Ball Flight, Spin Part 2
This past week I was out at our club doing some research on launch angles and spin rates. My “Iron Byron” was our first assistant golf professional Joe Mitchell, who is one of the most consistent ball strikers I’ve seen. Joe has a reputation for being laser straight with every club, from driver to wedges, and is one of the best putters I’ve watched. The only “flaw” in Joe’s game, which he admits, is that he is not nearly as long as the young guns he competes against when the Hooters and Adams Tour events come to town.

After we had finished up the round of research on various makes and models of short irons and wedges, Joe had a couple of drivers he wanted to test to see if he could eke a few extra yards out of his tee shots. Watching him hit golf balls is kind of boring actually, because they all look alike. As we went from driver to driver, there really wasn’t much visual difference in the ball flight pattern, but then the Foresight Sports GC2 launch monitor came into play.

It’s generally accepted that optimum distance with a driver is going to be at a launch angle of 13-16 degrees with spin rates in the 2000-2200 range. Very few golfers outside the tour elite can match these numbers, so most golfers do not get the maximum distance out of their clubhead speed. I saw a video the other day of Keeghan Bradley working with his swing coach just before the PGA Championship, where he was using the same Foresight GC2 launch monitor to gauge his driver swing results. Essentially he was “practicing to the numbers”, working to hit those launch angle / spin rate results that he knew would produce the best drives. This is but another way the tour player has applied technology to their games to hit these bomb drives.

Anyway, back to our research. Joe hit a number of drives with both drivers, and then a few with mine, and all were about perfect in launch angle – 13-15 degrees. But we kept seeing spin rates of 3500-3900 rpms, which is way more than you’d like for a driver. He tweaked his takeaway and worked to keep the head moving flatter through the impact zone, but we really didn’t see much change in the numbers. Then I suggested that he back off about 10% in his applied swing speed and see what happened . . .

His spin number dropped from 35-3900 to 26-2800 rpms, launch angles did not change, ball speed off the clubhead did not change more than one mph or so, but distance improved by almost ten yards! So, the mere act of backing off a bit from “full power” actually improved his driving distance, and there’s no question that even Joe is going to hit the driver straighter if he’d not trying to “max out” on every swing.

We duplicated the test a number of times, Joe hitting drives at full power then backing off a bit. And the results were the same every time – the “controlled” swing produced about 1,000 rpms less spin and greater distance than did the full out swings.

So, while you may not have a GC2 launch monitor available, you can do your own version of this test. Take a dozen or so balls that you play, mark half of them, and go out on the course when it’s not busy. Hit six drives with your “full power” swing, and then six more with a swing that feels like 85-90% of that. Then walk or drive down and see what the two patterns look like.

And then chime back in here with your results. Let’s see if we can’t build a body of real golfer test material right here, OK?
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.

[ comments ]
jpjeffery says:
You're on!

Well, I would take up the challenge if only I could hit more reliably day.
Banker85 says:
If only my ego would let me... stupid ego is so full of himself. Its true though, when i hold back and dont try to hulk out on the tee shot its one, straighter and two, long enough. But i just love to swing as hard as possible and hope for the best!
DougE says:
I typically hit the ball off the tee fairly straight with my driver. However, sometimes I will get some unwanted left to right in my drives...more than a little fade. Whenever that happens, I ratchet back my swing a little and can usually straighten things out immediately. Trying to blast every shot, 9 times out of 10, is going to have less than ideal results. Slowing the swing down a bit obviously affects spin rate and more likely than not, side spin rate. Limit side spin, the ball goes straighter. I have lost 20 yards off my drives in the last two or three years due to chronic injuries/surgery. I have also lowered my handicap by 5 or 6 strokes over that same period. For the average golfer, length doesn't always equate to lower scores.
Shallowface says:
Something I'm not understanding here.
No matter how hard I swing, I can't match tour players' speed.
So, how do they keep the spin rates so low, even though we both are launching the ball at similar launch angles?
They aren't cutting down on their speed to reduce spin, as we are being asked to do. They have way more speed than I do, yet their spin rates are much lower than mine.
What am I missing? Different clubheads than I can buy? Something about the shafts?
Jeff Cook says:
Quality observation Terry. I find it amazing how hard it is to except this finding, not only for myself, but most all hacks like me. Over the last 10 months I've been trying to adjust to a new set of clubs. I bought some Titleist AP2's from my uncle and played with them for a solid week of golf before purchasing them. During that week my swing was very easy and dialed back as it was under-going reconstruction and the clubs were about 1" shorter than what I had been playing. I was hitting these irons 10 yards further than normal. Then I got the clubs home, into my own bag. I started to swing hard trying to show off my new purchase and new found distance to all my buddies. I was now 5-10 yards shorter than my old set of far less consistent. I guess I'm a slow learner, but I've finally started slowing things down, the distance and consistency is returning.
legitimatebeef says:
Usually when I try to back off a little on the driver swing it's not good. I am a follower of Ben Hogan's teaching and according to him a hard swing produces fuller extension of the muscles resulting in more consistency and straighter shots.

But I have seen guys playing with unfit driver shafts who put a ton of spin on the ball and balloon it way up in the air. in those cases I can see that a harder swing only produces more spin and less distance.
windowsurfer says:
When i make a hard, armsy swing, gritted teeth and all, the usual result is spin - hook usually. But I CAN swing "harder" and get longer results, but only if that harder swing is smooth with a slightly fuller turn and a slow takeaway. When I remember (or those rare moments when I am in the zone.)
curly79 says:
I agree with windowsurfer,its all about the tempo weather you swing easy or hard.
Tim Horan says:
I have been going through a torrid time with my driver, hitting everything with a hook. I have started using a baseball grip to take out the wrists through the impact zone. The results have been that I can no longer generate the club head speed through the ball that my wristy action developed but my distance has not suffered. Trajectory has lowered into the 14/15 degree zone and smash factors are up to 145 ish. Ball flight is far more neutral straight to slight faded tail off but most interestingly accuracy and consistancy are both way better. The baseball grip is only a temporary fix as I am working on the feeling of my forearms working together to get back to the overlap. For those of you working on taking a little off the swing... you know the warm up drill keeping the head cover on and taking a few practice swings... try taking that tempo to the tee. You just cannot swing full out with tha cover on.
kiknit says:
Ask and you shall receive! Taylormade r7 - stiff shaft. I marked one dozen balls with 100 and one dozen with 90. The 100 is my usual stock shot and averaged out to be around 275: 8 hit the center of the fairway, 1 duck-hook, 2 missed left into the 1st cut and 1 missed right into the 1st cut.

The balls with the 90 were my stock shot minus 10% or so. Average drive 282 yds. 9 in the fairway and 3 with a slight draw to the left in the 1st cut.

I just might have a new trick up my sleeve for the club championship!
...the Murseless says:
Shallowface: you are almost certainly playing a higher lofted club than the pros. For you to attain the same launch angle, you will be hitting at closer to the bottom of your swing arc whereas the pro will be hitting more upwards on the ball. It is also likely that the pro is hitting slightly higher on the club face in reference to the center of gravity; this will also impart less backspin.
[ post comment ]
Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

Click here to learn more about Terry.
Click here to for Terry's blogroll.
    Golf Talk
Most Popular: