Why do lower lofted golf clubs go further

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The ideal launch angle to get the most distance is 45 degrees, so why does a 20 degree club go further?

In: Physics

45 degrees is only the optimal launch angle in a vacuum, where having as much hangtime as possible isn’t an issue. When air resistance comes into play, you need a much shallower angle for maximum distance. You also typically want the ball to roll as far as possible on a drive, which means that you want to maximize horizontal velocity so that when the ball hits the ground, it keeps going.

There are multiple reasons. A lower lofted club is usually longer, so it will swing faster and will hit the ball harder (same hand speed, if the club is longer, club head will be faster) Also a golf ball is launched with backspin when hit and the higher the loft, the more the backspin. Backspin will make a ball try to “curve” up so it essentially makes the ball slower in the forward direction as it flies. So couple higher swing speeds with less backspin and there is why the ball is going further!

45% in a vacuum to go the furthest before it bounces would be accurate, but there are a lot of other factors to consider. The higher the ball goes in the air the more chance of a crosswind catching the ball and blowing it off course, the ball spins when it is struck and this combined with the dimples on the ball alters the aerodynamics considerably. Once the ball strikes the ground it bounces and rolls a considerable distance more horizontal velocity will mean this roll distance is longer. The length of club and the weight of the head and size of the impact area alter how much force is transferred from the club to the ball.

Ideal launch angle is not 45 degrees.

45 degree is an ideal *ballistic* launch angle (if for example the earth had no atmosphere), but in golfing the ideal launch angle is about 17 degrees and a backspin of about 2200 rpm.

With that backspin the ball will create a lifting surface (see: Flettner rotor) that will keep it flying for longer, while the lower and straighter flight means that there will be less air to fly through (air which will slow down the ball).

How to achieve that ideal launch (and maximum speed) depends on the golfer, so different golfers will select different clubs.

More energy is directed at compression than spin. Higher lofted clubs are more like a glancing blow.

Think of it this way.

With drag from air, the ball starts slowing down immediately after launch. So the beginning of the flight is the time you’re going the fastest.

You want to spend as much of that fastest part moving forward, not up. By the time the ball is falling back to earth, even on a shallow drive, the speed is way lower than the beginning of it’s flight.

Lots of good answers here but everyone is missing the biggest one. Lower lofted clubs contact the ball more directly, resulting in more energy transfer into the ball. Higher lofted clubs impact the ball with a more glancing strike, causing the ball to go launch higher and spin more. Dig into some stats and you’ll see that an ideal strike with a driver has a ball speed 1.5x faster than the clubhead speed, this is called smash factor. So a driver swung at 100mph will produce a ball speed of 150mph. On the other end of the bag, a wedge will have a smash factor of 1.0. So even if you can swing a wedge 100mph, the ball speed produced will only be 100mph. Think of it as a direct blow vs a glancing blow.

Everyone is missing a critical piece here.

Lower lofted clubs aren’t just lower loft, the club is also longer and that has a huge impact on the distance.

A driver is almost a foot longer than a 9 iron. That allows it to generate much much more energy than the shorter club resulting in much longer travel distances. In simple terms, if you hit the ball with a bigger stick, of course it goes further.

The loft helps, but the number one reason why lower loft golf clubs go further is because they are longer and thus transfer more energy.

The only clubs where you have the same length but different lifts are wedges. All of those wedges have angles greater than 45 degrees because you don’t want them to go further, you want them to go way in the air then drop straight down.