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Brent Kelley

Study: More Driver Loft = More Yards

By October 19, 2003

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A big problem with the driver for many recreational golfers is too little loft. The feeling is that you don't want the ball going too high, because then it doesn't roll as much. And, therefore, it's better to have less loft. Turns out that thinking is completely wrong. A study conducted by Golf Digest shows that more loft on the driver equals more yards for nearly all recreational players.

If you have clubhead speed that matches or exceeds that of the pros, then you can get away with playing an 8- or 9-degree driver. But only a tiny fraction of us have that clubhead speed. The rest of us probably need a driver with a loft of at least 11 degrees.

The study appears in the November 2003 issue of Golf Digest.

The crux of the article is that more hangtime with your driver generally means more yards, even though that seems counterintuitive to many golfers. One story told is how the long-drive champions use stopwatches in practice to time how long the ball is in the air. If the long drivers recognize the importance of hangtime, that's a good indicator.

The study examined driver distances at different swing speeds ranging from 65 mph up to 115 mph, and with driver lofts of 9-, 11-, 14- and 16-degrees. For most golfers, it turns out, adding loft to the driver increases driver distance by an average of 10 yards.

At 65 mph, the 16-degree driver was the longest; at 75 mph, the 16-degree again; at 85 mph, the 11-degree was longest (and the 9-degree was the shortest at each level up to this point); at 95 mph, 11-degrees was longest and 14-degrees second-best; at 105 mph, 11-degrees was longest; at 115 mph, 11-degrees was longest.

So if you're one of those golfers carrying a 7.5-degree driver or even a 9-degree driver, do yourself a favor and add loft.

I highly recommended picking up the November Golf Digest and reading this very interesting article.

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July 22, 2008 at 6:33 pm
(1) Marshall Brand says:

Thank you very much for this driver loft information. I am going to buy a Nickent 4DX driver with a UST V2 stiff shaft and I was debating between the 9-degree and the 10.5-degree loft. I have a swing speed of 95-97 mph. Your article has steered me toward the 10.5. Thanks again.

August 22, 2008 at 8:08 am
(2) Francine says:

Your article helped me very much. I just purchased, online, a new Callaway driver but realized I selected the 16 degree loft. I am 50/female and after more distance. Now I don’t think I made a mistake afterall!

November 28, 2008 at 1:52 pm
(3) Michael says:

Thank you! I found this article extremely helpful. I swing a 11.5 degree TaylorMade R7. I’m often “teased”, or better yet…”coached” by some of my playing partners that I shouldn’t be playing with such a lofted driver. Funny…seeing as how I normally outdrive them by 15 – 25 yards. : – ) Now I see why. : – )

March 15, 2009 at 7:59 pm
(4) Anderson McCant III says:

I’ve been playing now for 14 years and though I don’t have an “official” handicap, I shot about 78,79. That said, I just changed from my Titleist 8.5 to an 11.5 and I’m hitting it just as long buy with a twist, i’m keeping it in play!!!!

August 24, 2009 at 2:36 pm
(5) edetmer says:

i have an old ping 7 degree driver and i have won every long drive challenge in 7 golf scrambles this year. the longest i have hit was aroune 370-380yds. so if i used a 9 degree are you telling me i could hit 400? doubtful

January 28, 2010 at 7:49 am
(6) Vincent says:

What this article failed to mention that the people in long ball contest all use 6.5 to 8.5 loft. Look it up. KrankGolf.com. If you tee your ball high enough none of this matters.

April 3, 2010 at 4:37 pm
(7) taylor says:

i have 115mph and if i used a 11.5 loft driver i would hit it straight up in the air. my 9.5 produces a 13 degree launch at 185mph ball speed. The key is ball speed.

May 1, 2010 at 6:08 pm
(8) Frank in CA says:

Yes in the long ball contest most use 6.5 to 8.5 loft.But saying that if you tee your ball high enough none of this (avg golfer’s loft) matters, is absolutely wrong. First most of us use a 45″ or 46″ inch length driver, in the long ball contest they use a USGA measurement of 48″. The reason for the low 6 or 8 degree loft is the lower the loft it reduces excess backspin and can bounce and roll more upon landing. But without hang time they can’t get the initial distance needed to benefit from the extra roll from less backspin. And lets not forget that these guys are generating club head speeds from 135 to 150 mph. And yes they not only tee it high, most place the ball far forward of their leading foot, some as much as 3 inches to catch the ball on the up swing. So now you take any brand consumer or pro driver lets say with 9 degrees (or any other loft) and tee higher, more forward than normal and catch it more on your upswing and you will hit the ball, carry and roll, less farther than if you teed it up normal height properly inside the heel of leading foot. Lets say you have brand X same model driver one is 10 degree, the other 12.5. If you teeded it up high and forward so you hit the 10 degree the equivalent of 12.5 degrees, total distance will always be less then if you used the 12.5 model hit in a normal driver setup. The reason is the Coefficient Of Restitution(COR) is maximized in a different location on each driver, so that high upswing of the 10 degree driver is missing the COR of that driver. And while the are identical brand and model driver and look the same the COR is different for each driver based on its loft. Both drivers are 460 cubic centimeters, so when the face of the club is set back 2.5 more degrees of angle that 460cc is going to have some changes in shape to the lower lofted 10 degree driver. Manufacturers reshape the head to maximize the COR based on the loft. Its not noticeable just looking at the club but I assure there are some minute changes at different points that get the max COR based on loft.

And to taylor,
Here is the true results of your example with a 115mph swing the correct loft for the longest distance(carry and roll on a flat dry fairway) would be a 10.5 that would produce 285 yards. That is just pure and true math, the variable is your swing tempo, tee height, ball placement and any corrections on your down swing that you might do to get an inside out path.

March 26, 2011 at 6:23 pm
(9) N Evans says:

Ok so I play a 7.5 degree driver and pitch it 290-300 with maybe 10 – 20 yards of roll, does this mean a higher lofted driver would hit it further? The reason I ask is I previously played a 9.5 degree driver and hit it 30 yards shorter.

May 15, 2011 at 11:43 pm
(10) John says:

I have recently purchased a R11 with a 10.5 head, it is set on the 9.5 loft, I haven’t hit with the 10.5 or 11.5 loft yet. As I Improve hopefully does it mean that I was better of going with the 9 degree head which goes up 1′and down 1. Not all that sure, my club head speed is 103mph, please leave a comment or suggestion thanks

May 19, 2011 at 8:18 am
(11) Byg Mony Griff says:

Man, for years I had been telling my golf buddies this. I always use a 10.5 driver. With the proper ball set up on the tee and a good relaxed swing and the right ball(Bridgestone), you’ll get good distance everytime.

May 27, 2011 at 2:28 pm
(12) Jack says:

I’m currently playing a 9 degree Calloway FT5 and hitting the ball apretty far, but a mile high. I’m wondering if I can get some lower trajectory and longer roll with less loft? I average 290-320yds from the tee, longer shots are 330-340 ish. I measured my swing speed at Martins in Myrtle Beach this past weekend and was between 118-131 mph. I currently hit a bit of a left to right ball flight. I also usually play the ball off the inside of my left foot. Considering between a 6 and 8 degree driver, will this help?


August 6, 2011 at 9:44 am
(13) jm says:

I use a Mizuno MP600 Fast Track 10.5 Loft Driver. It works just fine for me hitting a longer hang time and distance! My settings on my fast track is 3-5 same as Luke Donald’s.

February 16, 2012 at 1:21 am
(14) Danny Boy says:

I was using a 10.5 Lynx driver that came with my set before I ‘upgraded’ to an older 10.5 degree R-9 driver late last year. I was hitting it slightly further, about 200-220 yards (I’m still a beginner). Then a few weeks ago, I saw this Cleveland 270 Launcher Driver going on a crazy sale, and decided to give the 9 degree version a try. I loved the feel, was getting good height anyways, so I bought it.

Now, with hardly any improvements or change to my swing, I’m hitting 240-250 yards on average with it. So, despite the findings and what not, the truth for my own situation was that a lower degreed loft has produced significantly greater distance. With my 10.5 degree driver, I was striking it well, while teeing it up fairly low, and it was flying just was too high – it would just drop out of the sky, and come up shorter that I thought it would. With my new 9 degree launcher, it stays low, but at a height that I actually really like. So at the end of the day, I think it varies and is different for different people.

For me, and for some unknown reason, I tend to hit my drives higher than the average person I guess. Someone has suggested that this is because of my swing dynamic, and that I tend to strike down at the ball more. I honestly don’t know if this is what I do because I don’t think of striking down on it. All I know is that I’m getting more distance, and straighter drives with my 9 degree Launcher. Everyone’s swing style and dynamic is different – so go out and experiment and see what’s right for you!

May 28, 2012 at 7:18 am
(15) Dan says:

Wow there sure are some big hitters here – I just learned the PGA tour had an average driving distance of 291 yards in 2011, and someone as long as J.B. Holmes averaged less than some of the posts above. Anyone know the driver lofts that some of the bigger hitters are using?

June 4, 2012 at 1:13 pm
(16) Rodtyme says:

I’m with you, Dan, and find it amazing that so ‘many’ long drivers find the time to share their PGA tour ready driving lengths online! With so many of them out there, it’s baffling how you don’t see more of them at the various courses that I play. Must not be paying enough attention. These posts are some of my best evidence why I’ve refused to take a lesson. I’ve been playing about once a week during the season for the past 5 years and generally shoot in the mid to low 90′s. There is no consensus of opinion here unless you call the lack of consensus a consensus. I switched to the Ping G10 7.5 degree driver after watching my drives balloon up like rockets but only go 180-190 yards and consistently right with lofts from 9-12 degrees. The Ping has me consistently 200-220 and straight but still w more height than I prefer. I’m now considering a newer driver but my swing will likely require the lower loft.

June 4, 2012 at 11:05 pm
(17) Jason says:

I understand with some of the distances above being pretty damn long for the everyday amateur but some amateurs like myself can drive the ball between 280-320 depending. It really does not matter if you only hit it 160-190 off the tee as the score really jumps if you never work on your short game. Most amateurs only think about how far they can hit it and never realize that it doesn’t matter if you miss with the approach and cant get up and down! When you step up to the tee box at a 160yd par-3 does it really matter how far you can drive the ball? All that I am saying is that everyone is way to concerned about driving distance, if I am struggling keeping my driver in play I will leave it in the bag and tee off the long par-5 with a 4iron. Leave myself another 4iron then have a decent mid iron approach from the fairway! Learn to be great on and around the greens and you will see the difference on the scorecard. Enjoy the game whatever it may bring you.

July 7, 2012 at 11:07 pm
(18) Dave says:

Wow. I read this post so I could learn something but am more confused. Like Danny says, I rarely see guys I play with hit 250+ yards. I play with single digit handicappers all the way up to my 18…but don’t see those kinds of drives. I do want a new driver (Calloway Dialblo or Razur) but now have no idea what loft to get. How do I truly find the correct answer.

August 1, 2012 at 2:56 am
(19) david leung says:

I am not convinced that “more loft = more yards”; I believe that amateurs’ yardage is affected by numerous variables, from athleticism (physical strength, flexibility), peculiarity of individual swing attributes, ball positions, timing, and more. I am 67 years old, 5’10″ and 195 lbs. I use a R11, 7 degree (lowered from 8 degree), a Harrison 2.5 graphite (older model) at 45 inches. My swing speed is 104 but I don’t know about my ball speed. The ball is positioned near my left big toes; I assume a wide but balanced stance; the ball is teed at 1/2 ball above top of driver head. I impart a wide takeaway but overswing like John Daley; I begin my down swing only after I see my club head with my left eye. I try to flatten out the bottom of the swing and keep it flat as the driver head approaches the ball. At impact I feel the club head is travelling level with the ground instead of ascending (I feel the club head ascending after the ball is hit). The ball takes off with a very penetrating flight, a gradually rising launch angle to a medium height apex; the ball drops in an angle and rolls 10-20 yards.. The average carry is 265 on leveled fairway. My partners are in their late 30′s to mid 40s and I consistantly out-drive them by 30-50 yards. They all use 10 or 10.5 degrees but their balls rise too sharply and appear to stall. (I average 12 over par). I also believe “hang time” means “ideal” hang time; sharp rise and stalling will defintely affect the distance.

August 18, 2012 at 9:17 pm
(20) Peter says:

Im a golf pro, and the amount of times I have amatuers come in for a lesson and say “I hit my driver fine but I struggle with my irons”, when i look in their bags and see a 9 degree driver, this is where the problem starts. When you give an amatuer a driver of this loft, the only way for them to get it up in the air to achieve decent distance is to sit back on the shot and hit up on it – effectively turning this 9 degree driver into a 12-14 degree driver. This is fine, they are happy they see the ball go up in the air with good distance, the problem then comes with the next shot off the fairway- if this golfer then trys to make the same swing as they did with the driver ‘sitting back and hitting up’ they will find themselves hitting very ‘fat’ or ‘thin’ shots and resulting in some big inconcistencies. The main reason golfers should use more loft is because it will improve your entire game, having a 12 degree driver will teach you to get in the correct impact position ‘weight forward & hands forward’ it wont happen in the first day, but golfers know how to adapt and they will teach themselves to hit this club lower, you are now building a much better iron swing as you are in a better impact position and you are actually maintaining the loft of the driver 12 degrees rather than hitting up on 9 degree driver (effectively turning it into a 12 degree driver anyway)

August 23, 2012 at 4:08 pm
(21) Dave says:

Peter makes a great point. I can attest to what he says: I have to swing differently with my 9.5 degree driver than with my irons. My swing is predominately a one plane swing weight equally distributed on both feet and little weight shift during the back swing.

With my irons I have to consciously shift my weight with a slight tilt onto the left leg at the transition point and I will then have very little lateral movement of the hips but lots of hip rotation in the downswing. If don’t make this weight shift at transition I hit it fat – too often.

While for my irons I set the ball 4 inches inside my left heel, for my driver I place the ball at my heel or even at my instep and the clubhead is about 5 inches behind the ball at address. I tee up the ball with half of it above the club face. I don’t make a weight tilt toward the target at the transistion like I do for my irons but probably have a little more latteral hip movement toward the target before the hip rotation and in this way I hit the ball on an upward sweep of the clubhead. I get good height and distance ~ 245 – 260 yds, 7 iron about 155yds.

My driver is a metal head, but 25 years old so I can make some gains with the new technologies and given Peter’s point I am thinking a 10.5 degree loft would help me maintain a more consistent swing (weight transition and hip movement) between irons and drives which should benefit both.

Also, if I understand the flight dynamics, for the same given launch angle a more lofted driver will produce more back spin which should reduce fades and draws, but with some loss in distance (probably only for high swing speed golfers). I can afford some loss if it keeps me in play more often. And I am not so sure I would really lose distance because the clubhead might be striking the ball just after it achieves maximum speed since I play the ball well forward in my stance.

September 6, 2012 at 11:16 am
(22) Luke says:

Great article, But honestly it depends on the golfer. I played college baseball, so i naturally have a hard swing. I have always used 10.5 with extra stiff shaft and i launch the ball in the air…I adv. 330 yards on my drives. Recently, I’v been using a 9 degree extra stiff shaft and i now have an adv. distance of 355-365 yards. As high as I hit it created my ball to die, I still get air but I also get a lot of role. I know this article can be true for most people, but don’t buy without trying first. Because like I said all golfers are different. This was a well done article

September 22, 2012 at 2:43 pm
(23) jdh says:

What matters is launch angle of the ball off the clubface, not club loft. Everyone’s swing is different.

I used a launch monitor, and found I got optimal distance with a ball launch angle of 14 degrees. And I got way more overall distance with a ball launch angle of 9 degrees than a launch angle of 19 degrees.

So if you get a 14 degree ball launch angle with a 16 degree driver, or a 9 degree driver, youíve got the right club for your swing.

I have a slow swing speed, but my natural swing launches the ball very high. I tried an 11.5 degree driver after reading advice like the above, and hit the shortest drives of my life.

I use an 8.5 degree driver now that gives my swing a ball launch angle of 14 degrees, and at least Iím hitting 180 yard drives

November 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm
(24) Prof_Turby says:

jdh is absolutely correct…
I went to Dicks several years ago and just recently went to Academy Sports to see if my swing speed had changed any…
I don’t know how accurate those monitors are but both Dicks and Academy showed around 95 mph…
I was currently hitting a Great Big Bertha 7 degree and had no trouble hitting the thing at all…
I just purchased a 9 degree Cleveland Classic and can hit the thing well…
It is all about YOUR SWING…
Saturday I went to the driving range and a friend was down there also…
He is a much more serious golfer than I am am plays weekly…
He his a R9 in a 9.5 degree and hits it well…
He saw my swing and launch with my driver and could not believe the height I was obtaining with that 9 degree Classic…
I was landing the ball around between 220 and 230 with a very high ball flight…
He told me that I had a pro launch and not to change anything at all about my swing…
Again, MY SWING is different than YOUR SWING…
Everybody is different…

December 5, 2012 at 7:03 pm
(25) patrick says:

i love how these weekend worriors can drive the ball 350-380 phil mickelson ave around 300-350 and hes deff won of the longer hitters on tour ppl stop lying about your distince its obviously b.s. i drive around 280-290 almost everytime and with a light wind at my back 310-320 and ive been playing since i was a kid being that my dads a pro

December 13, 2012 at 6:17 am
(26) DWB says:

I have a swing speed of 124 to 134 around playing shots and going at it.

I previously used a of the shelve 9.5 degrees measured lofted driver with a x-stiff shaft,and this is what happend.On a easy swing aroun 116mph I was hitting the ball around 270m but very high,I usualy got mudd balls on halve my drive(no placing). Then going after them around 124mph i was hitting around 250m….I lost distance hitting harder. The ball was launching to high with around 4000rpm backspin and a launch angle of 17degrees.

I switched to a 5 degree measured lofted clean faced driver and a xxx-stiff shaft around 2 inches longer. Considering I am 6’6″,my tempo feels alot better with the longer driver. My ball flight has come down around 3 times less,the perfect trajectory, And my average shots go around 300m with a easy 124mph swing speed. Going after it around 134mph gets me to about 330m/350m twice a round. This around 2500rpm spin around 12 degree’s launch.

I hit the 5 degree 47″ xxx-stiff FAR MORE STRAIGHTER then the 9.5degree 45″ x-stiff. Obviously the distance has improved as well not that it is important.

December 13, 2012 at 6:22 am
(27) DWB says:

PS. That story of higher loft vs lower loft depends on your ANGLE OF ATTACK!!!!

My angle of attack is around +5-7 degrees on the upswing….

March 7, 2013 at 11:18 am
(28) joseph smith says:

Most people on this forum have no idea how long they hit the long ball if your posting about hitting 300+. guaranteedn your hitting 270 at most

March 17, 2013 at 8:09 pm
(29) Steve says:

This article is misleading and is a perfect example of misinformation about golf. Any serious discussion of distance is far from just loft on the driver…

The stiffness of the shaft, the torque, and the kick point on the shaft are important variables to say the least. The launch angle is what we’re really talking about with loft anyway.

Simply making a blanket statement that more loft equals more distance is garbage. Complete garbage. And it’s this type of garbage that “assists” layman golfers to get on the wrong track and spread crap to other layman golfers.

What this article should state is that more loft CAN lead to more distance….depending on launch angle, kick point on the shaft, and shaft stiffness relative to swing speed…and launch angle.

And all amateurs should have their shafts tested because the off the rack shafts are rarely correct. All manufacturers have their own version of “regular” or “stiff”…an Adams “regular” is different than a Callaway which is different than a Ping. An industry standard is necessary but lacking.

Distance is a complex amalgamation of many different factors. Blanket statements like “more loft means more distance” is WRONG. And it has already lead some in this thread to buy a driver based on loft. Which is a shame when so many people struggle with the sport as it is…

April 18, 2013 at 12:05 am
(30) Sam Painter says:

I’m 66 and declining fast. At a Taylor Made club fitting, one of their pro’s adjusted my Rocketbalz II from 10.5 to 12.0. Suddenly my drives flew higher, stayed in the air longer, and seemed less inclined to stray from the fairway.

Everyone who has commented to the effect that golfers’ swings vary are correct. What I would recommend is to go to a Club Fitting and watch what happens when you hit with various lofts and with various shafts. I think this is the best way to determine what is best for your swing.

June 11, 2013 at 5:05 pm
(31) Steve says:

14 degrees launch angle gets the best distance what ever your swing to your loft calculates to 14 degrees of launch will get you the longest distance!!!

June 20, 2013 at 5:41 pm
(32) Matt says:

This article is correct. Sure, there are exceptions. If your swing speed 140mph. Most of us will benefit from higher loft driver. It is also more forgiving.

August 17, 2013 at 8:02 pm
(33) ed says:

I hit it straight around 230 yards every time with my18 degree driver,AKA 5 wood.More loft, less spin better scores.Ben Hogan was one of the greatest golfers of all time and he could only drive the golf ball around 250 yards (wooden driver).There is no need for more than 200 – 250 yards drives to be a good golfer.

September 11, 2013 at 6:19 pm
(34) kdude says:

I saw a study somewhere(maybe golf digest) that found that the average amateur golfer exaggerates his driving distance. They might have a long drive, and then eyeball the yardage in relation to markers etc., and then voila, they have a new “average” driving distance which is probably 20-30 yards longer than the actual shot. Let’s say you average 260, then get a good bounce on one and hit 300. The amateur will now say “I hit it 300″. These guys claiming the long drives are seriously questionable. I would deduct 40 yards avg. from their stated claims.

October 24, 2013 at 8:49 pm
(35) PHT says:

At age 59, after nearly three decades of recreational golf, I am at peace with my 195-205 drives with a Taylormade Superfast 10.5 Reg Flex. When I traded my obsession with trying to add driving yardage for greater short game practice, my scoring improved dramatically…dropped from a 22 to 16 handicap. While I’ll keep my antenna up for that “perfectly fitted driver”, my immediate goals are to sharpen my approach irons along with pitching & chipping around the green. Who knows, maybe this average driver can break 80 one of these days?

December 4, 2013 at 4:14 pm
(36) jc says:

I did not see one thing about how high you tee the ball….In a recent golf digest article, it showed that if you have a 10.5 driver and tee it high, you will probably hit the ball on the upper portion of the face, where it starts to bend back and so you are actually hitting an 11 degree driver while if you tee it low, you are on the area that is curving back to the sole and so you are hitting a 9.5 driver.

only if you hit it in the center of the face are you truly hitting it at 10.5.

December 4, 2013 at 4:17 pm
(37) jc says:

driver distance…true?

when I first got my sky caddie, it was so much fun to hear the guys say “Wow, I hit that 300 yards…then show them the screen that said 238″.
even when I would tell them how far the green was and watch them hit into the bunker, they believed that they hit a 6 iron 200 yards.

After I got it , I went to the hole where I hit my all time long drive with my yonex boron driver…with total roll and a perfect swing, it was 320 (including roll)….and I thought of the pros who hit that with 3 woods whenever they want to….

December 14, 2013 at 5:30 pm
(38) Marc D says:

The problem with this theory is that every golf has the same natural angle of attack, throughout my few years golfing and struggling with my driver I’ve slowly developed a better swing hitting the ball on the up swing. But not every golfer hits in the up swing. Most after being taught to hit down with their irons have naturally developed a downward angle of attack on the ball and that’s where a lot of higher handicappers benefit from higher lofted drivers. I personally have a 105 mph swing speed and with my 10.5 driver carries about 200 yards at a 30 degree launch angle which is way too high. It’s too difficult to generalize a loft based on swing speed as there are many other factors to consider.

February 19, 2014 at 11:58 pm
(39) Jason says:

I can hit my driver 280-320 regularly but I also can it the houses on the left and right;therefore, I just hit my 3 wood down the middle 275 and have lowered my score by five strokes. On subject, I have a swing speed of 120 MPH. I have a 9degree paired with an x stiff and mid-high kickpoint that I put an insane amount of backspin on. I went with a 7.5 with a x flex and high kickpoint and can hit the ball 25 yards farther than the other club. Honestly, everyone’s swing is different and you need to get on a launch monitor to get the best stats for your swing. In saying that, the higher the loft, the more accurate you will be due to a larger sweet spot and more forgiveness. If you lose 20 yards but hit 25% more fairways, then lose the 20 yards. Take a club out and mark how many fairways you hit for a few rounds and then make the comparison with another club. That will show you the true numbers that you should be caring about.

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