Choosing the Best Loft Angle for Your Driver
Finding the right loft for you is key to bringing your game to the next level. Golf expert Tyler Monroe has some advice for choosing your next new driver.
One of the key factors in choosing your next best new driver is getting the right loft angle. The loft of the driver, between 7.5 and 14 degrees, influences the ball flight’s trajectory along with the design, shaft bend, and, among other things, you!
Discussing driver loft and how that impacts your ball flight goes much farther than numbers on a club or how high you put your ball on a tee. Believing old maxims and ancient talk from a decade back can spell doom to your next driver purchase. Sure, there are some basics, though advancements in driver technology inevitably challenge older perceptions as designs catapult easier control and distance. From understanding these elements to refining all the specifications to build the ultimate driver, knowledge is still the best power source!
First to driver design and the effect on loft and ball flights. Without diving into too much detail, the use of materials such as lighter carbon-composite crowns (top of driver) or using weight-savings in various parts of the club head to create a different center of gravity (CG) enables a more forgiving driver design that also largely affects ball flight heights. By moving the weight down and back away from the face, for example, a driver can be made to allow for better off-center strikes—meaning your misses will get greater distance.
Face curvatures, concepts such as twist face technology, and expanded hitting areas can also change how the ball reacts on different parts of the face and essentially change the loft and driver needed for your swing type. Driver shafts—that graphite wand transferring all your swing’s energy to the driver's head itself—also significantly influence the shot or ball flight trajectory, through different weight, torque, shaft flex, length, and shaft bend points – mid, high, or low.
Your Swing, Your Golf Course
Nothing is more important to find the right driver than your swing, club-head speed, and game, period. Not what touring pros play, what your buddy plays, or what the scratch member with the nice parking spot plays. Your swing dictates what you should play!
Swing factors such as the angle of attack (how you drop into the path of the ball), the dynamic loft (the true loft presented to the ball at impact), and the spin loft (the difference between the two) all contribute to the golf ball's trajectory and the right effective loft needed to work within these parameters. Whether you flip your wrists at impact causing higher dynamic loft and an upward angle of attack or set your back shoulder down to increase your angle of attack, produce fast clubhead speeds, or have a slow swing speed – it all factors in for the right driver and loft fit.
Also important are the golf course conditions you normally encounter when you tee it up. Do long drives stop with carrying distance or can you maximize distance with roll-out? Do you need a higher ball flight to climb trees and corner doglegs or use a lower loft and less spin to get deeper in the fairway? Course conditions can play a major role in determining how much loft you will need.
What Do Tour Pros Play?
If you, Tiger Woods, Lexi, and Rory did not agree on the concepts above, you may not want to play the same setups they do. The average angle of attack for the PGA Tour is -1.3 and, for the LPGA Tour it’s +3 degrees. That is by their design not mistake. Knowing their angles of attack means they play lofts based on optimal launch conditions that build on their strengths, not just minimize their weaknesses.
If your clubhead speed is 113 mph producing carry distances of 275 yards and you're reading a 1.48 smash factor on your launch monitor with a repeating golf swing, fantastic. If not keep reading about how we can get the best degree of loft in the driver for your skill level.
In the most convenient terms and simplest definitions, players with faster swing speeds (105mph and above) typically need lower-lofted drivers of seven to 10 degrees, though this notion is becoming an aging barrier to a more complex driver market. All of the contributing factors to ball flight trajectory make it difficult to paint any sweeping generalizations on the best driver loft. Although a player may have a positive attack angle and produce low spin, they can still benefit from a lower-lofted driver that increases total distance.
Players with a negative angle of attack who impart high spin loft may also improve distance from a lower-lofted driver. Drivers with lower and back CG also produce higher ball flights and more spin needing less loft to keep them airborne and must also be taken into consideration. Low-loft drivers, therefore, are not solely reserved for the low-handicap golfer. Reach out to any Curated Golf Expert to chat about how you set up, swing the driver, and the conditions you play in to determine if a lower lofted driver fits your game.
Higher-lofted drivers have always been advocated for the average golfer as issues of slower swing speeds, less control of the face angle's relationship to swing path at impact, and softer course conditions affect accuracy and distance. Golfers with slower swing speeds under 80mph or those who are beginning the game need to get as much carry distance as possible and should be playing driver lofts of 12 to 14 degrees. These ball flights need to resemble a garden house stream or achieve the highest trajectory possible from the loft rather than the swing and ball speeds.
More common are players swinging from 80 to 100mph, who should be playing drivers lofted anywhere from nine to 12 degrees.
Understanding that the face curvatures in higher-lofted drivers help prevent side or slice-spin when the face angle and swing path are not moving in the same direction at impact, is vital. The loft, therefore, becomes useful to get better accuracy to be in a better position off the tee. Soft, wet course conditions that are not conducive to roll out of the golf ball also make higher lofted drivers advantageous as carry distance is the paramount goal. Lastly, swing flaws in higher handicap players that miss left from closing the clubface down or have an overly steep angle of attack and need dynamic loft to get height on the ball will benefit from a higher lofted driver. Often using the added forgiveness higher loft degree drivers deliver coupled with higher bend points in the shaft options can maximize both forgiveness and the desired launch angle.
Since the advent of the adjustable loft drivers in the last decade with optional center of gravity weight ports at the heel or toe, moving weight on front tracks, backtracks, and hosel sleeve adjustability, the power of personally fitting your driver has been largely handed to you.
Whether you prefer to find the best settings and leave them there, use the standard loft, or are a better amateur golfer who can perform each amount of loft and center of gravity setting as it was intended, adjustability is a major benefit of modern driver technology. Using advanced design concepts like a carbon crown to allow saved weight to be moved lower and back in the driver's head for a high moi or Moment of Inertia for forgiveness at impact, or artificial intelligence to design the best face structures, higher launch angles can also be achieved by design.
Though the center of gravity adjustments can be made in some drivers to further fit your game, with lighter or heavier sole weights creating draw bias to fight a slice in options with terms like max d for that draw bias, or creating a more forward center of gravity position in options like the Taylormade Sim driver, most players would benefit from more focus on the loft, lie, and face angle adjustments found in the majority of drivers. Adjusting the loft is as easy as twisting the settings to add high launch or lower it to adapt to your upward attack angle or account for your fast swing speed. Knowing a good starting point for the loft of the driver is also important to derive maximum forgiveness and longevity in the club.
The Driver and Loft for You
Launch monitor data and its impact on the driver degree loft fitting have changed the game, and what was once taken as gospel is now more up for discussion. From driver launch angles and spin loft and spin rates, to smash factor and ball speeds, this data has allowed more insight into the many varying factors going into your launch of the golf ball and position in the fairway.
Not every player, though, can repeat their golf swing as well, leaving this data as ambiguous for some as lie board tape on their irons. Understanding the variances in designs, the intention of the driver, the fundamentals of the relationships between the golf swing and the driver loft, and how that will improve your driver game is the best approach. Knowing the tendencies in your golf swing, habits out on the course, and conditions you frequently encounter will also narrow down the choices and find the perfect driver setup for you.
If you have any questions about which driver loft is best for you, please reach out to me or one of my fellow Golf Experts here on Curated for free advice and recommendations.