Launch Monitor

Other than weather and ground conditions, the distance travelled by a golf ball is determined by three key factors: initial ball velocity as it leaves the clubface, the launch angle in relation to the ground and the ball spin rate.

These are collectively known as a player”™s launch conditions. A launch monitor is a sophisticated tool for accurately measuring a player”™s launch conditions, as well as providing useful additional data on the player”™s swing characteristics, all of which are useful in driver fitting.

I will be working with a launch monitor later today with my golf teacher. My golf teacher believes I should be able to gain 15 to 20 yards through custom fitting the driver. We shall see.

Some interesting facts about driver performance:

  • Higher launch angle and lower spins rates can produce longer carry distances for players with swing speeds in excess of 85-90 mph. It takes this speed, at a minimum, for the golf ball to achieve an aerodynamic flight. Aerodynamic Flight is controlled by aerodynamic forces such as lift and drag, and by gravity. At the higher swing speeds, lift and drag forces of the golf ball actually give the ball a “gliding” element. However, the reason for the desire for High Launch and Low Spin for higher swing speeds is this: Higher spin generated at higher launch angles and higher speeds will make the lift force and drag created work against the forward line of flight momentum (i.e., distance). Ballistic Flight is the other kind of flight a golf ball achieves. It is basically controlled by gravity alone.
  • Swing speeds below 85 mph will benefit from a high launch angle and a high spin rate. The reason – the more spin, the more lift generated, which can help the ball stay in the air longer and carry longer. At these lower speeds, the drag and energy lost in creating spin are offset by the improvement in distance caused by the increased time in the air.
  • The loft of the club is only one of many factors that effect the launch angle and ultimately the total distance a player can hit a driver. Other factors are: tee height, ball type, shaft type, weather conditions, turf conditions, ball position, face material, the materials characteristics, face height, vertical roll of the face, ball contact point on the face, and the center of gravity location of the head. If you look at turf conditions, hard and dry verses plush, a high launch scenario may not be the optimum. Where there is a condition for a ball to roll,the desired launch conditions to maximize distance change, sometimes dramatically. In conducting launch test with players, the data gathered can give insight into how to optimize distance. But it must be understood that many shots are required to gain a pool of data before any real conclusions can be drawn. It must also be remembered that unless the player being tested can achieve very consistent contact and swing speeds, the results will vary a lot from shot to shot. Another point to make here is that in robotic testing, although repeatability can be achieved in the contact point and clubhead speed, the swing of the robot does not simulate that of the majority of golfers. Even if the robotic swing could be made to emulate most swing types, few golfers could approach the repeatability of contact point and clubhead speed. Therefore, data based solely on results from robotic testing do not indicate what will happen in the real world.


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