Effective Loft Part 3
This is Part 3 of a three part series discussing the phenomenon called “effective loft.” which is a relationship between the club’s loft and its face angle. To read the previous discussions click on Part 1 (Loft) and Part 2 (Face Angle). With the introduction of interchangeable adapters to not only change shafts, but the face angle and lie angle (like our Dynacraft Prophet ICT) is will be important for golfer to understand the relationship between loft and face angle.
Effective Loft: The Clinical Viewpoint
I want to first speak about how effective loft has been taught in many club fitting books of the past. We explained how face angle refers to the direction of the club face at address in a spec gauge, but it can also be referred at impact. Effective loft is better defined as the wood’s loft when the club face is placed in a square (0 degree) position whether the actual head is square or not. Perhaps the best way to review effective loft is through a series of examples of face angle and loft combinations.
In our first example, we have a driver that has a square face. Its effective loft is the same as its measured loft. That is, if the club has a loft that is measured at 12 degrees in a spec gauge then the effective loft will also be 12 degrees.
But if that 12 degree lofted wood has a face angle of 2 degrees open, its effective loft will be approximately 10 degrees. If the face of the open faced club is aimed directly at the target, it will in effect have to be closed down, rolled or hooded to get it into a square position.
How much? We say approximately the same corresponding amount to the number of degrees it was closed to move the face to the 0 degree square position. In actuality, it is slightly less than 1 degree, but for simplicity sake we will use a 1:1 ratio. You will need to look very carefully, but note how the leading edge is now closer to the ground while the trailing edge is higher as a result of hooding the clubhead. At this point the club is no longer in its normal soled position.
Following the same example, what happens if the head were 2° closed? The club face would be pointing to the left of the target, assuming a right handed clubhead. In order for the 12° degree club to be positioned toward the target, the face must be rolled opened so that it indeed points where it should. You will now be able to actually see more of the face when this is done; the effective loft of the club has been increased. Instead of playing to its measured loft of 12°, the club now plays to an effective loft closer to 14° in a square position using our same 1:1 ratio. Again note how the leading edge is now raised off of the ground while the trailing edge is lower as the club is no longer in its normal soled position.
No better example can be found when we look at a wedge. We don’t talk about face angle on an iron or wedge, but we assume them to be square. By rolling open the wedge it in effect has greater lofted than in the square position.
In the following chart we have all 24 combinations of the Dynacraft Prophet ICT drivers when you factor in the three different loft and the eight possible positions the hosel adapter can be placed in each lofted head.
As you can see there is only a 2.5° difference between the lowest and highest loft available, but when you factor in the face angle into the equation, in this example the effective loft now has a range of 6.5°.
Now you are more aware of the effective loft phenomenon caused by the relationship between loft and face angle. The clinical definition of effective loft is the measured loft when the face is in the square position only and the shaft perpendicular to the ground, whether the actual face angle is square or if the clubhead must be manipulated open or closed to set it into the square position.
Effective Loft: The Reality Viewpoint
The clinical approach tells us that a 9° loft driver with a 3° closed face with have an effective loft of 12 degrees which would have the same effective loft as a 13° loft driver with a 1° open face. This leads a person to believe the ball trajectory would be the same since we are saying they have the same effective loft. Let’s face it, the average player is not going to take a club that is 3° closed and hit the ball with the face square toward the target and then pick up the exact same club with all identical specifications other than it is 1° open and again hit it with the face angle square to the target on the very next shot. And I almost guarantee that the ball trajectory coming off the face of these two clubs will not be the same either.
Effective loft assumes that the clubface is square not what happens at impact!
It is important to realize that the loft and face angle at address will not be the same as at impact. This has to do with a number of factors such as angle of attack, swing path, wrist rotation, etc. compounded by the bending and twisting of the shaft as it comes into impact. Therefore it is important to understand the concept of effective loft, just not always in the square position. We should always be more concerned with effective loft at impact anyway.
Have you every heard the phrase “high fade, low draw” when a player discusses shot shape? Let’s say a more accomplished golfer tees off with these two clubs mentioned in the previous example. With the ball positioned in the same location relative in the stance, same tee height, etc. then with the 9 degree loft / 3 degree closed RH driver, the ball will be propelled off of the face both lower and left as compared to that of the 13 degree loft / 1 degree open RH driver. It would take some manipulation on the part of the golfer to square both of these clubs at impact so the “effective loft” at impact was identical.
Understand that one adjusts the face angle to control direction. A byproduct of this will be a change in ball height. No better way to illustrate this is with an interchangeable driver such as the Dynacraft Prophet ICT as all the factors, other than face angle and lie remain identical.
We are assuming that a player leaves the face open at impact when they slice the ball. So in order for the ball not to slice quite as much, the face angle must start out more closed. By selecting a more closed face angle position, this will not only straighten out the shot but lower the trajectory too.
Adjustments a player might make
In all my years of experience, I have found there are no absolutes when it comes to fitting players. Case in point is when a player changes how they set up to the ball based upon optics. A golfer might very well position the ball further back in the stance if the face angle appears too closed to the player. No we are not talking about going from the inside of the front heel to the center of the stance. To achieve a less closed look at address on a 45” driver, it may need to be shifted back in the stance in order of approximately ¾” for each degree.
Don’t always assume a closed face driver will result into a pulled or hooked shot either. Again the player can make adjustments. Looking at a bird’s eye view of the swing, the red line represents the swing path (in this case square) of the golfer with the crosshairs being the face angle. The green circle (representing the golf ball) is positioned just off of the left (front heel) where the green arrow points to the target line. The orange circle is further back in the stance with the orange arrow pointing to the right of the target. To prevent for pulling or hooking the ball the player swings in a more inside-out swing path, thus starting the ball out to the right to compensating for the clubface being closed. Why?
This is very important thing to point out. Golfers are result orientated. If a golfer is handed an extremely closed clubface and hits the ball with their typical set up, the shot may be a pull, draw or hook. If the ball flight is not to the desired shape, that golfer will make subconscious adjustments. In this case the golfer may very well move the ball further back in the stance, not necessarily for optics at address like discussed earlier, but for desired results. So the clubs with a more closed face might not automatically result into the ball flight one might expect.
In our initial definition of how to measure the loft of a club we stated the shaft was perpendicular to the ground. At impact, there is no guarantee that the shaft will be perpendicular to the ground, just as much chance as having the face angle square.
There are several scenarios that can occur that makes it seemingly impossible to cover them all. For instance, look at the diagram. The face may be more open at impact than in the normal soled position, thus the effective loft would increase. But if the golfer hits the ball with a descending swing, the shaft will be tilted forward and decrease the loft at impact. This might negate the added loft from the face being more open at impact. As you can see, it can be quite complicated.
The moral of the story
If you fade the ball, then you are going to naturally hit a high ball. By going to a more closed face angle of the same exact clubhead or repositioning an interchangeable adapter that will lower the trajectory and straighten out the shot at the same time without making any adjustments.
While it may be helpful to understand the clinical definition of effective loft in case you hear this term from a manufacturer or in a book, understand the relationship and how it affects your ball flight and potentially the different set of specification you may need. With a clubhead with an interchangeable adapter like the Dynacraft Prophet ICT driver, it becomes easy to see these relationships on an individual basis.