Adjustable drivers dominate the golf world.
Random testing of adjustable drivers is a waste of time.
This article describes a new, more precise method for fitting adjustable drivers.
Fitting for Angle of Attack and Swing Path
Last week Bill* came in to the Golf Lab for a Driver Fitting. He brought a driver that he borrowed from a friend. He hit the driver well and could buy it for a song but wondered if there was anything better.
Bill is 61 years old with a good swing – grooved as a kid playing all summer for several summers. Then he took forty years off to build a career and raise a family.
He is “coming back to golf”.
Fitting for Loft: Determine Your Angle of Attack
There is no mystery in driver fitting. A player makes his swing and propels the ball at a certain speed, launch angle and spin rate.
There is no chance in the laws of nature. At 61 and swinging driver at 95 MPH Bill can reach maximum ball speed of 142 MPH if he makes solid contact. That gets him 235 yards at optimal 17* launch angle. Very respectable.
Bill’s borrowed driver said 9.5* on the sole plate. If the optimal launch angle is 17* and the driver loft is 9.5* there’s a gap of 7.5*. A 9.5* driver does not get to 17* without help.
For Bill to help his 9.5* driver get to 17* he needs to hit up on the ball at a 7.5* angle. In golf lingo, that’s a “positive angle of attack”.
The only players who come close to a 7* upward angle of attack are Professional Long Drive competitors.
Alas, most amateurs hit down on the ball with their driver. Bill started the day with a level angle of attack. He “just never thought about how to put the driver on the ball.
First step in a driver fitting is to measure the player’s own driver head for true loft and face angle. I want a precise measurement. One degree matters.
Bill’s 9.5* driver is actually 12*. The face angle is 1* closed. That’s probably your first surprise. How could measured loft be so different from the number stamped on the sole plate?
Second step in the driver fitting: Bill hits his driver with the Flightscope radar launch monitor looking on. We need to know launch angle and angle of attack. Not too bad. He clobbered his drives 225 but with little control.
The 12* driver delivered a 14* launch angle. Bill practiced a 2* positive angle of attack – a good players frequently make quick swing changes to achieve desired results. But Bill was still 3* low on launch angle. Could we get another 10 yards with a little more driver loft or continued adjustment of attack angle?
Alas, Bill was finished at 2* upward angle of attack. It is unrealistic for an amateur to expect a positive angle of attack of more than 4*. Bill helped all he could.
Why not a 15* driver?
Until now, most driver fitting has focused on shafts. Finding the right shaft is important but adjustable drivers makes matching the driver head to a player’s swing just as important.
A week never goes by a player doesn’t say “I hit my 3 wood as far as my driver. What’s with that?”
Now you know why. The player who is above average with a 95 MPH swing speed needs a 17* launch angle for maximum distance. He makes a free swing with his 3 wood from a tee with 15* of loft. He catches the ball slightly ahead of center so his launch angle is 2* upward. Perfect 17* launch angle. The 3 wood matches driver distance. And it looks better in the process.
Very few manufacturers make 15* drivers. High loft drivers are very effective for seniors, women and juniors. You can test one at the Golf Lab.
Fitting for Face Angle: Determine Your Swing Path
The starting point is desired ball flight.
Several years ago the Stanford Women’s golf team had excellent players who were “strong for their size”.
They needed all the distance they could get. They wanted soft draws with maximum run out.
They all developed nearly perfect 4* inside-out swing paths.
That’s a good starting point for a player who wants similar results.
Matching Driver Face Angle with Swing Path
The perfect driver face angle for the Stanford women was 2* closed. Their goal was distance and they didn’t need fades.
By the “Nine Laws of Ball Flight” a draw occurs when the swing path is inside out and the face angle is closed to swing path but open to the target line. A 4* inside-out swing path and 2* closed face angle produces a perfect draw.
The 2* closed face angle put the face angle in the correct position at impact without manipulating the club. That’s the ultimate goal behind matching face angle to swing path.
If the Stanford women were stronger and needed fades to curl around doglegs, a square face angle would be more versatile.
Players who prefer a baby fade need an outside-in (“cut”) swing. A 1* or 2* outside-in swing path is a good model. That same 2* closed face angle risks a pull with an outside-in swing path. It’s hard to hit a soft fade with a closed face driver.
Players who want to play a fade might find an open face angle driver to be just the ticket that allows them to straighten out their swing path – promoting less sidespin for straighter shots – and still get the fade from the open face angle.
And you always thought that open face drivers were for hookers.
Now you know why true loft and face angle are important fitting details.
How Do We Know True Loft and Face Angle?
Here’s a picture of our precision loft and face angle measurement gauge. It was once trusted on the Callaway Tour Van to give their staff players accurate readings.
There is a video on www.Devotedgolfer.TV that shows the current loft and lie gauge in the Callaway Tour Van. It is a precision digital instrument that cost a small fortune. It shows how much Callaway cares about precision measurement.
In the Callaway Tour Van – and every other Tour Van – they measure the loft and face angle of every driver head. No Tour Pro would waste his time hitting a driver that did not match his specifications.
The first step in driver fitting is to measure the loft and face angle of the driver you’re testing. There are very few precision measurement gauges in Northern California. If you stop by the Golf Lab we’ll measure your current driver no charge. Be prepared for a surprise.
The Problem with Adjustable Drivers
I favor Taylor Made for custom fitting. The universal adapter for all TM models is the reason. Any shaft with a Taylor Made adapter fits any Taylor Made driver. My personal favorite is the R9 – (2009). I like the black color and the full adjustability. Drivers that are three years old are just as “hot” as recent models.
Players who own Taylor Made drivers have access to over 200 shafts for testing from the Golf Lab.
Don’t trust the loft number on the bottom of your R9. The average Taylor Made R9 driver that we tested over the last several months is at least 2* off in measured loft.
9.5* drivers average 11*. 10.5* drivers average 13* and 11.5* drivers average 15*.
We found no drivers that measured less than stated loft. Random testing of other brands suggests that all drivers measure higher than stated loft.
Depending on the model of driver you’re playing – there is a near certainty that the loft is at least 1* more than you think and could be 3* or 4* more degrees than marked.
That’s a risky reality if you’re trying to understand your swing.
Where Have We Seen This Before?
When Eli Callaway made his first deal to buy graphite shafts from Aldila – he demanded a change.
Aldila changed all “regular” shafts to “stiff”. Eli was an astute marketer. He knew players wouldn’t buy the best flex for psychological reasons so he changed the specifications.
Callaway’s signature method was copied by every other manufacturer.
The logical conclusion is that the Big Manufacturers know that players can’t be trusted to buy a driver that really fits.
Is that what Taylor Made is doing? Were the final instructions on the mega-million piece driver order to “be sure to miss it high?”
Are All Drivers Mis-Labeled?
Most driver manufacturers are not bothered by 1* differences between stated loft and measured loft. To be fair – 1* variance represents precision manufacturing. Even 2* or 3* is not that far off considering that human hands touch each head as they are forged and welded. A modern titanium driver head is a manufacturing miracle that took fifteen years to master. But 2* or 3* variance can have a huge impact on how effectively you transfer energy to the ball.
The simple fix is to determine the optimal loft and face angle to match your swing and find a driver head that matches those specifications. That’s our main goal in a driver fitting.
The only way to do that is to first measure your driver with a precision gauge.
The Biggest Danger: Wide Open Face Angles
One finding in our limited sampling of Taylor Made drivers is that several measured extremely open. 4* and 5* open were surprisingly common face angles at some positions. A driver with a 5* open face angle is going to be unhittable for all but the most highly skilled players.
If you would like to prove that to yourself, we can set up a wide open test driver during your fitting so you can know how hard it is to keep it on the planet.
Don’t waste time trying to figure out the specifications on your driver. It’s simple to do. Get it measured.
I repeat our offer. Come get your driver measured. Then let the Flightscope radar have a look at your swing. Combining form and equipment is the best way to reach your own level of Peak Performance. Complete driver fitting (includes shaft fitting): $150.
Leith Anderson and the Golf Lab Gang
PS: What happened with Bill*. Bill is a composite of players and personalities that frequent the Golf Lab. The real Bill who the story was based on ended up testing the 15* driver option. The original Cobra 12* driver (with 9.5* stamped on the bottom) kept its place in the bag.