12 Myths That Could Wreck Your Golf Game (P2)

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The lower the loft on my driver, the farther I will hit the ball

Yup, this statement is true … if your name happens to be John Daly. For the rest of us mere mortals, to get more distance off the tee you will probably need a HIGHER loft. I know that sounds counter-intuitive so let me explain it this way.

I am sure at one time or another you’ve played around with a garden hose. Imagine you have the hose turned on full blast and you are trying to get as much distance as possible out of the water spray. Now, suppose someone turns the water pressure back by about a third. You can feel the drop in pressure in your hands and see it in the loss of distance in the spray. So, what do you automatically do to try to get that distance back? Exactly! You raise the angle of the nozzle.

It’s the same thing with the driver.

If you have a very fast swing speed (i.e., the hose is on full blast), you need a lower loft to get maximun distance. If you have a slower swing speed (i.e,. the hose pressure has been cut back), tou need a higher loft to get more distance. What you CANNOT do is match a slow swing speed with a low-lofted driver. That is the equivalent of lowering the water pressure and lowering the nozzle angle, and wondering why the water isn’t going as far.

If you still doubt me, look at the numbers in table 3. Look at the listing for a 90 mph swing speed (based on a +2.5 degree upward angle of attack in the swing, which is about average for most men with a driver. The distance achieved by your “water hose” increases á the launch angle (loft) gose UP, not down. This holds until you get to about 13 degrees of loft, when the distance goes down again. If the angle of attack from your swing is level or downward, you’ll need even more loft to chieve your maximun carry distance. (Don’t have a clue about your angle of attack? Don’t worry. The Search for the Perfect Golf Club teaches you how to determine it.)

The lower the loft on my driver, the farther I will hit the ball

So, how fast can you reasonably expect to swing your driver WITH CONTROL? The only way to know for sure is to be measured by a professional golf clubmaker; but here are some numbers that might give you a sense of where you probably are.

  • Average Female Golfer: 65 mph
  • Average Male Golfer: 85 mph
  • Average Female Tour Player: 97 mph
  • Average Male Tour Player: 110 mph
  • Male Long Drive Competitors: 135–155 mph

You still want that 9- or 10-degree driver? To get the maximum distance out of a 10-degree driver, you need a swing speed (with control!) of about 100mph. To get maximum distance out of a 9-degree driver, swing speed needs to be about 110 mph. The rest of us (in the 80 and 90- something mph speed ranges) will get maximum distance from 11-, 12-, and 13-degree clubs. For most women and slower swinging senior men, it’s going to take a 14-degree or higher loft on the driver to maximize your distance.

The bigger the head, the better

You know, sometimes it must seem like the golf companies have a big air pump in their factories that they use to make last year’s driver even larger in order to announce the “new and improved” model is now here. I mean, even the USGA became so concerned about it that they finally said: Enough, we’ll let you stay with heads the size of grapefruit, but no way are we going to let you go to watermelons. Now, if you believe that the USGA imposes restrictions on equipment to keep designers from making the game too easy, then you would probably conclude that bigger must be better, right?

No, that’s not quite true, at least not for the reason you are probably thinking.

You see, theoretically, it’s possible to design a bigger driver head, with a bigger face area that has a greater “spring-face” effect, thus increasing the ball speed off the face and giving you more distance. But remember the big battle a few years ago over the amount of “spring”(known as the coefficient of restitution) that was allowable on the clubface? At that point. the USGA put the handcuffs on the maximum allowable spring in a driver face, and any possibility of increasing driver head size to make the face “spring more” was eliminated.

So when we designers make bigger and bigger drivers, we also have to make the faces thicker and thicker to prevent them from generating a ball speed that would exceed the USGA’s rule for spring-face effect. And that, gentle reader, cancels out any possible advantage of bigger heads being better.

So what’s left? How can we make a bigger head be a better head? There IS one way, but it’s only for a certain segment of players who need it.

In general, the bigger the head the farther back the center of gravity (CG) will be. That will bring about an increase in the height of the shot over a smaller head of the same loft, when using the same shaft. So, if you need a higher ball flight to improve your cary distance, you could jusst go with an oversized had  whose center of gravity has been moved aft. The problem is that you’re taking a risk that when the manufacturer says the club has a “more rear-located CG,” that it really HAS a “more rear-located CG.” It’s much more of a sure thing to optimize your launch angle for your swing speed via the club’s loft.

One last point. Can we get it out of our heads that because your clubhead is made of titanium (or similar hard material) that it will hit the ball farther?

At one point or another, drivers have been made from nearly everything— wood, steel, plastic, aluminum, graphite, titanium, and even ceramics. Along the way, the marketing geeks decided they had free reign to tout almost any non-wooden object as the “next greatest” golf club. If the material was harder than wood, it had to hit the ball farther, right? Well, the answer is “no,” but that doesn’t slow down the marketers a bit.

The vast majority of drivers today are made from some variety of titanium because titanium possesses “the right stuff”. More specifically, it has the right combination of lightness and strength and elasticity so that your oversized ball.

Clubhead hardness has nothing to do with how far the ball will travel. It might affect how easily your club gets banged up in the bag, but distance? No way. And there are all sorts of research studies to prove it.

As far as the hardness and strength (or lack thereof) affecting your ability to work the ball flight, again, there is no way. Workability (the ability to intentionally fade or draw the ball) is all about the club’s design. How is the weight distributed? Where is the center of gravity? What is its moment of inertia? These have nothing to do with the type of metal being used.

That’s why, when you buy clubs, you need to consult with someone like your local professional clubmaker who knows which metallurgical advances are for real (and why) and which are gimmicks.

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