Golf Club Loft – Will The Real Loft Please Stand Up

Posted by on Jun 14, 2012 in Clubfitting, Driver Fitting, Hybrid Fitting, Iron Fitting | 7 comments

One of the very most important specifications on each of your golf clubs is the loft angle.  To skip the fancy definitions, the loft angle is how much the face of the clubhead on each of your golf clubs is tilted back.  Every clubhead in your bag has a specific loft angle on the face, even your putter.

Quite simply, loft is about 85% of the reason you hit each golf club a different distance.  The length of each of your clubs comprises the other 15%.  How far YOU actually hit each club is mainly a product of the relationship of YOUR swing speed with the different loft on each clubhead in your set – with a couple of other technical things tossed in.

One of the several definitions of a perfect set of golf clubs is that each club hit the ball a specific, different distance and that the difference in distance between each club is as close to the same as possible.  Many of you know how frustrating it can be to play when you have two clubs that have a 20 yard distance difference between them and yet two others for which you only see about a 5 yard distance gap between.

When you see discrepancies in distance between clubs, the first and usually main reason this happens is because the lofts are not consistently spaced between all the clubs.  Yes, there are other reasons this can happen such as length errors or things associated with how much each club weighs in relation to the others.  But day in and day out, when you see inconsistent distances between clubs, it is because there is an error in the spacing of the loft angle(s) between the clubs.

So how DO you know what the lofts are on your clubs?  Sorry.  You can’t use a simple protractor to measure the loft on your clubs.  It takes a special gauge that club designers, clubhead production factories and custom clubmakers buy and use in their work.  While you can go to a the website of the company that makes the clubs you play and probably find a chart that tells you the loft on each head in your set, thanks to the fact there are definitely plus and minus tolerances, that doesn’t tell you exactly what your lofts are.

Add a really nasty thing to that as well. There are a number of golf companies who INTENTIONALLY make the real loft on their drivers to be different than what they say it is on the head! I kid you not. Since the late 90s, a few golf companies do this. Why?

Because they think they are doing golfers a favor.  Here’s the deal.  We all know there are some golfers out there who think they will hit the driver farther if it has a lower loft.  Many golfers do not know their optimum driver loft for maximum distance has to be chosen on the basis of the golfer’s clubhead speed AND their angle of attack into the ball.  Slower swing speed and/or more downward angle of attack means a higher driver loft is required to maximize distance.

Only when you have a high clubhead speed with an upward angle of attack do you get your max distance from a lower loft.  Starting in the 90s, several golf companies just found it was easier to lie about the loft on their drivers and make some of their driver models with more loft than they printed or engraved on the head.  More by like 2 degrees.

That’s fine I guess for the egotist golfers who refuse to buy a higher loft driver.  But for the many who do want to buy the right loft, it’s a real confusing situation.  Ultimately, it means to really know your lofts and to make sure your lofts match your swing, this is why it is so helpful to find and work with a competent custom Clubmaker.

7 Comments

  1. Great information about Golf Club Loft – Will The Real Loft Please Stand Up. It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed information. Although it took me time to read through all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. Keep up the good work.

    • Much appreciated, and thank YOU for your interest in golf equipment performance and fitting. Because there is and has been so much bad information passed around about golf club performance, we do make a real effort to share what we know from all the experience we have in club design and the research we have done in clubfitting performance. Thanks much for being interested and letting us know it matters.

      TOM

  2. Tom,

    I always enjoy your interviews on golfsmarter. I was hoping you might be able to answer a questions for me. Since, you said that the distance is 85% from the loft. Do you think a company like 1 iron golf could be on to something. If all irons were on length and had the same club head weight, and you would use the same swing. Couldn’t that be a beneficial thing? I know that the Tommy Armour ones didn’t take off, but they modeled them after a 6 iron, where 1 iron golf base it on your size, so a shorter golfer like me might have all the clubs the length of the 9 iron or pitching wedge. Since the 3 and 4 iron can be hard to hit, wouldn’t it make sense that the single length clubs would give the amateur golfer more confidence on the lower irons especially. It seems like you would be more consistent across the board once you had the swing down. and since the club heads weigh the same amount also, it would truly be the same exact swing motion.

    Thanks Tom! I love the service you are doing for the golfing community.

    • DANIEL:

      We’ve certainly looked at the concept of single length irons so we do know a fair bit about its potential strengths and weaknesses. But I think probably the most compelling history about this concept comes from back in the 90s when the former Tommy Armour Golf Company actually did market and sell a set they called the EQL. In the EQL, all woods were the same length, totalweight and swingweight as the 5 wood. In the irons, all irons were the same length, total weight and swingweight of the 6 iron.

      The EQL clubs debuted with great interest. At the time Armour was one of the more successful golf companies so the EQL introduction got a lot of press and interest. 6 months after the EQL clubs began to sell, Armour filed for bankruptcy protection because they experienced an 80% return rate on the clubs from people who did not like them at all. What happened was basically due to the 15% of distance that comes from the length of clubs.

      IN the woods, many who bought the EQL saw that they could not hit their 5 wood length driver as far as they hit their previous longer length driver. Certainly they hit the much shorter EQL driver straighter, but in golf, if a golfer buys a new driver and hits it shorter than his old one, 90% of them are NOT going to like that at all because distance is SO MUCH OF A PRIORITY for so many golfers. In the irons, many golfers found that the distances between clubs was compressed shorter than what they were used to, and they found they hit the 8, 9, PW longer than what they were used to. Both things pushed golfers over the line of acceptability and brought about the huge return rate and demand for a refund, which in turn put Armour under.

      Basically it comes down to this. For golfers with a slower swing speed and who have an early to midway unhinging of the wrist-cock angle on the downswing, a single length concept can be OK. Golfers with these swing characteristics will not really see much of a difference in distance loss from a shorter length driver, nor will they see much of a compression of distance gaps between irons or hitting the high number irons too far. This is because when you release the club early, longer length does not translate into higher clubhead speed at impact.

      but golfers with higher clubhead speeds who also have a midway to later to very late release WILL see differences in distance from different lenghts. So for these golfers, single length clubs can cause the experiences seen with the EQL sets. And when you mess with a golfer’s shot distances like that, most golfers will not like that at all.

      It is possible to engineer a single length set so it COULD perform properly a wider range of golfers. To do this chiefly would require the lofts of all the clubs to be staggered very different to each other than what is typical today for woods and irons to help overcome the effect on distance of length. But EQL did not do that and to my knowledge neither does the 1-Iron golf company. So as it stands now, pretty much only the golfers with slower speeds and earlier release can step into such a set and be OK.

      TOM

  3. Tom,

    If you use a set of irons that are the same length and the head is the same weight, though you may lose some distance, wouldn’t the gapping between clubs still be consistent? and since many of us have a hard time hitting the lower irons, in theory, if all our clubs are the same length and we have a comfortable swing, it seems like it could lead to a more consistent swing. I guess what I am trying to ask is if you think the problem a lot of us have with lower irons is because of the longer clubs or the lower loft?

    Thanks, I always enjoy listening and reading your input on golf clubs.

    • Daniel:

      Thanks very much for YOUR interest in equipment, and we are always glad to help with the best information we can.

      Whether a conventional 4* change in loft between irons that would be made to the same length can offer consistent distance gaps depends on the golfer’s clubhead speed and their point of wrist-cock release on the downswing. Those are the two elements that combine to determine whether a golfer gets measurably different clubhead speeds from different club lengths. The later the release and the higher the clubhead speed with it, the more a golfer would see changes in clubhead speed and changes in distance from changes in club length.

      Hence for golfers with 5 iron clubhead speeds above 65mph and a later release, having all the irons the same length but still with a 4* loft change between clubs still causes the distance gaps to be compressed closer together.

      The reason pretty much ALL golfers cannot hit their lower number irons very well is because of the lower lofts combined with the fact the center of gravity in irons is not as low or as far back from the face as it is in a WOODHEAD or a HYBRID HEAD of the same loft. Low lofts are always harder to hit than higher lofts. Combine that with a CG position that in an iron is very close to the face and not all that low due to the height of a typical iron head and you have a situation where only those with the best and most consistent swing characteristics can hit the low loft long irons in their set.

      Thus the reason why smart golfers tend to have more hybrids in their bag to replace these naturally harder to hit irons with clubs that will hit the ball the same distance but be easier to hit with more consistency.

      TOM

  4. It’s very interesting but quite confusing thinking of 15% shaft length and 85% loft that make an iron distance gaps. Actually I was thinking to covert one of my 8 iron into 9 iron by shortening the length only since I love the head shape of 8 iron much better than 9 iron. I was just roughly thinking of cutting off 1 inch without changing loft. Do you think this makes any sense? For your info, my handy cap is 9 and I hit 8 iron 140 yards and I expect the cut off 8 iron to be 125-130 yards (9 iron length).
    I would appreciate your comments.
    Michael

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