What Do You Need for a High Launch Driver?

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Have you heard the term “high launch driver”?

If you set two drivers next to one another, could you tell which one is a “high launch” model?  I’m gonna guess no…  But is it a big deal?  Do you need a high launch driver?

What happens when you have a high launching driver

If you read the post from earlier about high-trajectory, you know that “high launch” and “high trajectory” can be inter-related terms.  When you get a driver that launches high, the trajectory is what’s going to be altered.  Like this:

what a high launching drive looks like

the thin line would be “normal”, while the yellow line is high launching

How to Attain a High Launching Drive

I mention this in the earlier post, but let’s dive a little deeper here.

To get a high launching drive, you need to alter something about yourself and/or the club.  Before we get started, there’s something you should know:

The one true way to get a higher launch to your drives is to add more loft.  The changes to the CG location of a driver aren’t that great, and only the best of the best golfers can truly tell the difference.

But there lies a problem: how do you do it?  There are two ways, which we’ll discuss in-depth.

Option One: get a higher-lofted driver

This is the more straightforward option, but it costs more.

If you’re currently playing a driver with, say, 10.5° of loft, you should think about a higher-lofted driver.  It takes about 2° change to make a noticeable difference.  Let’s see what that looks like:

 

not much of a high launching drive

Only about 43 yards in height

 

Not a very high launch, is it?  Now, let’s see what happens if we bump up to 12.5°:

 

12.5 degrees creates a higher launching drive

Bumping up two degrees adds 27.5 more yards of height!

 

So adding two more degrees makes the new max height 70.5 feet!  But, because there’s always a catch, go back and look at the Back Spin numbers.  What do you see?

  • At 10.5°, the backspin is 2,624 rpms
  • At 12.5°, the backspin is 3,290 rpms

You have to be careful when adding loft.  There’s a chance that, for some golfers, the added backspin will create the dreaded balloon shot.  It launches high, sure, but it doesn’t go as far as it should.

For many slower swingers, though, this isn’t a bad thing.  The extra backspin helps keep the ball in the air longer, which helps them get more distance.

Is there a better way, though?  Maybe…

Option Two: play the ball more forward in your stance

This is the easiest to say but can be the hardest to do.  Look at this pic:

To get a high launch drive, play the ball forward in your stance!

the green line is where the ball should be played

The green line represents where the ball should be played with the driver.  Keep in mind that I’m a lefty, so my target-side foot/heel is my right foot.  If you’re a righty, it’d be the left foot/heel.

Let’s see what that looks like.  First, a refresher:

a level angle of attack and its effect on how high the ball launches

Here it is again, but pay attention to the Angle of Attack, Back Spin, and Max Height numbers

This is the result of a 10.5° driver at a level (0°) Angle of Attack (AoA).  Let’s look at the numbers:

  • Back Spin: 2624 rpms
  • Max Height: 43 feet
  • Launch Angle (a new one): 9.3°

Now, what happens when we “hit up” on the ball?

How high does the ball launch at 3 degrees angle of attack

Look at the numbers now!

A five-degree increase in Angle of Attack is what’s considered “ideal”, but a three-degree increase is a little more doable.  The numbers:

  • Back Spin: 2624 rpms
  • Max Height: 61.5 feet
  • Launch Angle: 12.3°

Just by playing the ball forward in your stance and altering the launch angle three degrees, you get an increase in launch angle of 3°, while keeping the backspin number the same!

You also increase the max height 18.5 feet, which leads to an extra 13 more yards in carry distance!

All that from just playing the ball off your target-side heel!

Think about that: you’re the same, the driver’s the same… all you did was play the ball a little more forward in your stance, and you got an extra 13 yards!

You can tweak it further by experimenting with tee height.

The “ideal” is to have the ball’s equator in-line with the crown of the driver.  Some are comfortable with more, some are with less.

Click here to see an example!

I said it was easy to say, but hard to do, and I did mean it

The reason is psychological.  Some people are used to playing the ball a certain way.  When you move the ball in your stance, it can be tough to convince yourself that you’ll actually hit the ball.  But you can.

Like any change, you gotta practice it.  It’ll be difficult- any change is- but you can do it.  You’ll stumble as you get used to it, but if you’re looking for a more high launching drive, keep at it.  It’ll get better, I promise!

Can a driver effect trajectory?

I mentioned the center of gravity and its minimal effect on creating a high launch driver.  But did you know there’s another spec on a driver that can create more height?

The Roll, and its Role in Creating Height

I’ve talked about bulge before, but to recap:

  • Bulge is the horizontal curvature of the face
  • Roll is the vertical curvature of the face

How do you test roll?  With a credit card.  We did it with bulge, and it looks like this:

can face curvature create a high launch drive?

See the gaps in the corners of the card?

 

You can do that with roll, as well:

Can face roll create a higher-launching drive?

See the gaps in the corners? That’s the vertical curvature of the face!

face roll and high launch drives

Notice how the gaps are easier to see as the card is rocked back and forth?

face roll and high launch drives

When you hit the ball above the center of the face, you’re actually hitting the ball with more loft.

That’s the way roll works.

the effect of launch because of face curvature

Only in the center of the face is it going to be 10.5 degrees

If you didn’t know, when a driver states a certain loft, that measurement’s taken from the center of the face only.  The amount of change is dependent on the driver; much like bulge, not everyone makes face roll the same.

 Did you know you can DIY what your driver’s launch angle is?  Click here to find out how!  

Measuring Roll, and its Effect on Driver Launch

high launch drive and roll

This driver has 8″ of roll

This is the first of three drivers I measured for roll.  I won’t mention the brand and/or models, but know that they are the same brand, just different model years.  If you can guess each, mention it in the comments and I’ll tell you if you’re right!

Anyway, this driver has 8″ of roll.  The next example is for educational purposes; it’s to show an incorrect measurement of roll:

new driver, new roll measurement and its effect on driver launch

See the gap in the center, under the “8” roll/bulge”? That’s incorrectly measuring roll; you don’t want that gap there.

Now, for its real roll measurement:

driver roll and its effect on high launch

This particular model has 12″ of roll

One more, for good measurement:

Roll and its effect on driver launch

10″ of roll

The smaller the number, the more curve the face has.

These drivers are shown out of order.  It should look like this:

  • The first driver will have the 2nd-highest launch on hits above the center of the face. 
  • The second driver will have slightly less (compared to the first example).
  • The third driver, slightly more than that (compared to the first example).

That’s why, in the earlier diagram, I didn’t give numbers.  There’s no blanket-statement I can make on the loft in each position (high, low, center) and its effect on creating a high launch driver.  Each model in the examples has 9.5° of loft, but each will have different numbers above and below the face because they have different roll measurements.

There is a Rule of Thumb, which is what you need to know:

Higher on the face, there’s more loft; lower on the face, there’s less loft.

When you hit above the center of the face, you’re effectively hitting the ball with more loft.  Naturally, that means a higher-launching drive, as well!

That also means that, even if all else is the same, that new driver you bought gives you more distance because it has a higher loft on the spot where you should be hitting it.  I’ll let you mull that one over a bit…

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About the Author

Justin Blair is the founder of Green Lantern Golf. When he isn't bringing his 10+ years of excellent craftsmanship experience to golf club fitting, building, and repair, he's geeking out about Star Wars (he's watched them all about 8,437 times!) and things like the MCU and LOTR, he's drinking mead and craft brews. If you wanna know more, check out my About Page!

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