Posts Tagged ‘club speed’
There is so much complex information out there regarding the Ball Flight Laws – a ten second Google search yields enough confusion to get my head spinning for a month. The “old” or “new” ball flight laws, Dr. Wiren, TrackMan…..who or what should you believe?
In light of Dr. Einstein‘s insightful quote I am going to give this touchy topic my best shot and try to keep it as simple as possible. Please don’t check out! This is important information for any golfer to comprehend, so bear with me and you’ll gain a far better understanding of why your golf ball reacts the way it does.
There are only four factors that influence ball flight when clean (not necessarily solid) contact is made between a golfball and a clubface.
The faster the clubhead travels the further and higher the ball will travel – generally with more spin. Compare a chip (slow speed) with a pitching wedge vs. a full swing (faster speed) with a pitching wedge…simple enough.
Orientation is a fancy term that refers to where the clubface is angled. Keep in mind that the face angles both left or right or up or down – left or right being an open or closed face and the up/down variable (although hopefully never down) referring to the loft imparted at impact (dynamic loft). The face angle largely determines where the ball launches – left or right of the target and at what angle relative to the ground. A good general point to remember is clubface (for the most part) = launch.
Once again the direction the clubhead travels relative to the target line at impact – left or right (clubpath) and up or down (attack angle) – plays a role in determining ball flight. A lesser role than the clubface, but a role nonetheless. A good general point to remember is clubpath (for the most part) = curve.
Centerdness of Contact
This is a big one and something the vast majority of teachers and golfers tend to underestimate. Most golfers strike the ball on the sweet spot far less frequently than they think . I often see golfers that swing for a draw, yet strike for a fade – in other words they have a clubpath that is in to out, yet hit the ball slightly out the heel which leads to a fade. An off center point of contact on the face leads to gear effect, which overrides or reduces the effect the face orientation and clubhead direction have on ball flight. This factor plays a bigger role than most realize – watch out for it. And the best way to do that – a spray of Dr. Scholl’s foot powder.
Here are a few simple factors to understand and remember:
- The ball launches primarily in the direction of the face – varying degrees of up and either left or right.
- Given a centered hit, clubpath leads to curve. With the curve being away from the clubpath.
- Hitting down does not increase spin, and conversely, hitting up does not necessarily reduce spin.
- Heel hits encourage fades or reduce hooks and toe hits encourage draws or reduce slices.
- The more you hit down on the ball, the more you will swing in to out and the more you hit up on the ball the more you will swing out to in.
Now that you’re finished reading shoot back up to the top and read again. This is vital information to assist with your understanding of of how your golf club “communicates” to your golf ball.
If you’d like to try out your new understanding of the Ball Flight Laws in southwest Florida check out this Fort Myers Golf Guide for a great course to play.
Thanks for reading and feel free to fire away with any questions you may have…..
My good friends Tim and Simon Cooke from GolfPrep on Hilton Head Island recently brought their new Flightscope X2 out to Berkeley Hall. Our objective was to learn more about the numbers that TrackMan and Flightscope are putting out and we wanted to get a sense of how well one machine performed relative to the other.
I have pondered the best way in which to convey my findings and have finally committed to just simply jotting down my thoughts. My intent is certainly not to create controversy or confrontation – these are simply my own honest impressions from the day. Please also keep in mind that I am a TrackMan owner and supporter and no matter how I attempt to remove my bias I doubt whether I am able to remove all of it…
- Prior to the test I had been having trouble with my TM unit giving unusual spin numbers every 30-40 shots, something it had never done before. As a result I had contacted TM support and was informed that I more than likely had a bad USB cable. I was also informed that the classic indicator of a bad cable would be a “double” or “half” spin. Sure enough during the test TM gave out three spin numbers from the 60 shots we hit that were right around double what the FS reported. I have since replaced the cable and have yet to see a spin rate that seems odd.
- As you peruse the following thoughts keep in mind that good players , which all three of the test subjects were, are very good at controlling the direction the clubhead travels (angle of attack and club path) from shot to shot. The direction may not be ideal, but better players are consistent with clubhead direction. That means that dramatic changes in either of those categories, along with sizable changes from shot to shot in club speed, were going to draw my attention and raise a red flag.
- Since running the tests I have spoken to many “in the biz” people about radar interference. It was mentioned that the machines, when set up side by side as we had them, will occasionally give corrupted data due to the influence of the outside radar. I have not run enough tests to ascertain if this is or is not the case, but during the testing the FS seemed to give a few numbers that were incorrect and this could be due to the TM being directly alongside the unit. The TM did not do anything different to what it normally does as it seemed to be unaffected by the additional radar.
- If a shot off turf has a decent size divot TM will only provide ball data and no club data, whereas FS reported both ball and club data for just about every shot hit off the ground. On the occasions that FS reported club data and TM did not the numbers did not look correct – meaning the attack angle and/or club path seemed to be too far from what the subject would normally generate. We hit numerous 50 yard pitch shots and TM did not offer any club data while FS reported for most of these shots. The problem was that the club path was said to be almost 15 degrees from in to out along with a spin rate of 14,000 rpm – just not happening! I actually preferred that TM did not provide club data as I would rather have no information than have to explain away improper information. That being said I would love a radar that provided correct club data on all shots.
- With both units unplugged and PC’s powered down the TM (2:05) was aligned and ready to roll in about half the time of the FS (4:16). I was told that with an iPad the FS can be aligned and operational in far less time.
- We noticed that both machines reported different Swing Plane numbers when they were moved (flipped positions) relative to the same golfer. I have tested this before and the changes in data are due to the hardware in the TM II. Each machine appeared to provide better data when the golfer is hitting shots aligned with the center of the unit – something that was not possible when running two machines.
- We tested the ability of each unit to report gear effect, by logging the point of contact on certain drives and then comparing each units Face to Path and Spin Axis numbers. The TM reported gear effect as I would have anticipated and most of the time FS reported along similar lines. However the first shot we examined, a big heel hit, was actually reported by FS as being a slight toe side hit. TM reported a Face to Path of -9.3 and a Spin Axis of -5.4 while FS reported a Face to Path of -2.2 and a Spin Axis of -11.0
- I was amazed at how closely aligned the Spin Rate numbers were for each machine. Unless there were dramatic differences the spin rates were almost always within 100 rpm’s.
- There seemed to be quite a few instances during the testing where the attack angles were not even in the same ball park. I had nothing to help me determine which machine was correct, other than the aforementioned fact that better players tend to be very consistent, and all too often it was FS reporting wide ranges of variation from the player.
Keep in mind that my intent is merely to report what I observed and not to offend anybody or any entity. I could tell that Tim and Simon were a little concerned with the results and they went home and performed additional tests. I am happy to report that the FS performed much better without the influence of additional radar and when shots are hit from the center of the unit. Tim’s follow up comment to me was:
I believe that side by side testing, although seeming to be a good idea, does not work. Clearly there was some radar interference at work as the inconsistent numbers were not reproduced in stand alone tests. Maybe the only way you can really compare the units is with extreme high speed cameras with the units working independently of one another.
I would have to agree with Tim’s sentiments and I have started to make plans to have each unit test the same golfer on the same day, but without the potential interference of outside radar.
You know I’ll report back on that one….
When I tested my old college driver a few weeks ago my interest was piqued by how close my swing speed with the 43.5 inch club was to my current 45 inch driver. I have heard that altering the shaft length of your driver by an inch can/should alter the club speed by up to 4 mph. This called for a test…..
Using TrackMan my idea was to test the same golfer, clubhead and golf ball, but change the shaft length. I took my current driver, which is the Titleist D3 8.5 degree (B1) with a 45″ Motore F3 70 gram stiff shaft and tested it alongside the same head (B1) with a 43″ Project X 82 gram stiff shaft. Essentially a driver shaft versus a 3 wood shaft. I had recently came across a 42.5″ well kept old Wilson Staff JP persimmon driver with a steel shaft and decided to include that in the testing.
I hit 11 shots with each club and eliminated the data for the poorest shot with each club. I was using fresh Titleist NXT Tour golf balls and it was a perfect 80 degree day with little wind. The results were astounding!
With all three clubs my tendency was to hit up on the ball with a slight in to out club path. My swing plane was very consistent from shot to shot (which surprised me a little actually) and the clubface was almost always slightly open at impact. This path and face relationship led to an average shot shape of a slight draw. Here are the numbers:
45″ Driver Shaft
- Club Speed 101.3 mph
- Ball Speed 151.6 mph
- Spin Rate 2697 rpm
- Launch Angle 11.3 degrees
- Carry 245 yards
- Total 272.2 yards
- Height 76 feet
43″ Three Wood Shaft
- Club Speed 101.1 mph
- Ball Speed 150.0 mph
- Spin Rate 2100 rpm
- Launch Angle 14.0 degrees
- Carry 249 yards
- Total 278.7 yards
- Height 84.3 feet
42.5″ Persimmon Driver with Steel Shaft
- Club Speed 93.4 mph
- Ball Speed 141.2 mph
- Spin Rate 2115 rpm
- Launch Angle 10.3 degrees
- Carry 206.4 yards
- Total 246.4 yards
- Height 48 feet
I couldn’t believe it! I hit my driver with a 3 wood shaft further, higher, with less spin and above all else – straighter. Take a look at how much straighter: (yellow – driver shaft/purple – 3 wood shaft/ white – persimmon)
I also totaled the distance (after roll) the ten shots with each club finished from the center line:
- Persimmon – 182 feet (average 18″ off line)
- Three wood shaft – 234 feet (average 23″ feet off line)
- Driver shaft – 315 feet (average 31″ off line)
On my Andrew Rice Golf Facebook page I asked readers if they had any experience with shortening the shaft of their driver and here are a few of their responses:
“I just went to a 44″ and am loving it! Longer then my 45.5″ and straighter too!” GT
“Went to 44″ and more consistent with no loss in distance” AvS
“44″ Callaway…more fairways AND more distance!!!” CL
“Went to 44″ and I hit it more solid further and straighter” PW
“44″ this year. I agree it is far better. Middle of the face more often.” SF
“I found it made me less steep through attack so I have lowered my spin rate and launched it about a degree higher” AB
By the way – most of the above quotes are from full-time professional golf instructors. So what can we learn from this research?
Having tested a few golfers with shorter shafts it seems to me that each golfer has a ‘threshold’ length – an ideal length that gives them the optimal combination of speed and accuracy. For some that threshold could be 46″ while for others they perform best with a 42″ driver. The only way to find out is to get yourself with a teacher or fitter that has access to Trackman and various shafts.
Another point to note is that while the 3 wood shaft had a slightly slower club and ball speed the shots were longer…why? Notice how the launch angle was higher while the spin rate was lower. A perfect illustration of the term ‘high launch low spin‘. Launch the ball higher to get more out of your tee shots.
What can we learn from the ‘persimmon‘ data? While that shaft was even shorter than the 3 wood shaft it was substantially heavier. I believe the 3 wood graphite shaft was almost 50 grams lighter than it’s steel counterpart which would explain the almost 7 mph difference in club speed. The size, or lack there of, of the head was intimidating in the beginning, but as I went through the shots I became more comfortable. I believe that practicing with a smaller clubhead like this can only be beneficial in the long term for any serious golfer.
My feeling standing over the shorter club was better and almost every golfer I tested reported the same sense. The club feels easier to control and many golfers have reported a feel that they can ‘get through‘ the shot better. I really felt like I could smash it without it going off line – a nice feeling!
Physics says that longer shaft + lighter shaft = faster club speed = more distance. On paper that might be true, but when the human element is involved everything changes. The next time I tee it up it will be with a substantially shorter shaft in my driver…but that’s just me!
Can playing with a watch on help or hurt your game? Now, other than having quick access to the time to see how late you are getting home the results of this test are a no brainer – leave your watch in the bag!
Our fitness trainer at Berkeley Hall, Derek Lemire, was down hitting a few drivers and I thought he’d make for a good subject. Derek is dangerous off a 6 handicap and has improved dramatically the last few years.
For the test I asked Derek to hit shots without a watch, with a single three ounce watch and just for kicks with two three ounce watches. He hit three shots in each condition, I would delete data for the worst shot of the three and then we repeated. The Trackman results were very interesting:
- Club Speed 94.6mph
- Ball Speed 143.3mph
- Carry distance 227.6yds
- Total distance 259.8yds
One Watch (3 oz.)
- Club Speed 93.5mph
- Ball Speed 142.8mph
- Carry distance 222.5yds
- Total distance 249.7yds
Two Watches (6 oz.)
- Club Speed 92.6mph
- Ball Speed 141.2mph
- Carry distance 218.2yds
- Total distance 244.5yds
As you can tell there was a noticeable difference between each example and while I understand no golfer would wear two watches a Rolex or watch with a heavy steel band can easily weigh up to 6 ounces. A 3oz watch or bracelet on your wrist can rob you of as much as ten yards per tee shot.
Moral of the story: unless you are hitting the ball too far at the moment leave your watch in the bag – it can only slow you down.
Rules question: If a golfer felt like they had too much club on a par three would they be able to put their watch on, hit the shot and then remove it again? I’d love to hear from the rules gurus out there on this one….
My wife encouraged me to clean out the garage the other day and I happened upon an old driver I used in college. I still remember how cool this driver was – it was the latest and greatest and even had a titanium shaft! When was the last time you saw one of those? Just for kicks I placed it up alongside my current Titleist driver and was shocked at the massive difference between the two – the older club looked smaller than my current three wood! How could I have possibly played well with this mini club? This got me thinking about a TrackMan test.
For the record the smaller club was a TaylorMade Burner Plus 9.5 degree with a titanium X flex shaft and my current club is a Titleist D3 8.5 with a Motore F3 70 gram graphite S flex shaft. There is a fairly substantial 1.5 inch difference even though both clubs were standard length in their day. I am not sure about the weight or the true frequency/flex of each club as I did not have the appropriate equipment to check those measurements.
For the TrackMan test I hit 12 shots with each club and deleted the data for the two worst shots. I noted that the attack angle, club path, swing direction and plane were very similar from club to club.
The primary differences seemed to be:
- Club speed 99.7mph vs 101.8mph – I believed that this difference would be greater due to the large difference in length of shafts.
- Ball Speed 145.7mph vs 152.4mph – I put this down to the fact that the smaller head led to more off-center hits and thus a decreased average ball speed and smash factor.
- Point of contact – there was a noticeable tendency for me to strike the bigger club in the heel. This led to more shots missed to the right due to gear effect and an increase in the spin rate 2455rpm vs 2895rpm.
- Height – even though the smaller club launched the ball slightly higher the apex height was lower due to less spin and ball speed.
- Carry and total distance – the smaller club carried the ball almost 17yards shorter, but with less spin and a flatter land angle rolled further to only finish just over 10 yards short of the bigger club.
- Dispersion – the smaller club had more shots finish further from the center line due to a much smaller clubface and substantially lower MOI.
Here are the TrackMan generated dispersion charts (yellow is the smaller club) and averages:
(click to enlarge)
I was amazed at how small the difference between the two drivers, total distance wise, there was. Going in to the test I would have thought that there would be a 15 yard difference at least. I expected the smaller club to spin the ball less and lower the apex which it did, but I was truly amazed at how little distance I lost with it. I did notice a much greater tendency to hit the ball outside the sweet spot with the smaller club and that led to some fairly aggressive gear effect draws and fades.
Driving is not my strong suit and I am always looking to keep the ball in play off the tee. Armed with this new knowledge I am going to try a shorter shaft in my current driver head and see what that does for my fairways hit statistic. I also plan on practicing with the older club – I think it is vital in improving ball striking to practice with smaller headed clubs.
I also think this test might also illustrate that the majority of the distance gains we see on the PGATour today are not equipment based, but primarily due to the ball…..your thoughts?