Golf Monthly looks at the different elements of a golf swing that affect the amount of loft you should play on your driver.
It’s a frequently asked question and one that will vary from person to person and depend on a number of factors that could get very technical and in-depth. While things like launch angle, dynamic loft and impact location are important and play a role in deciding the best loft for you, we’re going to try and keep it simple. Ultimately, there’s no substitute for going to see your local pro and have a hit on a launch monitor to assess your swing properly.
Why will most golfers benefit from more loft?
The chances are because a) it makes it more difficult to curve the ball offline and b) your swing speed isn’t fast enough to warrant the low loft you’re using to maximize distance. But it must be said, a higher loft won’t work for everyone.
What is Spin Loft and why is it important?
It sounds complicated, but it isn’t, and the reason you need to know it is because it affects the amount of backspin you create, which in turn affects the distance the ball will travel.
Spin loft is the difference in angle between your attack angle (how much up or down the clubhead is traveling at impact) and dynamic loft (the loft presented to the ball at impact). The higher the spin loft, the more backspin you create. So if your attack angle is downward significantly, the chances are your spin loft is quite high and you create high levels of backspin. By high, we mean above 3000 rpm. Great for accuracy, not for distance.
Who needs a high lofted driver?
1. Slow swingers
Someone with a slow swing speed (85mph or less) needs more loft on their driver. Why? Well imagine firing water from a garden hose at a plant pot on the other side of the garden. If someone were to turn down the pressure of the hose, you would have to tilt the nozzle upwards to try and maintain the distance the water is traveling. The same applies to the loft of your driver. Golfers with this swing speed would typically benefit from a driver between 12-14° of loft.
2. Upward hitters
Golfers that hit up on the ball (have a positive attack angle) will tend to spin the ball less because their spin loft is lower. So they can therefore afford to have slightly more loft to maximize distance. But an upward attack angle will also tend to launch the ball higher anyway, so the ‘loft up’ message applies slightly less so here.
3. Those that use low and front weighted drivers
Drivers that possess a low and forward centre of gravity, be it through the position of front tracks or heavier sole weights, tend to generate less spin so require a higher launch angle (created by using a higher loft) to maximize distance. The new TaylorMade R15 is a typical example. Remember, a higher lofted driver is also more forgiving because it is harder to curve the ball.
Who needs a lower lofted driver?
1. Fast swingers
If you’re in this bracket (105mph club speed or more) then you probably don’t need as much loft as a slow swinger because your ball speed is sufficient to keep it traveling on the optimum trajectory. Anywhere between 8.5-10° will usually suffice. If you have a mid swing speed of 95-104 mph, a driver loft of between 10-11.5° will normally be a good starting point.
2. Downward hitters
If you hit down on the ball, you’re likely to have high spin loft, so using less loft will actually reduce your backspin and should help you hit the ball further. However, you need to make sure you maintain a high enough launch angle in the process, above 11 degrees ideally.
3. Those that use high and back weighted drivers
Drivers with a back CG placement in the head, like the Ping G30, naturally create a higher launch and higher spin. You therefore don’t need as much loft to get the ball airbourne and keep it there.
Other things to consider…
If you’ve got a driver that offers clubface angle adjustment, changing the face angle can also affect the loft too – unless the two work independently (Titleist’s 915 and Cobra’s Fly-Z are two drivers that offer independent loft adjustability, for example). When you open the clubface, you reduce the loft and vice versa. So be wary of this when tweaking yours.
Dynamic loft is the actual loft you present to the ball at impact and it can differ greatly to the loft etched on the sole of your driver. There are many factors that effect it. A downward attack angle tends to reduce dynamic loft, as does having the hands excessively ahead of the ball at impact. Remember, dynamic loft affects launch, spin and ultimately distance so have a go on a decent launch monitor to see what yours is.
Here’s a fact for you. The loft on your clubface varies from top to bottom by up to six degrees! Loft is at its lowest on the bottom of the clubface and is at its highest on the top. Strikes above the clubface centre will tend to launch higher with less spin and vice versa on shots from low on the clubface.
As you now know, there are a lot of factors that you should consider before choosing the loft of your driver and the only way to ensure you make the right choice is to go and get fitted by a PGA professional on a launch monitor. Good luck in finding your perfect match for the 2015 season!