Golf Club Loft – Will The Real Loft Please Stand Up
One of the most important specifications on each of your golf clubs is the loft angle. To skip the fancy definitions, the loft angle is simply how much the face of the clubhead on each of your golf clubs is angled back. Every clubhead in your bag has a specific and different 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 called angle of attack, point of impact on the face, and dynamic loft at impact due to forward shaft bending and hand/release position at impact.
One of the several definitions of a perfect set of golf clubs is that each club hits the ball a specific, different distance and that the difference in distance between each club in progression through the set is as close to the same as possible. Many of you know how frustrating it can be to play when you have two adjacent clubs that have a 20 yard distance difference between them and yet two others for which you only see about a 5 yard gap in distance between.
When you see discrepancies in the distance gap between clubs, the first and usually the main reason this happens is because the lofts are not consistently spaced between all the clubs. Yes, there are other equipment reasons this can happen such as length errors or things associated with how much each club weighs in relation to the others. There are also golfer reasons such as changes in ball position and differences in angle of attack with the different clubs. But speaking about the equipment side of this, 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.
No clubhead manufactured in the golf industry is perfect to all of its intended design specifications because in an industry that manufactures tens of millions of golf clubs every year, that is quite impossible to achieve. All specifications of clubheads are subject to normal +/- tolerances. For loft no clubhead production factory on the planet will quote a +/- tolerance for loft that is tighter than +/-1*.
In addition there is a difference between quoted tolerance and delivered tolerance in the production of clubheads. While most every clubhead factory quotes a +/-1* tolerance for loft, the actual delivered tolerance will vary tremendously in the clubhead production industry. Having designed over 350 different clubhead model designs in my career that were produced and sold, believe me I can speak with more experience than just about any other person in the history of the game about clubhead production tolerances!!
For example, in a run of 100 clubheads made by a very good quality factory, approximately half will be dead on the loft spec. A third will be between 0.1* to 0.5* off from the loft spec and the rest will be between 0.6* and 1* off from the spec. Not more than one out of every 200-300 will be more than 1* off from the spec. But with a not so good clubhead production factory less than ¼ will be dead on spec, over a third will be >1* off from the spec and about one of every 50 will be 2* or more off from the spec. The old adage of “you get what you pay for” tends to be very accurate in judging production tolerance quality in the clubhead manufacturing business.
So how DO you know what the lofts are on your clubs? Sorry but 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 use in their work. The image shows the machine that has been considered the industry gold standard (actually, ‘green’ standard since the machine has never been made in any other color!) for clubhead specs measurement in the golf equipment industry.
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 the lofts on your clubs are.
Add a really tricky thing to that as well. Ever since the introduction of the modern adjustable hosel sleeve on drivers and some fairway woods, what loft you actually play with can be very confusing. ONLY if the driver is manually held in a 0* square face position behind the ball will the hosel sleeves deliver the loft stated on the sleeve position. Very few of the companies actually state that, which has always been a head scratcher to me. Not only that, forgetting the sleeve or having to hold the head in a square position at address, the head itself is still subject to the normal +/-1* error tolerance in its manufacture.
With the irons where a specific distance for each iron is a very important part of the game, the +/- tolerance in the production of the heads accounts for most situations where the golfer notices a shorter distance gap between two irons and a larger one between two others. Bottom line, when inconsistent distance gaps are present between your clubs, consult an experienced custom Clubmaker for help. Most irons can be bent for loft and lie adjustments so the distance gaps can be more consistent.
The perfect solution that takes everything that affects distance gaps into consideration? Going through a ‘gapping’ test with a very accurate launch monitor not only accounts for actual loft errors but uncovers swing differences from club to club that can cause odd distance gaps. Such a test involves hitting every club and noting the carry distance of perfectly on center hit shots. The good shot distances are noted for each club and from that loft adjustments on the irons at least can be made. Loft changes on fairway woods or hybrids unfortunately cannot be done so if you need a new loft on a wood or hybrid you’ll have to buy a different clubhead with the proper loft.