Your Best Friend on the Course is…loft!

Golf Today Northwest - - Contents - by BOB DUN­CAN, PGA *Bob Dun­can is a Mas­ter Club­fit­ter, with over $1.7 mil­lion in cus­tom fit­ted equip­ment sales since 1992.

What club in your bag has the great­est vari­ance in per­for­mance? Most golfers will prob­a­bly agree: It’s the driver. And ev­ery­one wants to hit it far­ther. And straighter. To do both you might just have to hit it higher! There is one word that pro­vides the most sig­nif­i­cant an­swer to your driv­ing dis­tance and ac­cu­racy: Loft! As a Mas­ter Club­fit­ter*, I’ve found that even af­ter all these years, driver loft is still a mis­un­der­stood spec­i­fi­ca­tion. Launch mon­i­tors and mea­sur­ing de­vices have all been cal­i­brated to get you the most op­ti­mum launch con­di­tions based on your swing. But if they do that, why is the driver still the most dif­fi­cult club in the game for so many to hit ef­fec­tively? Loft is a funny an­i­mal. Re­duce the loft of a 60 de­gree wedge by 2 de­grees to 58 de­grees and many play­ers won’t no­tice a change in per­for­mance. Re­duce a 6-iron by 2 de­grees and you’ll see a no­tice­able dif­fer­ence. Drop from a 12- to a 10- to an 8-de­gree and with each 2 de­gree change you will see an in­creas­ing change in per­for­mance. In other words, the lower you go the worse it will get. Think of it this way: When you hit that 60 and 58 with the faces tilted back­wards as they are, you are ac­tu­ally putting a bit of a ‘glanc­ing’ im­pact on the ball, tran­sfer­ring en­ergy to make the ball go very high. If you put some sidespin on the ball it prob­a­bly still won’t curve off line. But with each change in loft going lower, the ball may go far­ther and the change in the face will ac­cen­tu­ate the ef­fects of the sidespin. In other words with each longer club and lower loft, you will ex­pe­ri­ence more ef­fects of cur­va­ture – the same sidespin will cause the ball to go far­ther off line. Now get to the most ‘ver­ti­cal’ lofts in driv­ers,

and at some point the ball will go shorter and the sidespin ef­fects get worse at a faster rate! Just be­cause you can hit a 10.5-de­gree, it doesn’t mean you can ef­fec­tively hit a 9.5-de­gree. Yes, some will ar­gue that the an­gle of at­tack (hit­ting down or up on the ball) is im­por­tant, but the big­gest lim­it­ing fac­tor in these ac­tu­ally be­comes your club­head speed! Let’s say your club­head speed is 95 mph, and you have been play­ing for 5 years. You can prob­a­bly hit a 14-de­gree loft rel­a­tively eas­ily. Let’s drop that to 12 de­grees. Your ball prob­a­bly goes far­ther. Now drop to 11 and it might go a lit­tle far­ther, and 10 maybe a lit­tle far­ther and maybe not. Chances are at 12, 11, or 10 de­grees you’ve prob­a­bly reached the bot­tom of your ef­fec­tive loft. It’s not the same for ev­ery­one, be­cause ev­ery­one has dif­fer­ent abil­i­ties. But, as the club­face gets more ver­ti­cal in the lower lofts, that sidespin has an in­creas­ingly worse ef­fect on di­rec­tion. In other words, you’ll hit a 12 de­gree straighter than an 11, and an 11 straighter than a 10. And if you choose a loft that is too low you’ll start fad­ing and slic­ing even more. Now, if you in­crease that swing speed to the tour av­er­age of 110 – 115, that op­ti­mum driver might ac­tu­ally be the 9.5-de­gree. That still isn’t al­ways enough for a tour player to drop and use that 9.5 de­gree driver, be­cause they’re also look­ing for ac­cu­racy and “work­a­bil­ity”. They may try to curve it slightly on pur­pose, and a higher loft is eas­ier to control in those cases. As I got older, my driver swing speed started to drop off, from a max­i­mum of around 108 – 110 twenty years ago, down to around 100 mph more re­cently. Fif­teen years ago I went to a higher lofted driver and never looked back! It’s been very help­ful to hit the ball straighter and al­most as far… I hit a lot of fair­ways these days. I’m not too proud to say I’m us­ing a 13-de­gree driver! I spend a lot less time search­ing for my golf ball on the course these days.

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