Optimal Driver Loft


Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from GOLF CHANNEL's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com

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Optimal Driver Loft

I really enjoy your Q & A segment and have learned a lot over the
past couple years. My question has to do with ones age, dufferism, if there is such a word, and loft. In buying a new driver I tried to read as much as possible to determine what would be the optimum loft for me. I am 70 years old and a high handicapper, about 18. I have read several articles that stated that high handicappers would be better off leaving the driver in the bag and use a three wood off the tee. Shorter club, higher loft, straighter drive. My driver length is 43.5 and I chose a 13 loft. I've never had trouble with slicing or hooking so that doesn't enter the equation. What I would like to know is how do I determine what is too much loft?
Thank you for taking the time to consider my question.

Thank you for your kind remarks.
I don't know if you are just thinking about buying a new driver or preparing for the torturous event. Advances in driver technology are slowing down and this is simply because we have reached the effective limits promulgated by the USGA and more importantly designed by Mother Nature regarding MOI(forgiveness) and COR (trampoline effect).
For this reason the only way you will be able to get those few extra ' 20 by most claims -- very precious yards, is to launch the ball more
efficiently if you don't do this now or of course increase your strength and range of motion through an exercise and stretching regimen. This will increase your clubhead speed and give you those yards you are looking for.

If the driver you are now using is more than four or five years old it is about time to think about looking around and be sure not to stray too far from the club specs which are now working well for you.
Let me assume that your driver swing speed is about 80 mph. For this speed you need to launch the ball at about 14 degrees with a spin rate in the 3,000-rpm range. To achieve these launch conditions, the club you have i.e. 13 degrees loft is a good choice. The fact that you are hitting it well now is a good indication that you have the right club and a good friend. To view my table of optimal launch conditions for different swing speeds Click Here.
I am pleased to see you have a 43.5 inches long driver -- the same length Tiger used to win his first several majors -- which has proven to enhance your accuracy. You obviously feel comfortable with this club and have developed the all-important confidence you need to enjoy your game and lower your score.
I believe that the loft you have in your driver is good and only a couple of degrees stronger than a 3-wood but the 3-wood will not have the same forgiveness nor the same spring like effect than your present or even the newest drivers. Too much loft will result in the ball ballooning on you and reduced to zero roll, even on average turf.
For swing speeds lower than 75 mph there are drivers which have about 15 degrees of loft but this is not a good choice for you and also most of these drivers have a closed face assuming that those who need these clubs slice the ball. This is not a good way to deal with a swing flaw but in many cases we don't want to take a lesson and rather spend three times more for a new driver.
Larry, if you are really happy with what you have, be on the alert when you start reconnoitering to make sure that you don't get persuaded by your (all of our) belief in a little magic, and most definitely don't let the driver in your bag know about this reconnaissance mission.
Hybrids and Fairway Woods
Dear Frank,
I really enjoy your articles, they are very informative. I also really hope the USGA wont do anything stupid and change the club specs just for the elite few. Here is my question. I currently carry a 7 wood and a 9 wood. Is there any benefit of putting some hybrid clubs in my bag to replace these clubs? All I hear is that you need to have hybrids, but nothing is ever said about lofted fairway woods. Is there a real benefit of hybrids over fairway woods? Thanks for all you do for golf.


Thanks for your kind comments. Yes, there are a number of concerned golfers who have the same concerns as you do regarding the USGA making changes which will unduly affect the majority of golfers to solve some questionable perceived problems. The game is not growing and we need to address the real problems facing the game.
First let me say that the recent introduction of the hybrid (which is actually not new but become recently popularized) is one of the best things that has happened to help golfers for many years.
To answer your question let me first assume that the loft angle on the two clubs (the hybrid and fairway wood) is the same. The fairway wood will be from 1 to 1 inches longer than the hybrid. The head of the fairway wood will be larger with the center of gravity (c.g) farther back from the face than the hybrid. The MOI (forgiveness factor) of the fairway wood will be greater than the hybrid.
Because of these differences the hybrid will hit the ball with a lower trajectory than the wood, not as far as the wood but with greater accuracy than the wood. So each club has a place in the bag. My recommendation is that if you have confidence in your 7- and 9- wood then keep them in your bag but consider a hybrid if you are looking for a slightly different trajectory OR certainly if you have a long iron which you dont use very often and which is only taking up valuable bag space.
Perimeter Weighting in Wedges
I really enjoy your work!
Question: It seems odd to me that retailers stock few perimeter weighted wedges other than those that match full sets of perimeter-weighted irons. Is perimeter weighting that much less advantageous in wedges as in the longer clubs?
Thanks, and keep up the great work!


Thank you for your kind remarks.
It is not easy to design a wedge with a perimeter weighting (higher MOI) which is more effective than the present classic designs. The reason why we see the same cavity back style of perimeter weighting, even though it is reduced in the PW is because this is part of the set and, is in fact a nine iron of old with different --PW -- stamping on the sole.
The real PW used to have 51 degrees of loft and was considered a true wedge, but these are now about 46 degrees and thus a continuum of the set with a true wedge now being a utility club which we now call a Gap Wedge. The forgiveness factor you can build into real wedge compared to the classic designs we see in the stores is so small that you should not even think about trying to take advantage of this property.
I have said may times that most of us can hit Tiger's wedge (not his Lob wedge) without too much of a problem but lets not even think about hitting his 3-iron. You are exactly right in your assumption that, perimeter weighting is much less advantageous in wedges than in the longer clubs.
I discuss how to select your wedge in my recently released book 'Just Hit It' which I know you are going to enjoy. Click Here to order. The first 50 orders this week will receive a signed copy.
Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to Helping Golfers. Frank is Chief Technical Advisor to The Golf Channel and Golf Digest. He served as Technical Director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN System and introduced the Stimpmeter to the world of golf. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
Frank Thomas