When choosing a driver, senior golfers should be careful to select the correct loft.
One of the biggest trends seniors fall into is selecting a driver with a lower loft, the theory being the lower the loft the more distance can be achieved.
However, with the driver, this trend could be costing the senior golfer countless yards and accuracy. Most seniors could increase the amount of distance they achieve with a driver if they give up the 8, 9, 10 or even 11 degree driver and crank up the loft to maximize the amount of launch on the ball.
There are three things the senior golfer needs to consider;
2. Swing speed
3. Angle of attack
The more downward the senior's angle of attack (the more they hit down on the ball), the slower the swing speed. If a senior golfer has a steep angle of attack they must add loft to increase the launch angle and distance.
Conversely, the shallower the angle of attack (the more a golfer hits upwards through impact), the higher the swing speed will become and the less loft is needed to achieve the optimal launch angle.
Long drive champions hit the ball so far because they strike through the ball with a severe upward angle of attack. On average, to achieve the correct amount of launch angle with a 9 degree driver, the senior golfer would have to swing through the ball with an upward angle of approach and achieve club head speeds of 110 miles per hour (mph). Seniors need to be realistic about how fast they swing the club if they want to see the best results. A driver swing speed of just over 110mph was average on the PGA tour for 2013. Most seniors don't swing the club over 100mph which means most seniors would be better off using an 11 degree driver which would fly further and straighter.
A quick test
Seniors unsure of whether they need more loft should experiment on the course or driving range comparing driver and 3 wood distance off the tee. Many seniors are amazed that their 3 wood often achieves a similar distance to the driver. This is because the added loft helps send the ball skyward and doesn't give a flat ball flight.
For accurate readings of swing speed, angle of attack and loft, find a local professional or shop with launch monitor technology. The readings will give the senior golfer greater steer on how much loft they should be using on their driver.
Correct Driver Loft for the Average Senior Golfer
The equipment you choose to use on the golf course has a lot to do with the shots you can hit, and the scores you can shoot. It is true that you can't 'buy a low score' in this game, but you certainly can buy improvement. If you find the right gear for your own swing, and you stick with that gear even through some rough patches, you will be rewarded in the end with better play. It isn't necessarily about finding the 'best' equipment – rather, it is about finding the best equipment for your own game. Each player is unique, and as such, each player needs to work to develop a set of clubs which will suit his or her needs perfectly.
In this article, we are going to address one specific element of the equipment puzzle – the loft of your driver. As a senior player, you are likely concerned with hanging on to as much of your distance as possible for as long as you can. While there is more to golf than distance, it certainly is fun to knock the ball well down the fairway alongside your younger playing partners. In addition to the fun of hitting a long drive, those long drives are going to set you up for shorter, easier approach shots. Any way you look at it, maximizing your driving distance (without sacrificing control, of course) is a good thing.
While this article is going to specifically address the issue of loft, there are a number of elements within your driver that are going to impact how far you can hit your drives. The club head itself, of course, is one important factor. The shaft you use in your driver is another key, as you need to be sure your driver shaft is matched up to the dynamics and speed of your swing. Many senior golfers play with driver shafts that are too stiff for their needs, and they lose distance as a result. Before you spend a few hundred bucks to purchase your next driver, be sure to carefully review all of the variables involved with your club selection – not just loft.
Also, it should be mentioned that you do not necessarily have to spend top-dollar in order to purchase a quality club that can help you to hit long and straight drives. Sure, you will receive a beautiful club from a brand name company if you are willing to spend $300 - $500, but good drivers can be found for less than that amount. Depending on how often you play, it might not make sense to spend such a lofty sum on a single club. Think about your own personal needs and budget before deciding how much to spend on this purchase. Remember – you have an entire bag to fill with clubs, so your entire budget shouldn't be blown on the driver.
All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
The Importance of Loft
The amount of loft you choose to use on your driver is important because that number is going to influence the launch angle you achieve on your shots. Generally speaking, a higher-lofted club is going to launch the ball higher into the air than a lower-lofted club, all other things being equal. Loft is not the only element in the launch angle equation, but it certainly does play an important role. Other elements to consider when thinking about how high the ball will launch include the dynamics of the shaft, the location of impact on the face, swing path, swing speed, and more.
For senior golfers, loft is particularly important because seniors need to maximize the amount of time they can keep the ball up in the air on their drives. Many seniors play with a driver that does not have enough loft for their needs – and they wind up hitting short line drives as a result. Carrying the ball as far down the fairway as possible is usually going to be the best distance option, as most average golf courses don't provide enough bounce and roll to make the low approach an effective choice.
If you are using a driver with too little loft as a senior player, you probably feel like you are 'fighting' your club on most drives. Even when you make a good swing, the ball still flies low to the ground, and you don't feel like it goes quite as far as it should. This can be extremely frustrating as you try to make your way around the course. Your equipment should be working with you, not against you, so finding a driver with the appropriate amount of loft is an important objective.
Have you ever noticed that you hit your three wood just as far, if not a bit farther, than your driver? If so, you are seeing the importance of loft at work. Most likely, you are using a driver with around 11* of loft, while your three wood has somewhere around 15* of loft. Even though the three wood has a smaller club head, you may hit it farther because the loft helps the ball stay in the air for as long as possible. The launch conditions for many senior players are better with the three wood than they are with the driver, which is why the ball travels farther in the end.
What should you do about this problem? The answer is simple – use more loft on your driver. With few exceptions, most senior players would benefit greatly from the use of more loft on the tee box. Breaking from tradition and using a driver with more than 12* of loft should not be seen as any kind of defeat. Rather, it should be seen as being smart about your equipment. Younger players with faster swing speeds may be able to use an 8* or 9* driver effectively, but that is not likely to be true of you at this point. Pick out the loft which takes your ball as far down the fairway as possible and enjoy the newfound yardage you will have added to your game.
The game of golf has changed dramatically in recent years, thanks largely to developments in technology. Just as modern technology has placed miniature computers in most of our pockets, it has also changed the way we look at golf. Now, instead of having to go through a long trial and error process to find the right driver for your needs, you can simply use the help of a launch monitor to find the perfect stick. Most golf facilities today have a launch monitor available, and you can use that device with the help of the club pro or fitting specialist to determine the exact specs you should be looking for in your next driver.
While it is relatively common for golfers to seek the help of a club pro when something goes wrong with their swing, it is less common for the average player to look for help when buying a club. Instead, many players will either go to the pro shop or online and simply pick a club they think will work. In this day and age, however, there is no need to guess. Don't just pick out a random driver with a given loft and hope for desirable results – take some time to go through a fitting and be confident that the purchase you make will benefit your game in the end.
If you ask about a club fitting session at your local golf course or pro shop, you will likely learn a couple things – club fitting sessions are not time consuming, and they are not expensive. Usually, you can go through a fitting in 30 – 60 minutes, for a similar fee to what you would pay for a lesson. Considering the many pieces of information that you can pull out of a single club fitting session, most golfers would agree that this process is well worth your time and money. In fact, many facilities will even refund your fitting fee if you purchase a club from them, making this an even better deal.
Should you decide to go ahead with a club fitting to determine the proper loft (and more) for your next driver, use the following tips to be sure you get the most out of your session.
- Listen to the pro. This should be obvious advice, but you might be surprised to learn how many golfers ignore what they are being told when they go for a lesson or club fitting session. The pro you are working with has experience in this field, so trust their expertise at every turn. You should feel comfortable asking questions so you can learn more about the information you are being given, but defer to the experience of the pro when it comes time to draw conclusions from the data.
- Don't try to impress the computer. This is a problem which is seen more frequently in younger golfers than it is in senior players, but it is a still a point which needs to be highlighted. The point of going through a club fitting session is to settle on club specs which are going to work for you out on the course – so you need to use the same swing you use during your rounds of golf. If you try to swing as hard as possible on every shot, your measurements will be misleading. Relax, make normal swings, and come away with data which accurately represents your on-course abilities.
- Ditch your preconceived notions. It is important to go into the club fitting process with an open mind. If you think you already know what driver loft is going to work best for your game, you won't be open to the discoveries that may await during a fitting session. Do your best to go into this process with an open mind, ready to learn as much as possible about your game. Whether your fitting session leads you to make a surprising decision about your driver loft, shaft, or some other part of your equipment, you should be prepared to take advantage of that discovery.
The advances seen in golf technology in recent years impact senior golfers just as they impact players from a younger generation. Contact your local golf shop or your favorite course to ask about their fitting program. Most likely, the facility will be more than happy to schedule a fitting session for a modest fee. Armed with the information gained during your fitting, you will be able to make an informed buying decision when the time comes to select a new driver.
Other Trajectory Factors
In this section, we are going to address a topic which was mentioned briefly in the introduction – the fact that there are more variables at play than just loft when considering the height of your drives. The trajectory you are able to produce off the tee is the result of many different factors coming together at the moment of impact. You want to make sure you have the right loft for the needs of your swing, of course, but you also need to make sure the other pieces of the puzzle come together correctly as well.
The following list contains a few points which need to be kept in mind while thinking about how to optimize your trajectory.
- Shaft flex. Even more than loft, the shaft flex you use in your driver may be the biggest single piece of the trajectory puzzle. A shaft which is too stiff for your swing dynamics will make it difficult – or even impossible – for you to get the ball high up into the air. The shaft will not flex enough during the downswing to store up energy for the moment of impact, meaning your shots will be weak and low to the ground. At the same time, a shaft with too little stiffness for your needs will also cause problems. This type of shaft will flex too much in the downswing, resulting in high spin rates and ballooning ball flights. Obviously, it is a happy medium which you need to find in this case. Fortunately, your club fitting session will go a long way toward helping you make the right shaft selection when picking out your driver.
- Club head design. As you already know, driver club heads come in a variety of shapes and sizes in the modern golf market. While many of the minor differences are for aesthetic purposes only, some of them really do make a difference to the performance of the club. Specifically, clubs which place a large amount of their weight in the sole will usually do a better job of getting the ball up in the air with ease.
- Your chosen golf ball. This is the variable that is overlooked by many amateur golfers. Countless players are happy to use whatever golf ball happens to be on sale when they visit the pro shop – or even whatever ball they happen to find in the woods or the ponds around the course. It might seem like all golf balls are generally the same, but that is actually the furthest thing from the truth. Performance characteristics vary wildly from ball to ball, so you need to find one which matches up to your needs. There are golf balls marketed specifically to senior players which feature a lower compression, meaning it is easier to get the ball to compress on the club face at impact. However, if you have a higher-than-average swing speed for a senior player, you might not need to go into this category. Take some time to test a variety of golf balls and stick with one that works for you for as long as it is available.
Fortunately, the points above are going to be largely addressed when you go through the club fitting process. Just as the club fitter will be able to recommend a loft range for you to consider, he or she will also point you in the right direction with regard to club head options, shaft flexes, and even golf ball choices. Unless you have a strong personal preference toward one brand or another, it is best to go with the recommendations of the computer and the fitting professional. With the right club in your hands at the end of it all, you can look forward to launching some of the best drives of your life.
Adjustable Club Design
In days gone by, you would have to make a determination on the loft of your driver before you made a purchase. The loft wasn't going to change, so you had to be sure to get this point right before your credit card was charged for the new driver. These days, however, the story is different. Many of the top drivers come with adjustable lofts, meaning you can fiddle with the loft of your club after it has been purchased. This is a wonderful advantage, and it opens up some great opportunities to the serious player.
For one thing, you don't have to worry about buying a club with the wrong loft anymore. Since a loft adjustment will only take a quick turn of a wrench, there is no stress associated with picking out the right specs in the pro shop. Also, since clubs with adjustable lofts also (typically) feature the ability to swap shafts in and out just as easily, you can change your shaft flex (or weight) without having to buy an entire new club. In many ways, this technology means you can be more confident in the investment you are making in your driver. Even if the driver isn't perfect for your game on your first trip to the range, it can be adjusted to meet your needs.
Speaking of adjustments, having a driver which can be tweaked quickly and easily allows you to customize your clubs to the needs of the course each day. While it is against the rules of the game to change the settings of your club during a given round, there is nothing wrong with making changes from day to day based on course conditions. For example, if you are playing a course with firm and fast conditions, you may set your loft a bit lower to allow for plenty of roll out on your drives. Or, if you are playing the day after a heavy rain, you might wish to add loft to your club in order to maximize carry distance. Use your warm up period on the driving range to make any adjustments that will be necessary to best attack the course you are about to face.
It is great to have the ability to tweak your clubs before each round, but be careful to not go too far in this regard. For most of your rounds, you want to stick with the same settings so you can get comfortable and confident with your driver. Only when you think you will be facing somewhat 'extreme' conditions – such as extra-wet fairways or heavy winds – should you bother making changes to your driver's settings. Consistency is hard to find in golf, and you don't want to make it even harder to be consistent by constantly fiddling with your driver.
Is there an ideal driver loft for every senior golfer? No – of course not. There is no such thing as one size fits all in golf. To find a driver which will perfectly suit your needs, you are going to need to take some time to learn more about your swing. It would be best to go through a formal club fitting with a professional, but you should at least test a variety of driver options before making a purchase. With the right driver loft in place, one more point will be checked off of your equipment list. Good luck!