graph of the trajectories of balls hit at different launch angles by a golfer whose swing speed is 80 mph, assuming the same ball speed. I used my golf ball trajectory model that accurately models the flight of the golf ball. See the Trackman Golf Radar Data page for confirmation.
Note that increased launch angle equates to increased carry distance up to a maximum carry of about 192 yards. This is achieved with a launch angle of 31 degrees. At greater launch angles, the carry distance decreases. A 41 degree launch, as shown, provides a carry of about 179 yards, just less than the 19 degree launch.
In order for a golfer with a swing speed of 80 mph to produce a launch angle of 31 degrees and still produce maximum ball speed, the attack angle would need to be on the order of +20 degrees with a 10 degree driver (not physically possible).
Swinging with a 30 degree lofted driver would be similar to swinging with a 6-iron except with a longer shaft. The collision between the club face and ball is a glancing blow which produces less ball speed, more backspin and less distance (this is the main reason why a 6-iron flies much less far than a Driver: difference in loft).
So, as the Driver loft increases, ball speed decreases and the launch angle increases. It's the optimum combination of ball speed with launch angle that produces the greatest carry.
Below is a graph of balls hit by an 80 mph swing speed with different loft Drivers (note Driver Loft does not equal launch angle).
Note that the maximum carry is about 167 yards for a Driver loft of 19 degrees which is the loft of a 2-iron and 5-wood. In terms of maximizing carry distance, the 80 mph swinger should be hitting a 5-wood off the tee, although they would then not benefit from the much larger club face area and forgiveness.
Note that there is not a big difference in carry distance between the 16, 19 and 22 degree loft Drivers. The 19 would be more preferable than the 16 because a more lofted Driver will not slice as much.
Given that the above distances are carry distances, what about the added roll one gets? If the fairways are soft and lush, there will be little roll and thus a 19 degree club would be the choice off the tee. If the fairways are firm, however, a lower lofted club wil produce a lower trajectory. Even though there would be less carry, there would be more roll and thus more total distance.
I have produced a spreadsheet which uses my golf ball trajectory model for the purpose of identifying the optimum loft of a Driver for various swing speeds for both carry distance only as well as total distance (carry + roll). Click on the link below to try it out. If you like it, you can purchase the spreadsheet.
What you'll find is that higher club head speeds require lower loft Drivers for maximum distance.
Optimum Golf Club Driver Length
There is very little difference between a 45 inch long Driver (standard) and a 47 inch Driver in terms of club head speed. The extra 2 inches (4.4% more length) does not yield more speed, In fact for most golfers, the speed will be less because it's more difficult to have proper timing.
One of the longest hitters on tour, Bubba Watson feels this way as well:
"Twice I've been offered a spot in the Re/Max World Long Drive Championship, and both times I turned it down. It was nice to be invited, but I thought altering my swing specifically to get more distance for that one event might wreck my game. But I did toy with the idea, and even had Ping build me a driver with 5.5 degrees of loft and an extra-long, 48-inch shaft. The longer shaft, which many people assume is an automatic trick to generating more clubhead speed, didn't work at all. It threw my timing off, and I didn't hit the ball much farther even when I nailed it. I did much better with my standard 44½-inch driver, simply swinging a little harder."
A shorter shaft (40 to 43 inches), for most golfers, will yield higher club head speeds because they are easier to swing (get the timing right). And, because the ball is closer to the golfer, it's easier to hit the sweet spot on the face.
Below are images of the inconsistency of ball impact with the club face for Low Handicap golfers and Mid to High Handicap golfers. Note the greater inconsistency with higher handicap golfers.
Low Handicap Golfers
Mid to High Handicap Golfers
What happens when contact is made away form the sweet spot? .... Less distance.
Even low handicap golfers have a large portion of their hits towards the toe or heel. And, there is also significant loss in distance if the contact is low or high.
So, to maximize your distance off the tee, you need to play with a short shaft Driver. You'll make better contact and likely have greater club head speed as well. As Bubba Watson says,
"Tiger Woods at his longest used a relatively short 43½-inch driver, with a steel shaft to boot. You'll find it easier to hit the sweet spot with a shorter shaft, and you can go after tee shots without losing much control. "
Hot Stix did a study a few years ago using a Robot to determine the effects of hitting high and low off the club face. Here is what they found.
Notice that above center hits yield greater distance. This is because the center of the club face on large Drivers is not the sweet spot. The sweet spot on the new, large Drivers is high on the club face, thus you want to make sure you tee your ball higher.
You can easily take your current Driver into the Pro Shop and get them to cut it down a little. It'll change the swing weight (and thus the feel) a little but they can add a little lead tape to the sole of the club head and it's feel exactly the same.
Or, as an experiment, you can simply choke down on your current Driver an inch or two. It'll change the swing weight a touch. If you find it improves your ball striking, then you can get your shaft cut down or just leave it the same and continue to choke down on the club.
Given that you manage a golf course at a significant elevation, just think of the advantages of offering your players this tool which takes the guess work out club selection. What do you currently tell your visiting golfers about how much more club to hit? ½ a club? 1 club? More?
After 16 years of researching golf ball trajectories, I’ve developed an accurate computer model that predicts golf ball distances and trajectories hit with different clubs. I use it in my errant golf ball analysis work which involves recommendations to golf courses and driving ranges about containment net heights. I’ve also been involved in numerous litigations involving golf ball damage.
The elevation tool consists of a spreadsheet where one enters the ranges of the golfer’s different clubs along with temperature and elevation of the home course as well as the new course (which might be yours). The information could be entered by an employee in the pro shop and printed out for the customer. Or, the tool could be sent to the customer via email for them to do themselves.
The spreadsheet can be uniquely branded with your own photographs, advertisements and logos. What a great way of introducing new players to your course!
The spreadsheet is being offered to golf courses for unlimited use with their members and/or guests. The annual fee is $199 US. The cost per member is extremely low. With a 500 member club, the cost is 40 cents each. For a golf course with mainly green fee players, the cost is even less. Consider a course which has a yearly play of 20 000 rounds. The cost of the elevation tool would be only 1 cent per round.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. Below is a screenshot of the spreadsheet. Below it is some interesting facts about hitting golf shots at different elevations.
Return to home page: www.probablegolfinstruction.com
Individuals can order their copies by clicking here:
for only $39.99
If you are a golf course, you can order your site license, by clicking here:for only $199.95
Facts about golf ball flights at higher elevations.
1. Air is less dense at higher elevations.
2. Since air density is less, there is less air drag on a golf ball and less air lift.
3. Flight time for golf balls is less. Golf balls don't fly as high.
4. High lofted clubs (i.e. short irons) will have the greatest difference in range at higher elevations.
5. Tee shots (with a Driver) will fly lower and won't fly signficantly farther, but they will run farther.
6. One might get more distance from a 3-wood at high elevation than a Driver.
Environmental factors can also increase the length of the golfer's drive, however. Golfers will hit it farther when the temperature is warmer (both the air, the club and the ball), when the wind is following (tail wind), when the target is downhill and when altitude is high.
GOLF TIP: During cooler weather, keep your golf balls warm. Start with 3 balls that were in your house overnight (even heat them in a heating blanket). Keep 2 in your trouser pockets to keep them warm. Replace the cold ball with a warm one at the end of the hole. Place the cold one in your pocket to get warmed up again. It won't regain it's original temperature but it will stay warmer than the air and ground. You'll gain a few yards of carry by using warm balls. You can even get a golf ball warmer to keep more balls warm!
The total distance of a drive depends on how far the ball carries in the air and then how far it rolls along the ground. The roll distance is highly dependent on the hardness of the ground and on the trajectory angle of the ball at impact. The steeper the trajectory, the less roll distance. The harder the ground, the greater roll distance.
Average Golfer Swing Speed = 90 mph
Carry distance = 195 yd --- Roll distance = 34 yd ---Total = 229 yd
PGA Tour Average Swing Speed = 110 mph
Carry distance = 267 yd --- Roll distance = 32 yd -- Total = 299 yd
The roll distance of the average golfer is 17% of the carry distance while the PGA golfer is only 12% of the carry distance.
The average golfer gains much more distance in the summer when the fairways
are firm. During the wet season, there isn't much roll.
GOLF TIP: During the cooler wet season, play the forward tees to shorten the course. This way, you'll be the same distance from the green as in the summer when you play longer tees.
A tail wind won't increase the carry distance much but increase the roll distance for an overall gain. The greater the wind speed, the greater the gain. However, the higher the wind speed, the more difficult it is to swing the club.