Generally, amateur golfers who haven't been through a custom fitting service use driver shafts which are too stiff and this limits the amount of launch available at impact.
However, if the shaft is too flexible and the kick point of the shaft too low then the ball could balloon upwards robbing the golfer of distance. The ballooning effect is caused by an excess of back spin created at impact, when caused by the shaft, this is a result of an increase of dynamic loft. Throughout the swing, the driver shaft bends and flexes in a number of different ways. Coming through impact, the club head overtakes the shaft and presents the true dynamic loft to the ball. If the club head overtakes the shaft by too much, the dynamic loft increases and causes a huge increase in back spin. This can be caused by a too flexible shaft when compared to swing speed and a too low kick point. A kick point is the section of the shaft that the club head takes over. The lower the kick point, the more dynamic loft will be created. The higher the kick point, the less dynamic loft will be created.
The best way to find the correct shaft flex for your driver is to get custom fitted using a launch monitor and professional advice. Without taking advantage of modern technology and qualified professionals, it will be extremely hard to find the perfect shaft for your game.
Other Causes of a Ballooned Ball Flight
Before running off and swapping shafts, there are a number of other things which could also cause the ball to balloon upwards with too much back spin.
The angle of attack created in the swing should be different than with the irons to minimize the amount of spin being created. With a normal iron swing, the club should bottom out in its arc just after the ball, leading to a downward strike and back spin being created. With a driver, players need to minimize the amount of back spin which means striking the ball on a slightly ascending arc. For this to be possible, the ball position in the driver set up must be technically sound which is just inside the left heel for a right handed golfer to enable to ball to be met on a slightly ascending blow.
Another reason the ball may balloon in flight is if at impact the ball is placed too high upon the tee peg. At address, only half the ball needs to be showing above the driver's top edge, any more than this and you will run the risk of catching the ball high off the club face, creating a large amount of back spin and the possibility of a dreaded sky mark on the driver.
Will Too Flexible Driver Shaft Cause Ball to Balloon?
Equipment plays a major role in the golf that you can play out on the course. While it is true that your clubs are never going to be able to do all of the work for you, it is important that you have the right clubs in your bag when you hit the first tee. Without the right gear, your clubs will actually be fighting against your swing – which is not something that you ever want to deal with. If you are serious about posting the lowest scores possible during your upcoming rounds, be sure to take some time to dial in your set of equipment just right.
In this article, we are going to look specifically at the driver. In fact, we are going to look at just one part of the driver – the shaft. The shaft of any of your golf clubs can be considered the engine, as it is really what it going to drive performance. Using the right shaft will optimize what you are able to achieve, while playing the wrong shaft is going to make the game even harder than it is to begin with. Professional golfers spend countless hours making sure they have the right shafts in all of their clubs, and you should follow that lead. While you can't dedicate the same amount of time to this issue, and you don't have the same resources available, you can still work toward finding the ideal driver shaft for your swing.
The good news regarding this topic is the fact that you don't actually have to spend a large sum of money to wind up with good equipment for your game. Sure, you could buy top of the line equipment if you wish, but you can also opt for less-expensive clubs that will do nearly the same job. The important point when it comes to equipment is finding a good fit. You need clubs that are going to match up nicely with your swing speed, swing dynamics, body type, personal preferences, and more. When your golf bag is full of clubs that are a good match for your game, golf will suddenly become significantly easier – even if you make no changes to your swing itself.
The topic at hand in this article, as you can tell from the title, is whether or not using a shaft that is too soft will cause your driver shots to balloon. A ballooned golf shot is one that climbs high into the air with an excessive rate of spin. This kind of shot might look nice at first, but it will wind up in disappointment as it comes down well short of its distance potential. Ballooning your driver is a significant problem because you are going to wind up with long approach shots after your short drives. A flatter, penetrating ball flight is desired off the tee, and that is something you may be able to find by making a change in your driver shaft selection.
All of the content below is written from the perspective of a right handed golfer. If you play golf left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Signs of Trouble
The first thing you need to do in order to spot trouble with your driver shaft is to pay attention to your ball flight. Experienced golfers are fond of saying that your 'ball flight never lies', and that certainly is true. If you want to know what is going on with your swing or your equipment, just watch your ball flight – the truth will be right there in front of you.
So, how do you know if your ball flight is ballooning on driver shots? Look for the following signs of trouble while out on the course.
- Hitting solid drives a short distance. When you feel like you catch your driver right on the sweet spot – and it still only travels a short distance, you should know that something is wrong. Even if you aren't usually the longest hitter on the course, you should still know about how far your 'normal' drive goes when you catch it properly. Should you start to come up well short of that mark, there is likely an issue with your equipment. Or, even if you don't have an average distance to reference, you can compare your drives to others in your group. If you fall well short of the rest of the players in your group, and they have a similar skill level to what you possess, there is an issue that needs to be solved.
- Losing major distance when driving into the wind. No one likes hitting tee shots into the wind – that much goes without saying. However, hitting into the wind is worse for some players than others, as those with a ballooning ball flight will lose an incredible amount of distance under this scenario. A ballooning ball with a high rate of spin is going to be eaten up by the wind, meaning your drives will come straight down and you could lose 50 yards or more off of your typical tee shot. If facing an into-the-wind tee shot is a dreaded scenario for you, it is time to look at why your ball flight is climbing so high into the sky.
- A 'loose' feeling in the swing. Players who use a driver with a shaft that is too soft will often say that the club head feels disconnected from the rest of the club. Without the proper amount of stiffness between your hands and the club head, it is going to be difficult to feel the movements of the end of the club from the start of the swing on through impact. This is a point that you won't be able to see play out in front of you, so it is going to be down to your feel to decide when this is a problem. A good way to judge this point is to compare your driver swing to those you make with your irons. Does the driver shaft feel wobbly and loose as compared to the irons? If so, a stiffer shaft may be in order.
In the end, it should be pretty easy to tell if you are dealing with a ballooning ball flight. For one thing, you should be able to see it playing out in front of you. Watch the ball fly from the time it leaves your club until the time that it lands. What kind of path is it taking? How does your ball flight compare to the drives being hit by other players in your group? If your drives are consistent the shortest and the highest in the group, it is a safe bet that you have an equipment problem to deal with.
Causes of Change
Most likely, you haven't been dealing with a ballooning ball flight for your entire time as a golfer. At some point, the driver that you are using currently may have worked just fine, providing you with a penetrating ball flight and enough distance to get around the course. So what could have changed? Most likely, your swing has improved, picking up speed and acceleration between the top of the swing and the moment of impact. It is common for golfers to improve on their swing speed over time, and this can cause a shaft that was once a great fit to become a serious problem.
Think about the changes that you have seen in your golf game over recent months. Are you hitting the ball a bit farther with your irons? Since most golfers use steel shafts in their irons, an improvement in swing speed isn't going to cause as much trouble there as it will with the driver. If you are hitting your irons a club longer but your driver shots just seem to fly higher and higher, there is a good chance that you are moving the club faster than ever before.
In addition to adding speed to your swing, you could also be dealing with a ballooning flight as the result of a change in your swing path. When hitting a driver, you ideally want to hit up on the ball slightly through impact. This kind of upward path will help you achieve an ideal ball flight, with a relatively low spin rate leading to a flat trajectory through the air. However, it is possible for your path to change over time, which could wind up leading you toward a ballooning ball. If you start to hit down on the ball, for instance, your spin rate will go up and your drives will fall shorter. This is also an issue that is made worse by a soft shaft, as the club head will fall behind your hands and you will have no way of keeping the ball down effectively.
So, what should you do about this frustrating problem? The best thing you can do as a first step is to head to a local golf facility for a club fitting session. You should be able to find a course or driving range near you that offer club fittings for a reasonable rate. The fitting session will involve you hitting your current clubs – or just your driver, if you only want to focus on that one club – while the golf pro measures a variety of variables with a computer. The data that is collected during your club fitting session is going to be used to recommend new equipment that can help you perform at a higher level.
If you do decide to go for a club fitting session, there are a few tips that you should follow in order to make sure the session is as productive as possible. Those tips are listed below –
- Don't try and impress the computer. This is a common mistake made by golfers going for their first club fitting. The goal of the fitting is to come away with clubs that are as well-fitted as possible for your golf swing. That means, of course, that you should be making your normal golf swing. If you go out of your way to swing as hard as possible, you are not going to be giving the machine an accurate reflection of your game on the course. Sure, you might want to see high numbers when you swing your driver in front of the machine, but feeding your ego won't do any good here. Make your normal swing just as you would on the golf course to get information that is actually useful in the end.
- Trust the pro. The golf pro that is performing your fitting is called a 'pro' for a reason – he or she knows what they are doing. Rather than arguing with their conclusions or trying to interject your own ideas, stand there and listen to what they have to say. At the end of the fitting, you are free to make your own decisions about the equipment that you are going to use. Until then, however, take in all the information you can get and inform yourself about this topic. It is almost certain that the golf pro doing the fitting knows more about this topic than you do, so trust their authority and let them help you.
- Be honest with your answers. In addition to collecting data from the machine as you make some swings, the golf pro is also likely to ask you some questions about your game. They may ask how far you usually hit some of your clubs, what ball flights you are prone to hitting, and what scores you shoot on average. Again on this point, it is key that you don't allow your ego to get in the way of the process. Be completely honest and give them the information they need to help you become a better golfer.
Going through a club fitting process is not only helpful in picking out the right equipment, it can be fun as well. You will learn a lot about your swing, you will get to chat with a friendly and helpful golf pro, and you should come away in the end with clubs that are perfectly fitted for your swing.
Adjusting to a New Club
If you do decide to go through with a club fitting, you should wind up with a driver that is far better suited to the needs of your golf swing. You should see your ball flight come down almost immediately, and distance should be added to your average drive. However, while you will notice some improvements right away, others could take time to come around. Why? Simple – you are going to need to 'reprogram' your swing to perform properly out on the course.
After a period of time spent playing with the wrong driver shaft, you will naturally have adjusted to that shaft in an effort to get the best possible results from your swing. This is something that usually happens subconsciously over time. You feel that the shaft is not stiff enough to keep up with your swing, so you slow down your transition and ease up a bit through impact. These adjustments probably aren't major, and they certainly aren't intentional, but they happen anyway. All golfers adapt to their equipment to a certain degree, and in this case that can mean you will wind up making a less-that-ideal swing with your driver.
Now that your driver shaft is no longer a problem, you can go back to turning it loose through the hitting area. Of course, that change won't happen immediately. The first thing you need to do is get to the practice range and develop some trust between your swing and your new club. There is nothing like experience when it comes to building trust, and you can hit more drives in a single 30-minute practice session than you will ever hit in an 18-hole round of golf. To be sure, the driving range is going to be your friend early on when adjusting to a new driver shaft.
During your practice session, you need to be looking at not only the trajectory of your shots in terms of height, but also the shape of those shots as they turn left or right. Switching to a shaft that is a better fit for your swing is likely to bring the ball flight down nicely, however it is also likely to change your shot shape pattern somewhat. For instance, if you played a big draw with your softer shaft, there is a chance you will now play a small fade instead. You need to become comfortable with your new ball flight patterns on the range so you know what to expect on the course.
Overall, it shouldn't take too long – maybe a few practice sessions and a couple rounds of golf – to get comfortable with your new driver shaft. As long as the fitting process was successful in locating a shaft that works with your swing, the ball flight improvement and distance gains will be quick to arrive.
Dialing In the Rest of Your Gear
With the right shaft in your driver, you will have a big piece of the equipment puzzle in place. Of course, that is not the end of the story, as there are 13 other clubs in your bag that need attention. To play up to your potential, all of these clubs need to be optimized to ensure they are a good match for your game.
Obviously, it should go without saying that a club fitting session which analyzes your entire set, and not just your driver, is a good idea. There really is no substitute for the information that you can gather from the combination of a launch monitor and an experienced club fitting professional. Before you go into such a fitting, however, you should keep in mind what kind of performance characteristics you are looking for from the rest of your set. With the driver, it's easy – you are looking for distance. Other clubs are not as simple, however, so keep the following points in mind as you work to assemble your ideal set.
- High-flying long clubs. A ballooning ball flight is never really what you are looking for, but you do want to set up your long clubs in such a way that they offer you a high trajectory. Bringing in your long shots from way up high will help the ball to stop quicker, giving you more control over reaching your targets successfully.
- Low-flying short clubs. In just the opposite way, you want your short clubs to fly a bit lower than you might think at first. Since shots struck with clubs like the nine iron and pitching wedge are going to have plenty of spin to help them stop, they don't need to be hit way up into the sky. Lower short iron shots are easier to control, and you can usually produce a lower flight by selecting the right shaft and club head combination.
- A comfortable putter. Putting well is all about being comfortable over the ball while you make your stroke. If you decide to add putter fitting to this process, work on finding a flat stick that allows you to stand in a comfortable position while swinging the putter back and through as freely as possible.
To answer the question that was asked all the way back in the title of this article, yes, a too-flexible driver shaft can easily cause your shots to balloon. If that is a problem that you are facing currently in your game, take action right away by visiting a professional club fitter to dial in your equipment needs. You shouldn't look to new equipment anytime you need to solve a problem within your golf game, but in this case, the right solution is to make a gear change. Hopefully, once you have swapped out shafts, your performance will quickly move in the right direction. Good luck!