Angle of Attack – Why One Golf Club Does Not Fit All

Angle of attack (or also approach) is a term used to describe the swing plane of a golfer and is dependent upon the position of the ball relative to the arc of the clubface. A level swing or zero angle of attack might be the easiest to show and understand. A level swing is where impact is made at the very bottom of the swing arc. Some golfers might recognize this as a sweeping swing or the term picker.


In golf, any time the ball isto be hit off of the ground, it is usually recommended to “hit down” slightly on the ball for solidness of contact and to impart back spin. This creates a descending angle of attack. There are a number of ways a descending angle of attack can occur. One is simply moving the ball back further in your stance, while another might be caused by a forward weight shift or a forward hand press or shaft lean. We will not get into the how’s and why’s here and leave that for the instructors. Rather, we will discuss the importance of clubhead design as a result of the angle of attack. An angle of attack that is steep at impact will result in more turf being taken AFTER impact with the ball. You want to avoid situations where a divot is taken before impact as this reduced clubhead momentum and potential distance.



An ascending angle of attack is an upward swing into the ball. The only time this should occur is if the ball is elevated off of the ground, such as on a tee or the ball sitting high up in fluffy grass. A ball that is positioned further forward in the stance will result into an ascending angle of attack. In Diagram 2, the three different angle of attack positions are illustrated. The orange line indicates the hosel angle at impact and not the shaft as this can further complicate matters.

Many beginning and lady golfers tend to have more of a sweeping or level angle of attack as opposed to lower handicapped players who tend to hit their irons and wedges at a slight ascending blow. This is more of a generality as there are high handicappers who will hit downward on the ball (perhaps too downwardly) or some better golfers who might have a level swing. So base it on a case by case basis. But due to these different types of swings, the equipment that should be suggested will also differ slightly.

Low Center of Gravity clubs are recommended for beginners or higher handicap golfers

To understand the reasoning behind this statement, let’s say we have a ball in 3/8” deep mowed fairway and the weight of the ball nestles down 1/8” so the ball effectively sits up ¼” off of the ground. If a player has a level swing, the loft of the club is the same as that measured in a specification gauge and at impact assuming the golfer is able to square the clubface. In our example, we will have a #5-iron with a vertical center of gravity that measures 0.786” (20mm) above the ground line. This would be typical for a modern game-improvement iron. Examine Diagram 3 and you will see that impact with the ball is below the center of gravity of the clubhead. Ideally, one would want to hit the ball directly in-line with the center of gravity.

By creating a situation where the ball impact is below the center of gravity of the club, the club may not feel as solid and the ball velocity will not be as great as if the center of gravity was closer to the actual impact. This is just one of the reasons why a lower center of gravity club is recommended for beginning and high handicapped golfers. But why not recommend a low center of gravity for everyone?

Let us use the same example, but this time the golfer has a 4° descending angle of attack. This will create a situation where this
de-lofts the club as seen in Diagram 4. When the club de-lofts, the impact that the ball is made becomes higher on the face due to the curvature of the ball. Now the center of gravity is more in-line with
the center of gravity of the clubhead, which produces a slightly lower
launch angle but increased spin. The additional spin is what helps keep
the ball in the air as a result of lift forces to the ball. This may provide
more insight as to why clubs designed for better golfers tend to be more
lofted and their center of gravity slightly higher than those suggested
for higher handicapped players. In addition, it can explain
why a more accomplished golfer can hit the ball further than someone with
the same speed at impact because of efficiency and also why they may be
able to spin the ball more on the green.


The worst case scenario is occurs when the ball is positioned on the ground, yet the golfer has an ascending angle of attack. The golfer thinks by trying to “lift” the ball off of the ground it will help.
Actually it is the complete opposite as the impact with the ball
is even lower on the club face and lower in relationship to the center
of gravity as in Diagram 5. This causes weak shots that do not travel as far as back spin is reduced and does not create enough lift to carry as far.

Below is a listing of how the current irons in our line propel the ball.
This is factoring in not only the loft of each head, but the vertical
center of gravity and offset.

Higher
Launching Hireko Irons
Medium
Launching Hireko Irons
Lower
Launching Hireko Irons

Acer
XP 905 HT

Acer
XP Hollow Core

Dynacraft
Avatar HL

Dynacraft
Avatar ML

Dynacraft
Prophet CNC

Oxygen
Type S

Oxygen
Type S HT

Oxygen
Type X

Acer
XDS Wide Sole

Acer
XDS Wide Sole II

Acer
XP 905

Acer
XP 905 Hollow Core WS

Acer
XP 905 Pro

Acer
XP 905 Tour

Acer
XP Step Cavity

Dynacraft
Prophet MGD

Power
Play System Q X Cavity

Dynacraft
Genesis

Power
Play System Q Dual

Synchron
SP-6

Hybrid clubs are recommended strongly for beginners or higher handicap golfers



Another common club fitting practice is to suggest hybrids
as replacement for hard-to-hit lower lofted irons. The reason
behind this is sharply due to the center of gravity location in relationship to an average iron of equal loft. Generally speaking the
hybrid will have the impact to be made closer to the center of gravity of the head (lower) in the same scenario as mentioned previously with the zero or level angle of attack.


Higher lofted clubs often compound the problem as impact is made lower on the face due to the angles. For example, in Diagram 7, a blade
style sand wedge is being hit from taller grass where the ball it sitting
up ½” above the ground. Even the level angle of attack produced
a situation where the impact is below the center of gravity of the head.



Using the right equipment in the appropriate situation takes years of
experience to obtain. For instance, hitting a sand wedge on a tight lie with up ascending angle of attack will cause the dreaded blade shot (Diagram 8).



The angle of attack changes based upon the length of the club. As the club becomes shorter, the arc is smaller, but the angle increases. This is one of the reasons why offset is generally less throughout the set as the club becomes shorter.


We hope this help explain a little better about some club design features and how different trajectories and spin rates can be achieved when the lofts are all the same. And equally important, the different types of clubs to look for.

 

10 comments

  1. […] Angle of attack (or also approach) is a term used to describe the swing plane of a golfer and is dependant upon the position of the ball relative to the arc of the clubface. A level swing or zero angle of attack might be the easiest to show and continue here… […]

  2. […] Comments Angle of Attack – Why One Golf Club Does Not Fit All on Angle of Attack – Why One Golf Club Does Not Fit AllDownload the New 2008 Fall Flyer! on New 2008 Power Play System Q2 Driver TestingJeff Summitt on […]

  3. Another great article, Jeff. I only wish you could have gone into a little of how better players will change their swing to vary the angle of attack depending on the situation, and how some players will change their wedges depending on the golf course…maybe next time.

  4. Dave Warden says:

    It is critical to know the angle of attack when doing driver fittings. I use a launch monitor with a driver of a pre-measured and known loft, that way depending on the launch conditions and knowing the driver loft you can get at whether the attack is a 1 or 2 deg downward of level or upward. If you just put the measured clubhead speed into a trajectory program and then start varying the loft to find the best carry distance, without knowing the angle of attack, it is easy to spec the wrong loft driver. Regards, Dave Warden, The ClubWorks

  5. Jeff Summitt says:

    Dave:

    If you are using a program where you need to enter data to obtain the carry distances, yes it would be critical to know the angle of attack on drivers to compensate for de-lofting or increasing the loft at impact. However, the launch monitor should take this into account. But not sure which model you have.

    Sincerely,

    Jeff Summitt
    Hireko Golf

  6. […] byproduct of re-distributing weight further back is that the ball flight will become higher. To offset this and create a trajectory more similar to that of a normal iron, […]

  7. Fairwayjack says:

    My advice to your readers is to find a article / book that gives you the correct ball position for each club then…always make sure your hands are just opposite your left inner thigh at impact. This will give you an optimum angle of attack every time.

  8. Ed says:

    In this article you explain that a descending attack angle will increase the back spin. I always thought a 5 iron would have less spin than a 6 iron because a five iron has less loft. A descending attack angle affectively decreases the loft, so why would that not also decrease the spin.

    thanks

  9. Jeff Summitt says:

    Ed:

    We are talking about two different things. The back spin on a 5-iron would be lower than a 6-iron assuming that the angle of attack is the same and the 5-iron club hits the ball with less dynamic loft than the 6-iron. It is the technique of hitting down on the ball which is producing the increased spin. I hope that helps.

  10. […] spin. For a further explanation why it is important to hit down on the ball, please reference the Angle of Attack article. To account for the downward angle of attack, manufacture’s needed to create some bounce into […]

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