Are you getting the most out of your driver. I don’t mean just distance but a good balance of distance and accuracy. There are many factors that effect how well your driver performs for you. Lets take a look at those factors and how to get the best driver for your game.
Sure the new drivers have created a lot of excitement. Massive 460cc head sizes and new high tech shafts mean you can get more distance and accuracy than ever for your tee ball. But, unless you get the correct loft and shaft flex you may not be getting the most out of these new high-tech, high-priced wonders. To do that you need to know your clubhead swing speed. Why do you need to know your clubhead speed? Here’s the scoop.
First, something has changed in the game in the last 10 years. The development and wide acceptance of the new two-piece balls with their lower spin rates has meant that your driver loft may need to change. During the 80s and 90s people assumed that the lower the driver loft the farther the ball would go. It was not uncommon to see drivers for good amateur players in the 7-9 degree range.
What the golf scientists have found is that in order to maximize distance with the new low-spin balls, the clubhead needs to launch the ball at higher angles than in the past. This means that many of us are probably playing drivers with too little loft. Driver loft should match your swing speed. The slower your swing speed the more loft you should have. If your average swing speed is between 80 and 90 m.p.h. (the average for most male golfers) you should be using a driver with about 12 degrees of loft. Combined with the new balls this means your launch angle and spin rate will be optimized. So the good news is this means you have a real chance of adding some distance to your drives.
How much distance can you gain?
Tom Wishon in his great book The Search for the Perfect Golf Club points out that…
For slower swing speeds, Wishon points out the added distance can be as much as 16 yards just by choosing the correct loft. At a typical woman’s swing speed of 60 m.p.h. the optimum driver loft would be 19 degrees and could mean a distance increase of 16 yards.
The correct shaft flex is just as important. A shaft that is too stiff for your swing speed will generally cause the ball to be low, short and to the right. Sound familiar. The fact is many of us play with shafts that are too stiff. If your swing speed is less than 100 m.p.h. and you are playing with a stiff shaft you’re probably losing distance and accuracy.
Another big factor is shaft length. Sure the longer the shaft the higher the clubhead speed. However there is a point of diminishing returns. If we can’t control the ball then we may find the extra yardage won’t help our games. Ten more yards into the woods is not the answer. There’s no worse feeling than not knowing where your drives are going.
As Frank Thomas, former technical guru for the USGA, points out, “…you can have more confidence in your swing by using a shorter shafted driver… you will swing better, have improved timing and gain all the distance you would achieve by using a longer shaft, which may not be so accurate.” What he’s saying is you’ll hit the ball with the sweet spot more often and that always means more distance and better accuracy than the alternative.
So don’t plunk down those big bucks on new driver until you know a little more about your game. With a little bit of swing analysis you’ll maximize your investment and maximize your drives too.