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Conditions for the Longest Drive
The major determinant of a golfer's drive distance is ball speed. Ball speed is highly correlated with club speed. So, if you swing faster, you'll hit it farther.
Environmental factors can also increase the length of the golfer's drive, however. Golfers will hit it farther when the temperature is warmer (both the air, the club and the ball), when the wind is following (tail wind), when the target is downhill and when altitude is high.
GOLF TIP: During cooler weather, keep your golf balls warm. Start with 3 balls that were in your house overnight (even heat them in a heating blanket). Keep 2 in your trouser pockets to keep them warm. Replace the cold ball with a warm one at the end of the hole. Place the cold one in your pocket to get warmed up again. It won't regain it's original temperature but it will stay warmer than the air and ground. You'll gain a few yards of carry by using warm balls. You can even get a golf ball warmer to keep more balls warm!
The total distance of a drive depends on how far the ball carries in the air and then how far it rolls along the ground. The roll distance is highly dependent on the hardness of the ground and on the trajectory angle of the ball at impact. The steeper the trajectory, the less roll distance. The harder the ground, the greater roll distance.
Carry distance = 267 yd --- Roll distance = 32 yd -- Total = 299 yd
The roll distance of the average golfer is 17% of the carry distance while the PGA golfer is only 12% of the carry distance.
The average golfer gains much more distance in the summer when the fairways are firm. During the wet season, there isn't much roll.
GOLF TIP: During the cooler wet season, play the forward tees to shorten the course. This way, you'll be the same distance from the green as in the summer when you play longer tees.
A tail wind won't increase the carry distance much but increase the roll distance for an overall gain. The greater the wind speed, the greater the gain. However, the higher the wind speed, the more difficult it is to swing the club.
GOLF TIP: When playing downwind, you might even consider hitting a 3-wood instead of a driver. This will give you a higher launch angle and increase the ball's flight time. The result will be greater carry distance. Plus, the wind is faster at greater heights above the ground.
High altitude will also result in a little more carry distance but a lower trajectory, and thus more roll distance for an overall gain. Golfers that have high flight trajectories will experience a greater gain than those with low trajectories. Since long hitters tend to hit it higher than short hitters, long hitters will realize greater gains at higher altitudes. Due to the shorter carry, however, golfers will not realize much of a gain if the fairways are soft (wet). And, at higher altitudes, it's usually cooler which reduces the total distance as well.
So, the optimum length drive of a golfer will be one that is hit downhill on a hot day, with a tail wind, at a high altitude landing onto a firm fairway on a downslope.
The average golfer has a swing speed of about 90 mph, while the average PGA Tour player has an average swing speed of about 110 mph. Assuming a hot day and semi-firm fairways, the carry and total distances for these golfers under different conditions would be approximately:
Level Ground, no wind, sea level
40 yd vertical drop downhill, no wind, sea level
40 yd vertical drop, 45 mph tailwind, sea level
5000 ft elevation, level ground, no wind
5000 ft, 40 yd drop, 45 mph tailwind
Let's apply the above information to playing the longest par 3 in the world.
Extreme Par 3 19th Hole 600 yd
The longest Par 3 Hole in the world is located in South Africa. It's called the Extreme 19th and is part of the experience playing at the Legend Golf and Safari Resort.
As viewed with a zoom lens from the teeing area (photo left), the green is in the shape of Africa and apparently is contoured to replicate the elevation changes of the continent as well.
The owners of the course cite some stats on their website which I would challenge as not being correct. Either they are exaggerating the facts or have made incorrect measurements.
It's very easy to verify distances and elevations using Google Earth.
Here are my measurements of this Extreme 19th Hole:
Vertical Drop from Tee to Green = 350 yd = 320 metres
Horizontal Distance from Tee to Green = 508 yd = 466 m
Distance from Tee to Green = 615 yd = 564 m
So, tee to green it plays about 615 yd yet you can hit the green in one shot, if you're a reasonably long hitter. Numerous professionals have played the hole; a number have birdied the hole. One accesses the tee via helicopter as it's quite a hike!
Below are golf ball trajectories for no wind, tailwind and headwind from a 110 mph driver club head speed (average PGA Tour). The location of the green is indicated by a horizontal, green line about 350 yd below the starting point.
The average PGA Tour player hitting Driver would likely land near the back of the green, if there was no wind (unlikely given the tee is so high from the top of a mountain). With a tailwind, such a player would need to club down a bit. With a headwind, most would likely not be able to reach the green and would land on the fairway.
Wind Effects on Club Range Variance
Most players, even golf professionals, underestimate the effects of the wind. This explains why average scores are significantly higher on days when it is quite windy. But just how much does the wind affect your trajectory? And, because your launch trajectory is not always the same (it has a certain degree of variability), the wind can increase your minimum and maximum carry distance with all clubs.
On windy days, players tend to be less confident in their ball striking and thus have more mishits. Many times these mishits cause launch trajectories that are a little higher than normal. Hit a ball higher into a head wind and the ball will be more greatly affected.
In a study of high level amateur players entitled, “SWING AND LAUNCH PARAMETERS IN APPROACH-IRON SHOTS HIT WITH VARYING HEIGHT AND TRAJECTORY IN GOLF,” by Samuel Robertson and Angus Burnett, a 2 to 3 degree variation in launch angles was observed. These variations resulted in a variation of carry and lateral distances.
I've produced the trajectories in the graphs below using my Tannar Golf Trajectory Software which I also use in my golf consulting business. Note the trajectories for an amateur golfer that is relatively long. Normally, a 7-iron carries about 169 yd (the black trajectory). In a 5 m/s (18 km/h or 11 mph) head wind has a huge effect on the trajectory. Note the blue trajectory of the 7-iron launched with the same launch angle of 23 degrees. The wind causes it to rise about 6 yd higher in flight and reduces the carry distance to about 145 yd (14 yd shorter), which is about a club and a half different.
Now, let's say you hit the 7-iron on a slightly higher trajectory (say 2 degrees higher or 25 degrees). This trajectory is in red in the diagram. It flies about 10 yd higher than normal and ends up carrying only 142 yd. The green trajectory occurs with a launch angle of 21 degrees (2 degrees lower than normal). It carries about 147 yd. There is about a half club difference between mishitting low and high in this instance. And, this all assumes the same ball speed for all. Usually when you mishit a shot, the ball speed is lower and thus the carry distances are smaller.
In effect, the wind increases the variability of your mishits which leads to more missed greens and more penalty shots (due to hitting balls in hazards).
Below is are similar trajectories for PGA Tour pros (I used the Trackman data collected). Note that these players typically hit the ball lower, mainly due to the fact that they have descending angles of attack with irons shots which delofts the club. The wind causes a variability due to the wind of about 4 yd (143 yd carry to 147 yd carries). Slightly lower variability because of the lower trajectories.
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A 3-iron is only 2 inches longer than a 7-iron. For a typical golfer, the extra 2 inches in length results in an increase of only 3% in total length and thus only a 3% increase in club speed. But, a golfer that hits a 7-iron 150 yards will hit a 3-iron 190 yards, a 27% increase. What gives?
The major determiner of distance next to club speed is club loft. Golfers hit their irons different distances because of their different lofts, not their different lengths.
So, why are clubs different lengths? Mainly because of a misconception.
In general, the higher the trajectory, the greater the effect of the wind on the carry distance, and the greater the variability due to the wind with mishits.
Players that are good wind players typically hit the ball lower than average (or have the ability to modify their swings to do so) and thus experience less variability in carry distances with their mishits.
So, what can the player do to decrease the launch trajectory so as to minimize the effects of the wind?
1. Learn how to hit the ball lower (hitting shots such as punch shots). This is difficult and requires changing the ball's position in your stance and swinging differently. Most amateur players haven't a hope in hitting the ball lower by changing their swing.
2. Use a club with lower loft than normal. You could have a full set of clubs that have say 2 to 4 degrees less loft compared to your normal clubs (your 7-iron would have a loft of 31 degrees instead of 35 degrees), but his would be very expensive. The alternative is to simply use a lower lofted club from your bag. If you normally carry your 7-iron 155 yds and need to play a shot into a headwind, then use a 6-iron or 5-iron. The actual amount depends on the speed of the wind.
I've developed a simple rule of thumb to use when playing the wind. It's a fairly simple process to estimate the speed of the wind and to get the general direction. You can then use my rule of thumb to know the effective carry distance compared to a normal shot (without wind). You then select the club to carry that new distance.
For instance, if your normal 7-iron carries 152 yd and you are playing into a 5 m/s headwind, that same 7-iron would only carry 128 yd. You would need to hit a club that would normally carry 175 yd to carry the 172 yd, most likely a 5-iron.
My little wind rule book explains how to easily measure the speed of the wind and then how much to adjust your carry distance (compared to normal) to hit your target. If you're playing a cross wind, I can tell you how much you need to aim left or right and then how far to carry, compared to normal.
Variability of Putting Distances & Club Carry Distances
Putting distance variability is greatly influenced by putter face contact with the ball. If the contact is high on the face, low on the face, left side or right side, one won't have solid contact and the ball won't have sufficient speed (unless you compensate by swinging harder).
Consistently ensuring contact with the ball and face are at the "sweet spot" of the putter is essiential to distance control.What is your variability in carry distance for your clubs? This variability is increased when playing in the wind, which means you're less likely to choose the correct club to hit your target.
To the left is an image from Dave Pelz's Putting Bible showing the difference between the scatter of putter face contact for a Tour Pro compared to a 30 Handicap golfer.
You can purchase some impression labels at this page:
And, when the contact is left or right of the center, the putter face will twist open or closed causing an error in direction as well.
I really encourage you to practice this winter by simply trying to make solid contact with your putter. This will improve your distance control and your direction control.
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You see, the initial direction of a putt is 85% dependent upon the face angle and only 15% dependent upon the path of the putter. So, cutting across the ball by about 6 degrees will have about the same effect as the putter face being closed by 1 degree.
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What creates the variability in carry distance with the rest of your golf clubs? In the study of elite amateurs noted early, along with variable launch angles, there was also variable club speeds, face angle (open/closed), angle of attack and club path. One that was not measured, however, was club face contact position (contact position relative to the club's sweet spot). All of these variations result in golf ball trajectories and final shot results that vary, resulting in a scatter plot of end results. The better the golfer, the smaller the total area of the scatter plot.
What each golfer needs to be aware of is the shape of their “club print” (how wide and deep it is). That way, the golfer can best estimate where to aim so as to increase the chances of getting the ball close to their target. For most amateurs, this usually means hitting one more club than normal, especially when there is trouble (water or bunker) short of the target. And, it usually means aiming left or right to compensate for tendencies to hit the ball right or left.
High and Low Trajectory Difference
One of the things that the best players practice is trajectory control and consistency. Hitting shot after shot so that they reach the same peak height. You'll recall from my last newsletter that for most golfers, the maximum height for each club is about the same: your 4-iron flies as high as your 9-iron. The 9-iron "appears" to fly higher because it reaches its maximum height soon and at a closer distance to the golfer.
Now, when you hitting balls, it's unlikely that the trajectories with any one club are consistent, even when you are hitting the ball well. For instance, say you are hitting 7-irons. You might be hitting the ball very solidly but some of the shots "seem" to fly signficantly higher than others, especially those that start right of your intended target (for a right swinger).
Those significantly higher shots are likely not that much higher at all. It's all a matter of your perspective again. Recall that a shot that appears to be higher is due to a steeper launch angle.
So lets say you're hitting 5-irons with an average launch angle of 15 degrees. You hit 4 in a row, solidly, and on almost the exact same trajectory at your target. Then, you hit one about 10 yards right of target (assuming you are a right swinger with a push) and it has a higher trajectory that "appears" to be significantly higher. A very plausible launch angle for such a shot is 17 degrees which is only 2 degrees higher.
But again, it's about perspective and comparison. Although your 17 deg shot is only 2 deg higher, relatively speaking, its 13% steeper (2/15 = 0.13). A 13% increase in launch angles "appears" to be a 13% increase in height, but in reality, it's not.
Below are the trajectories for an average PGA Tour 6-iron when it with a square clubface, a 2 degree open and a 2 degree closed clubface. Note that at 100 yards, the square face 6-iron ball is at an incline angle of 14 degrees while the 2 degree open ball is at 16 degrees, 2 degrees steeper (an increase of 14%). The golf ball heights, however, are 27 yards and 32 yards, respectively.
Cool Mornings -- Hot Afternoons
Now that summer is here, we can have some major temperature changes between morning and afternoon, especiallyif you find your self in a desert like region. Temperatures can be 50 to 60 degrees at dawn and then 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit by afternoon. Hotter temperatures mean the ball will fly farther (and roll farther) compared to the cool mornings. So, make sure you adjust by at least 1/2 club with your irons.
There is no disputing that technology in recent years has increased how far golfers can hit the ball, especially the professionals. There is countless stories of older PGA players hitting the ball in their later years the same or farther than when they were playing in their youthful prime.
There have been improvements in the golf ball as well as the golf club. This newsletter will focus on the improvements in the golf club. Check out my last newsletter for more on the golf ball.
The significant gain in distance with the Driver came with the invention of hollow, metal face "woods." The hollow metal made possible a "trampoline effect" with the impact of the club face on the ball. This in effect increased the collision time between the club face and the ball (although still very short in the order of micro-seconds), which increases the efficiency of energy transfer, resulting in higher ball speeds.
The measure of efficient transfer is call the coefficient of restitution, or COR. As soon as manufacturers realized the effect, they began to experiment with larger club faces (thus increasing the trampoline effect), so much so that the USGA had to place a limit on it. The old wooden Drivers had CORs on the order of about 0.75 (75% efficiency). The limit set by the USGA is 0.83 (83% efficiency).
Imagine yourself jumping on a trampoline. The flex of the trampoline tarp enables you to bounce and gain significantly more height, especially from the center. Move off towards the outer edges, and the effect is not as greater, plus, you are forced towards the center of the trampoline instead of straight up.
This is an exagerated image of how much the club face flexes as the ball collides with the face.
With the larger faces also came further distance on mis-hits (when the ball doesn't make contact with the sweet spot of the Driver). Effectively, the sweet spot size was increased, which really benefited those that have the greatest number of mis-hits (higher handicappers). So, distance gained on sweet spot shots and on mis-hits, thus the average distance increase.
Low Handicap Misses
Mid to High Handicap Misses
Research with golf robots has shown that there is a significant loss in distance when the ball strikes even 1/4 inch away from the center of the sweetspot, especially when towards the toe of the club. Below is a graphic which shows those losses for a 100 mph swing speed.
Manufacturers today are experimenting with variable thickness club faces to increase the sweet spot even more. This is most beneficial to higher handicap golfers.
So, if you haven't bought a new Driver in the past 5 years, I'd suggest you do so this year, even if it'one of last year's models. But, make sure you test some Drivers using a golf ball monitor (such as Trackman or Flightscope), because the launch angle and amount of backspin is crucial for maximizing your distance (this is influenced with weight placement in the head to alter the center of gravity).
Looking for a new start this season. How about a set of irons that are all exactly the same length and weight? You'll only need one swing and one swing plane.
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The slope of the green is the single biggest factor in how much your putt will break on the way to the hole, but the fact is: most golfers have a hard time reading break.
The number one tool chosen by more and more Tour Pros and Caddies to measure greens is the BreakMaster Digital Green Reader.
1. Go to my Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page. There's a link to it on my pages from the left hand menu near the top of the page, just below the Search icon. It's called "FAQs." You then click on the graphic icon and you'll be taken to my database page. For your convenience, here it is: FAQI've answered hundreds of questions over the past 6 years and have created a fairly large database. You can search it out. If you can't find the answer you're looking for, submit a question and I'll answer it.2. On all of my web pages, there is a search feature in the top left section, right underneath my LOGO. Just place your search keywords in the search box, select "This Site" below it, and then press "Search." What will come up is a Google search of the pages on my site with relevance. You can also search the entire internet by selecting "Web" instead.
Go to my main page now: Home or just check the top left menu of this page. 3. Also, directly under the Google Search area, you'll find a pop down menu called "Your Topic." Select the topic of interest and press "Go."I would suggest you bookmark my main page and/or your specific areas of interest so that you can find them easily in the future. On each page at the very top, there is a link you can click on:
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