#17 With loft in the air

Published on   2023-05-18 by Kai

Anyone who picks up a golf club cannot avoid the keyword "loft". This is not about a storage room with the same name that has been converted into an apartment, but about the peculiarity of each golf club. And so I have already used the term frequently on these pages and have also explained it in principle. Nevertheless, I would like to go into more detail about the loft here.

The loft describes the angle of inclination of the clubface of a golf club, given in degrees, in relation to the vertical. It is important for the player because the loft determines the height of the ball's trajectory and thus also the distance. The greater the angle, the higher the trajectory in the form of a parabola and the shorter the distance of the shot.

No industry standard

One thing to note about this topic is that there is no industry standard for loft that would dictate specific degrees. So different club manufacturers can come up with different loft degrees for the same clubs with different systems. Racquet sets for beginners often have higher lofts than those for better players, plus there are occasional differences between men's and women's racquets. This does not make the clubs comparable; a 7 iron from manufacturer A may have a different loft than one from manufacturer B. Thus, the same player with that 7 iron may hit farther with one manufacturer's club than another with the same swing.

The age of a club must also be included in this consideration, because manufacturers have changed the loft of the same clubs over the past decades. This was done not least to be able to achieve more distance with the same clubs. A 7-iron - to stay with the example - had 32 degrees of loft about ten years ago; today, 7-irons from the same manufacturer have a loft of about 27 degrees. So the same player will hit the ball farther with the new club.

No open communication

The fact that most manufacturers work with this loft change but do not openly communicate it to the market is worthy of criticism. Instead, prospective buyers are told in the most flowery terms about the improvement in materials, the newly designed grooves (the milled lines in the clubface) and the improved design, all of which supposedly ensure that you hit further with a modern 7 iron than with one from earlier years and decades.

About 75% of ball speed is dependent on loft angle, while the remaining 25% is dependent on club length. The less loft, the faster the little ball. But the more loft, the higher it flies. While in the 1960s the pitching wedge had about 52 degrees of loft, it now has about 44 degrees, resulting in an 8-degree loft shift. This resulted in the gap wedge, a club that fills the gap in the upper loft area. This is also the reason for the lack of playability of the long irons. However, one can think what one likes about this concealment on the club market.

By the way, loft numbers are not only important - as many believe - for irons and especially wedges; the respective loft should also be considered for woods.

Since the driver is the only club that is supposed to hit the ball in an upward motion, since it is the only one that has the ball teed up when it is used (when teeing off), its loft must be considered separately. Experts assume that about 90 percent of all amateur golfers play a driver that is wrong for them, i.e. they are not able to achieve the optimum distance possible for them.

Dependent on swing speed

The optimum loft on the driver depends on the swing speed, which is between 95 and 175 km/h with the driver. Average players with a swing speed between 130 and 150 km/h with the driver and a slight upward movement at impact have the greatest distance with 13 degrees of loft on the driver.

What else should be taken into account when talking about loft is the fact that the extensive production of golf clubs is subject to inaccuracies in the workshops. So you can expect a deviation of at least one degree. So if, within a set of clubs, one iron has an outlier up and the following iron has an outlier down, there is no longer any major noticeable difference between the two clubs, which is why it is advisable to check the loft angles immediately when buying a new set of clubs. Loft angles can also become misaligned through years of playing with the irons, provided the player hits the golf ball hard or regularly takes large divots. Correction of loft angles is possible with forged irons.

Adjustable clubs

Nowadays, clubs are also manufactured where the loft angle can be adjusted up and down by about one degree. However, this only applies to the longer clubs such as drivers, fairway woods and hybrids. To do this, a screw under the golf club is loosened and the shaft is turned to the desired loft mark. This may not be done during a tournament, as the rules do not allow equipment to be changed during play. With irons, this is not feasible because the club head is firmly glued to the shaft for various reasons.

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How to Golf