QA Temperature Wind and Ball Flight

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Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from The Golf Channel's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 
Frank,
There was a lot of talk about cool weather at The Masters affecting ball flight but no real information. What are the effects of a ten degree cooler temperature on ball flight? Thanks.
 
Jim

 
Jim,
The air temperature has a significant effect on the flight of the ball. At cold temperatures the air is more dense and the ball will not fly as far. We were exposed to this at the Masters last week and especially on Sunday. I do believe that the effects of the temperature may not have been fully taken into account on the second shot on 15 on Sunday by Tiger or his second shot on 17, which landed short and in the bunker. In both cases I believe the error could have be temperature related.
 
As a good first estimate and something easy to remember you should compensate just over 3 yards per 10 degrees F for a carry distance (drive) of about 230 yards and proportionally less for the shorter shots.
 
The temperature was at least 30 degrees F below normal for the Masters this year at Augusta National so for a 230-yard carry on Sunday one needed to play it about 10 yards longer than you would at 80 degrees F. Not only because of the air temperature but also because the ball temperature is down and will not perform quite as well as it would at 80 degrees. Dont forget also the effect that low temperatures have on your body.
 
Bottom line is that Augusta National was harder than it needed to be this year and the temperature didnt help.
Stay warm.
Frank
 
Frank,
I am a 45 year old with the height of 5'8' I have been playing for a long time and am a scratch handicap. Here is my problem, or so I think: I hit my driver on average 280 to 285, but I have a problem hitting my irons. Most of my friends hit their irons farther than I do; for example, they hit a 9 iron around 135, and the most I can hit it is 110. I am generallly hitting one or two more clubs than they are. Can you help me with this?
 
Bruce

 
Bruce,
If you are hitting your drives 280 plus and your 9-iron only 110 yards, then there is something going on, but I wouldnt be too concerned if youre hitting your irons well and consistently. Having said this, though, we need to ask why, when your head speed using your driver results in 280-yard drives, you are only getting 110 with the 9-iron. There are at least three things that contribute to distance with an iron: 1) head speed; 2) loft angle; and 3) impact point on the face. This assumes that the swing path in all three cases is constant .
 
First, I have no idea why your head speed would be unusually slow with the 9-iron (and presumably also with the rest of your irons) unless the shaft is very much shorter than standard or your technique is very different than what you use with your driver. Either of these two factors could contribute to the slower speed.
 
Second, the lofts may be similar to what they were forty years ago, when a 9-iron was 48 degrees. This 48 degree loft is now a weak PW. If this is the case, then dont worry, because all you have to do is know which club hits what distance and stop comparing club for club with your buddies. This may turn out to be an advantage if your buddies are looking in your bag to see which club you stiffed to the pin. If they pull out the same club from the same location, they will be 25 yards beyond the flag.
 
Third; I am sure that you are hitting the sweet spot, being a scratch golfer. But the trajectory could be very much higher than you would like, which could have an effect on the distance. A club head with the center of gravity (c.g.) higher in the club and closer to the face -- i.e., a blade design -- will lower the trajectory and give you a little more distance.
 
Bruce, I think the bottom line is that we can check out a few things, but if youre hitting the ball well with your irons dont worry about your buddies. Just make sure that you know how far you hit each club and use them accordingly.
Frank
 
Hi Frank,
I like your website and articles in Golf Digest. I am an 8 handicap. I use a Cleveland Launcher 400 with the Fujikura stock shaft (stiff). I hit it between 230 - 250 carry. My ball flight is a mid/high trajectory. I am thinking about buying the original Cleveland Hi Bore with a Grafalloy Pro Launch 65-stiff (I also have a choice of UST Proforce V2, Aldila NV65, and Fujikura Hi Bore Silver stock shaft). What is the difference if I got the 9.5 or the 10.5? I live in Houston, Texas, so the wind is a factor quite a bit; I play a lot in Hawaii too, where the wind can be very gusty. Would one degree affect my performance? Im looking for a higher ball flight, but would like distance and accuracy. Is there a chance I need a regular flex? I am not sure you have enough information, but I look forward to your diagnosis.
Sincerely,
 
Nelson

 
Nelson,
You are right, I don't have enough information to answer your main question, i.e., 'Do I need a 9.5 or 10.5 loft when looking for a higher trajectory, more distance and greater accuracy?'
 
What you need to do is determine what your existing launch conditions are, and then select the loft to increase the launch angle if you feel the flight is too low. A softer shaft will also increase the launch angle a little, but don't change from a shaft flex that feels comfortable just to change the trajectory. Your existing shaft flex seems to be fine, considering the carry distance youre getting now. Your launch angle (for your swing speed, which I assume is close to 100 mph) should be about 12 degrees with a spin rate of about 2,500 rpm. For more carry distance you can increase the launch angle by about 1 degree and decrease the spin a little. For more roll or windy conditions, decrease the launch angle.
 
I don't know how much more I can help you without watching your swing and measuring your launch conditions using various club heads and shaft configurations.
 
I would say in general that you are pretty good where you are with your existing equipment, so don't mess with what you've got.
Frank
 
Click to purchase the Frog PutterFrank 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