Posts Tagged ‘launch angle’
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…..
I recently stumbled onto an interesting tidbit whilst working with a young professional on his wedge game. It was early in the morning and we had been hitting beautiful 50 yard pitches the afternoon before and suddenly he could not get the ball to launch low enough with the spin rate he had been generating the day before. Now as you may know I’ve tested almost all there is to test in regards to a 50 yard wedge shot and of course I had looked into the effect of water interfering with the friction between the face and the ball. One problem – I had tested a wet club striking a dry ball. My results from the earlier test showed very little difference in launch and spin when there was water involved and I had since adopted that belief.
As I watched the young pro struggle to lower his launch in the morning dew it came to me – there was a difference between a wet club striking a dry ball and a dry club striking a wet ball! I had to run the test again.
I had to be very careful with the test in that I needed to use the same club, my 54 degree sand wedge, in very controlled conditions, with golf balls that were consistent. I used brand new Titleist NXT Tour golf balls and made sure that I cleaned the grooves and clubface off between each shot. I attempted to hit each shot to carry 50 yards flat and hit eight shots for each portion of the test. I removed the two shots that had the lowest spin from each portion. With the help of my TrackMan here are the results:
Wet club and dry ball:
- Launch angle was 27.8 degrees
- Spin rate was 5463 rpm
- Height was 26.5 feet
Dry club and wet ball:
- Launch angle was 30.1 degrees
- Spin rate was 5291 rpm
- Height was 28.4 feet
Dry club and dry ball:
- Launch angle was 25.4 degrees
- Spin rate was 6603 rpm
- Height was 21.2 feet
The interesting thing in looking at the trajectory chart is how much lower the dry club and dry ball (purple) shots flew. Clearly there was more friction between the face and ball which led to a lower launch with substantially more spin. The dry club and wet ball (yellow) sample flew the highest as the water on the ball greatly decreased friction which led to higher launch, due to slippage and thus decreased spin – certainly not the optimal shot.
The interesting thing when comparing the wet club/dry ball versus the dry club/wet ball results was that the spin and launch were better when the BALL was dry. This was due to the water being forced off the clubhead and into the groove channels during the motion of the swing. Not to mention that the air dried the face during the swing too.
Moral of the story – always clean the clubface (unless it has sand on it) and dry the club and ball when possible. If you happen to have an early morning tee time and you’re a dew sweeper, don’t plan on hitting any low spinners! The drier the ball and club, the better the friction and the better the quality of shots you will hit.
Please read my first two articles on wedges and pitching:
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!
In my quest to better understand pitching, chipping, and more specifically the low spinning wedge shot I needed to watch different professional players hit a variety of shots and be able to track the data from each shot. My objective was to understand how friction or grip between the face and the ball influenced the launch angle, height and spin rate. I have named the measurement of this grip and it’s influence on the golf ball – friction launch.
I need to explain some fairly detailed physics as to how I measure friction launch, so bear with me. The golf ball always launches somewhere between where the face is angled and where the clubhead is travelling – on both a vertical and horizontal plane. The ball also always launches closer to where the face is angled than where the clubhead is travelling. Where the ball launches between the face angle and the clubpath is primarily determined by club speed and friction between the face and ball. I needed to measure this friction in order to see how it effected the trajectory and spin on wedge shots.
With the help of Mark Reilly and Edoardo Molinari, we came up with the following formula to determine friction launch:
(Dynamic Loft – Launch Angle) x 100/Spin Loft = Friction Launch
This formula informs us where the ball launches between the face and path. The percentage indicates how far below the face angle the ball launched. A friction launch of 0% indicates that there was absolutely no grip at impact and the ball launched in the direction the face was angled at impact. A friction launch of 50% would indicate that the ball launched directly between the face angle and the clubpath and the grip was exceedingly high. By the way – neither of these are possible under normal conditions. The smaller the percentage, the higher the launch and lower the spin and vice versa.
With all the various situations I tested I needed to keep certain factors constant in order to be able to detect why the trajectory and spin rate of each shot was altered. My constants were TrackMan – to record the data; the golf club – a Titleist Vokey SM4 54 degree wedge; and the distance of each shot studied – 50 yards. If any ball landed short of 40 yards or longer than 60 yards it’s data was thrown out. The factors I controlled were the quality of the lie and playing surface, the grass and dirt in the grooves and on the face and the type of golf ball.
Here are the average results attained from three professional golfers hitting 10 shots each in 7 different situations:
1. Clubface packed with dirt and grass/ProV1/off lie board (to eliminate additional matter)
- Friction Launch 17.9 degrees/Spin Rate 4408/Launch Angle 34.9 degrees/Height 31.9ft/Carry 51.6yds
2. Clean clubface/ProV1/off lie board (to eliminate additional matter)
- Friction Launch 28.1 degrees/Spin Rate 6501/Launch Angle 28.4 degrees/Height 25.1ft/Carry 50.3yds
3. Wet clubface/ProV1/off lie board (to eliminate additional matter)
- Friction Launch 28.1 degrees/Spin Rate 6564/Launch Angle 28.7 degrees/Height 25.7ft/Carry 50.4yds
4. Clean clubface/ProV1/off turf/preferred lie
- Friction Launch 31.9 degrees/Spin Rate 7178/Launch Angle 26.1 degrees/Height 22.3ft/Carry 48.9yds
5. Clean clubface/hard range ball/off turf/preferred lie
- Friction Launch 28.8 degrees/Spin Rate 6625/Launch Angle 27.6 degrees/Height 25.1ft/Carry 50.8yds
6. Clean clubface/ProV1/off a new mat
- Friction Launch 30.4 degrees/Spin Rate 6859/Launch Angle 26.8 degrees/Height 23.3ft/Carry 49.2yds
7. Clean clubface/ProV1/Off a tee
- Friction Launch 30.6 degrees/Spin Rate 7259/Launch Angle 27.6 degrees/Height 24.8ft/Carry 51.2yds
Edoardo Molinari was also kind enough to submit his TrackMan data to me from the 10 shots he hit with his 60 degree wedge and 10 more with his 56 degree wedge: (the following shots were hit with premium golfballs, off preferred lies and cleaning the clubface between each shot)
60 Degree Wedge
- Friction Launch 22.9 degrees/Spin Rate 6048/Launch Angle 36.2 degrees/Height 34.8ft/Carry 51.0yds
56 Degree Wedge
- Friction Launch 24.4 degrees/Spin Rate 6046/Launch Angle 34.2 degrees/Height 31.5ft/Carry 50.5yds
NOTE: After a few weeks of practice Edoardo has improved his 10 shot average with his 60 degree to a spin rate of 8700rpm and a Launch angle of 26.1 degrees! There is something to this…
The deductions I took from the above tests are as follows:
- Shots out of the rough, first cut or even into the grain lies are always going to launch higher, spin less and as a result fall out the sky faster and roll more after landing – no matter how good you or your wedge is. There simply is too much ‘matter’ involved between face and ball to create optimal friction.
- A wet clubface actually makes very little difference in determining how much friction, and thus spin, is imparted on the ball.
- A premium golfball makes a noticeable difference with the wedges. Not only will it add distance off the tee, but it will also allow you to hit better and more predictable short shots.
- If the rules allow you to tee the ball up – go ahead and do so. You increase your ability to place the clubface cleanly on the back of the golf ball.
- Hitting pitch shots off mats is a fantasy world and can only increase the ‘illusion of competence’. No bad lies, nothing between the face and the ball, minimal consequence to heavy shots...
- For pitch shots, higher lofted clubs do not spin the ball significantly more than the next wedge down (60*vs56*). They do, however, get the ball to stop slightly faster due to a steeper landing angle.
- Average friction launch for a 50 yard shot is around 25%. The lowest friction launch was out of the poorest lie (18%) and the best results came from an ideal fairway lie, a new and clean wedge along with a premium golfball (32%).
- The quality of the lie is the most important factor in allowing a golfer to control the trajectory and spin of the wedge shot they are about to play.
Let’s take a look at the factors that influence friction launch:
The Golf Club
- The sharpness of the top edge of the groove will effect spin, yet most of the spin on a shot comes from the roughness of the area between the grooves.
- In my opinion the wedges that provide the highest amount of spin are the models that have the roughest surface between the grooves – the new TaylorMade ATV and the Nike Vr Pro wedges seem to do an excellent job with ‘between groove’ treatment.
- An excellent way to improve spin with your current wedges is to have the face sandblasted with normal aluminum oxide sand. This will provide a rougher, more ‘grippy’ texture to the face.
- The number of groove edges that come into contact with the ball also effects backspin. In pushing the limit of the groove rules manufacturers can now put five grooves on the surface of the ball at impact versus the traditional three.
- Grooves channel away some of the moisture and matter from rough that gets between the ball and face – but seldom all of it.
- The grooves and face of your wedges should always be very clean – even when you’re practicing. Keep a towel or brush handy to clean the club after every few shots.
- If you are serious about competitive golf I would recommend having a tournament set of wedges and a set you use in practice. Every shot you hit wears down the face which reduces friction at impact.
- In fact Gary Player would ensure that his caddie never cleaned his wedge after hitting a sand shot – the sand particles on the face helped to create more friction between the face and ball for his next shot.
Turf Type and the Quality of the Lie:
- When you are into the grain you will often get grass caught between the ball and the face, thus reducing grip. A down grain shot will ‘cut’ very little grass and thus allow for clean contact and increased grip.
- Different turf types are thicker and stronger and thus, even at fairway height, support the ball enough to keep it up and away from the grass. This makes it easier to have a higher friction launch factor. If you’ve ever played off kikuyu grass you’ll know what I mean.
- When laying up on a par five understand the value of high friction launch – lay up in the fairway and don’t be greedy.
- This is where I am now focusing my efforts. There does seem to be a method that DOES NOT involve a more open face, increased speed, higher launch or a cutting action that seems to produce a lower trajectory with a much higher spin rate. Stay tuned…..
Read part one of this article HERE