I remember the learning curve my partner had to endure when buying her first golf driver. It was a daunting experience primarily because of the amount of choice out there today.
Add to that the jargon that gets thrown around (COR, MOI, CG, etc.) and you have a recipe for confusion. Don’t get me wrong, having lots of choice is great. If you know what’s important for your game.
We all want the best golf driver that fits our budget, looks and feels great in our hands, and allows us to hit the ball farther, straighter, more often. Looks, feel and price are all important factors in choosing a driver and will ultimately come down to your personal judgment.
Looking past those three factors though, there are two other factors that, while a little bit more technical, are fundamental to how well your next driver will help you hit the ball farther and straighter.
According to Trackman, there are only three factors that determine how far a ball will travel: 1. Clubhead speed, 2. Launch Angle and 3. Ball Spin Rate. The idea is to create the optimal mix of these three factors with each swing, to get the ball going farther for you.
Choosing a driver with the right loft and shaft flex will make it easier for you to do this. Hitting the ball straighter comes down to only one factor: getting the clubface square to the ball’s intended path at impact. This too will also depend on having the right driver in your hands.
A key consideration when choosing a driver is the loft. Loft measures the angle between a vertical line that extends from the bottom of the clubface at address, and the clubface itself.
Driver loft is important because it directly affects the launch angle of the ball which in turn affects how far your drive goes. Too high a launch angle for your clubhead speed and the ball will pop up in the air and land well short of your optimal distance. Too low a launch angle and your drive will spend more time on the ground than in the air.
Static Loft vs. Dynamic Loft
Launch angle depends on two things: 1. the loft of your driver (static loft) and 2. The loft you create with your swing (dynamic loft). Dynamic loft for your driver will essentially come down to point in your swing arc at which you contact the ball. The good news is that we don’t have to worry too much about that when buying a driver, so we’ll keep it simple and focus on driver loft.
Driver lofts range from about 7 to 13 degrees depending on the make and model of the club. If you are just starting out in golf, then a loft of about 13 degrees is a good idea.
Driver Loft vs. Swing Speed
As you groove your swing and begin swinging the club faster, you can go lower on the loft to optimise driver distance. If, for example, you hit your driver between 120 and 170m, your clubhead is traveling somewhere in the 60-80mph range at impact and you should choose a driver loft of 12 or 13 degrees. If you driver travels between 180m and 210m your clubhead speed is in the 80s to low 90s and a loft of 10 degrees is about right for you. If you are consistently hitting your driver 210m or more, then your clubhead speed should be in the mid-90s or above and a loft of 9 degrees or lower makes sense.
The good news is that some drivers today allow you to adjust the loft of the club +/- 2 degrees up or down from the nominal club loft. Just so you know though, changing the loft of some drivers may also change the lie angle of the club (this is the angle your club’s shaft makes to the ground when the clubhead is resting on the ground).
Adjusting the loft can also have a slight impact on the bias (draw or fade) and this could be a good or bad thing depending on your natural tendency, but this secondary effect is small compared to the effect of having the right loft on your driver.
Shaft Flex is also an important consideration when choosing your driver. This is because shaft flex directly influences at least two the factors that determine overall driver distance: clubhead speed and launch angle. Shaft flex can also affect the ball spin rate, but we won’t go into that here.
Shaft Flex Options
Shaft flex indicates how much bendiness, or springiness there is in the shaft. Shaft Flexes come in the following range in order of most to least flex: Ladies (L), Senior (A), Regular (R), Stiff (S), Extra Stiff (XS). There can be additional stiff options (XXS, XXXS) depending on the manufacturer.
Shaft Flex vs. Swing Speed
If you do not hit your driver very far, then you will want more flex in your driver shaft. This is because your clubhead speed will benefit more from the ‘spring effect’ you get from a more flexible shaft than from a less flexible shaft. If you swing the club faster though, more shaft flex begins to work against you and will want a stiffer shaft.
This is because at higher speeds, a shaft with more flex will make the clubhead lag your swing and make it difficult for you to square the clubface at impact. This usually results in the dreaded slice or power-fade.
Also, the more flex in a shaft, the higher the launch angle and the more the ball flight tends toward a fade. The stiffer the shaft, the lower launch angle and more the ball flight tends toward a draw. These are secondary effects and you should not choose a stiffer shaft just to cure your slice. Here is a quick table below to help you decide the best loft and shaft flex for your swing speed.
Make it easier to hit your driver
Understanding the right combination of driver loft and shaft flex to find the best golf driver for you is critical. Many beginning golfers struggle to learn to hit the driver because they get this combination wrong. I know golfers who have been playing for decades and still refuse to hit their driver.
Don’t despair. With the technologies and choices on offer today, getting the most out of your driver is now easier than ever. But don’t make learning this aspect of your game any more difficult than it needs to be.
Make sure you choose a driver that feels and looks great. And just as important, make sure you understand how your choice of loft and shaft flex will impact your tee shots. Keep on golfing.
About Zoom Golf
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