June 2008


Are launch angles just manufacturer's spin zones?

I just read an article which touted the benefits of utilizing a "launch monitor" for players wanting more distance. Apparently, the geniuses who worked their butts off to make the ball spin faster than The Tasmanian Devil on coke are now touting the benefits of LESS spin rate...


When I was a young kid, I loved the Titleist balata ball because you could backspin it off the green if you hit it right. I used it for every tournament, but hardly ever for practicing because the ball cut (damaged) real easily. For practice, I used one of the harder balls.

As you might imagine, I was constantly battling over-spin during the tournaments. I worked the harder-shell balls pretty well in practice, even though they spin at least 1/3 slower than the balata.

When you applied the same swing characteristics to both balls, the harder ball would have a gentle fade or a nice tight draw, whereas the faster spinning balata would slice or hook like hell.

Put it this way, imagine a Matisse owner trying to corner at high speed in his friend’s Ferrari...its gonna be a real fast trip to the hospital. The Ferrari would react so fast that he’d spin out in a heartbeat. Probably right into the path of an oncoming cement truck because things often just work out that way.

It wasn’t until a kindly old pro took me aside and beat me over the head with a wedge that I understood what was happening to me out there. After that, I cut a deal with Titleist and played only balata’s after that.

I also paid more attention in mathematics and science classes.

Most of the Tour Pros’ are now relying on high launch angles and less spin to gain more yardage and the statistics show the longer hitters are making bigger pay checks more often.

However, once again Tiger is the exception to the rule. His Total Distance Efficiency, a ratio of ball speed to distance, shows him pretty low on the totem pole and the reason is simple...

Tiger uses the high-spinning Nike One Platinum ball.

According to ShotLink, Woods has a swing speed at 124.6 mph (miles per hour) and a ball speed, of 182.69 mph. Pretty impressive, but it’s his launch angle that sucks (7.96 degrees) and his spin is high at 3,118 rpm.

Of course, Woods does this on purpose. Some experts claim he could get 12-20 more yards with better launch conditions, but he wants high spin for around the greens and, given his tournament record, who’s gonna argue?

So, the moral of the story is "use a ball that suits YOUR game and stop trying to use what other people play...unless you really are that damn good."

Ok, another item which is gaining momentum is the benefits of Hybrids. Yes, even I am slowly coming around on this issue, but you have to remember that, in my younger days, I used to carry a 1-iron in my bag.

Ok, first off...unless you’ve been living in a cave on some remote tropical island with no golf course or Internet connection, you’re probably asking yourself, "what’s a hybrid?"

A hybrid is sort of like a golf equipment version of a platypus. Its not an iron per se, but its not a wood either. It looks like a fairway wood, but plays like an iron. It can really save your butt from some horrible situations, which is another reason why it is sometimes called a "rescue club".

If you are still using long irons, like 3 and 4 irons, then substituting a hybrid for one or both of them makes a lot of sense.

The difference between the hybrid and the fairway wood of the same loft is that the hybrid will have a lower trajectory and will be shorter in distance. They will also be more forgiving and a little longer than the irons they are replacing.

My old viewpoint is that it was better to develop your skills instead of "buying a better golf game." Unfortunately, too many people feel the other way and to not take advantage of the same technology leaves the old-timers in the dust...

Therefore, I still tell my students to hone their skills as much as possible, but also take advantage of what new equipment is out there...

I suppose checking their launch angles wouldn’t hurt either...

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