Monday, July 2, 2012

Thoughts On Carrying 2 Drivers...

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With Tropical Storm Debby drenching much of Florida, I started to think about owning 2 different driver lofts and/or shafts in order to better suit myself for the weather. Florida summers usually see heat, humidity and then downpour for about 15 minutes to an hour. This actually works out nicely for courses from tee to green as the rain gives the ground the water it needs and the extreme heat and a little breeze dries everything up nicely. Then it’s a rinse and repeat process.

However, if we go without rain for 2-3 days, the ground gets very hard and you’re now likely to see brush fires. Conversely, sometimes the rain goes into overload for a few days and absolutely drenches the course.

With that, I was curious about approaching 2 different drivers. Now, obviously one could change their swing mechanics to hit the ball lower or higher. In fact, I usually do that a few times a round with my irons, usually switching to a higher ball flight mechanics on front pin locations. But, that may occur 2-3 times a round max.

Why?

Because if I’m in the Danger Zone, I’m usually just thinking about making good contact and finding the green. So that generally takes away my 3-iron, 4-iron and 5-iron shots. And if I have less than 150 yards into the green, I’m probably hitting no more than a 9-iron with my stock swing and those shots generally fly high enough and spin enough to get a front pin location shot close.

However, if I’m trying to hit high ball drivers to counter soft fairways, now I’m probably altering my swing at least a dozen different times on the course and I don’t quite feel that comfortable in doing so.


LAUNCH ANGLE

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From my reading, it appears that essentially there’s ‘optimal total distance’ and ‘optimal carry distance’ with the driver. So, optimal distance does NOT necessarily mean that the driver will carry the furthest. In fact, there’s likely to be some driver components that will max out the carry distance, but in ‘normal conditions’ will not max out the total distance.

The main factor appears to be the launch angle. And it appears that if you can find the driver components that equate to maxing out total distance, than you need to find the driver and components that will increase the launch angle by roughly 2°. So, if you’re optimal total distance launch angle is 9.3°, then your optimal carry distance launch angle will somewhere in the neighborhood of 11.3°.


CLUB COMPONENTS

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My belief is that if you’re going to do this, you should just change the loft of the club. The shaft and head model should probably remain the same. Sometimes companies will have similar clubhead models, but alter the location of the Center of Gravity. The lower CoG can produce a higher launch angle while the higher CoG can produce a lower launch angle. I believe Titleist’s D2 and D3 models are built that way.

This may not be a bad way to go, if you can find a company that has driver models built like this. Still, the differences in CoG may not affect the launch enough and may affect the spin more which may or may not be conducive to increasing your carry.

The shaft can help with this, particularly if the tip-section of the shaft is softer which will help loft the ball in the air. But, I think it’s very risky to change a shaft too much. In Tom Wishon’s June 2012 eTech Newsletter (http://wishongolf.com/etech/archive/2012-2/june-2012/) he states that the maximum difference in launch angles they see between shaft bend profiles that fit a golfer is 2°. While that sounds exactly what we want, it sounds like that is still a rare case to get as high as a 2° difference. Plus, that 2° difference is from the lowest launch angle to the highest launch angle for those given shafts. So, if I hit a Graphite Design shaft that ‘fits’ my swing and it’s the lowest launching shaft of the bunch at 8°, then the highest launching shaft could be an Aldila shaft at 10°. But, the optimal total distance launch angle may belong to a Harrison shaft at 9.3°. So in order to max the carry, I actually need to find a way to get the launch angle at +2° higher than the 9.3° Harrison shaft.

Lastly, you would need a lot of shafts to try out with a Trackman or a FlightScope X2 in order to get closer to that 11.3° launch angle that optimizes carry distance.

Thus, my belief at this time is that you can probably alter the launch angle consistently by altering the static loft in the driver and keeping the head model along with the shaft model the same. How much the static loft will have to change would probably need Trackman or FlightScope X2 to get a precise measurement.


COMMON WIND PLAY MYTH

One of the things that I have found to be a myth is that hitting the ball high into a wind will automatically cause the golfer to lose more distance than if they hit it lower. I don’t find that necessarily true. Where I think golfers get mostly into trouble with high trajectories into a tough breeze is with accuracy and predictability of the ball flight.

I think where the distance differences come from a lower ball flight versus a higher ball flight is from a ‘spinny’ shot. The extra spin causes the ball to balloon in the air and the golfer would have been better hitting a lower trajectory shot. But, if the golfer hits a higher trajectory and keeps the spin loft lower, they can easily hit the higher trajectory shot into the wind further.

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Again, here’s the formula for spin loft:

Dynamic Loft – Attack Angle = Spin Loft

So what happens with those high ballooning shots is the golfer may increase the steepness of their attack angle and/or increase their dynamic loft. Both of which will increase the spin loft and cause a ‘spinny’ shot that balloons into the wind.


SOME EXAMPLES

Let’s say my ‘stock’ swing produces these numbers:

10° Dynamic Loft - 0° Attack Angle = 10° Spin Loft

However, I hit the following shots into a 25 mph breeze:

Shot #1: 10° Dynamic Loft – (- 2°) Attack Angle = 12° Spin Loft. Max Height 93 feet

Shot #2: 10° Dynamic Loft – (+) 2° Attack Angle = 8° Spin Loft. Max Height 110 feet

All things being equal, I would hit Shot #2 further, even though I hit it higher in the air because the Spin Loft had decreased and I’m not hitting nearly as ‘spinny’ of a shot as Shot #1 which had a lower Max Height.


USING 2 DRIVER IN THE BAG AT ONCE

With that, I have talked to clubfitters who have discussed success with having themselves and their customers who use 2 drivers in the bag at once. These are often in windy areas where the golfer can use the higher lofted driver on a hard tailwind and a lower lofted driver in a strong headwind.

So as long as the golfer does not alter their attack angle, they can effectively reduce the Spin Loft or increase Spin Loft.

The idea is that they could take their ‘normal swing’ and if their attack angle stays the same, they’ll reduce the Spin Loft with the lower lofted driver into the wind. And with the wind, they’ll increase their spin loft which is okay in a strong tailwind. However, it should be noted that if the wanted to hit it purely FURTHER with a tailwind, they wound want to actually decrease the Spin Loft by shallowing out our hitting up with their attack angle. But again, this requires the golfer to alter their swing and many golfers, even PGA Tour players, do not like doing this in a round of golf.


WAS LEFTY, RIGHT?

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The most famous case of using 2 drivers at once goes to Phil Mickelson. Of course, most presume that Phil was automatically correct in his decision because the first time he used 2 drivers at Augusta, he won the Masters. But, winning doesn’t always necessarily mean that the player made the right move.

However, upon further examination, I think Phil made a brilliant move because it not only put him at a SIZEABLE advantage over the rest of the field, most of the golfing world thought he was nuts and he did it anyway.

First, we should understand that from a statistical standpoint, expected scores for Tour players start to change when there’s a difference of 25 yards or more. Also, we should remember that hitting the fairway does provide an advantage to golfers, even Tour players. From about the same distance, Tour players will hit their approach shot about 30-40% closer on average from the fairway than the rough.

However, that does not mean that a Tour player should just take a 3-wood out and hit fairways. Why? Because the loss of distance between using a 3-wood versus a driver off the tee is too great. And I think most Tour players probably hit their 3-wood about 40 yards shorter than their driver off the tee. So not only does their expect score likely go up when they scale back 40 yards, but you add that up over a round of 18 holes and now you are seeing a sizeable difference.

In other words, ask yourself ‘would you buy a driver that you hit 40 yards shorter but can hit 80-90% of the fairways with?’

I think most golfers would say ‘no way.’

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Okay then…who should consider using 2 drivers in the bag at once?

1. Golfers who can be pretty sure that they can get about 25+ yard advantage with each driver when used for each condition (ala tailwind vs. headwind drivers)

2. Golfers who are long enough where they likely will not need a 3-wood off the deck on par-5’s.

3. Courses that do not call for many 3-wood shots off the tee.

4. Golfers who can hit one of the drivers well off the deck.

In Mickelson’s situation, his drivers were designed to work the ball. One could hit a draw, the other a fade. So, there was no 25+ yard advantage from that perspective.

Mickelson fit well into #2. Holes 13 and 15, Phil could get in two with an iron. #8 may be a stretch for Phil to go driver-hybrid into, but I think he can get somewhat close. Furthermore, it’s a tall order to reach that green in 2 shots for anybody.

Phil also doesn’t hit the driver off the deck much like a Bubba Watson would, so that ruins #4 for him.

However, the brilliance of the idea was behind #3 and in the end, that affected #1.

Augusta does generally call for some 3-woods off the tee for long hitters like Phil. #10 is a perfectly example. It’s a 500 yard par-4, but it goes straight downhill and bends to the left. The longer hitters generally take a 3-wood off the tee and with the downhill slope and super-fast fairways, they can belt one about 310 yards down the middle. The golfers who use driver are almost exclusively shorter hitters, who will hit it the same distance or thereabout.

But with Phil and his 2 drivers, he had such confidence in them drawing and fading on command, he could comfortably belt the fade driver on #10 and hit it, let’s say 350 yards. Thus, while he technically didn’t hit either driver noticeably further, the fact that he could use the driver on holes where the longer hitters were using 3-wood, Phil was gaining a sizeable advantage.

With the golfers who want to use 2-drivers for wind purposes, I would first ask “can I get a 25+ yard advantage with either driver versus using the stock driver?’ If so, I would then start to contemplate using 2-drivers, if I feel I won’t need a 3-wood that much or that I am really adept at hitting one of the drivers off the deck.


PHIL'S DECISION AT THE 2009 US OPEN

In the ’09 US Open at Torrey Pines, Mickelson did not utilize a driver and while he missed the cut, that does not automatically mean that he’s wrong.

However, I do believe that was a poor decision.

For starters, I do believe that he reasonably could use the driver on 2-3 holes at that tournament. And on those holes he was probably losing roughly 40 yards on each tee shot. Total that up, and it comes to 80-120 yards.

Secondly, if he gets in a situation where he desperately needs a birdie, he needs to leave himself with a shorter approach if he can. But, he doesn’t really have that option if he doesn’t have a driver to bomb away with.

Given his length off the tee, my belief is that the only way going without a driver would have been a smart decision is if he was very confident that he could hit his 3-wood accurately enough to be in the top-5 in the field in driving accuracy. Otherwise, he’s really putting himself behind the 8-ball.


CONCLUSION

This is something I may wind up trying out. Currently, I utilize a 10° loft Wishon 919THI driver with a 45-1/8” UST Mamiya VTS Silver 65x shaft. My feeling is that if I don’t optimize my total distance with this club, I come very close. Thus, I think I probably need something like a 11.50 to 12.0° head with the same components in order to find a driver that maximizes carry.

That being said, I don’t think a golfer has to gain 25+ yards off the tee with an alternate driver if they are only using one of the drivers for those set of conditions. It’s when you carry 2-drivers in the bag, which may be an entirely smart move, that you need to consider the potential pitfalls and rewards.







3JACK

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