Driving distance is affected by only three things, in the following listed importance:
- Ball speed
- Launch angle
The faster the ball is moving downrange, the farther it travels before it hits the ground and really slows down. Ball speed comes from swing speed and quality of contact. With perfect contact and a driver, every mph of swing speed produces 1.5 mph of ball speed. If your launch angle is anywhere in the vicinity of good for your BALL speed, then for every 1 mph your SWING speed CHANGES, your distance will change about 3 yards. For further explanation of the club parameters that matter to swing speed and contact, so I will not explain them here, but invite you to read more on Engineered Golf’s website -
Launch angle creates distance by directing the ball upwards as well as outwards. If you were to hit a ball straight out, it would very quickly hit the ground and slow down. You must achieve the right combination of up and out for your BALL speed. Launch angle comes from the dynamic loft at impact. Dynamic loft is a combination of actual clubhead loft and angle of attack, (AoA). Once you have reached your maximum clubhead speed, a change of 1 degree of effective loft can amount to somewhere between 2 and 4 yards with a driver depending on your BALL speed.
Spin keeps the ball in the air the same way spin on a curveball makes it curve. Only in golf, we want the ball to curve upwards. Again, the longer the ball is in the air, the further it goes before it hits the ground and slows down. Yes, too much spin will reduce distance by ballooning the ball, but you need a big change in spin to do that. And the slower your BALL speed, the more spin you want so that the ball stays in the air longer. Spin comes from two things. The loft at impact relative to the clubhead’s direction of travel and swing speed. The higher the loft and the higher the swing speed, the more spin. If you are already anywhere near your best launch angle for your BALL speed, spin changes of 500 RPM will affect distance by only 1-2 yards and changes of 1000 RPM will change distance by 6-10 yards depending on your launch angle. Higher launch angles are affected LESS by spin changes.
This is going to be harder to explain to you, but I will give it a try. You will lose more than 4 yards total. As you lower your loft below your optimum, you lower your launch angle and you shorten the time the ball is in the air. To keep the ball in the air, you need MORE spin, but you have just REDUCED spin, so you are shortening the time the ball is in the air even more.
So, here’s the bad news. The easiest way to change launch angle is to change loft. But you can’t change loft without changing spin. Increase one and the other goes up. So, we must find the balance that gives you the most distance. If I increase loft by 1 degree, I increase spin by 200-300 RPM depending on your swing speed. Which is more important, launch angle or spin? Let’s say your spin is 500 RPM too high and you have an average swing speed but proper launch angle. You will lose about 1 yard of distance. To lower your spin, I will have to lower your loft by 2.5 degrees which will reduce your distance by about 5 yards. Even if you gain back the 1 yard, you will lose a net of 4 yards.
This is going to be hard to explain to you, but you will actually lose more than 4 yards total. As you lower your loft below your optimum, you lower your launch angle and you shorten the time the ball is in the air. To keep the ball in the air, you need MORE spin, but you have just REDUCED spin, so you are shortening the time the ball is in the air even more.
Now comes the tough part for me as a certified golf equipment professional. Some clients will claim that too much spin shortens roll but let me give you some general guidance. For any given fairway condition, roll is a function of landing (or descent) angle and backspin. Flightscope and Trackman say that you want to keep landing angle less than 40 degrees for maximum roll; the PGA Tour average is about 38 degrees (from Trackman). Trackman also claims that a change of 1 degree in landing angle changes roll by 1.5-2 yards. What’s missing here is the fairway conditions and I can only assume they mean “PGA Tour hardness” so for the rest of these affects are going to be less severe.
Here's what I explain to my clients when working through a custom fitting for your driver. We will be choosing a driver loft for best distance, so that includes the best landing angle and best roll. OK, but what about spin reducing roll? I explain it this way: golf balls lose spin as they fly. They lose a PERCENTAGE of spin per second (3-6 percent depending on ball speed), not a fixed number of RPMs per second. So faster spinning golf balls lose spin FASTER.
Assuming a ball flight of 6-7 seconds, a drive that has 5000 RPMs of spin lands with about 3200 RPMS, while a drive with 2000 RPMs lands with about 1200 RPMs, a difference of 2000 RPMs. Once the ball hits the ground, it will bounce and roll. Less spin means smaller bounces and earlier roll. But more spin means higher bounces and later roll. I have no scientific studies to back this up, but it seems to me that higher bounces will carry the ball farther and somewhat offset the effect of the latter rolling.
By changing the driver loft, it will not only change launch angle, but will also change spin. So, the effect of changing driver loft by 1 degree can be more than 2-4 yards depending on your ball speed and how close you are to your ideal launch conditions before changing loft.
Please remember that I have tried to simplify this explanation and the numbers are very general. As you can see there are very many variable combinations that only the expertise of a certified golf equipment professional can sort through. We do that at Engineered Golf.
We welcome you to contact us and show you the benefits of being truly custom fitted for your new driver, fairway woods, hybrids or irons to maximize your performance. Don’t overlook getting your wedges and putter fitted too!