“You drive for show but you putt for dough.”
– Bobby Locke
This is the topic that everyone wants to know more about. How do I drive that ball farther?? Well, it is a simple question with a couple different answers. The one most golfers incorrectly choose is, hit it harder to generate more club head speed. The more energy you generate, the more energy you can transfer, right? The next answer is, hit it more solidly. The better you transfer whatever energy you generate to the ball, the more ball speed you get, and the ball goes farther. Third, and the one that I will discuss today, is to further understand how that energy is transferred, and to get a club that is properly fitted to our swing to help us maximize our potential.
Above you see Bobby Locke’s famous quote, “You drive for show and putt for dough.” This is true in a sense; you do score on the greens. BUT I don’t think that Mr. Locke would have a problem with this statement: It is hard to GET to the green if you do not drive the ball long(ish) and straight. So how do we go about doing this? The first step to u n d e r s t a n d i n g di st ance i s to understand the effect that spin has on i t . As backspin numbers rise, so does the friction between the ball and the air. Simply, spin creates lift and is the enemy of distance. If you have read my previous article entitled “Spin Loft,” then you have a good start to understanding this. In that article I explain spin loft as it relates to controlling short shots around the greens. As a refresher, spin loft is the difference between attack angle and dynamic loft: Dynamic Loft – Attack Angle = Spin Loft
As you can see in the above picture, the spin loft of a driver is much lower than that of a wedge. Our attack angle is going to be much closer to 0 or even a positive number with a driver, and our dynamic loft will be the lowest of any club in our bag since the driver has the lowest static loft as well. So with a wedge we might see a spin loft of 60 (54 – (-6) = 60), whereas we will see a much lower spin loft on a driver (10 – (-2) = 12) and therefore less spin. So in terms of backspin RPM’s, you might expect to see 12,000ish on the wedge and only 2,400 or so on the driver with those numbers above.
So now that we understand some factors that make a ball spin more or less, the idea is to perfectly marry a driver (loft, stiffness of shaft, kick point in the shaft) to an individual golfer to get the most out of his club head speed. For most amateurs we are looking for a spin rate of 2,200 – 2,600 to get the most out of our tee shots. If it spins less than that it will not stay airborne as long as we would like, and if it is more than that it will be spinning too much and fighting friction, travelling shorter. We can achieve this ideal spin rate by keeping that spin loft around 11-12 degrees. This can be achieved a number of different ways, but ultimately a good golf lesson/fitting session can and will help the average golfers improve their distance.
One major take away I hope you get from this article is this. Hitting UP on your driver, or increasing the attack angle, does not necessarily make the ball go higher. In fact it often decreases that spin loft I am talking about, making the ball launch higher and spin less for greater distance. So, go find a local PGA Professional that has access to a TrackMan, and get your numbers checked out today! It will be a great start down the road to a better game.
This week, I want you to watch the attached video and try to duplicate what I demonstrate. I will swing around the same speed with the club, but by changing the attack angle, I will hit one shot much farther than the other. Try this out yourself (swing easily for full effect) to maximize your distance!