“That’s waaaay too much loft for me”
Despite the prevalence of launch monitor data and driver optimization charts, many golfers still believe that a low lofted driver is the mark of a real player. In the age of low spinning golf balls, driver heads, and shafts, does loft connect to swing speed at all? We put together this test to find out.
Myth #1 – Faster swings always hit lower lofted drivers farther
Myth #2 – Slower swings always hit higher lofted drivers farther
Myth #3 – Higher lofted drivers are more accurate
Myth #4 – Higher lofted drivers are more consistent
Myth #5 – More loft always produces higher launch and more spin
Myth #6 – Less loft always produces higher smash factor
How We Tested
For this test we brought together eight players, all with handicaps of five or less. Each player chose a shaft that fit their swing. Using the same driver head at three different lofts – 9, 10.5, and 12 degrees – each player hit a total of 21 drives. All shots were recorded on Trackman.
All testing was done at, and with the help of, Club Champion.
Among our eight testers, we had four who swung their driver substantially over 100 MPH. Of those four testers, three hit the lowest lofted driver the farthest. The fourth tester produced his greatest carry distance with the highest lofted driver.
In analyzing the data, we noticed a few interesting things. Of the three testers who were longest with the low lofted driver, each benefited from the lower loft in a different way. One got substantially lower spin from the lower loft. Another produced much more ball speed with less loft. The third had slightly higher ball speed with slightly lower spin.
Another interesting finding was that the player who was longest with the highest lofted driver saw minimal difference between lofts. There was only a 3 yard gap between his average drive with his longest and shortest loft. The players who benefitted from lower lofts had much bigger gaps: 20, 19, and 18 yards, respectively.
The primary takeaway is this: loft and swing speed are two important factors but many others need to be considered.
Among the four testers who swung the driver below 100 MPH, we saw a variety of results. Two testers produced the most distance with the highest lofted driver, one did with the lowest lofted driver, and another was longest with the middle loft.
As with the faster swingers, each player found maximum distance in a different way. Some needed less spin, others benefited from higher launch. Interestingly, there was less variance in ball speed relative to loft among the slower swingers.
Our data shows absolutely no connection between loft and accuracy. As many of our testers were most accurate with the lowest lofted driver as with the highest lofted driver.
What was interesting was that, for almost every tester, one head significantly outperformed the other two. For example, one tester had a right-to-left dispersion of 40 yards with two of the heads and just 20 yards with the third.
Since we addressed accuracy above, we focused on consistency of distance for this myth. Our measure of distance consistency was the gap between each player’s longest and shortest drive.
Three players had better distance dispersion with the highest lofted driver; five were better with the lowest lofted head. When we looked at the group average, the distance dispersion was virtually identical: 22.6 yards with the highest lofted head, 21.2 yards with the lowest lofted.
Our data shows that high lofted drivers do not promote greater consistency.
Yes, all else equal, more loft means more spin and higher launch. However, what our data shows is that when humans are involved, all else is rarely equal.
Among our eight testers, we saw all manner of launch and spin patterns. Some, as you would expect, launched and spun the highest lofted head the most. Others showed an inverse relation, and some were simply all over the map.
We attribute these counterintuitive results to two things. First is the importance of the look at address. While some players didn’t seem to notice the change in loft, others stated that one head looked better or worse than another. We’ve observed in many Golf Myths Unplugged tests that a player’s visual preferences can impact their swing.
The other factor, which may be related to the first, is the importance of impact location. Every golfer in this test has above average skill (5 handicap or less), but they still didn’t hit the center of the club face every time. Even with today’s large, forgiving drivers, a shot on the bottom of the face will produce very different numbers than a shot hit perfectly.
As with the previous myth, if all else were equal, less loft should produce higher smash factor (the ratio of ball speed divided by club head speed). However, once again, we saw that humans are not robots.
In our test, loft did not correlate directly with smash factor or ball speed. Some players did see their highest smash factor and/or ball speed with less loft. However, just as many were more efficient with the middle or high lofted driver head.
Additionally, the differences in smash factor were minute for most players. Our average tester had a difference of 0.03 between their best and worst driver head. Our largest gap was only 0.06. As above, any change in smash factor is most directly connected to impact location.
Six busted myths later, we can clearly state two things. First, higher swing speed does not directly translate to a need for less loft. Second, swing speed and loft are only two of the many factors that need to be considered in a quality driver fitting.
What shouldn’t be news to any Plugged In Golf reader is that fitting does matter. By manipulating just one variable, we saw players gain 20 yards of distance and an equal amount of left-to-right dispersion. If you want to get longer and straighter, there is no faster route than a high quality club fitting.
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