Playing and Practicing in the Wind

For most of us, there is seldom a day that involves golf, that doesn’t involve some form of wind interference. When I first started trying to better understand how wind effects both the ball and the golfer. I was shocked at how little quality information was readily available. It didn’t take me long to conclude that most golfers (pros included) will underestimate the effect of a headwind and overestimate the effect of a tailwind. I have come to find the following to be quite accurate for most ‘normal’ ball strikers…

The basic formula for hitting into a headwind is as follows:

  • 5mph = 5% of the total distance + 5 yards

  • 10mph = 10% of the total distance + 5 yards

  • 15mph = 15% of the total distance + 5 yards

  • 20mph = 20% of the total distance + 5 yards

This formula appears to hold true for most ball flights. If you tend to be a high launch/high spin golfer or low launch/low spin golfer you might find your results to be different. Keep in mind that the majority of golfers will typically overestimate the MPH factor. If you’re serious about your golf, you may want to look into picking up a wind meter. This is the one that has helped me gauge the wind more accurately. As you learn to do a better job gauging the wind I’ve found things to be easier if I keep my guess-timations to 5/10/15/20mph. It just serves to simplify something that can become overly complex.

Let’s not forget we hit shots downwind too:

  • 5mph = 2% of the total distance

  • 10mph = 3% of the total distance

  • 15mph = 5% of the total distance

  • 20mph = 7% of the total distance

As you can see a tailwind will have far less effect on the carry distance than a headwind might. As a result there can be no such thing as a one-club wind!

What about practicing in the wind? My experience is that wind will not only effect the ball flight, but it also has an effect on the way in which the golfer will swing the club. Here are a few of my findings:

  • Every golfer tested hits more down and delivers less loft into the wind

  • Every golfer tested hits less down and delivers more loft down wind

  • Every golfer moves their typical club path into the wind eg. a left to right wind always caused a golfer to swing more left

Using this information I would advise golfers:

  • Who hit down too much or who hit the ball too low to practice in downwind conditions when possible

  • Who hit the ball too high and tend to get scoopy to practice hitting into the wind when possible

  • Who curve the ball too much to the right to practice with the wind coming from the right when possible

  • Who curve the ball too much to the left to practice with the wind coming from the left when possible

Now of course if you’re headed out to practice and the wind conditions just simply don’t match what you might need that might indicate a good time for a ‘shortgame’ practice session.

Royal Portrush

Royal Portrush

I hope you find this information to be both beneficial and interesting. If you do please consider sharing it with a golfing friend.

When You Play: Watch or No Watch?

1watch
1watch

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!

2watch
2watch

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:

No Watch

  • Club Speed 94.6mph
  • Ball Speed 143.3mph
  • Carry distance 227.6yds
  • Total distance259.8yds

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 tenyards 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....

The Science Behind Superb Wedges: Part II

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.

The Swing

  • 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

Understanding Swing Plane and Club Path

There are important differences that occur at impact when a golfer hits either down or up on the ball (attack angle).  I have always espoused that golfers hit down on all clubs, the driver included, but my research with Trackman has convinced me otherwise.  The ball should be struck with a subtle downward blow with all shots off the ground (irons, hybrids and fairways), but the driver should ideally be hit with an upward strike for optimal trajectory and spin patterns.  I will attempt to explain the differences in the direction the clubhead travels (relative to the target line) as it moves both down, and up, into the ball.

Firstly, it is important to understand the difference between swing plane (also referred to as swing direction) and club path, because too many golfers believe they are one and the same.  Let's view swing plane as the hula hoop in the pictures below - it is the angle upon which the arc of the swing travels.  Club path is the direction the clubhead is travelling in, relative to the target line, at the moment of impact.

Hitting down on the Ball:

 

PGA Tour golfers hit down on a 7 iron with an average attack angle of slightly more than 4 degrees.  You should be able to tell to what degree you hit down on the ball simply by analyzing your divots - too much dirt being moved and you're more than likely 8 degrees down, no divots would mean a flat or neutral attack angle.

When a golfer hits down on the ball with a neutral swing plane (straight at the target) notice how the pencil (used to illustrate club path) points right of the target. The table's edge indicates the target line.

Hitting down...

Down with a neutral plane...

This means that with a straight plane/swing direction, when the clubhead travels down, it is also travelling from in to out relative to the target line.

Left swing plane for neutral path...

In order to neutralize the club path, the swing plane must actually be rotated to the left.  Thus, with a descending attack angle, in order to create a straight club path, the swing plane must be rotated to the left of the target line (for right handers).

Hitting up on the Ball:

 

Better drivers of the ball tend to hit up on the ball - anywhere from 1-5 degrees up.  This reduces the amount of spin on the ball and increases the launch angle - thus increasing both carry and roll distance.

When a golfer hits up on the ball with a neutral swing plane (straight at the target) notice how the pencil (club path) points left of the target. 

In this example, with a straight plane/swing direction, when the clubhead travels upward, it is also travelling from out to in relative to the target line

This out to in path can be neutralized by rotating the swing plane/direction to the right (for right handers).  Notice how the pencil (club path) is now straight.

So if somebody ever asks you if the swing with the driver and the irons is the same, just smile and say, "No, not really!"

Any thoughts?  Questions....

How to Hit it Longer Than Ever

Here are a few clues - do not swing harder or get a new driver or change your shafts!  Although all of those ideas might help, the best, and simplest, way to hit longer shots is to strike the ball better.  Plain and simple!

Here is the heads up from Trackman, the premier radar technology for swing and ball flight analysis:
Generally speaking, to maximize ball speed (which translates directly into distance) it is more important to improve centerdness of impact than to increase club speed.  An off-center impact is less efficient in transferring energy from the club to the ball, thus some of the power of the club speed is lost, resulting in a lower initial ball speed and consequently less carry distance.
While increasing the velocity of the clubhead would increase distance, I'm sure we are all well aware what happens when we swing harder - perhaps increased speed, but far less control and very often a less centered hit.  This is where smash factor comes in.  Smash factor is a measurement where the ball speed is divided by the clubhead speed and essentially is the efficiency of the hit - how well was the energy of the swing transferred into the golf ball to make it go.  The more centered, or solid, the hit, the further it will go.  And, being aware that most of us do not have the ability to measure the smash factor of our shots it is important to be aware that if you want to hit it longer (and I've only ever met one person who didn't!) the direction one should take should be in search of a better hit and not necessarily a faster clubhead.
A few good drills and articles to improve the quality of your ball striking:

Impact Drill: How to Stop Scooping | Andrew Rice Golf

Hip SlideGood or Bad? | Andrew Rice Golf

Hands Forward at Impact | Andrew Rice Golf

The moral of the story - focus on hitting it better and you'll hit it longer.  Now get to work.......

TrackMan: Definitive Answers at Impact and More

Here are a few very interesting facts that I have learned with the help of TrackMan. TrackMan is a radar unit that measures both club delivery and the full trajectory of any golf shot – essentially it measures almost everything pertaining to a golf club striking a ball. This might shed some light on, or dispel, a few of golf’s oldest myths:

For PGA Tour golfers (please note that these are averages):

  • All clubs, on average are struck with a descending blow from a PW (-5.0 degrees) to a driver (-1.3 degrees).
  • Every club in the bag hits the ball at the same height 30 yards.
  • The average clubhead speed with the Driver is 112 mph; ball speed is 165 mph and carry distance is 269 yards.
  • The average clubhead speed with an 8-iron is 87 mph; ball speed is 115 mph and carry distance is 160 yards.
  • Clubhead speed increased by 2 mph from club to club.
  • In conditions that eliminated any roll, an average PGA Tour player would hit a driver and a 5-wood 500 yards; a driver and a 7- iron 441 yards; and a driver and a PW 405 yards.
  • The Carry distance difference between each iron is 12 yards (8-iron 160 yards and 7-iron 172 yards).

For LPGA Tour golfers (please note these are averages):

 

  • All clubs are on average struck with a descending blow other than the driver which is 3.0 degrees upward.
  • Every club in the bag hits the ball the same height25 yards.
  • The average clubhead speed with the driver is 94 mph; ball speed is 139 mph and carry distance is 220 yards.
  • The average clubhead speed with an 8-iron is 74 mph; ball speed is 100 mph and carry distance is 130 yards.
  • Clubhead speed increased by 2 mph from club to club.
  • In conditions that eliminated any roll, an average LPGA Tour player would hit a driver and a 5-wood 405 yards; a driver and a 7- iron 361 yards; and a driver and a PW 327 yards.
  • The carry distance difference between each iron is 11 yards (8-iron 130 yards and 7-iron 141 yards).

General information:

 

  • Shot accuracy is primarily determined by a combination of face angle, club path and point of contact.
  • The ball launches PRIMARILY in the direction of the club face - approximately 75-85% on full shots.
  • For putting, shot accuracy is determined primarily by the face angle - the softer the hit (as in chipping and putting) the greater the effect of clubface. In putting the face accounts for 95+% of where the ball goes.
  • Face angle (largely) determines the launch direction while shot curvature/shape is mostly determined by the club path relative to the face angle – the opposite of what has been taught for years. Think of it this way: when a ball is struck with a descending blow, i.e. ball first, divot second, the attack angle is down, yet the ball goes up. The ball goes up due to the angle/loft of the face!
  • The initial ball direction falls between the club face angle and club path - remember that it greatly favors the face angle.
  • The further apart the club face and club path diverge from each other (basically - point in different directions) the more the ball's spin axis tilts and the more curvature exists on the shot.
  • By the way - THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS SIDE SPIN - it is merely back spin on an axis and the more the axis tilts, the more the ball flight curves.
  • The only way to hit the outside of the ball is to have the face closed relative to the target line and to hit the inside of the ball the face must be open relative to the target line. Path plays very little role in what part of the ball we hit.
  • The highest recorded clubhead speed on the PGA Tour in 2009 was Bubba Watson at 128 mph while the World Long Drive Champion, Jamie Sadlowski used a clubhead speed of 145 mph (418 yards!) to win. The average male golfer swings a driver somewhere between 82 and 90 mph.

  • A carry distance of 100 yards for ladies is equivalent to a carry distance of 130 yards for men; 200 yards for ladies is equivalent to 250 yards for men.
  • A par four of 350 yards for ladies is equivalent to a par four of 430 yards for the men.
  • The most important factor in increasing carry distance is clubhead speed. For every 1 mph you can add to your swing speed you stand to gain almost 3 yards.
  • An increase of 1” in the length of a club can increase the clubhead speed by as much as 4 mph.
  • The quality of the hit is very important as it relays clubhead speed into ball speed. Smash factor is calculated by dividing the ball speed by the clubhead speed. The maximum smash factor is just above 1.5 (e.g. 100 mph clubhead speed divided into 152 mph ball speed) and indicates an ideal transfer of energy to the ball. A smash factor of 1.5 is most often only attainable with a driver.
  • The ball spends 1/2000th of a second on the clubface. That means it would take a scratch handicap golfer almost 28 rounds of even par golf to have the ball be on the clubface for one second!

Something to keep in mind is that no golfer should discard accuracy in search of distance as there should always be a balance between the two. It is, however, possible for just about any golfer to significantly increase their distance with only a marginal decrease in accuracy as a result of a sound, long-term plan coupled with commitment and discipline.

Interesting stuff - any thoughts or questions?

To hit it like a Tour player check THIS out!