About That "Sweet Spot"
There are two major selling points that seem to be common to nearly every golf club. One, look how far it goes. And two, look at how big the sweet spot is. I talk often enough about the distance emphasis that I believe is ruining the game, not just in general, but for too many golfers. But today, let's talk about what makes a golf club forgiving, and dissect that notion of a "sweet spot".
It's indisputable that moving mass away from the center of impact on a golf club will allow that club to reduce the amount of twisting and energy loss on off-center hits. That's why we saw the invention of perimeter-weighted irons 40 years ago, the introduction of metal woods in the 1980s, oversized metal woods a few years later, then titanium heads that were even larger, to the current limit of 460 ccs that nearly all drivers push.
But another indisputable fact is that each golf club has a single "sweet spot" that delivers the optimum transfer of energy to a golf ball. And that spot is small. Very small. As you make impact away from that spot, you will experience a less efficient transfer of energy. This is simple physics that cannot be denied or argued. But how much energy loss are we talking? I've been told over and over that a 1/2" miss on a modern driver will cost the typical golfer as much as 7-9% in yardage delivered. A 3/4" miss increases that to 12-15% loss. Think about that. If your very best drives...those few that are tagged right on the sweet spot...go 250 yards, then your 1/2" misses are costing you 15-20 yards!
All of us have experienced it, but not often enough. You catch a drive "just right" and it rockets out there...15-20 yards past where your typical drive goes on that hole. Wow. What a feeling! "I really caught that one". Well, you didn't just miraculously make a much better golf swing than usual. You didn't just generate 10% more clubhead speed than you normally do. What happened is that you just connected with the ball on that single, very small, perfect sweet spot that every driver has. So what if you focused your energy and money on learning how to do that more often, rather than thinking you can "buy" more clubhead speed? Or that some magic elixir is out there in the driver rack somewhere?
Here's something to try the next time you go out. Swing your driver at about 85% of your normal swing speed. It won't actually go down by more than 3-4%, but you'll feel much more in control. And you'll find that elusive little sweet spot more frequently. And your drives will be longer than ever.
And here's an interesting illustration of the negative side of what happens when we make drivers so big. Take a standard hammer and two large nails. Drive one into a board like you normally would, and the drive the other holding the hammer so you are hitting the nail with the side of the head. Same hammer. Same amount of mass. But watch how much more efficient the hammer is when the mass is concentrated right behind the percussion point, rather than spread out on either side.
And that's your golf physics lesson for today.
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Thank you professor Wedge guy. I will take 225 and fairway over 250 and not fairway any day of the week. Now if my ego will? thats up to him.
Another good topic TWG. Lately so much talk is about how big of a sweet spot but we must not forget about the sweetness of that spot. In my irons I traded some size for sweetness and ultimately it has made me a better ball striker.
Matt McGee says:
Excellent article. I love the physics of the game.
It explains most of the reason why I'm going back to blades from cavity backs, also. The blades aren't as forgiving, and I want less forgiveness for my less-than-perfect swings.
I agree completely on this article. I have noticed not only does it help hitting the sweet spot but also straightens out your ball flight because it is a short club and easier to square. The tough part is on who you are playing with. If you are consistently getting smoked by your playing partners it is tough to choke down and take a shorter drive in the fairway. I know it is mental and shouldn't matter as long you score the way you want but it is mentally tough to not want to hit the ball a long way and take the control shot.
Duke of Hazards says:
I guess I have no frame of reference since I've been playing with game improvement clubs since I started, but my current equipment doesn't give me more than a hint of feedback on off center strikes. I only know from my ball flight if I've struck it well, and only if it's an extremely badly struck shot way out on the toe that I 'feel' any difference. I want some of this sweetness that I've been hearing about and am saving up for new clubs that offer more tactile response. Mizuno, I'm looking at you.
Duke, might I suggest starting with the short end of your set and playing our SCOR4161 precision scoring clubs. We make all lofts over 40 degrees, and can bring precision, control and unmatched feel to your 'money clubs' first.
Just find an old persimmon driver that we played in the 60s and put it up side-by-side to the 460 cc driver. The old persimmon looks like a 5 wood compared to todays metal clubs. I have always be an advicate of "there is only one real sweet spot" no matter how big you make the club. Like you said wedgeguy...if people would concentrate more on hitting the all illusive sweet spot instead of trying to bomb every shot they would see a marked improvement in their distance and accuracy! Those off hit shots also produce the "gear effect" that will cause balls to fly all over the place!
Right now I just want to hit the ball straight.
Without my back hurting.
It is a lot tougher to hit a 46" or 47" driver on the sweetspot than a 44" Maybe that is why the tour average is 441/2". If the players with the best swings in the world use a shorter driver, maybe you should too.
Great to hear this again and again. I often remark that I can pick up pretty much any club from any era and make huge hits. This is the reason. Besides the precision with the sweet spot, reacting to the shaft flex and head weight will tell you how to time the swing. And there you have it - crush!
A older guy I just played in a tournament with had a great idea related to this. He had a little sharpie with him and he put a dot on the clubface where he wanted to hit it and thought was his sweet spot. I'll be damned if he wasn't remarking that sucker after almost every drive. If he didn't hit it well he would just show you the face of his driver and that fresh mark was still there. He said he grew up with drivers that had screws in the face and you always wanted to hit it "on the screw". He marked his drivers to simulate that mentality.
@phraynck - I just did something similar about 2 months ago. I sent an email to Adams golf and asked where on the driver face was the hot spot. I got a reply and marked my clubface with a little black "X" with a sharpie. I then got some impact tape and headed to the range. I also got some of those step tees that you place in the ground at the same height everytime; I figured one less thing that I didn't have to guess at. I started going thru a setup routine; distance from ball; handle position, driver face open,square, straight. I spent 3 different days at about 2 hours per day hitting balls; adjusting setup; but most importantly validating my routine. Took it to the course and it's been working. I've added 15-20 yds to my drives. The impact tape is great. On some occasions, when I paly a quick nine by myself, I'll play with the tape on the driver;
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