Hitting Up on the Driver

I often conduct this demonstration for my Three Day Golf students where I hit back to back shots and attempt to illustrate the value of hitting up on the driver and what it could mean to their tee shots. For good measure I also throw in a little fade versus draw at the same time. 

My intent is to maintain a similar club speed from one swing to the next and if possible strike the ball in a similar location on the club face. As you'll see this was an occasion where I managed to get pretty close...

IMG_2039.JPG

This TrackMan screenshot illustrates the first shot where the idea was to hit down and across the target line, imparting a low launching and fading ball flight...

The First Shot

The First Shot

This TrackMan screenshot illustrates the follow-up shot where the plan was to deliver the club head to the ball with it traveling up and outward, imparting a higher launch and gentle draw to the ball flight...

The Second Shot

The Second Shot

Let's take a deeper look to see what some of the important differences are between these two interesting shots:

  1. Attack Angle - The 9.1º difference is the primary reason why the second shot traveled significantly further than the initial attempt. This was achieved with a change in tee height, address position and intent.
  2. Club Path - The almost 14º difference here will generally lead to a huge change in ball flight curvature. My findings have shown that when it comes to shot shape the club path plays a primary role.
  3. Launch Angle - The old adage of 'hit down to make the ball go up' takes a beating here as the shot hit with an ascending strike launches significantly higher.
  4. Club Speed - Nothing much to see here other than to verify that the club head for each shot is traveling at virtually identical speeds.
  5. Ball Speed - Another interesting nugget here is that while the carry and total distances are significantly different there is very little difference in the ball speed from shot to shot.
  6. Carry - Wow! That's amazing isn't it? While impact location for the second shot was slightly higher on the face (and a hint more toward the toe) which might lend to slightly longer carry distance the direction the club head was traveling (up and out) is the primary difference maker here.
  7. Total - As you might imagine the increase in total distance follows suit along with the increase in carry distance.

I know we could all benefit from a gain in almost 30 yards off the tee. And keep in mind that's at the same speed and with the same club! No need to hit the gym or shop for a new driver. This video gives some insight into what's required to affect the changes you've seen in this demonstration...

Thanks for reading/watching. If you need hands-on help with your game I'd love to host you in Savannah at the Westin Savannah Harbor Resort for either a lesson or a Three Day Golf School. Email terri(at)andrewricegolf.com for details.

How to Shallow the Attack Angle

I teach far more golfers that hit down on the ball too much more than those that don't hit down enough. If you are one of those golfers that typically takes big divots and hits a low ball flight then stay with me....

I have found this sequence to work nicely with all golfers looking to shallow their attack angle and improve the crispness of the strike. Try the following (with either irons or driver):

  • PHASE 1 - 5 drags over the top of the ball
  • PHASE 2 - 5 low to high pitch style shots, keeping clubhead low in the backswing
  • PHASE 3 - 5 half speed and half size swings sensing an ascending strike (even with irons)

(all shots are struck with the ball on a tee)

Another drill I like to use to help golfers learn to deliver an ascending strike with the driver is what I call the Box Drill pictured below...

Place an empty sleeve box between a teed golf ball and the target as indicated. The box should be approximately a grip length ahead of the ball. On a windy day it might be necessary to use tees to anchor the box in place. This is a costly addition to this drill!

If you can hit shots without running the clubhead into the box then chances are that you're no longer hitting down on the ball and you should see an increase in both distance and the altitude of your tee shots. Keep in mind that as you "upgrade" your attack angle, should you have an adjustable driver, you might need to alter the loft.

Thanks for reading and I hope these ideas are going to help your game. Cheers!

Optimal Driver Numbers

kyle stanley
kyle stanley

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.

Additional Resources:

Getting More Out of Your DriverAndrew Rice Golf

Hitting Up or Down? Here's How to Set UpAndrew Rice Golf

Which Driver Shaft Length?

testshaft
testshaft

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.

persimmon
persimmon

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
shafttestavg
shafttestavg

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)

dispersion
dispersion

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.

persimmon1
persimmon1

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!

What Can Your Driver Tell You?

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....

Driver Face

Driver 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 where sand is caught between the ball and the face.

Secondly, inspect where the crown of the club meets the face....

Driver Top Edge

Driver Top Edge

Here, the wear pattern indicates numerous pop-ups.  A few balls must have almost been missed to get them that far up on 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....

Sole of the Driver

Sole of the Driver

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 -11 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 so 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:

Getting More Out of Your Driver

Understanding Heel and Toe Klankers...

As the size of the clubhead has increased over the last two decades so has the role that gear effect plays on off-center strikes. As the volume of the head increases so does the importance of a quality strike. I think the following video will go a long way towards explaining how this works and what it can mean for your game...

Now keep in mind that gear effect can be a help or a hindrance - it can cause your ball to curve to the target or away from it. Here's an example of how an understanding of the importance of strike point, particularly with the driver, can help any golfer avoid trying to fix something that isn't broken.

A Neutral Swing with a Heel Strike

A Neutral Swing with a Heel Strike

The Same Neutral Swing with a Toe Strike

The Same Neutral Swing with a Toe Strike

Notice how the delivery numbers (attack angle & clubpath) from the above two shots are eerily similar, yet the resultant ball flight could not be more different. The difference in the outcome of the examples above is purely due to the location of the strike for each shot. While the two shots are very different I see no need for this player to address their swing. They simply need to develop their skill at striking the ball in a consistent location on the face.

  • Toe sided strikes will lead to more draw or less fade.
  • Heel sided strikes will lead to more fade or less draw.
  • High strikes on the face elevate launch and decrease spin.
  • Low strikes on the face lower launch and increase spin.
  • Gear effect works in 3D - the head will twist away from the strike location.
  • If the CoG is closer to the strike point, then there will be less curvature from gear effect on off-center hits. 
  • If the CoG is further from the strike point, then there will be more curvature from gear effect on off-center hits. 
  • Controlling the strike location is a skill - practice accordingly.

If you're looking to gain a better understanding of how you're striking the ball with your  "headcover" clubs, buy yourself a few cans of Dr. Scholl's Odor X. Spray the face of your driver the next time you're warming up or practicing to get some all important feedback.

Your next question might be - "How do I upgrade where I'm striking the ball?" Valid. I am of the opinion that controlling the strike point is a skill. A fun drill is to practicing striking the ball in a variety of unusual, yet intentional, locations on the clubface. Here are additional resources to help you understand and manage the strike point:

Collision! — Andrew Rice Golf

Strike Point Drill — Andrew Rice Golf

Optimal Strike Point for Longer Drives — Andrew Rice Golf

Spin Rate and the Driver — Andrew Rice Golf

Swing Pattern vs Strike Point — Andrew Rice Golf

Driver Education

Here's a fun video I filmed in collaboration with Mark Crossfield and Denis Pugh. I believe it covers almost all the pertinent points any golfer should be looking into in order to be able to hit the ball longer and straighter...

I hope you enjoyed this and are keen to get out there and try a few of the suggested ideas and drills to see if you can improve off the tee.

Thanks for watching!

Swing Pattern vs Strike Point

You may have heard me talk about how common it is to see golfers hit a tee shot with a fade (out-to-in club path) swing pattern, yet strike it off the toe for a baby draw or vice versa. The other day I was giving a lesson and a student hit a shot that was too interesting to not share. Here are the TrackMan details of the driver shot:

trackman heel hit

First a few basics:

  • Club path is primarily responsible for the curve of any shot
  • The direction of the club path relative to the target, out-to-in (fade pattern) or in-to-out (draw pattern), is what I refer to as a players swing pattern
  • Players that swing from in-to-out will tend to hit draws and players that swing from out-to-in will tend to hit fades
  • Where the ball is struck on the face of the driver (strike point) can drastically alter the effect of a players swing pattern on ball flight
  • Shots struck off the heel will tend to fade more or draw less and shots struck off the toe will tend to draw more or fade less

The player who hit the above shot has a fairly strong draw bias to his swing pattern and we are always working to neutralize his strong in-to-out club path as he tends to struggle with blocks and hooks. As you can tell from the above shot the club path (first highlighted yellow box) was strongly from in-to-out - 9.2 degrees to the right of the target. Well then why did the ball fly straight (spin axis 0.2)

The particular shot we're looking at was struck well off the heel (yellow circle) and essentially what happened was the draw bias of the swing pattern was cancelled out by the fade bias of the strike point. Notice how in the second yellow box above there's a closed face to path relationship, which should lead to a hook, but the ball flew straight - always a dead give away for a heel strike.

I've come up with a simple formula to help explain this:

A + B = C 

Where A is the swing pattern, B is the strike point and C is the resultant ball flight. You see it's the combination of A and B that gives us the ball flight - not just A. Here's a video I did with TrackMan that might help to explain some of this more clearly:

When you're practicing driver you should always mark the face with some Dr. Scholl's Odor X foot spray. If you do that you will always get B (strike point) and C (ball flight) from any shot. Should you be practicing without a TrackMan you'll at least have a clear idea as to what your swing pattern is and can make well-informed adjustments if necessary.

All the best and thanks for reading.

 

Spin Rate and the Driver

I was recently teaching an accomplished senior golf professional and he happened to hit three very interesting consecutive shots. They are illustrated in the image above starting from the orange circle and working up to the blue circle.

I thought there was some valuable information to learn from each of these three shots. Here is some TrackMan data to ponder:

Orange Strike

Spin Rate - 3252 Launch Angle - 7.5 Total Distance - 256.5 Club Speed - 103.6

Green Strike

Spin Rate - 2623 Launch Angle - 9.6 Total Distance - 269.5 Club Speed - 102.9

Blue Strike

Spin Rate - 1928 Launch Angle - 10.9 Total Distance - 274.6 Club Speed - 103.1

My experience has shown that golfers tend to be fairly consistent when it comes to club speed and this illustration shows us just that - there was a change of less than 1 mph between the golfers slowest and fastest swings. Nothing new there...

What is interesting is that where the ball was struck on the face, influenced the spin, launch and ultimately the distance that the shot traveled. You may have heard that with a driver you want to launch the ball high and spin it low. The purpose of this article is to get you to start believing it! 

Stay tuned as this is the stuff that can make a tangible difference in your game...

Launch Angle

The clubface is curved from top to bottom and this is called roll. If you have a 9.5 degree driver that means (assuming the manufacturer is correct) that your club has 9.5 degrees of loft in the center (picture the "equator") of the clubface. If you strike the ball lower on the face your club effectively has less loft and vice versa for a higher strike point. well hitting the ball higher on the clubface introduces more loft to the ball and it will thus launch higher - bingo! We've got the higher launch taken care of. As you can see the ball launched more than 3 degrees higher by elevating the strike point.

Spin Rate

But what about the spin rate? How do you get that down and what is ideal? I have great news, as this is a two for one deal. When you strike the ball higher on the face the "off-center" hit causes the clubhead to twist slightly during impact and this leads to vertical gear effect and a strike above the equator will have less spin than a strike below it. I prefer to see a spin rate somewhere between 1900 and 2400 rpm's if you're looking to really make the ball go. It's amazing what a strike point that's about 1/2" above the equator will do towards getting you into that optimal spin rate range.

If you're wondering where to strike the ball on the face the above photo is just about perfect - a touch above center for higher launch and less spin and a touch towards the toe for a hint of gear effect draw. Who wouldn't want to hit high launching, low spinning, baby draws that go 20 yards longer with the exact same club speed?

Get Faster Off the Tee

Here is an exercise to help you gain a few miles per hour of clubhead speed over time and allow you to pick up that much needed yardage off the tee. The objective is to slowly introduce your body to the increased speed, efficiency and agility necessary to generate additional clubhead speed.

Here is what is required:

  • It is important to get loose prior to starting your speed sets
  • Using your driver you want to hit two sets of five golf balls with a recovery period in between each set
  • There should be little concern for accuracy or even quality of shot - the sole objective is speed
  • The first shot in each set should be at your normal driver speed
  • Each shot builds on the speed of the previous shot
  • The final shot in each set should be the absolute fastest you can possibly swing

If you can do two speed sets as mapped out above 3 times a week for a month I would be surprised if you had not gained 4 mph of clubhead speed when making a normal feeling golf swing. That's enough for 10 more yards off every tee box!

Additional resources for more distance off the tee:

Getting More Out of Your Driver | Andrew Rice Golf

Hitting Up or Down? Here's How to Set Up | Andrew Rice Golf

Hit Up On the Driver: Here's a Great Drill - YouTube

From Slicer to Bomber

An Average Slicer Tee Ball The above TrackMan screenshot indicates a very typical pattern for the slicer - an overly inward club path (-15.2 degrees out to in) along with a clubface angle that is open/right of where the clubhead is travelling (9.9 degrees). This package results in shots that invariably launch left and curve aggressively right, often shaping across the target line. The end result is a far from optimal tee shot coupled with a healthy fear of any shot that leaks too far into right field!

The video below demonstrates what I did with the "owner" of the slice illustrated above. I have had tremendous success with this technique - primarily, I believe, because it taps into a golfer's instinct that screams - in order for my ball to not leak right I must swing as much to the left as possible. Essentially the drill gives the golfer a reason, something they've never had, to swing to the right. Take a look....

 

  • Tilt the face down 30 degrees (1 hour)
  • Take normal grip
  • Adjust shoulders and arms to square the face at address
  • Swing out to right field

After working on this drill for a while the golfer started to get comfortable and gain a measure of confidence that the ball actually would work back to the left.  This is what happened...

From Slicer to Bomber...

As you can tell from the above numbers the golfer has hit this shot more 55 yards longer. Part of that (15 yards) is due to an increase in speed, but as you can see - this player is now swinging from in to out, is hitting far less down on the ball, has substantially less spin and were it not for a slight heel side strike this would have been even longer.

These screenshots were taken during the course of a standard one hour lesson. They indicate an average shot from the player before the change and after. The golfer hit shots that were worse and better than both examples shown. Unfortunately an increase of 55 yards is not normal, but every little bit helps...!

Driver Test: Old vs. New

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?

Can You Get Better in 20 Minutes?

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.

The Driver and Accuracy (Part 2)

We all want to hit the ball straight and far of the tee don't we? In more technical terms our goals with the driver are to achieve the highest ball speed possible (distance), along with the desired flight pattern (accuracy). We want cake and we want to eat it too!  Here's a run down on what club manufacturers have been working on to help us keep the ball in the fairway...

The primary factors directed towards accuracy are bulge and gear effect, center of gravity placement, adjustable heads or weights, a preset face angle and the clubhead design.

  • The most interesting element built into each driver that serves to increase accuracy is the one two punch of bulge and horizontal gear effect.  The face of every driver (all clubs requiring a headcover for that matter) has roll and bulge while irons do not.  Bulge is the curvature of the face from its heel to its toe, while roll is the curvature of the face from the crown to the sole.  Bulge starts the ball farther to the right on toe shots and farther to the left on heel shots and is a correction for the clubhead’s center of gravity (CoG) that causes hooking or slicing (gear effect) on off center shots. In other words, manufacturers have built bulge into the face to counter the negative results of gear effect.  Here is an explanation (BTW Irons do display gear effect just far less than drivers):

Here's a definition of gear effect from Dave Tutelman (who has an excellent site for the scientist golfers out there):

Gear effect causes a ball to  have sidespin which is the result of an off-center hit with a club whose center of gravity is well back from the clubface.

Without an off center hit and a CoG that is well behind the face gear effect cannot happen.  In the picture above, we have a toe impact with an iron and a driver.  The center of gravity (CoG) is indicated by the black and white circle.  The collision between the clubface and the ball on the toe creates a torque that causes the club to twist - the club twists around the clubs' CoG which is indicated by the red arrow.

The CoG on the iron is virtually on the face and this type of strike causes the face to rotate open.  This invariably causes the ball to fly weakly to the right as there is no gear effect on the spin imparted on the ball.

The driver is very different.  With the CoG being further back from the face a toe impact causes the entire face to rotate around the CoG.  As the ball compresses and grips on the face the red arrow causes the ball to actually rotate to the left (blue arrow) - the ball and the face actually work like two gears!  Thus the term gear effect.  And the reason why a toe hit with a driver tends to hook and a a heel hit tends to fade.  Bulge helps out by launching a toe hit to the right of the target - a good thing if the ball has draw spin.

  • The design and shape of the clubhead is something that we have seen much tinkering with in recent years.  From the triangular Titleist 907 D1 (how could you forget that!) to the onslaught of ugly square heads - these designs all strive to do one thing - re-position the CoG to stabilize the head during off center hits.  The longer (from face to back) the clubhead is, the further back the center of gravity is from the face which also increases gear effect.  If you can deal with the aesthetics of these scientifically upgraded clubs by all means have at it.
  • Another modern trend that has been proven to straighten wayward tee balls is the advent of adjustable weights or screws on the clubhead.  Originally introduced by TaylorMade in their R7 line, tests have shown that the higher the swing speed the more a golfer is able to curve a ball by changing the weights in the clubhead.  A golfer with a swing speed of 115mph (PGATour average is 112mph) will experience 35 yards of curve while a golfer with an average type speed of 85 mph will only experience 6 yards of corrective curve.
  • Along similar lines are the adjustable heads where the shaft rotates in order to adjust the loft or lie. While changing the loft will not do much to improve your accuracy, altering the lie angle can help you make subtle changes.  Moving the shaft to a more upright position will promote a draw, while flattening will promote a fade.
  • There is also the preset face angle. For those golfers out there who struggle with slicing this has been a tremendous help.  If you feel like you could benefit from this just look for on offset driver or one that says draw somewhere on the head.

There are also rumors that there are certain shafts (Nunchuk) that make the ball go straighter, but I have not read anything or seen any convincing evidence to support this.

Thanks for reading and I hope that now you have a better understanding of what your driver can do for you....

The Driver and Distance (Part 1)

We all want to hit the ball straight and far of the tee don't we?  In more technical terms our goals with the driver are to achieve the highest ball speed possible (distance), along with the desired flight pattern (accuracy).  We want cake and we want to eat it too!  There are numerous elements built into most drivers that often assist us in achieving these goals, yet so many of these small factors almost go unnoticed.  Almost...

Factors in driver technology that influence distance are: length of club; shaft weight; head weight; loft; face material and thickness (CoR) and roll (vertical gear effect).  Distance comes from our ability to convert clubhead speed into ball speed - often referred to as smash factor.  Smash factor is an indicator of our efficiency at impact - are we getting out what we (our driver included!) are putting in?

  • It seems to be fashionable these days for club companies to stretch the length of their drivers to 46 inches and claim that they are "superfast".  The laws of physics indicate they are faster, but in my hands any speed gains are sacrificed with a loss of control.  Ben Hogan used a driver that was 42.5 inches long and nowhere have I ever read that he was a short hitter.  Personally I am not a fan of anything over 45 inches as this seems to be my threshold where distance decreases and control and centerdness of hit diminishes. I believe beginning golfers could use a 43 inch driver with far better results.
  • Over the last decade shaft technology has come a long way and the most notable upgrade has been shaft weight.  Miyazaki makes an incredible 39 Series driver shaft that can be as light as 44 grams - if you you cannot swing that faster then we have a problem.  Barring feel and control issues I am a big fan of lightweight shaft technology and know it is something we should all take advantage of - even Keegan Bradley did.
  • In pursuit of the "lighter is faster" formula a few companies have sought to reduce the weight of the clubhead.  Cleveland Golf has their Ultralight line of drivers that are the lightest on the market today.  A little known fact is that we could actually hit the ball further with a heavier clubhead (with speed being equal).  By increasing the mass ratio of clubhead to ball you can increase ball speed, however the problem here is that as you increase weight you decrease speed, so once again there is a threshold to consider.  The good news is the club companies have done all the research for us and most driver heads fall somewhere between 197 and 212 grams - something we can all manage.
  • The loft of your driver is something that should be determined by an expert (someone who does this for a living!) fitter.  A nice option with the new adjustable heads is that you can now alter the loft of your club without buying a whole new club. The more loft you introduce to the ball at impact the more spin and less ball speed you will create.  The lower the loft, the more ball speed. One problem however - we would like to get the ball in the air and so, once again, there is a trade off.  When it comes to loft, where possible, I encourage a golfer to go with less loft and show them how to overcome the reduction in launch angle by learning how to hit up on the ball.  The golfer does most of the work here, but a reduction in loft can help with distance.
  • The coefficient of restitution (CoR) is the spring like effect the face has when it collides with the golf ball.  As you  might expect the highest CoR on the face is in the center with lower numbers working out from the there.  Golf's governing bodies have made it a rule that this spring like effect cannot be higher than 0.83 and as a result all club companies have made sure that their equipment is right up against the limit.
  • The final, and perhaps most interesting, factor that increases the distance your driver makes the ball go is due to roll - no not roll on the ground, but roll on the face.  Roll is the curvature of the face from top to bottom or crown to sole. Manufacturers include roll into the face design in order to create vertical gear effect on hits that are below or above center.  A ball that is struck above center will actually spin less due to gear effect and as a result launch high with low spin - a winning formula for the long ball.  Of course balls hit low on the face will spin more, but they more than likely need a little more air time. Please see Part 2 of this article for a full explanation of gear effect.
  • I know of no face design or treatment that increases distance - unless you're working the Chapstick for more than just your lips!

The most efficient a golfer could be with the big stick would be to have a clubhead and shaft that fits them in every way, hit the ball from the inside with an ascending blow and strike the ball slightly above the center of the face and a touch towards the toe.  The reason to favor the toe -  the toe of a driver travels about 14% faster than the heel of the club!

I love this PGATour stat that measures how efficient each player on tour is with the driver.  It quantifies  a player's average distance divided by their average swing speed. It also shows each players average swing speed - an interesting read.

Check back soon to learn about what the driver can do for your accuracy....

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!

Equipment Factoids

Basic Blades So often golfers are tempted into believing their equipment is the reason for the poor results they have been experiencing.  Sometimes they may be correct, yet most times, this leads to the decision to make a change.

Here are a few simple things to keep in mind when considering making a change to your set:

  • The latest and greatest is not necessarily all it is hyped to be.  It is more than likely the same old thing with a new and exciting paint job.  Decide what you like and stick with that!  I am currently using a set of irons with the same type of heads (blades), shafts (Dynamic Gold s-400) and grips (rubber with reminders) that I used when I first started to play the game.  (Titleist 690.MB)
  • When it comes to irons there are three options: blades; the oversized helper set; and something in between the two.  Get something you know you will be comfortable with.
  • As far as fitting for irons we all need to know two numbers: the length and lie angle that we prefer!  Not 2 degrees over standard or plus a half inch on length!  This is because all companies have different standards (don't we all?) and if you know the length and lie of your clubs you are immune to any problems that might arise.  My 6 iron is 37.50 inches long and has a lie angle of 60.50 degrees.  I will use those numbers for as long as I can swing.
  • Get clubs that fit your body and not strictly your impact position on the day of fitting!  Lose the lie boards and tape on the bottom of irons please.
  • Find a  shaft that fits your swing and feels good to you and then stay with it for as long as they make it!  Make sure it is not too strong.
  • When it comes to putters keep in mind that there are essentially two genres: face-balanced and toe weighted. If you are considering making a putter change try to stay in your genre unless things have just been horrific on the greens.
  • There have been very few to no improvements made in the field of fairway woods.  Titanium is very light and thus the heads tends get too big, so find a simple and small stainless steel head that you like the look of and set about developing a long lasting relationship with it.
  • When selecting a fairway wood decide whether you would like to use it predominantly off the fairway or more as a tee club.  Select the loft of the club accordingly.
  • Limit the number of wedges in your bag to a maximum of three - that means a PW, SW and an LW at most!  If you struggle with the wedges stick to a PW and SW so as to not cloud any decision-making around the greens.  Tour players practice enough, are skilled enough and play the kind of courses that require precise enough shots to justify four wedges being in the bag.
  • There should be an even number of degrees between each of your wedges.  Most PW's are 48 degrees and I have a 54 and a 60.  Other viable options are a PW and a 52 and 56 or a PW and a 53 and 58.
  • When selecting your wedges be sure to incorporate enough bounce in each club.  Unless your name is Eldrick, Phil or Vijay you need more than 6 degrees of bounce on any wedge you own.  That's why manufacterers build clubs with 14 degrees of bounce!
  • There are two shapes of grips folks - rounds and reminders!  Find out what shape you like and ask for it by name the next time you refresh your grips. 
  • When it comes to grips forget the latest cool colors or which ones your favorite player is using - they are more than likely getting paid to use the ones on their clubs.  Decide which grips are for you and your preference and now you don't have to worry about the latest fad.
  • The driver is the one club in the bag where it pays to stay current.  Find a reputable club fitter in your area that uses a launch monitor and go and get fitted.  Whenever you get the urge to replace your current big stick get back on that launch monitor to compare the latest offering with your trusty old steed!
  •  The current fitting carts that most companies have make it very easy to try multiple different heads with various shafts.  Be patient, try them all and then find a club that gives you good numbers and looks great to you!

Chipping Clubs

Enjoy watching the world's best wade through the quagmire that appears to be the 2009 US open this weekend.....

The Driver: Hit Up or Hit Down?

henrik-stenson-getty1For many years I have believed that the irons are struck with a descending blow, the fairway woods and hybrids are swept off the ground and the driver is hit with a slightly upward hitTee it high and let it fly! In recent months it has come to my attention that that is not necessarily the case; certainly amongst the top golfers in the world. Trackman is a company that collects a tremendous amount of data on the tour golfers and their shots. Essentially everything you did not need to know about your club and ball in the swing, but importantly, a few things that are very important.  Trackman, in their January newsletter, stated that the PGA Tour average for attack angle with the driver  (up or down at the moment of impact) is -1.3 degrees.  That means that a collection of the greatest drivers on the planet actually average out with a downward hit on the big stick! Pay attention to how high tour golfers do not tee their ball.  It is almost always medium to low height.  As I researched further I found that long drive champions tended to have an attack angle of anywhere from +7 to +12 degrees.  Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes, two of the tours longest, regularly measure out at around +6 degrees.

The primary reason why all these top golfers hit down is because they hit the ball so far already that they have no need to learn how to hit up.  If you drive the ball less than 250 yards on average then you need to learn how to hit up on the ball. If any of you watched Henrik Stenson's magnificent round yesterday at the very major-like TPC Sawgrass you will have noticed how often he took a divot while hitting three wood off just about every tee.  There is only way way to take a divot after impact and that is to hit down.

There is nothing in physics that indicates a downward hit is more accurate than an ascending hit other than that the generally lower trajectory will get on the ground sooner and thus stay more on line.....

Make sense?

Things to Ponder:

  • In my book Henrik Stenson played the round of the year yesterday. Congratulations!
  • I like Ian Poulter a lot and I find myself rooting for him to break through more and more.  Great outfits too!ian-poulter
  • How about my two picks for the week; Boo Weekley WD and Brian Gay WD. Sensational selecting there....
  • Jim Hardy, of One-Plane fame, believes that most of the great putters of all time were hookers of the ball; Crenshaw, Ballesteros, Watson (in his day), Locke, Archer.  The one exception is Nicklaus.  Release the face of the putter.....
  • I thought that TPC Sawgrass showed some much needed teeth, but it was a little tricked up in places.  I thought the 13th was a joke!  You had to land it front right to have chance to get close, well Goosen did that and his ball rolled into the water?!
  • Did anyone notice that four out of the top five finishers at the Players played in sunglasses?  Stenson, Poulter, Na and Davis!
  • I remember when Strange and Kite had a Monday playoff for the Tour Championship many years ago and the winner would be the first player to break the $1million mark for the season.  Ian Poulter did that yesterday, by finishing second!