Desired launch angle, spin rates change based on driver speed

Dustin Johnson Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports

Desired launch angle, spin rates change based on driver speed

Equipment

Desired launch angle, spin rates change based on driver speed

From the comfort of your sofa – or if you’re lucky, alongside the ropes – each major championship gives you a chance to see the biggest hitters in the world unsheathe their drivers and swing away.

Go ahead, admire the distance that Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Bubba Watson generate, knowing that the drivers they are using probably would not work nearly as well for you.

Drivers made for pros are finely tuned to produce the ideal launch angle and spin rate based on how fast that particular player swings.

“I think everybody thinks that there is one optimal launch and one optimal spin rate,” said Nick Sherburne, Club Champions’ co-founder and master fitter. “They don’t understand that different speeds require different launches and spins.”

While a few other variables can come into play, such as attack angle, most golfers who swing slowly need to launch the ball higher and generate more spin. That combination keeps the ball in the air longer, increasing carry and overall distance. On the other side of the spectrum, fast-swinging golfers would rob themselves of distance if they over-spin the ball and hit it too high, so their ideal launch angle is slightly lower.

“I don’t think a lot of people get that, still,” Sherburne said.

Over the past 20 years as manufacturers have created golf balls that spin less, the trend has been to higher driver lofts at the recreational level and among Tour pros. Improvements in shaft technologies and the increased use of launch monitors in driver fittings make it easier for custom fitters to find the perfect combination of driver head, shaft and ball for every player.

“Things like shaft weight can subtly alter the way a golfer swings, so I always tell people that shafts can dictate how you swing at the ball,” Sherburne said, adding that a good fitting can make it easier for golfers to swing on plane more often. “After that, I can dial in the loft to fine-tune the launch and spin.”

So enjoy the pyrotechnics and fantastic tee shots during the U.S. Open. But remember that when it comes to finding the ideal driver for your swing, chances are almost certain that you require a different setup than your favorite pro. Gwk

Club Champion

(Note: This story appeared in the June 2018 issue of Golfweek.)

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