Instant Golf Swing


An Instant Golf® Special Report

Golf Driver Loft and Max Distance

 

Robert Cotter of Instant Golfby Robert Cotter (About the Author)
Professional Golf Ball Engineer
Director of Swing Instruction, Instant Golf®

There is a revolution on the PGA Tour regarding Correct Driver Loft and Golf Ball Selection for max distance and accuracy. All the rules have changed, yet the golfing public has been left in the dark. The evidence is on display on every pro Tour this year, especially in the past several months.

Henrik Stenson (right) is the 3rd best player in the world right now, and he is a win away from passing Adam Scott and Tiger Woods for the #1 spot.

He won the 2013 Deutsche Bank, Tour Championship, and FedEx Cup (PGA Tour money title). Then in November he won the DP World Tour Championship, thereby claiming the "Race to Dubai" (European Tour money title). He was the first person in history to claim this historic double-double.

Henrik is averaging 291 yards off the tee in 2014 and hits more fairways than 88% of his peers on Tour. Usually driving accuracy like that is reserved for the shorter hitters, but Stenson bombs it very long and straight.

J.B. Holmes claimed the 2014 Wells Fargo Championship this May for his 3rd career win and 1st since returning form 2 brain surgeries! J.B. is always at or near the top of the driving distance category and currently averages 305 yards off the tee (7th longest on Tour).

Dustin Johnson (below) won the WGC-HSBC Champions (a coveted World Golf event) this season and the 2013 Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He also won the 2012 FedEx St. Jude Classic. He now has eight wins at only 29 years of age. He has already come close in a few majors and definitely has a major championship title in his future.

Dustin is a long hitter and is always in the Top 10 in Driving Distance on Tour (averaging 309 yards in the 2014 season, 2nd best).

And how about Aussie John Senden? He put on a ball striking clinic in March to win the 2014 Valspar Championship. He bangs it our there about 290 yards and splits fairways like a surgeon. At 43, he has resurrected his excellent career and his future looks bright.

 

But this is really shocking..

 

Henrik, J.B., Dustin, John, (and a growing number of others) have been achieving their huge driving distances using 10.5 to 12 degree lofted drivers!

Here's a Partial List of 10.5-12 Driver Loft Players and their weapons:

Player
Driver
Recent Wins
J.B. Holmes
TaylorMade SLDR 12 Degrees!

2014 Wells Fargo Championship

Henrik Stenson
TaylorMade SLDR 10.5

2013 World Tour Championship
2013 PGA Tour Championship

2013 Deutsche Bank Championship

John Senden
TaylorMade SLDR 12 Degrees!

2014 Valspar Championship


Dustin Johnson
TaylorMade SLDR 10.5
TaylorMade R9, R11S 10.5
2013/14 WGC-HSBC Champions
2013 Hyundai TOC
2012 FedEx St. Jude Classic

Webb Simpson
Titleist 913D3 10.5
Titleist 909D3 10.5

2013/14 Shriners Hospitals Open
2012 U.S. Open Championship
2011 Deutsche Bank Championship

Lee Westwood
Ping G25 10.5 and 11.5!
2012 Nordea Masters
Nick Watney
Nike VR_S Covert 12.5!
Nike VR_S Covert 11.5!
Titleist 913D3 10.5

2012 The Barclays
2011 World Golf Championship (Doral)
2011 AT&T National

Carl Pettersson
TaylorMade SLDR 10.5
Nike VR Tour 11.5!
2012 RBC Heritage (Hilton head, SC)
2010 RBC Canadian Open
Ted Potter, Jr.
Cleveland Classic 10.5
2012 The Greenbrier Classic
Keegan Bradley
Cleveland Launcher TL 10.5
2011 HP Byron Nelson Championship
2011 PGA Championship
Greg Chalmers
Titleist 910D3 10.5
2011 Australian Open
2011 Aust. PGA Championship
Rory Sabbatini
Nike VR Tour 10.5
2011 Honda Classic
Paul Casey
Nike VR Tour 10.5
2011 Volvo Golf Championships
Aaron Baddeley
Adams Speedline Fast 10.5
2011 Norhern Trust Open (Riviera)
Tiger Woods
2009 Nike SQ Dymo 10.5
2011 Nike SQ Dymo 8.5!
2012-2013 Nike VR Tour 8.5!

2009 - 6 PGA Tour wins!
2010-2013 - 8 wins in 3 years
(No Majors) using 8.5 loft.

 

Tiger Woods driverAs for Mr. Woods, before the 2009 Memorial Tournament he switched from an 8.5 degree driver to a 10.5, hit 49 of 54 fairways and lapped the field. Yet he still averaged well over 300 yards for that week.

In fact, he averaged a hefty 306.4 yards when he crushed the field by 8 strokes later in the year at the BMW (with his "old" swing).

I would argue that this simple driver loft change kick started his consistency as he won 6 tournaments, the FedEx Cup, and Player of the Year in 2009, and no one was even close to his 68.06 scoring average.

So Tiger took his 10.5 degree Nike driver with his 118 mph swing speed, lost no distance, and improved fairways hit dramatically (hence 6 wins). And all this with his "inefficient", pre Sean Foley swing.

He switched to an 8.5 in 2011 with his new swing and struggled off the tee. In fact:

Tiger was ranked 186/190 in driving accuracy, hitting only 48.9% of the fairways!

His accuracy improved somewhat in 2012-2013 given that the new swing is finally burned in, but he has been sporadic (by his high standards) despite his multiple wins on old familiar venues like Bay Hill.

He is challenged by courses with more penal fairways like those at Major Tournaments.

These results have come while playing his driver with 8.5 degrees of loft. You see, less lofted drivers encourage more side spin (hook, slice) on the ball. At his high swing speed, this can be disastrous.

I truly believe Tiger would win virtually every tournament he entered, including majors, if he could hit >65% of the fairways like Henrik Stenson. More driver loft would assist him in that matter. At this writing, Woods hasn't won a major title since the 2008 US Open. We'll see if and when he returns in 2014.

So You May Be Thinking to Yourself...

"What's going on here, I use a 10.5 (or 9, 9.5, 10) degree driver and my swing speed is no where near Dustin's or the other guys on that list.  The sales person at the store said that was the best loft for me!"

You should be concerned. Again, Henrik, J.B., John, and Dustin lash their big sticks at over 117 mph. What's more, the average PGA Tour driver swing speed is a hefty 112 mph.

But the average golfer swings their driver only about 88-90 mph.

So what's the deal? A heck of a lot of misinformation, that's what.

The fact is that the study of optimal flight patterns for maximum distance has made leaps and bounds in just the past few years.

Doppler radar devices like the Trackman have quantified and pinpointed optimal flight and how to achieve it.

When combined with a drop in golf ball compressions over the years and incredible driver design advances, the flight patterns for optimal distance have been so refined, they can be literally be mapped on a screen and traced with a pen. Incredible.

And the resultant equation for distance in its simplest form is:

Low Initial Ball Spin + High(er) Launch Angle = Maximum Distance

golf ball launch conditions

So by studying the diagram above you can see why the "higher" lofted drivers are finding their way into the bags of the best golfers in the world. And these guy and gals are winning... a lot.

Believe it or not, when Tiger came out on Tour, he used a 6.5 degree driver! The norm 10-15 years ago was 7.5-9.0 degrees. Then it crept up to the 8.5-10 range.

And it was at that time that a lot of recreational golfers made their big, driver purchases. Yes, just a few years ago they were getting settled into their 9-10 degree, $300 titaniums.

Now they feel have lost distance, particularly relative to their peers who are gearing up with more recent equipment, newer balls, and fittings. You may be one of these folks.

How do I know this? I have evaluated 100's of golfers (their games, equipment, distances, flight patterns, etc...) and the story repeats itself over and over.

 

So Let Me Share Some Points...

Most average swing speed golfers (88-90 mph) don't use enough loft in their drivers due to seeing the pros using 9-10 degrees effective loft.

I typically recommend 10.5-13.0 deg loft for the avg. club head speed for maximum distance, particularly carry. This even applies for golfers up to 100 mph.

Unless you are playing consistently in extremely (and I mean extremely) windy conditions where control and roll are paramount, I encourage players to maximize the carry part of the distance equation.

On average, the ball spends most of the time in the air and roll typically contributes only ~10% to the total distance under standard conditions. You can see that in the chart above.

Masters Champ Bubba Watson, typically one of the longest driver on the PGA Tour, has a very high ball flight as he has maximized the carry portion of the Carry and Roll. But it is a high ball flight with low spin.

Low spin ball flight, improved dimple patterns, etc... have also created an angle of approach (ground impact) change that still provides great roll with “higher” lofted drivers. We call this the ground attack angle.

Also, more loft can dramatically reduce your unintended side spin like that over fade/slice, or the effects of that nasty duck hook.

As an aside, I once worked for a golf equipment company that discontinued an 8.5 degree version of a titanium driver because even Pros couldn't keep it on the fairway. It was a slicer's nightmare!

 

Driver loft and effective launch angle can vary per golfer, even given the same club loft.

golf driver impactThe ball launch angle is quite different than the driver loft for two golfers, even if they are swinging the same club. This is because some golfers will have a negative attack on the ball (hitting down more like an iron, imparting extra spin – the high dying quail effect in Red on the diagram), while others will upsweep the ball off the tee.

There is a perfect angle of attack for each golfer for max distance that can be determined on the range with practice. Or you can perfect your flight and distance with a launch monitor (like the Trackman) and a qualified pro or technician.

Simple ball position and tee height adjustments can mean another 10-20 yards as long as you are compressing the ball efficiently for your swing speed. Impacting the upper, outer quadrant of the face also reduces more spin and encourages a draw.

Typically a flat angle of attack or a bit of an upsweep is preferred for almost all golfers. Again, that high launch with low spin condition!

 

Typically, given a ~90 mph swing speed, 13.5-14 degrees ball launch (not necessarily driver loft) at about 2900/3000 rpm is close to optimal. But as stated, it depends on the golfer (and the golf ball).

So I would encourage most golfers to experiment (don't run out and buy) with more loft for more total distance and/or for reference if you have the opportunity (particularly on the course).

This is the time for May Sales, especially here in the US... take full advantage!

I'll also add that club fittings in a booth where a golfer is firing off 20 balls is not always representative of a 20 minute interval between each drive on course. Historically a golfer can be fit with a driver with too little loft as they are in a groove, loosened up, and thinking about best case scenarios.

One company’s 10.5 is also not always another’s. You may also have physical challenges that will become variable affecting on course play, balance, swing speeds, etc..

golf tee shotAnd you wind players, a higher lofted driver in the bag, even a cheap, 2nd hand one (Ebay, $50), is also great for those downwind holes. Tee it high, let it fly, and go after a few of those 300 yard blasts.

So remember to work towards low initial ball spin combined with a high(er) launch angle for maximum tee shot distance.

By doing so you are one big step closer to playing like today's PGA and LPGA stars.

In fact, here's my simple 3 step summary of what the best golfers do to achieve max distance and accuracy with all their clubs, which ultimately leads to very low scores:

Fully compress the ball on the center of the club face with a Repeating Golf Swing that minimizes slice and hook spin.
Have the ball leave the clubface at the correct launch angle and spin rate for the golfer's swing speed.
Use the correct golf ball for a given golfer's swing speed.

This report addreses the "how and why" of point #2.

Combining Points 1, 2, & 3 will give your Power, Accuracy, and Consistency.

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checkmark  My Story - From the 100's to the 70's after a lengthy, bitter struggle with this great game.

checkmark  The comment from a Ryder Cup star (watching my swing) that reinforced my Swing Method.

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golfer

"First ever even par round"

"Hi Robert,

I just wanted to pass on that over the last few weeks I have being playing better and better, until the peak which was just yesterday.

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For the first time in my 40 years of golf I felt & knew at the top when I was in a good position to hit the ball solidly & could predict the outcome from the top of my swing.

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I started a skeptic who expected the same rehash of information, instead I am pleasantly surprised."

Peter V. - Australia

 

Same day, dramatic improvement... Nice going Peter.

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"Brilliant, stunning, unbelievable is all I can say."

"Dear Sir,

As you will by my e.mail address above I purchased your Key system and I am amazed by its immediate change it has had to my swing and went from 107 for an average round to 90. Brilliant, stunning, unbelievable is all I can say.

Thank you so much for your prompt reply and superb service you have given me, I have just read the ‘Key’ again, just to refresh and keep the practice going to improve even further.

..its great to be able to grin on the first tee knowing that I know what MY FRIENDS WOULD LOVE TO KNOW."

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Thanks so much."

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Author's Note: (this gentleman is 72 years young)

 

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"Hi Robert,

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