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?

The Hot Drivers and Shafts for 2013

It's always nice to get an unbiased opinion from an expert. As a result I recently spent some time with friend and clubfitting guru Ian Fraser from Modern Golf in Toronto Canada, discussing what he deemed to be the top driver and shaft options available for 2013. Ian has no affiliation with any one club or shaft manufacturer so I really value his opinions. Here are his selections for the top shafts available this year:

UST Mamiya Attas 4U

  • higher launch and low spin
  • stronger mid-section helps to increase ball speed

Graphite Design Tour AD BB

  • BB - blue bullet
  • designed to produce less spin with a lower launch

Fujikura Fuel

  • designed with feedback from ENSO technology
  • lower launching and lower spinning shaft
  • excellent price point

I also wanted to hear Ian's take on the new crop of drivers that have been on the market for a few months now and he had some interesting things to say. Here are his choices:

Titleist 913 D2/D3

  • improved design and ball speed over the 910 series
  • D2 and D3 different in size, yet similar in spin rates

TaylorMade R1

  • massive adjustability with very high ball speed
  • slightly heavier than the R11S

Ping G25

  • highest MOI of any driver available and best paint job!
  • slightly less spin and higher ball speed than the G20

I suppose my optimal driver would one that had the looks of the Titleist 913 D3, the stability and matte black finish of the Ping G25 along with the adjustability and ball speed of the TaylorMade R1....one can dream!

Please be aware that going out and simply purchasing and combining one of the above options might not be the best thing for you. I would recommend getting with a professional clubfitter who uses TrackMan technology to find the appropriate head and shaft match for your particular swing. You should be looking for the optimal launch and spin characteristics that match your swing speed.

Read THIS to know where you should be launching and spinning the ball based on your current club speed.

Optimal Strike Point for Longer Drives

We've all heard the saying 'high launch and low spin'.  With the help of TrackMan I have been able to learn which part of the clubface to strike the ball with in order the get the ball to launch higher, spin less and ultimately travel further. Watch the following video...

optimal strike point
optimal strike point

Here are the factors that make a slightly high and toe sided hit optimal:

Launch Angle

  • Due to the roll/curvature of the face there is more loft above the center line than below.  The static loft of the club is measured in the center of the face, so if a club has 9.5 degrees of loft that is only in the one central location.  Half an inch above the center line the loft increases by around 2 degrees and vice versa for below the center line.
  • A strike above the center line will always lead to a higher launch angle and can often be achieved quite easily by teeing the ball higher.

Spin Rate

  • Due to vertical gear effect a strike that occurs below the center line will have a substantially higher spin rate than one higher on the face.
  • I have seen increases of almost 1400 rpm with low strike points - in addition to distance sapping lower launch angles.

Gear Effect

  • Most of the golfers that I teach need to hit draws.  A golf ball that is struck on the toe side of the clubface will tend to have a greater inclination to draw than one struck towards the heel of the club.

Clubhead Speed

  • If a shot is hit out of the center of the face with a swing speed of 100mph a spot on the face 3/4" out side of that will be travelling at almost 103mph and a spot the same distance inside that will only be travelling at 97mph.
  • The ball will travel faster and most often further with higher club speed.

If you'd like to get a feel for where you are striking the ball on the face try dry erase marker or Dr. Scholl's Odor X - they both work like a charm and give instant feedback.

Better Shots - Out of the Rough

There seem to be so many different formulas when it comes to getting out of rough I thought I would share my philosophy in an attempt to simplify your approach.  It all really depends on the quality of the lie, because even in very long rough, it's still possible to get decent access to the back of the ball.

Here are a few examples:

In this situation the clubhead needs to get so far down into the thick grass that most of the velocity created in the swing will be dissipated.  The challenge here is not only getting the clubface on the ball, it is getting the ball over/through the grass in front of it.  I would always use a very lofted club here (9 iron max) and plan on getting the ball back in play.  Hit down more by moving the ball slightly back in your stance and thus steepening the angle of attack and do not be greedy here.

In this scenario the ball is perched on top of the longer grass and we're smiling.  Be careful though as this is a perfect lie for a flyer.  A flyer occurs when the grass does not slow the clubhead down through the hit and just enough of it gets caught between the ball and the face.  As this grass/matter fills the grooves at impact and gets trapped between the ball and the face, there is very little grip on the ball and as a result the ball launches closer to the dynamic/delivered loft (higher) and spins very little.  Ever heard of "high launch, low spin"? That's what we're looking for with our driver, but not with an 8 iron from 130 yards and explains why you airmailed the clubhouse from the 9th fairway last week.

With this type of lie also watch for hitting under the ball.  When it's perched on top of the grass like this try to view it as being on a high tee - an easy one to swing under!  Make your practice swings where you just brush the very top of grass and duplicate that during the actual shot.

This is a tough one - it doesn't look bad, yet the hard part is deciding which way it will come out.  It could be hot, yet it could also come out very soft and dead like the first example.  The best thing you can do here is take a few extra seconds to assess the lie and then commit fully to your decision.  Make the call and be committed.

When hitting out of very long grass (ankle/knee high) remember that the long blades of grass will get to the shaft and hosel first.  As they wrap around this lead part of the club it will slow down dramatically, causing the face to deloft and the toe of the club to close.  Notice how hard Phil Mickelson is working to keep the face from closing in the picture at the top of the page.  Having hit out of the fescue more than a few times at Atlantic Golf Club this summer I know this for a fact - take a lofted club, aim a little right, swing hard and don't ever be greedy.

Should you have had enough trouble getting out of the rough and you'd like to attend a sporting event or concert Click Here

Additional Resources: 

Hitting Out of the Rough | Golf Lesson | Golf Tips