Golf Myths Unplugged – Does Loft Affect Distance and Accuracy
Editor’s note – This story first appeared a few years back. With technology advances in both fitting and equipment and how that combination can really dial in a golfer’s performance, it is more relevant than ever.
Facts > “Common Sense”
It seems like the most basic questions in golf are often answered with “common sense” rather than facts. No more! In our new series, Golf Myths Unplugged, we will reveal the facts behind golf’s biggest questions and myths. We hope that this information helps you to make better equipment decisions and play better golf!
There are two myths that we’re tackling today, both pertaining to loft:
Myth #1 – Less loft produces more distance Myth #2 – More loft means more accuracy
How We Tested
For this test, we focused on drivers. Each of our four testers hit through a matrix of 9 different head and loft combinations – 3 different heads in 3 different lofts each. Each tester selected one shaft and used that for every shot they hit. The order of heads and lofts was different for each golfer.
All testing was done at, and with the help of, Club Champion.
Of our 12 sets (each golfer produced three sets, one with each driver), we found that less loft produced more total distance only half the time, 6 out of 12. If we look at carry distance, less loft produced more distance only 4 times out of 12.
This indicates that distance isn’t the result of more loft or less loft, but of getting the right loft. Some of our players really benefited from less loft (one gained 22 yards with less loft) and some benefited from more loft (another added over 10 yards with more loft).
The results on this myth were mixed: in 7 of our 12 sets, shots hit with more loft ended up closer to the center line.
A closer look at the data does give some credence to the myth: of the five sets where less loft was more accurate, the difference between high and low loft was small – approximately 4 yards more accurate. The gap was larger in the sets where the high loft was more accurate (approximately 8 yards).
These results were confounded by another variable (explained below), so ultimately our findings here are not conclusive. I’m inclined to say that this myth is probably true, all other things being equal, but all other things are rarely equal in golf equipment, so you should take it with a grain of salt.
A couple of things that we found in the test were quite predictable. With more loft, launch angle went up in 11 of the 12 trials. Similarly, less loft lowered spin in 9 of the 12 trials.
The one thing that shocked us was the disparity between different drivers. Every tester found significant differences in their distances when switching drivers, anywhere from 10 to 30 yards. Keep in mind that the three drivers used were all current products from top OEMs. No one driver was better for everyone, but each player had one club that clearly worked best for them.
If you want to see all the data for yourself, it’s at the bottom.
Why Aren’t the Results More Definitive?
Any time I’ve published an article like this, many questions are raised, particularly about why the data isn’t “cleaner.” Let me preempt a few of those questions with some explanations here.
1) Sample size. Though we’d love to conduct these tests with dozens of golfers hitting hundreds of shots, that’s not realistic. We will always get the biggest sampling that we are able to and acknowledge that our findings are not 100% perfect, but rather a starting point for more discussion, thought, and research.
2) Loft doesn’t exist in a vacuum. This is the main reason why we felt that our findings on Myth #2 were inconclusive. Though we did everything possible to isolate loft, loft is always connected to face angle. More loft makes a club look more closed. Also, the club manufacturers tend to make higher lofted clubs more closed because of some (generally good) assumptions about who buys higher lofted clubs. As a result, we can’t say definitively whether it was loft or face angle that made certain clubs more or less accurate.
3) Human error. This test was (and all future tests will be) conducted by real human golfers, just like you. Though we throw out bad swings, it’s unavoidable that people will occasionally hit one set well, then go through a little slump. We will go from cold to warm to tired. The same reality that exists for you on the golf course exists for us in the test facility.
4) Golf isn’t clean or definitive. In my time coaching, playing, writing, fitting, and researching in golf, I can’t think of a rule that works 100% of the time. If we were robots, there would be clear, definitive rules, but we’re human so things get messy and you often need to find out what works for you.
There are a few things I believe you can take from this article that will help you play better golf.
First, less loft does not mean more distance whether that’s in a driver, fairway wood, hybrid, or iron. Loft is just one part of the distance equation, and everyone’s equation is different.
Second, you need to find a combination of loft and face angle that helps you produce playable, consistent shots. You may find that it’s worth it to play less loft to get a really open face angle or that you need the closed face angle that higher loft brings.
Finally, getting the right golf club matters. Every one of our testers saw significant disparity between the different clubs – anywhere from 10 to 30 yards. Unless you’re happy being 10-30 yards shorter than your potential, you need to try a wide variety of clubs, preferably with the guidance of qualified club fitter.
What golf myths do you want to see PluggedInGolf.com investigate?
Leave a comment below and let us know!
Matt Saternus Co-Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com Matt is a golf instructor, club fitter, and writer living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Matt's work has been published in Mulligan Magazine, Chicagoland Golf, South Florida Golf, and other golf media outlets. He's also been a featured speaker in the Online Golf Summit and is a member of Ultimate Golf Advantage's Faculty of Experts.
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