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Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Thoughts On Hitting Up On The Driver...
of the concepts that often bandied about in golf instruction recently is hitting
up versus hitting down with the driver.
For those who don’t understand
‘attack angle’, it’s actually measured from the caddy view as shown in the
people confuse this with ‘coming in too steep’, which would be viewed from the
Down The Line perspective, such as this player coming over the top.
steep or shallow attack angle is not the same as a coming over the top or
getting below plane concepts. Furthermore, they are not mutually exclusive
either. There’s a tendency for them to go hand-in-hand. The extreme over the top
player may have a tendency to have a steep attack angle as well. But, that’s not
always the case.
WHY HIT UP WITH THE DRIVER?
concept was popularized by Trackman when they discovered that not only could one
hit upward with the driver, that all things being equal the ball would go
further as the attack angle got shallower or went upward. The ball will carry
further and will spin less, thus meaning a long carrying shot that rolled more.
However, ‘that is all’ that hitting up does. It will allow the golfer to
hit the ball further provided everything else is the same.
hitting the ball further has an advantage. My statistical research on Tour shows
that the expected score values go down as the Tour player gets his approach shot
25 yards closer to the hole. Meaning, if a Tour player were to play 2 balls and
hit his first drive to 175 yards to the flag and the 2nd drive to 150 yards to
the flag, on average the expected score value starts to noticeably get better on
the 2nd drive which is 25 yards closer to the flag. Using that example, the 1st
drive (175 yards to flag) may mean that on average the expected score value for
the golfer on that hole may be 4.1 strokes. But the 2nd drive (150 yards to
flag) may have an expected score value of 3.8 strokes. And while 0.3 strokes may
not seem like a big deal, do that around the course for an entire round, it
certainly adds up.
All of that being said, hitting up with the driver
does not equate to any benefit as far as accuracy or
POSSIBLE DANGERS WITH HITTING UPWARD
asked a few of my sources who own either a Trackman or the FlightScope X2 model
launch monitor to get their thoughts on hitting up. These sources included 4
current PGA Tour players and 4 current Nationwide Tour players. Along with 5
Trackman owner golf instructors, some of whom teach the Tour players and a few
LPGA players (I didn't speak to the LPGA players).
A few of these
sources were very much for hitting upward on the driver. But, the majority found
some pitfalls with trying to hit up on the driver.
One of the common
complaints was the fear of losing clubhead speed with the driver. Most of the
sources claimed that they felt that there was a point of diminishing returns
with trying to hit up and getting distance because they felt that any distance
derived from hitting it more upward could be offset by distance lost thru lower
Currently, there are 139 golfers on Tour who have driver
clubhead speed measurements from Trackman in both 2012 and 2011. Two of the
sources that I know have changed their attack angle in order to hit upward are
in the top-10 largest drops in clubhead speed. And 2 of the sources who have
stopped trying to hit up so much on the driver are in the top-10 in increased
From talking to these sources and observing some
clubhead speed data, I do believe that one can hit down too much and lose
clubhead speed. However, I think those are situations where the golfer is just
swinging poorly to begin with. So as far as hitting up and distance goes, there
appears to be a situation where the golfer needs to understand that hitting up
does not always equate to hitting it further if their clubhead and ball speed
drops. Thus, they will need to determine if the distance gained from hitting
upward can counter any possible distance lost from a lower clubhead
Another common complaint was that hitting upward required a very
different swing from hitting irons or even fairway woods. We know from the
Geometry of the Circle that if you want to hit down and have a square path, the
swing direction has to go left. But if you want a square path and hit up, the
swing direction has to be pointing out to the right. Thus, the common complaint
was making the switch from those different swing directions was often too
difficult for the player to make.
There were other complaints as well as
not feeling comfortable with the trajectory windows being hit on upward strikes
versus their ‘normal’ downward or ‘flat’ strike (0.0° attack angle).
ADVANCED TOTAL DRIVING AND HITTING UPWARD
I utilize a
metric called Advanced Total Driving that is a proprietary formula to help
determine effectiveness off the tee for golfers on Tour. Advanced Total Driving
consists of the following metrics:
Distance To Edge of Fairway (on shots that miss the
I have found that these metrics encompass the main attributes we
look for in driving skill…distance, accuracy and precision.
what I have observed, there is no real statistical correlation that can be draw
with attack angle and Advanced Total Driving. Part of the problem is that there
is a small sample size that I’m working with since I only have about 25 PGA Tour
player’s attack angle recordings via Trackman.
However, the only
correlation I tend to see is in golfers that hit more than -4.5° down with the
driver. The correlation there is to perform poorly in Advanced Total Driving.
But again, it appears that those are issues with the golfer just swinging poorly
period. These golfers almost exclusively play poorly in each of the Zones
(Birdie Zone, Safe Zone and Danger Zone) as well.
Boo Weekley ranked #1
in Advanced Total Driving in 2011 and is currently ranked #2 this year and he
hits -3.5°. However, Bo Van Pelt is one of the better drivers on Tour year in
and year out, ranked 10th in 2011 and currently ranked 26th and hits up about
+2° to +5°.
The end game in
driving the ball is about being able to hit the ball as well as you can from the
perspective of distance, accuracy and precision. We want to blend all of those
together. Obviously, there can be situations where a golfer may increase power
but lose some accuracy or precision off the tee. It then becomes the golfer’s
duty to be able to gauge whether the trade-off will be more effective in
lowering their scores.
I do not think there’s anything wrong with hitting
up on the driver if the golfer can execute it well enough to where they are more
effective off the tee in doing so. However, the same goes for hitting down with
I have concluded that a golfer needs to understand that
hitting up on the driver is not mandatory in any way, shape or form as shown by
golfers like Boo Weekley and Hunter Mahan. Furthermore, the golfer should
understand the potential dangers of hitting up on the ball versus the potential
dangers of hitting down on the ball.
I think that all serious Long
Distance driving competitors MUST hit up on the driver in order to succeed. But,
those golfers are far more worried about optimizing the parts of impact that
optimize distance rather than worrying about accuracy and precision as they are
given 6 shots to hit the ball as far as they can and still find a grid that is
40 yards wide.
But for the average golfer, I think there are many
factors to consider and hitting up on the driver is nowhere near being
mandatory. There are some people who believe that the driver is ‘designed to hit
upward on’, but I actually think that the driver is more designed for a ‘flat’
attack angle (0.0°) and the average attack angle on Tour is about -1° downward
(measured by Trackman).
I think that closer to a flat attack angle
probably works better for most golfers in terms of generating clubhead speed,
accuracy, consistency and being able to transition better to swinging the other
clubs as well. Obviously, some exceptions