Loft a key factor in selecting a driver

2011-03-29T13:21:00Z 2011-03-29T14:00:05Z Loft a key factor in selecting a driverBY MATT GESCHKE/Austad's Southpointe
March 29, 2011 1:21 pm  • 

Are you getting the most out of your driver? I don't mean just distance but a good balance of distance and accuracy. There are many factors that affect how well your driver performs for you. Let's take a look at those factors and how to get the best driver for your game.

Sure, the new drivers have created a lot of excitement. Massive 460cc head sizes and new high tech shafts mean you can get more distance and accuracy than ever for your tee ball. But, unless you get the correct loft and shaft flex, you might not be getting the most out of these new high-tech, high-priced wonders. To do that you need to know your clubhead swing speed. Why do you need to know your clubhead speed? Here's the scoop.

First, something has changed in the game in the last 10 years. The development and wide acceptance of the new two-piece balls with their lower spin rates has meant that your driver loft might need to change. During the 80's and 90's, people assumed that the lower the driver loft the farther the ball would go. It was not uncommon to see drivers for good amateur players in the 7-9 degree range.

What the golf scientists have found is that in order to maximize distance with the new low-spin balls, the clubhead needs to launch the ball at higher angles than in the past. This means that many of us are probably playing drivers with too little loft. Driver loft should match your swing speed. The slower your swing speed the more loft you should have. If your average swing speed is between 80 and 90 mph (the average for most male golfers) you should be using a driver with about 10.5 to 12 degrees of loft. Combined with the new balls this means your launch angle and spin rate will be optimized. So the good news is this means you have a real chance of adding some distance to your drives.

For a 90 mph swing speed a driver with a 9 degree loft will launch the ball at a 10.5 degree launch angle and the ball will carry 206 yards.

A 10.5 degree driver will launch the ball at 12.1 degree angle and the ball will carry 211 yards.

A 13 degree driver will launch the ball at 13.7 degrees and the ball will carry 213 yards. The difference between 9 and 13 degrees is 7 yards.

For slower swing speeds, we point out the added distance can be as much as 16 yards just by choosing the correct loft. At a typical woman's swing speed of 60 mph, the optimum driver loft would be 13 to 19 degrees and could mean a distance increase of 16 yards.

The correct shaft flex is just as important. A shaft that is too stiff for your swing speed will generally cause the ball to be low, short and to the right. Sound familiar. The fact is many of us play with shafts that are too stiff. If your swing speed is less than 100 mph and you are playing with a stiff shaft, you're probably losing distance and accuracy.

Another big factor is shaft length. Sure the longer the shaft the higher the clubhead speed. However there is a point of diminishing returns. If we can't control the ball, then we might find the extra yardage won't help our games. Ten more yards into the woods is not the answer. There's no worse feeling than not knowing where your drives are going.

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