Posts Tagged ‘driver’
We would all like to drive the ball longer off the tee, yet far too often golfers search in all the wrong places to find more distance. There are three primary factors that will help you hit the ball further: a well fitted golf club; a stronger, more flexible and ultimately faster you; and a swing that delivers the clubhead to the ball in a manner that maximizes the force you are putting into the swing – what I like to call efficiency. Where you get out what you put in. Here’s a great example – on the PGATour David Toms swings at 104 mph and Stephen Gangluff swings at 120 mph, yet they average the exact same distance off the tee….hmmm?
Efficiency is the big fish and the area where most golfers can make the greatest gains. With this in mind I created (with the help of TrackMan) a chart that I like to use to show golfers how far they are capable of hitting the golf ball with their current club speed. The chart ranges from swing speeds of 65 mph to 105 mph and assumes no wind, flat terrain, normal ground conditions, sea level and premium type golf balls. These distances can only be attained with an upward attack angle (+5 degrees) and fairly low spin rates – somewhere between 1900 – 2200 rpm.
Club Speed Ball Speed Launch Angle Carry (yds) Total (yds)
65 mph 96 mph 16.5 136 182
75 mph 111 mph 15.6 157 208
85 mph 126 mph 14.6 193 242
90 mph 133 mph 14.2 209 256
95 mph 140 mph 13.7 225 271
100 mph 148 mph 13.2 242 286
105 mph 156 mph 12.6 259 303
Keep in mind that the above numbers are achievable, but only in a ‘best shot’ type scenario. David Toms was the most efficient driver on the PGATour in 2012 and at 100 mph he would have averaged 278 yards per drive – very good for an average. Regardless of what our swing speed is we are all capable of this highly efficient delivery of energy from club to ball.
How helpful can this chart be to you? If you’re a golf coach with TrackMan technology you can benefit from it immediately. As a golfer you would need to have a rough idea of what your club speed is followed by an honest assessment of how far your ball is travelling in neutral conditions. If you’re noticeably shorter than you should be, seek out the nearest golf coach with a TrackMan and get to work.
You may have heard the term high launch, low spin….well, it really is what you should be after off the tee box.
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!
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?
One of the first things I do when I teach a golfer for the first time is I go through their clubs and take a look for certain tendencies as we’re having our introductory chat.
I have seen so many drivers that look like the one in this article that I had to write about it and share what your driver is attempting to tell you!
The first place to look for answers as to what might be going on is to check the face….
Notice here how the black paint is being worn off the bottom of the face and there are numerous impact marks on the upper portion of the face from sand getting caught between the ball and the face.
Secondly, inspect where the crown of the club meets the face….
Here, the wear pattern indicates numerous pop-ups. A few balls must have almost been missed to get them that far up onto the crown. Keep in mind that the only way to hit a pop-up is to have a descending blow where the top edge descends below the equator of the ball.
Finally, take a look at the sole of the club….
It is apparent here that the club is making contact with the ground on almost every shot. The attack angle is very much down – to such a degree that both the paint and lettering are being buffed off the sole of this club.
The golfer who owns this club hit down on the ball with an attack angle of -9 degrees. Keep in mind that optimally we would like to hit up on the ball for maximum efficiency. I am pleased to report that he is working hard at his new attack angle and he is fairly comfortable in the -3 degree range – not perfect but better. Oh, and he just might extend this poor clubs lifespan at the same time.
Clearly I have selected an extreme example to show you here, but take a minute and inspect these three key areas on your driver. I believe you will learn a fair deal about your angle of attack and why your golf ball is doing what it does. Keep in mind that the only time a driver should ever contact the ground is when you are addressing the ball. It should never contact the ground after the first foot or two of the swing. The only marks on it should be tee marks running along the sole and perhaps a ball mark or two in the center of the face!
Here are a few resources to help you hit more up on the ball:
I recently ran an interesting promotion where I offered golfers an opportunity to gain 10 yards if they participated in a twenty minute TrackMan session. The cost was $50 and if they didn’t gain the yardage their session was free. This meant I had to be on my game and I had to make simple and effective upgrades to get paid…it’s not often a golfer can take a lesson and only have to pay for the lesson if they see immediate results!
My reason for running the promotion was primarily to create interest and excitement in the new TrackMan unit and to give the Berkeley Hall membership a peek at what this technology can do for them.
I had eighteen golfers, eleven men and seven ladies sign up and I encouraged each of the participants to focus on the driver. In case a participant wanted to work with an iron I had them each bring their driver and a seven iron along.
When hitting the driver I try to get my students to have an attack angle of somewhere from 1 – 5 degrees up along with a club path of somewhere from 1 – 5 degrees from in to out. I prefer that most golfers hit out and up on the ball creating a high launch, low spin trajectory with the driver. We all could benefit from a few extra yards, no?
Here is a compilation of points of interest from the day:
- The average swing speed for the men with the driver was 83.9mph. The top speed achieved was 96.1mph while the slowest was 70.1mph. Keep in mind that this event was promoted as a “distance” event and as a result the golfers who came out tended not be the longest of hitters.
- The average speed for the ladies with the driver was 65.6mph with the top speed being 73.4mph and the slowest being 60.3mph.
- Before any changes were made 11 out of the 18 golfers hit down on the ball at an average of 1.6 degrees with the driver. After the changes had been made the same 11 golfers averaged 0.6 degrees up on the ball. Not bad…
- Before any changes were made 7 golfers (a surprisingly low number in my opinion!) hit from out to in at an average of 3.3 degrees with the big stick. This means that their club path was travelling 3.3 degrees left (for a right hander) of the target at impact. After adjusting, the same 7 golfers averaged 0.8 degrees from in to out – a very positive change.
- Prior to any changes 4 golfers hit too much (in my opinion) from in to out at an average of 6.6 degrees. After the changes they averaged 2.2 degrees in to out – a far more respectable number.
- Not every golfer gained yardage, although the majority did. A few golfers actually lost some clubhead speed while they were working on the changes which were primarily in the address position. It was interesting to note how some golfers adapted and changed easily while others had a tough time.
- The golfers with slower swing speeds tended to be more efficient, something I had already noted from the PGA Tour stat on Total Driving Efficiency and as a result it was quite difficult to get them make the “required” yardage gains. They were quite close to optimal already…
- Similarly, I found the ladies to generally be more efficient in transferring the energy they created to the ball than the men. I’ve also noticed that LPGA golfers also tend to be more efficient than their PGA Tour counterparts, particularly with the driver. The mantra seems to be “the more energy you create, the more likely you are to waste it!” It does not have to be that way though.
- Every golfer who attended the event improved in an important area regarding how they deliver the club to the back of the ball. Quite a few golfers did not gain 10 yards, but they all left feeling like they had the knowledge and feel they needed in order to realize longer tee shots.
- One lady had a fantastic golf swing with very efficient numbers, but, primarily due to her petite size, she was unable to generate much clubhead speed. She had an older, heavy driver with a 70 gram shaft and so I spent most of our time talking to her about what equipment (lighter = faster) suited her best and what exercises (Momentus woosh) she could do to increase her speed with the driver. I’ll be interested to see how she does with the new club.
- Almost all the participants commented that while the “numbers overload” from TrackMan was overwhelming at first, once we had isolated a particular problem (attack angle, club path, spin axis etc.) it seemed very simple. They were able to key in on one area and get a feel for how much change was required in order to reach their goal – all without much in the way of complicated, positional swing changes.
- The twenty minute time format worked well for the students and for me. They did not get overloaded with information and I had be concise and clear (for a change!) in what they needed to upgrade.
So, back to the question, “Can you get better in twenty minutes?” I would have to say an emphatic yes. With the right feedback mechanism, which TrackMan certainly is, and a simple approach, you can make fairly substantial changes in a short period of time. The important thing moving forward is that you practice the changes in order to gain a measure of comfort and confidence in them – and as we know, that takes more than twenty minutes.
Thanks for reading.