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What Loft Driver Should I Use?

Driver loft is often misunderstood by golfers. Having the correct driver loft can result in increased distance and improved accuracy. The best driver loft for most golfers is often more than they are currently using or want to use and convincing golfers of this is tricky without spending time with them on a launch monitor.

It is a complex issue and the real answer of how much driver loft you need depends on your swing speed, ball flight and desired outcome. In this article, we start with the basics and then try to help you understand what will be optimal for you based on your answers to the questions above.

In this article we will cover:

“I was recently working with my stepfather on his golf game. He has a 9.5 degree Callaway Mavrik driver and a swing speed that would very much be in the “average” category. All of his drives are lower, and he has quite a bit of inconsistency in his swing.

It was obvious to me that even switching to a 10.5 degree driver would make a world of difference in his swing. When we went to change the adjustable loft on the club head, we found out he had really been playing with a 9 degree driver for at least a few years.

We changed the loft to 11 degrees to see if that could get him a higher launch angle and maybe some extra distance. Increasing the loft in the driver in this situation actually added quite a bit of distance and an incredible amount of accuracy.

I’ll show you some of the common misconceptions about driver loft, attack angle, and what you can do to make sure you are playing with a driver that is set to meet your needs as a player.

What Driver loft should I use?

You should be using a driver loft that optimizes your launch conditions (distance & forgiveness). As we cover below, your ideal launch angle and spin rate will change based on your average swing speed. Depending on your swing speed, you are looking to launch the ball between about 10 and 19 degrees to maximize distance.

At lower swing speeds we need a higher initial launch and more spin to keep the ball in the air. As swing speed increases, the optimum launch becomes a little lower and backspin needs to be reduced.

One degree more loft will only result in a one-degree higher launch, however, it will also add more backspin to your shots, which will keep sliced and hooked drives straighter. Next, we are going to cover the ideal driver loft for a very fast swing (105 Mph+), fast swing (97-104 Mph), average swing (84-96 Mph), and slow swing speed (70-83 Mph).

Driver Loft for Very Fast Swing Speed (105 mph+)

A very fast swing speed golfer has an ideal launch of 10-16 degrees with spin rates of 1750- 2300 rpm (revolutions per minute). With these data parameters, you can expect peak height to be around 100-120 feet. Launch angle and driver loft are not the same thing.

The key is to find a driver loft that helps you produce these numbers. For most very fast swing speed golfers, that loft is going to be in the 9-10 degree range. With a 9-10 degree driver, you should also be able to obtain an angle of descent of around 34-38 degrees to help maximize distance.

More backspin will help keep your shots straighter but will cost you distance, so the trade-off here is usually between these two factors.

Driver Loft for Fast Swing Speed (97-104 Mph)

A good majority of average golfers fall into the fast swing speed category, and most are not playing with the correct loft in their driver (generally too low). The ideal launch angle for a golfer with a 100mph swing speed is between 12 and 16 degrees. You can see this is a little higher than that of the very fast swing speed.

This means if you have a 10.5 degree loft or less you’re going to need to hit up on your drives 2-4 degrees, and few players can do this consistently! Rory McIlroy does, but he’s one of the few who can on Tour.

In addition, spin rates here should be in the 2000-2500 rpm range with a peak height of 87-100 feet. This peak height is considerably lower than that of the very fast swing speed, and the angle of descent is around 33-37 degrees.

If you fall into this category of player you’ll be looking between 10.5 degrees to 12 degrees of loft on your driver.

Driver Loft for Average Swing Speed (84-96 mph)

The average swing speed with the driver is around 84-96. Golfers in this category need a launch angle of around 13 to 16 degrees and should hope to achieve spin rates in the 2400-2700 rpm range.

Peak height here is considerably lower, with the range being around 70-86 feet and an angle of descent around 32-36 degrees to help maximize distance.

Look for a slightly higher lofted driver in the 10.5-13.5 degree range in order to achieve the higher loft and correct spin rates.

Driver Loft for Slow Swing Speed (70-83 mph)

Slower swing speed golfers need a higher launch angle, in the 14-19 degree range. Spin rates here are higher; to help the ball travel a little higher, look for spin rates in the 2600-2900 range. Peak height and angle of descent are lower as you slow golf swings down.

The optimal peak height is between 58 and 70 feet, and the angle of descent is between 31 and 35 degrees.

For slow-swing speed golfers, the driver loft is best when it’s between 11.5 and 15 degrees of loft.

What is the best driver loft for beginners?

The correct loft for a beginner is typically a higher lofted driver simply because of the swing speeds that most beginners have, also more backspin results in straighter drivers – something all beginners will pay good money for.

However, for faster swing speeds, a lower lofted driver could be the best fit. Most beginners do well in the 10.5-12 degree range as it can be a sweet spot for the average swing speed golfer.

If you know you have a slower swing speed, don’t be afraid to move to that higher 12-14 degrees of loft.

Driver loft tips for slicers

Slicers often think they have too much loft, but this is because an open club face at impact adds loft. Reducing driver loft will lower the ball flight but often results in a bigger slice and less distance and accuracy. If you find that you are slicing your driver, you may actually need to increase the loft in the club head and work on squaring the clubface at impact.

Remember 2 degrees extra loft will only increase your launch angle by 2 degrees. Working on squaring your clubface will straighten out the driver and get you the ball flight and distance you are looking for.

Fade Golf Shot
If you want to learn more about fades and draws, check out this article for more visuals.

The extra loft that an open clubface gives you at impact will also cause you to lose some distance, due to a lower ball speed. Work on releasing the driver just a little sooner and squaring up the clubface if you want to see golf balls that travel straighter down the target line. Or for most slicers, your left-hand golf grip is the key issue causing an open club face.

Most forgiving driver loft?

The more loft you add to your driver, the more forgiving it gets. Think of this like any other golf club loft in your bag, if you have to choose between a 4 iron or a 7 iron, chances are you have an easier time hitting the 7 iron with better accuracy.

When you add loft to a driver, it increases the backspin and therefore makes it easier to hit a straighter driver.

The downfall, of course, is that you will give up some distance.

However, this should be considered carefully because there are some players who, with a more forgiving driver in their hands, will actually gain distance, as they can make a more positive swing or the extra loft helps them hit it into the ideal launch window.

If your driver’s loft is too low, you may not be able to achieve the optimal launch angle, peak height, or spin rates. Therefore by moving to a higher lofted driver, you can increase carry distance by keeping the ball airborne and actually hit it further.

Every golfer has an optimal loft on their driver based on things like attack angle and club speed.

More advanced tips for driver loft

The angle of attack with your golf driver is a major factor in finding the proper loft for your club.

The angle of attack is the direction (angle) in which the clubhead is moving at impact with the golf ball. The angle of attack is measured either as a positive attack angle or a negative attack angle. Positive means the club is moving up away from the ground and will give you a higher loft, and negative means the club is travelling down towards the ground at impact and leads to a lower ball flight. 

For most golfers, the upward attack angle with the driver is ideal. This is why the ball is played towards the front of your golf stance.

Consider your golf ball

There are many golfers who argue that they don’t use more loft, even though they know they need to launch it higher, as they need to reduce backspin on their drives. This is true, but if you fall into this camp you should really look at the golf balls you are using. We find as much as a 20% change in spin rates between premium golf balls!

This means you could jump up from a 10.5 to a 12-degree driver and with a golf ball change see your backspin rates go down! Trust me, this is a sure-fire way for many golfers to gain 10-12 yards with no swing changes or time in the gym.

How do I find the right loft for my driver?

A golf club fitting is the best way to find the right loft for your driver, get on a launch monitor and see those numbers. The average golfer does not have access to golf launch monitors that are detailed and accurate enough to decide if a higher loft driver or lower loft driver is the best solution for your game.

However, if you do have a portable launch monitor, it can work as a good starting point. You can look for data points like launch angle as well as peak height and see if you are falling in the ranges we suggested above.

Play around with adjustable driver lofts until you find one that gets you within those optimal ranges. Of course, finding the best loft through a fitting is a much more direct route and can give you more distance, more confidence, and more accuracy.

Does adjusting my driver loft affect other aspects?

Changing driver loft can impact the spin you put on the ball, the launch angle, as well as the carry and total distance. The idea is to find a loft that optimizes your entire ball flight and helps you shoot lower scores.

Angle of Attack and Impact on Driver Lofts

The quest to find the proper loft in your driver is often considered a decision that is based on swing speed and sometimes even handicap level. However, this leaves the angle of attack factor largely underrepresented. Angle of attack is very important, and the main reason we suggest having a club fitting done to determine your proper driver length.

Ping did a very interesting test where they kept ball speed constant and changed only the angle of attack. What they found was that by changing from a negative angle of attack to a positive angle of attack without even touching the ball speed, the distance of the drive changed by more than 15 yards.

The key takeaway here is that the angle of attack has to match your driver loft, swing speed, and spin rate in order to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions about finding the proper loft on your driver.

What is the loft on a driver?

The loft on the driver is the angle of loft on the clubface when the club is placed ready to hit the golf ball. The loft angle of the clubface combined with your attack angle will impact the launch angle of the driver that you hit. Many modern golf drivers have adjustable lofts.

Driver loft graphics

How do I choose a loft for my driver?

The best way to choose a loft for your driver is to go for a custom golf club fitting. Without the fitting, you can use a golf launch monitor to determine what loft your driver should be by finding the correct launch angle, peak height, and spin rates to maximize distance.

What does 10.5 mean on a driver?

The 10.5 on a driver is a number indicating the amount of loft that the club head has. Other common lofts are 9 degrees, 12 degrees and 14 degrees of loft.

Is 9 degrees of loft on a driver enough?

A 9-degree driver could be enough loft if you have a faster swing speed and don’t need quite as much forgiveness from the golf club you have in play. Lower lofted drivers can give you more distance if you have enough club head speed.

Key Takeaways

  • Driver loft and launch angle are not the same thing; launch angle is the angle the ball takes off after it makes contact with the clubface. Launch angle is the result of the angle of attack and the loft on the driver and impact location.
  • There is no perfect loft on a driver; instead, a golfer’s angle of attack, swing speed, and impact need to be analyzed. Here we’ve given you a detailed guide, but we’d recommend a custom fitting session with a premium launch monitor to figure out your ideal specs.
  • Decreasing driver loft does not always increase distance. Most average swing speed golfers gain distance from increasing driver loft if they can find a way to optimize backspin rates.
  • Increasing driver loft should increase forgiveness.
  • Playing with the correct loft in your driver can help to straighten out a slice or a hook.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you now have a bit more of an understanding of how driver loft works. If you have an adjustable driver, get out to the range and see what you can do for your long game by making some adjustments. Whenever possible, go for a golf club fitting, or find access to a high-quality golf launch monitor to find yourself the necessary data to improve your golf drives.

Happy golfing.

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Britt Olizarowicz is a former teaching and Class A PGA professional with more than 25 years spent with a golf club in her hand. Britt is a small business owner, author, and freelance golf expert that knows this game inside and out. She lives in Savannah, GA, with her husband and two young children.

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