Golf Club Loft – Will The Real Loft Please Stand Up

Posted by on Jun 14, 2012 in Clubfitting, Driver Fitting, Hybrid Fitting, Iron Fitting | 17 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.

17 Comments

  1. Clubs can be fit to compensate a golfers swing or swing flaws such upright lie angles for steep swing plane. Would flatter lie angle help trigger this same golfer to flatten his/her swing plane for a more efficient swing possibly eliminating an over the top / out to in downswing?

    • KENT

      It is possible for a golfer to let the way the clubs sit in the address position push the golfer into a different swing plane or different takeaway. The golfer has to consciously do this in the beginning with the adjusted clubs to get his swing change started. And then with discipline over time it is possible that the swing motion forced by the club change can stick. A flatter lie can certainly force the swing plane to be flatter, but there is no guarantee that it will also reduce the over the top outside in path problem. What makes most golfers do that is being over active with the hands and arms to start the downswing. Starting the club down with the HIP TURN and letting the hands and arms remain more passive until the turn is initiated is how most instructors try to re train the swing to reduce the over the top move. And that move cannot really be forced by any fitting change in the clubs. It has to be taught so the golfer understands clearly what it feels like to begin the downswing with the hip turn, then with a lot of practice to cement the feeling of that move to begin the downswing. A flatter lie won’t do that because it is eminently possible to go over the top regardless if you have a flatter or more upright plane.

      TOM

    • Thanks for the response. Std.length upright lie looks and feels that I’m standing too erect. At age 52, turning on tightly stacked hips and back is becoming harder to do.

      I find that fitters will adjust lie angle but are reluctant to shorten club length. At 5’11 (closer to 6′ with golf shoes), my static fit specs indicate “standard” length clubs and dynamic swing requires 3* upright lie. Unless I’m practicing almost daily, I find that I make better contact by gripping down 1/2+” with the same lie angle.

      Should I ignore my fitter advice or get another fitter for second option? Is the fitter correct and I should just play as is, practice more?

    • KENT
      If there is another fitter who has a decent reputation for knowledge and experience, by all means you should consult to listen to a 2nd opinion. There are no “quality standards” for fitting knowledge because clubfitting has always been mostly a self taught “cottage industry.” In short there is a wide range in knowledge and expertise among fitters and always has been. One reason some fitters are reluctant to change length is because it is difficult to re swingweight the clubs after the length change. Sometimes the usual methods of a weight bore in the head or tip weight in the end of the shaft are not sufficient to get the swingweight where it needs to be after the length change. So that limits how you can achieve the right headweight to get the golfer into his best swingweight for the new length. And a lot of golfers really won’t go for lead tape on their clubheads. At the same time there is absolutely nothing wrong with gripping down as a number of tour pros do that – Fowler comes to mind as one. As long as you get the grip size comfortable for the amount you grip down, there is nothing wrong with that at all.

      TOM

  2. You mentioned that a protractor cannot be used to measure loft of a given head. That special equipment is used by the manufacturer. Can you go into detail how the manufacturer measures their loft and given that using a protractor and understanding that because of the cupped face of a (driver face) it would be different from top to bottom; how much difference would there be? Also, using a protractor (or similar device) measuring one head i.e. stamped with a 9.5 degree loft and another stamped stamped with 9.5 and comparing the measurements obtained with the protractor (in the middle of the face); can any usable data be assumed?

    • Caleb:
      What I mean is that you cannot hold the clubhead in your hands and use a protractor to measure the loft. You must secure the clubhead in a special device and position it correctly before you then could use a special type of protractor to measure the loft. The video at this following you tube link can show you a little bit about the type of machine and how heads have to be fixtured in order to perform accurate spec measurements. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VexY0XJ-J4

      Up until three years ago, all the manufacturers measured the loft of drivers/woods/hybrids the same way. But these days since the advent of the adjustable hosel sleeves in drivers and woods, companies have changed the way they measure loft. This video for which I gave you the link explains all of this very clearly. I hope this helps – watch the video, if you have other questions, please do come back and ask me and I will be glad to elaborate more to help you understand what it is you want to know.
      TOM

  3. Big help and great information. Thanks very much… What part of the country do you live? Love to go through a fitting with you at some point down the road. Thanks JA

    • JOHN

      Our company headquarters are in Durango, Colorado in the southwest corner of Colorado. We do offer fitting analysis by appointment at our R&D facility that we chiefly use for our clubhead and shaft design engineering and testing work for developing the designs for our company to offer to custom clubmakers all around the US and internationally as well. Our R&D center is on the driving range at the Dalton Ranch GC just north of Durango and when people do wish us to fit them, we can offer that service from late March through early November. Fitting appointments can be booked by calling our lead clubfitter, Don Greewood, directly at 505-320-2768.

      TOM

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