Does Loft Affect Distance and Accuracy? – Golf Myths Unplugged

Golf Myths v2

Facts > “Common Sense”

It seems like the most basic questions in golf are often answered with “common sense” rather than facts.  No more!  In our new series, Golf Myths Unplugged, we will reveal the facts behind golf’s biggest questions and myths.  We hope that this information helps you to make better equipment decisions and play better golf!

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The Myths

There are two myths that we’re tackling today, both pertaining to loft:

Myth #1 – Less loft produces more distance

Myth #2 – More loft means more accuracy

How We Tested

For this test, we focused on drivers.  Each of our four testers hit through a matrix of 9 different head and loft combinations – 3 different heads in 3 different lofts each.  Each tester selected one shaft and used that for every shot they hit.  The order of heads and lofts was different for each golfer.

All testing was conducted at and with the help of Club Champion.

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The Results

Myth 1 Final - Busted

Of our 12 sets (each golfer produced 3 sets, 1 with each driver), we found that less loft produced more total distance only half the time, 6 out of 12.  If we look at carry distance, less loft produced more distance only 4 times out of 12.

This indicates that distance isn’t the result of more loft or less loft, but of getting the right loft.  Some of our players really benefited from less loft (one gained 22 yards with less loft) and some benefited from more loft (another added over 10 yards with more loft).

Myth 2 Final - Inconclusive

The results on this myth were mixed: in 7 of our 12 sets, shots hit with more loft ended up closer to the center line.

A closer look at the data does give some credence to the myth: of the 5 sets where less loft was more accurate, the difference between high and low loft was small – approximately 4 yards more accurate.  The gap was larger in the sets where high loft was more accurate (approximately 8 yards).

These results were confounded by another variable (explained below), so ultimately our findings here are not conclusive.  I’m inclined to say that this myth is probably true, all other things being equal, but all other things are rarely equal in golf equipment, so you should take it with a grain of salt.

Other Findings

A couple of things that we found in the test were quite predictable.  With more loft, launch angle went up in 11 of the 12 trials.  Similarly, less loft lowered spin in 9 of the 12 trials.

The one thing that shocked us was the disparity between different drivers.  Every tester found significant differences in their distances when switching drivers, anywhere from 10 to 30 yards.  Keep in mind that the three drivers used were all current products from top OEMs.  No one driver was better for everyone, but each player had one club that clearly worked best for them.

If you want to see all the data for yourself, it’s at the bottom.

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Why Aren’t the Results More Definitive?

Any time I’ve published an article like this, many questions are raised, particularly about why the data isn’t “cleaner.”  Let me preempt a few of those questions with some explanations here.

1) Sample size.  Though we’d love to conduct these tests with dozens of golfers hitting hundreds of shots, that’s not realistic.  We will always get the biggest sampling that we are able to and acknowledge that our findings are not 100% perfect, but rather a starting point for more discussion, thought, and research.

2) Loft doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  This is the main reason why we felt that our findings on Myth #2 were inconclusive.  Though we did everything possible to isolate loft, loft is always connected to face angle.  More loft makes a club look more closed.  Also, the club manufacturers tend to make higher lofted clubs more closed because of some (generally good) assumptions about who buys higher lofted clubs.  As a result, we can’t say definitively whether it was loft or face angle that made certain clubs more or less accurate.

3) Human error.  This test was (and all future tests will be) conducted by real human golfers, just like you.  Though we throw out bad swings, it’s unavoidable that people will occasionally hit one set well, then go through a little slump.  We will go from cold to warm to tired.  The same reality that exists for you on the golf course exists for us in the test facility.

4) Golf isn’t clean or definitive.  In my time coaching, playing, writing, fitting, and researching in golf, I can’t think of a rule that works 100% of the time.  If we were robots, there would be clear, definitive rules, but we’re human so things get messy and you often need to find out what works for you.

The Takeaway

There are a few things I believe you can take from this article that will help you play better golf.

First, less loft does not mean more distance whether that’s in a driver, fairway wood, hybrid, or iron.  Loft is just one part of the distance equation, and everyone’s equation is different.

Second, you need to find a combination of loft and face angle that helps you produce playable, consistent shots.  You may find that it’s worth it to play less loft to get a really open face angle or that you need the closed face angle that higher loft brings.

Finally, getting the right golf club matters.  Every one of our testers saw significant disparity between the different clubs – anywhere from 10 to 30 yards.  Unless you’re happy being 10-30 yards shorter than your potential, you need to try a wide variety of clubs, preferably with the guidance of qualified club fitter.

What golf myths do you want to see PluggedInGolf.com investigate?  

Leave a comment below and let us know!

The Data

Golf Myths - Loft - Data

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Matt Saternus

Co-Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is a golf instructor, club fitter, and writer living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Matt's work has been published in Mulligan Magazine, Chicagoland Golf, South Florida Golf, and other golf media outlets. He's also been a featured speaker in the Online Golf Summit and is a member of Ultimate Golf Advantage's Faculty of Experts.

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7 Comments

  1. It seem to me your study had too many variables. If I want to test for ball carry I would use a robot for the swing, the same shaft, same ball , same weather. The only thing different would be the degree of loft . Your test is great to determine the correct shaft, club head, grip, and ball for an individual`s swing, which would be a fitting.
    I was fitted in your Atlanta store, full bag, and I have had good results. The question still remains, more or less loft ?

    • Matt Saternus

      Jerry,

      If you read the piece carefully, you’d see that the same ball, shaft, and “weather” (indoors) were used for all this testing. As for robots, they don’t play golf. Robot testing has its place in product development, but it’s not relevant to what we’re doing here.

      What our test showed is that there aren’t simple answers. It’s not about more or less loft but rather about getting the right loft for you.

      -Matt

  2. I have many questions, but let me raise just one w/ you. Given the number of club head offerings available for woods and irons and the number of shafts that are available, how does the consumer begin to make intelligent decisions about what to buy. I would imagine that it could take me days and days to work my way through the combination of shafts and driver heads–not to mention the adjusxtments one can make w/ drivers today–and still not know what’s best for me. Forget the days, I think it would take weeks to do this. And then there’s the fitter who wants to sell me his stuff and make the most money, which I can’t blame him for doing. This seems to me to be an insoluble issue. Your thoughts?

    • Matt Saternus

      Ken,

      The only answer is working with a fitter you trust and making decisions based on the data. That’s why we partner with Club Champion – they’re “brand agnostic” (they don’t push any brand over another) and fit purely on results. If you walk in with a driver that beats every combination they have, they’ll tell you that. If they can add 20 yards to your drive, they’ll show you that, too.

      There are a lot of choices which is why the fitter is more important than ever. Testing everything is impractical. You wouldn’t buy Golf Digest and try every tip in the magazine, would you? Of course not, you get a professional to tell you what you need to work on. Similarly, a fitter is going to pare down the mountain of choices to, say, 3-4 that fit what you’re looking for. Then you can see which one performs the best.

      If you haven’t already, check out my series on “Building Your Best Bag” which goes through the process of buying a complete bag step by step. It may answer a lot of your questions.

      Best,

      Matt

  3. The tests ignore the fact that lower loft has 20 to 40 more yards run on the ground than high loft. The landing point comparison is not the right comparison.

    • Matt Saternus

      Mbc,

      We explicitly mentioned both carry and total distances under Myth #1. If anything, I think the test gives too much credence to total distance because many courses will never give up 20 yards or roll, regardless of how low the ball flight is.

      Best,

      Matt

  4. Great stuff and some great counter answers.

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