Optimal Golf Ball Driver Launch Angle

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Published: February 15, 2014

Launch Angle - What is it?

When it comes to the science of longer drives, few things have as dramatic an impact on overall distance as launch angle. Simply put, the launch angle (LA) is the angle at which the ball sets flight in relation to the ground or level surface. It is NOT simply the loft angle stamped on the bottom of your clubface! While loft has the biggest impact on LA, Angle of Attack (AoA), the shaft and head design and weighting are also determinants in LA.

What is the Optimum Launch Angle?

This is a great question with no one answer. However, some generalizations can be made. If your swing speed is between 85 mph and 105 mph, you need to launch the ball as HIGH AS POSSIBLE!

That's a broad statement, but it covers most golfers. Until you get to the 110 mph and above range, you need to focus on launching the ball as high as possible with the optimum spin rate. As you have likely seen in some of my recent posts in the forum on driver fitting, with 105 mph of clubhead speed, you are looking for about 14.5° of launch with around 2,700 to 2,800 rpms of backspin.

This modest clubhead speed is good for 275 yards of carry and 24 yards of roll on a PGA Tour cut fairway - in other words, a 300 yard drive! When you realize that you don't need 120 mph of clubhead speed to hit the ball 300 yards, you begin to realize how important it is to optimize your swing, setup and equipment to acheive the proper numbers.

Rotary Golf Swing Setup Changes

The first thing I discuss in this video are the setup changes that need to be made for maximum driver distance and clubhead speed. From ball position, to axis tilt to tee height, it's all covered in this golf instruction video.

It is absolutely critical you learn the proper setup and reasons why in order to start hitting the longest drives of your life! Once you have made the proper setup and swing changes, it's time to talk equipment. Even the best swing in the world can't achieve maximum distance without the proper head and shaft combination. If you would like to learn more about Rotary Swing Driver Fittings, click here. Enough talk, let's watch the video!

axis tilt in golf swingNote the 20°+ of axis tilt at impact. This position allows me to catch the ball on the upswing to achieve the optimum launch angle for maximum distance with the driver.

Checkpoints for Practice

  • Launch angle has a drastic impact on driving distance - correcting a poor one will get you more distance today
  • Driver loft does make a difference, but your angle of attack is critical - hitting down on the ball is devastating to the average golfer's distance
  • Moving the ball up slightly, off the middle of your left toes, helps you catch it on the upswing and assures maximum club head speed at impact
  • Tee the ball higher & get a little spine tilt away from the target to further increase launch angle
  • Set up slightly shut if the club head is shutting through impact (higher speed players can set up slightly open and hit a fade)
  • Make your normal swing - never flip or hit up on the ball

how to hit driver

Video Transcription: Launch Angle Video

Today we're going to talk about one of the most important aspects of getting maximum distance out of your driver. It's one of the most misunderstood concepts.

Negative angle of attackNegative angle of attack

It's been discussed a lot over the past several years as driver manufacturers have begun to understand the dynamics and been able to quantify this and measure it using high tech launch monitors that we have at our disposal today.

This one is going to be one of the ones that has the most dramatic impact on your driving distance today. This is it. When you understand and begin to work with these concepts, you will hit the ball farther today.

If you're not already doing this, you will absolutely hit the ball farther today, and it will make a dramatic difference in how you play the game.

What we're going to talk about today is basically, the launch angle, by definition, is simply the angle at which the ball leaves the tee. If it's launched very, very flat it would have a 0° launch angle, and as it goes up we go up into 10°, 12°, 14° of launch.

Positive angle of attackPositive angle of attack

It doesn't matter, necessarily, what the loft on your driver is. It has a significant impact on it, but it's not the only defining factor in how you will launch the ball. Your angle of attack, which is the angle at which the club is moving down into the ball...

In this scenario I would have a negative angle of attack. My hands are still way out in front. I would be hitting down on the ball.

Here I would have a positive angle of attack if I tilt my spine back and catch it more on the upswing.

That will have a dramatic impact on your launch angle, as well as the loft of the club, but there's another factor that will affect the launch angle, and that's how much the shaft bends, coming into impact. The shaft does bend coming into impact. It does affect how much effective loft the club head has on it at impact.

Today we're just going to talk about the basics of launch angle. In future videos we'll talk about what affects these things.

One of the most common things that I see when somebody comes to me for a lesson is, with the driver they've understood that the ball doesn't need to be as far up in your stance as with more of a classical two plane swing because you're not shifting into it. You're not shifting back behind the ball.

Ball off left armpitBall off left armpit

All that stuff is true to a degree, but there's certainly a point where it can be overdone.

For instance, for a typical Rotary Swinger I like to see the ball just about off the inside of the big toe for an average golf shot. That's still putting it up in my stance, kind of off my left shoulder or my left armpit here. It allows me to make a good move into the ball and hit it on a pretty level angle of attack.

Now, that's not going to be the best way for me to get maximum distance. That's going to be the best way for me to be very accurate, because as long as my hands are still leading the club I've still got control of that release and as long as I'm coming into it pretty level, I'll maintain that.

Now, we're talking about maximum driver distance today. That's the key here. When we talk about maximum driver distance, we need to launch the ball effectively as high as humanly possible with the driver.

Now, there's a point of diminishing returns and that doesn't apply to every single golfer on the planet. The higher swing speeds you get, the less high you need to launch the ball because there's a point of diminishing returns with the descent angle, but again we'll talk about these details in future videos.

Ball off left toesBall off left toes

For the average guy, the guy swinging between 85 and 105 miles an hour, the higher you launch the ball the farther it will go.

Here's why. If you're in that swing speed range, the ball doesn't have enough spin to keep the ball in the air long enough. The ball doesn't have enough ball speed to launch it and keep it in the air long enough as well, to get maximum distance.

When we talk about that guy who's swinging in that 85-105 mile an hour range - and the lower you are on the scale, the higher you need to launch it - we need to make setup changes in our golf swing and our setup, to make sure that we can achieve those high launch angles.

What we do when we're talking about maximizing the driver is we're going to move that ball up in our stance a bit, at least off the middle of the toe of your left foot or the middle of your toes. That's going to allow us to set up to a point.

We don't have to put the club head directly behind it, but that's going to allow me to set up into a position that's going to allow me to catch the ball more on the upswing.

Maximum speed at releaseMaximum speed comes at release

If the ball is more back in your stance, the more you're going to hit down on it, and nothing could be more devastating to the average golfer, because of their swing speeds, than hitting down on the ball with a driver.

Now, for accuracy's sake it's a good thing, but you're missing two things when you're hitting down on the ball.

One, the launch angle is never going to be high enough. You're not going to have enough speed and enough spin to get the ball up into a high enough trajectory to get it to fly far enough to get maximum distance. You're going to lose a dramatic amount of yardage. That's Point 1.

The other piece is, the truth about the golf swing is that the maximum club head speed happens just at the point of maximum release or just slightly after, so if you haven't released the club yet you haven't got maximum speed.

No maximum speed hereNo maximum speed here

You're not going to have maximum speed when your wrists are fully cocked. It's that unhinging and release of everything that gives you maximum club head speed.

Because the driver is a pretty long club and we're trying to catch it on the upswing, the farther that is up in the stance the more time I have to release the club and ensure that I get maximum club head speed at the point of impact.

Those are the two critical things. You're costing yourself club head speed, and you're costing yourself launch angle. Those two things are good for 20-50 yards for the average guy, believe it or not.

Here's what we're going to do for the typical Rotary Swing golfer. We're going to have the ball more off the front of the toe here, kind of the front of the middle of the foot, at a minimum. Depending on how much you move into your left side, you can move it farther up but that's the point where I'd like for you to start.

Club head in normal positionClub head in normal position at address

At address you can leave the club back into a normal position. The key here is, as you make your swing everything else is normal. You stay centered. As you come back through and you make a move into that left side, you don't want to try and hit up on the ball. You never ever, ever do that in the golf swing.

Even in this scenario, when we're trying to catch the ball on the upswing, there's a big difference between catching it on the upswing and hitting up on it.

Hitting up on it generally involves flipping the hands and trying to help the ball in the air. You're not going to hit it solid. As you learned in the very first video on ball speed, solid contact is everything.

What we're going to do is move the ball up in our stance, and then we're actually going to do something that a lot of people don't understand. We're going to actually tilt our spine slightly away from the target. This is going to encourage a positive angle of attack.

Slight spine tiltSlight spine tilt adds 5-6°

If I have my spine very vertical or even tilted to this way, I have no choice but to hit down on it because your spine angle effectively dictates most everything in your golf swing, but particularly your angle of attack.

If I go from being very straight up and down at address to tilt my spine a little bit, you can see that just this little amount of tilt has given me about 5-6° of tilt. That's going to encourage me to catch the ball more on an upswing, which is awesome because it's going to help me launch the ball higher. That's what we're all looking for.

As I get my spine tilted back just a tiny bit, as I come into the ball I still make my normal swing. As I'm coming in, I can catch the ball just slightly on the upswing.

Slightly on the upswingCatch the ball slightly on the upswing

You notice that as the club is moving up into the ball, the ball has to be teed higher. This is the other big piece of launch angle. If you're teeing the ball this high off the ground, you have to hit down on it or come through it very, very level and cleanly but you're not going to have enough club head speed, enough ball speed, to get the ball up in the air.

You need to tee the ball higher. You have to tee the ball higher for the average golfer to carry the ball farther.

You need to tee the ball up very high, and then make your normal swing. Don't try and hit up on it. Just let the club come through and catch it on the upswing.

What you'll find is because the ball is farther up in your stance compared to where you're used to releasing it, the club head could actually be shutting through impact at this point because technically the club is working around on an arc so it may be starting to square.

Slightly shut stanceSlightly shut stance

What you'll find is two things. One, as I work with golfers some of them may tend to set up slightly shut with the driver; perfect, I'd prefer that over anything else. That's going to allow you to still release the club head, get maximum speed with a slightly shut stance with the driver so that you're just basically hitting it on the line where the club face is naturally shutting in the arc of your swing path.

The other thing, for the higher swing speed players and the ones who are looking more for control, is you can actually play a slightly open stance and as you're coming through you can actually get to the point where you can hit a little bit of a fade from this position.

The ball is farther up in your stance and you're simply just holding the release of the club off just a little bit longer to get a fade. That's the ideal play, in my opinion, for the high swing speed player because it's a more controlled golf shot than trying to hit a little bit of a pull draw.

Slightly open stanceSlightly open stance

For the average golfer, though, that shot's going to give you maximum distance, maximum launch, maximum ball speed, and a really solid shot, really solid contact.

The high swing speed player, the guy who's over 110-115 miles an hour, he can afford to scrub a little bit of ball speed - we're talking a minute amount, if any - and get a little bit more of a controlled golf shot, a slightly left-to-right moving tee shot and put it in play all day.

Let's reiterate the key things here. Tee the ball higher, the ball farther up in the stance, tilt the spine back, and then make your normal swing. Don't try and go up and get it. Just make your normal swing and let the club work slightly up on the upswing to catch the ball on the center of the face and you will hit the ball farther.

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