Updated Pitching Thoughts

This article is an update on the many pitching and chipping articles I've written over the last few years. Not much has changed since I did the Wedge Project video, but there are certain elements I have a deeper understanding about. Experience and the smart guys at PING have gone a long way towards advancing my understanding. Let's take a look...

Discussing pitching at a Three Day Golf School

Discussing pitching at a Three Day Golf School

  • Great pitchers typically take very little divotflight the ball low and generate high spin rates
  • Lower trajectory shots are significantly easier to gauge than higher ones
  • When struck correctly lower trajectory wedge shots will almost always have more spin than higher shots
  • Most golfers perform better when they deliver 45º-40º of loft at impact off a normal fairway. The club they use is irrelevant
  • The quality of the face to ball interaction (friction) is primary in generating spin and determining the launch angle
  • The quality of the lie plays a big role in determining the amount of friction at impact
  • Any moisture/matter that gets between the face and ball will typically decrease friction and thus increase launch angle and reduce spin. Control will be reduced
  • I used to say that sand increases friction and that is often the case, but I've found it depends on the 'angularity' of the sand
  • Cleaning the club face should be done often and with a wet towel - don't use a tee
  • The primary role of grooves is to disperse moisture and matter from between the face and the ball, not generate spin
  • Older clubs with worn down grooves will not spin the ball as much as a fresh wedge (all else being equal)
  • Premium golf balls, when struck correctly, will always flight lower and spin more than non-premium golf balls
  • The optimal technique is primarily based around managing the club to ground interaction 
  • As the player alters trajectory so shall the club to ground interaction change. Lower shots with less loft will often lead to a steeper angle of attack
  • Controlling what the handle does through impact is integral to controlling the club to ground interaction
  • I've come to learn that there is no single ideal spin loft to generate the most spin. Every different lie, situation, golf ball and golfer would require heir own unique "optimal" spin loft
  • I've been a proponent of draws for pitch shots and I've seen too many golfers have success with fades or draws to continue advocating strictly for draws
  • For stock, and thus lower flighted, shots the bounce plays less of a role than you might imagine
  • The number one absolute worst thing to work towards with your wedge play....stay down. Please don't EVER work towards that
  • I've become a big fan of 'core' distances. Depending on the amount of time you have I'd recommend practicing two or more of these 'core' distances and really taking ownership eg. 30/50/70/90 yards
  • Incorporate variety and skill development into any and all forms of practice

I have found there to be a multitude of different, and somewhat unusual techniques that work well for certain individuals. A good general guideline that might help:

With the weight slightly forward and utilizing a narrow and square stance with the ball positioned centrally, be sure to keep your chest rotating through the strike in order to have the sole of the club skimming along the turf. Stay tall and keep the chest moving!

All the best.

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.

Trajectory Tricks

The loft on the clubface at impact is largely responsible for the launch of the ball. When it comes to wedge play friction also plays a significant role in determining the launch angle, but the purpose of this article is to share an idea to help you improve the loft you deliver to the ball at impact.

Most of us will either hit the ball overly high or too low. This video illustrates a simple drill to get you to feel what you need to feel in order to grasp what is required to deliver either more, or less, loft.

For the high ball hitters:

  • Using a pitching wedge get set up with a narrow stance
  • Position the ball off the tip of your front foot
  • Feel the handle or butt of the club travel a long way forward into impact
  • It’s not easy but do all you can to hit low launchers

For the low ball hitters like me:

  • Stick with the PW and a narrow stance
  • The ball should be in line with the tip of your back foot
  • In the downswing you’ll feel the clubhead swinging a ton. The clubhead should feel like it outraces the hands
  • This will feel scoopy and that’s a good thing

Notice where my hands are just post impact in the image below - the low ball hitters need the hands less forward while the high ball hitters need to sense how much more forward they need to be…

It’s never easy making changes as they always feel so uncomfortable. Let’s get away from associating discomfort with ‘wrong’ as you work towards improvement. I know this exercise seems like it’s the opposite of what it should be, but as the task becomes more challenging (which this one is) we have no choice but to adapt.

The good news is that this drill applies directly to your long game too, so don’t be afraid to incorporate a few of these drills with those full swings too.

Thanks for checking in and I hope this helps you to enjoy your golf a little more.

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!

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?

Ball Flight - What You Need to Know

The-Ball-Flight-Laws
The-Ball-Flight-Laws

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?

albert einstein
albert einstein

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.

They are:

Club Speed

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.

Clubface Orientation

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.

Clubhead Direction

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.

impact point
impact point

Read an earlier article on centerdness of contact and a great article on the TrackMan blog illustrating the importance of center contact.

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.....

Wedges and Water

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:

The Science Behind Superb Wedges: Part I | Andrew Rice Golf

The Science Behind Superb Wedges: Part II | Andrew Rice Golf

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

Optimal Driver Numbers on TrackMan

With so many questions after my two most recent posts I thought it would be enlightening to show you what we see when using TrackMan.  This particular driver was hit by Rick Hartmann - my boss and the Head Professional at Atlantic Golf Club.  Rick played on the European Tour for ten years and is a fantastic driver of the ball.  This is a good drive, but not anything unusual for Rick (it was into a very slight headwind).  These particular numbers are very close to optimal and should be something we should all be working towards regardless of what our club speed might be.  Of course that is if you happen to like high, long draws...

If you want to be efficient with your driver here is an explanation of what I look for:

  • The Attack Angle (0.9 degrees up) is positive - a good sign for maximum efficiency as an upward hit is better than a downward hit (if you want to hit it as far as possible).
  • Notice how (because the Swing Plane is very close to 45 degrees) that the Attack Angle + Club Path = Swing Direction.  Not unusual really, this is a helpful indicator in understanding what factors effect  the club path.
  • The Spin Loft is close to 11 degrees - a solid number that seems to work for most golfers.  Spin Loft = Dynamic Loft - Attack Angle. Think of spin loft as a measure of 'ball compression'.
  • In order to hit good draws the face must be open relative to the target at impact and here you see how the Face Angle is open (2.7 degrees) with the Club Path being further to the right (3.5 degrees). Couple that with a centered hit and you've got lovely push draws.
  • A centered hit is vital and that's why I like to keep Face to Path alongside Spin Axis.  If the hit is in the heel the face angle would be closed ( a negative number) and the spin axis would be tilted to the right (positive) and vice versa for a toe hit.  Here you see how with the face slightly closed to the path, you should get a baby draw, and that's exactly what we got - all from a centered hit.
  • Club Speed and Ball Speed are fairly self explanatory, but if you divide the club speed into the ball speed you will get 1.48 which equals the Smash Factor.  Smash factor is merely a measure of how efficiently you translated club speed into ball speed and is not purely a measure of how well you struck the ball. The maximum smash factor for a driver 1.53. (I have seen 1.54 twice!)
  • The Height of the shot, which is measured from flat and not necessarily the ground, is right where I'd like to see it for this particular club speed.  PGATour average swing speed is 112mph and they hit all their clubs 90 feet in the air. At around 108mph I think 88 feet high works very nicely.
  • Launch Angle and Launch Direction are largely influenced by the club face and I like both here.  I look for draws to launch to the right of the target (positive) and the launch angle to be somewhere between 10 and 16 degrees depending on the players club speed.
  • The Spin Rate for this shot is a touch high, but I would attribute that to a shaft that is softer than what the golfer should be using.  I'd like to see the spin rate at this club speed be somewhere between 2000 and 2200.
  • Side Total indicates that this ball is straight down the center and finished less than 4 feet right of the intended target line - just another ho-hum 280 yard drive down the pipe.

Somewhat advanced I know, but after the response to my last few posts I know there are thousands of golfers out there who are looking for a better understanding of what really happens at impact and what they should be working towards for maximum efficiency.  If you can duplicate these numbers you won't need me for much...at least not for the driver.

How Far Do You Hit It?

The PGA Tour has a new stat titled Total Driving Efficiency .  The stat measures how many yards each player is able to squeeze out of their driver clubhead speed- how much are they getting out of what they put in?  We should all be looking to be  as efficient as possible, particularly with the big stick.   The stat is quantified by how many yards per mile per hour of clubhead speed a golfer extracts from their driver and there is a minimum of 25 driver shots required.

The current leader is David Toms who works with noted instructor and Trackman user Brian Manzella.  Together they understand the ins and outs of what it takes to be as efficient as possible with the driver.  Brian says David's path and face are right around zero (which means straight at the target) with his attack angle being about 2-3 degrees up on the ball.  Read more here.  David's YTD averages are:

  • Ball Speed - 159mph
  • Launch Angle 12.6 degrees
  • Spin Rate 2300rpm
  • Carry 260 yards

Keep in mind that the new stat is an average and thus includes balls hit on firm and soft fairways, into and down wind, and of course good ones and less than stellar ones.  The numbers below indicate the best (Toms), middle of the pack (Scott) and bottom (Driscoll).  As you view the distance they would hit the ball at various clubhead speeds keep in mind that some players prefer to not be optimal.  In other words, some players just prefer to hit a higher spin cut shot out there as they know it'll stay in play.  Also keep in mind that most of the golfers who do well in this stat tend to swing the driver at less than 110 mph - they need to be efficient to keep up!  The vast majority of us need to do the same. Read THIS to learn how to be more efficient with your driver.  If you know what your clubhead speed this is where your average tee shot would end up. If you are similar to Toms' number keep it up, if you are in the Driscoll category we need to talk...

David Toms (best)

  • 100 mph - 269 yards
  • 95 mph - 256 yards
  • 90 mph - 242 yards
  • 85 mph - 229 yards
  • 80 mph - 215 yards
  • 75 mph - 202 yards

Adam Scott (average)

  • 100 mph - 258 yards
  • 95 mph - 245 yards
  • 90 mph - 232 yards
  • 85 mph - 219 yards
  • 80 mph - 206 yards
  • 75 mph - 194 yards

James Driscoll (worst)

James Driscoll

  • 100 mph - 244 yards
  • 95 mph - 231 yards
  • 90 mph - 219 yards
  • 85 mph - 207 yards
  • 80 mph - 195 yards
  • 75 mph - 183 yards

Where do you fall?

It would be interesting to see what would happen to James Driscoll's efficiency if he spent an off season working on getting more out of his driver...

Evolution of a Golf Ball

Four Generations of Titleist
Four Generations of Titleist

I was recently handed a pristine collection of older model  golf balls. It included a dozen Tour Balata 100's, a dozen Professional 90's and a dozen early model Pro V1's.  There is no arguing that Titleist has held the upper hand in golf balls for almost 30 years and if you have played golf long enough you have no doubt had the pleasure of maneuvering one or all of these models around the course at some point.  After a second of thought, the golf geek in me wanted to take them out for a test drive - see how far they go and what they might feel like.  After all, it's been a long time since I had dented a Tour Balata.

Thankfully, wisdom prevailed and I decided to get some real numbers on the balls with the help of TrackMan.  I realized that, including the most recent model of the Pro V1, I had access to four generations of Titleist golf balls.  I had balls from the '80's, '90's, 2000's and today and  I wanted to experience first hand what the differences might be.

I needed a very consistent driver of the golf ball and the best man at hand was Zack Brady from Atlantic Golf Club.  Zack is an exceptional golf professional who can really play.  He also happens to be one of the better drivers I've seen.  I sacrificed six balls from each generation and had him hit them on a rotating basis going Balata, Professional, Pro V1 and new Pro V1.  I did this to negate the effect of any changes in swing or weather.  Zack hit twenty four shots on the Trackman and the average from the six shots with each model was calculated.  Here are the results with each set of balls:

titleist golf balls
titleist golf balls

Tour Balata 100

titleist tour balata
titleist tour balata
  • Total Distance 261.6 yds
  • Carry 224.7 yds
  • Clubhead Speed 110.1 mph
  • Ball Speed 160.7 mph
  • Smash Factor 1.46
  • Attack Angle -0.4 degrees
  • Spin Loft 9.0 degrees
  • Launch Angle 6.5 degrees
  • Spin 2789 rpm

Professional 90

titleist professional 90
titleist professional 90
  • Total Distance 262.1 yds
  • Carry 231.9 yds
  • Clubhead Speed 110.6 mph
  • Ball Speed 161.4 mph
  • Smash Factor 1.45
  • Attack Angle -1.1 degrees
  • Spin Loft 6.9 degrees
  • Launch Angle 6.5 degrees
  • Spin 2915 rpm

Pro V1 - 392

early titleist pro V1 392
early titleist pro V1 392
  • Total Distance 286.4 yds
  • Carry 251.9 yds
  • Clubhead Speed 110.1 mph
  • Ball Speed 164.7 mph
  • Smash Factor 1.50
  • Attack Angle -3.0 degrees
  • Spin Loft 10.8 degrees
  • Launch Angle 6.5 degrees
  • Spin 2739 rpm

Pro V1 New

titleist pro V1
titleist pro V1
  • Total Distance 298.4 yds
  • Carry 271.1 yds
  • Clubhead Speed 110.8 mph
  • Ball Speed 167.2 mph
  • Smash Factor 1.51
  • Attack Angle -3.1 degrees
  • Spin Loft 11.7 degrees
  • Launch Angle 7 degrees
  • Spin 2850 rpm

Things you should be aware of:  The numbers listed above are an average of the six shots struck with each ball.  Each ball was only hit once.  The golf balls, while all pristine and "new" are very different age wise.  The balata balls have been waiting in their sleeve for more than twenty years for someone to play with.  The balls had all been stored in an air-conditioned space and were stored together.  The weather was a crisp 74 degrees with a slight left to right breeze blowing - lovely for August!  Zack used a Titleist D3 9.5 driver with a Diamana 'ahina X shaft by Titleist.

Points of Interest:

  • Obviously the distance gaps were what interested me most and there were no real surprises there, other than the "upgrade" from the early Pro V1 to the newer model - almost a 5% increase!
  • The huge leap in distance off the tee on the PGATour in 2000 is due to only one thing - the introduction of the Pro V1.  An increase in distance of almost 10% over the scuff resistant Professional.
  • I thought the spin rate on the wound balls (Balata and Professional) would be through the roof.  Not so!  The balls sounded very soft off the face and seemed to struggle to get into the air - almost as if they were unhappy to be put into play this late in the game!  Zack said it felt like he was hitting ping pong balls.
  • I was very interested in the fact that the smash factor was lower with the two softer balls.  It almost seemed as if it was more difficult to get the smash factor up due to the softness/compression of the ball.  BTW, smash factor (generally speaking) is the ball speed divided by the clubhead speed and it measures the efficiency/quality of the strike.
  • The older/softer balls definitely curved more than the more modern models.  This was noticeable even to the untrained eye.
  • Since the study I have gone back and weighed each model of golf ball measured.  I have long been under the impression that all golf balls weighed 46 grams.  The Tour Balata (43gr) and the Professional (42gr) were much lighter than the others (46gr).  Not sure if a ball can "lose weight" or were they made at that weight?

On a side note: I also had Zack hit six older model Pro V1X - 332 balls. I kept this data out of the study as I wanted to key in on four separate generations of Titleist balls and this model was a relative of the early model Pro V1 we studied.  Interestingly enough this was the ball that traveled the furthest - a whopping 307.3 yds!  (All the additional clubhead numbers were similar to the other models). I took from this that it is important to play a golf ball that fits your clubhead speed/game. With a driver speed in the vicinity of PGATour average (112mph), Zack currently plays the new Pro V1X and this study confirmed that the X is the right ball for him.

The moral of the story is that when it comes to golf balls, new technology fitted to the appropriate golfer makes a real difference. Take the time to chat with a teacher or professional you respect and get some sound advice as to which ball might make a difference for you.  Oh, and that pristine logo-ed dozen you've been saving for that special course, remember the one your buddy bought back from Augusta for you in '78 - eh...not so good.