Golf Science

Launch control: science you NEED to know to hit it long

You don’t need to get as scientific as some suggest in order to understand how launch conditions impact distance. Consider the table of actual data below. These statistics are a clear indication of how useful the right launch angle is – especially at higher swing speeds.

For an 80mph swing, a difference of 2.8 degrees translates to 10 yards of distance. But swing it at 100mph and you’re talking 15 extra yards from an extra 2.4 degrees in launch angle.

That’s a BIG gain just by altering a simple element. It’s just a case of getting you into the right loft and center of gravity.

We can also impact launch angle with technique, by changing your angle of attack. But that’s a story for another day.

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What determines launch angle and spin?

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1. Loft angle: The primary factor is the loft. The steeper this angle, the higher the launch and the faster the backspin.

2. Angle of attack: Your swing, stance, height, shaft length, etc. all determine the angle at which the club head is moving at the moment it contacts the ball.

3. Face angle: As this varies from closed to open, it has a marginal impact on the loft, but has a more pronounced impact on sidespin.
4. Shaft flex: The extent and locations of shaft flex react with your unique swing. This has a major impact on where the club face is facing at impact.

5. The ball: Golf balls come in a variety of compressions and materials. Each comes off the club face in a different way.

6. Center of gravity: The lower and further back the center of gravity, the higher the trajectory will be. Both sidespin and backspin are also strongly impacted by CG.

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Modern wonders of the golfing world

There have been huge developments in the design and manufacture of Metalwoods over the last six years. Once, a Driver – the longest club in the bag – was the hardest club to hit. Now, most of you will agree, it is one of the easiest. And if you are playing a model that came out in the last few months, you have a serious weapon in your hands. Here’s why:

20130617-070132.jpg2006 – The trampoline face
Designers found ways for the face to flex (indeed the whole head flexes) as it made contact with the ball. The face quite literally acted as a trampoline. The effect was measured by the COR. To get really high CORs club heads got bigger and bigger. So the ruling bodies stepped in and limited the size of the head and the allowable COR.

20130617-070231.jpg2008 – Swinging it harder
Remember the square Driver? Designers now started working on ways to make your off-center strikes go farther and straighter. Increasing the MOI, with a 460cc head, allowed you to swing even harder knowing that your good shot would go even farther, without fear of an off-center ball strike landing short and in the rough. The good news is that today they’ve figured ways to get high MOI in a good looking Driver.

20130617-070448.jpg2010 – Launching it higher
I think the manufacturers gave up trying to get you all to play with more loft on your Driver. So they worked on increasing the launch angle themselves. At the same time they lowered spin rates so that the ball would “sail” for longer. That helped reduce the impact of slices and hooks as well. Each year now there is a little more improvement.

20130617-070608.jpg2011 – Lighter, but stronger
Developments in materials and the manufacturing process have ushered in the new super lightweight, aerodynamically designed Drivers. With no extra effort it is possible to swing these clubs faster than ever. Some of the weight saving has been used to increase MOI and improve launch conditions still further.

20130617-070653.jpg2013 – Now the whole face is hot
This year we are seeing a whole range of new Drivers that have much larger hitting zones. Whether the ball connects lower or higher on the face, towards the toe or heel, the smart chaps in the labs have worked out how to create the right launch angle and spin rate with a higher transfer of energy and a larger sweet spot.

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