Launch Angle Vs Angle Of Attack In Golf – Everything You Need To Know
Golf is a really technical sport. The golf swing is one of the most complicated movements in sport. It is no surprise then that many of the stats you can get from your swing is very technical. There is absolutely no shame in not knowing what some of these terms mean, there are a lot of them.
Two phrases you hear mentioned a lot are launch angle and angle of attack. Whilst many may be able to describe what these mean, do you really know what they are? This article will take it back to basics and help you truly understand what these phrases are all about.
Overview And Why It’s Important To Know The Difference
Firstly, one of these statistics is measured before the impact and the other after. Angle of attack (AoA) is a reference to how your club is approaching the golf ball before you hit it. Launch angle (LA) is a reference to how the ball flies after the strike.
These two stats are somewhat related as AoA can affect LA, as you may imagine. Some people get these two figures mixed up so just remember that attack refers to attack the ball and you should remember that it comes first. Let’s get more technical.
What Is Angle Of Attack?
Angle of attack is summed up really nicely in this video. It is defined as the up or down movement of the club as it impacts the ball and the angle is relative to the ground. Drivers should have a positive AoA as you hit up on them, irons are negative as you hit down on them.
What Is Launch Angle?
Launch angle is a measure of the angle between the ground and the path go the ball as it takes off. It is a measure that is very closely related to the dynamic loft of the club at impact, something we will come onto later in a bit more detail. This factor plays an important role in shot distance.
How Does Angle of Attack Affect Launch Angle?
Consider the driver for this question, the higher the positive AoA the higher the LA should be as you literally lift the ball into the air.
This is where dynamic loft comes into things. Dynamic loft (DL) is a measure of the loft of the club at impact, so a 56 degree wedge may have 45 degrees of DL.
This matters because Launch Angle is made up of a combination of Dynamic loft and Angle of Attack.
In fact, roughly 85% of your DL and 15% of you AoA create the LA of the ball. This can all be measured, calculated and optimised on a launch monitor.
Does Angle of Attack Affect Spin Rates?
Yes, it does and learning how to take advantage of this can add some serious free distance.
By hitting down on the ball, a negative AoA, spin rates are significantly higher than when you hit up on the ball, a positive AoA. This reduction in spin rate translates into distance.
What About The Loft Of The Club?
The concept of loft has changed a bit in recent years. Back in the day, loft referred to that number that is stamped into the head, nowadays there are two other concepts to bear in mind, dynamic loft and spin loft. Let’s explore these in a little more detail.
Simply put, dynamic loft is the loft of the club at impact. Spin loft is roughly the angle between dynamic loft and AoA, this influences the spin rate of your shots greatly. Hitting down on the ball more, increasing negative AoA, with a lofted club increases spin loft and so spin rate.
Launch Angle Vs Dynamic Loft
The higher your dynamic loft, the higher the launch angle will be. This is why it is so important to get that right during any custom fitting session. You may pick a lower loft driver, but a softer-tipped shaft, a higher dynamic loft and lost distance through non-optimal launch conditions.
Dynamic Loft Vs Spin Rate
Dynamic loft will affect your spin rate negatively if the spin loft is too great.
This can produce excessive spin rates which can cause your ball to “balloon” up into the air and stall. Have you ever experienced a ball that seems to fly high then fall out of the air? That’s it.
How Can You Measure Angle of Attack and LA?
The easiest and most accurate way to get this information is to get onto a launch monitor like the Trackman, FlightScope or GCQuad. These instruments are incredibly impressive at inspecting what your club is doing before, during and after impact.
It is worth speaking to a coach who can help explain this data to you and help you understand the mechanics of your swing. He/She can help you learn how to improve your swing to optimise your swing and gain as much as possible from your action.
What’s The Optimal Angle of Attack For Your Driver?
There is a huge amount of debate around this between instructors on tour. Hitting up on the driver can give you more distance but the more you hit up the higher your dispersion can be. Think of long drive competitors, they have an AoA of 6-8 and they can be both long and wild!
So, with that in mind, the optimal AoA is slightly up, something around 2-3 degree probably. The PGA Tour average is actually -1.2 degrees so there certainly is an element of “each to their own” on this front. The science does suggest that a slightly positive AoA is beneficial.
How Can You Improve It?
So you’ve got yourself some time on a launch monitor and relayed that you could improve your mechanics a little bit. These improvements should be taken under the watch of an expert coach who can guide you and help you optimize maximally.
If you have a very steep AoA, working to shallow that out gradually and then even get it to a positive figure would be great. This is something that will give you added distance very quickly, it is a process I have done myself and the benefits are incredible.
What’s The Optimal Angle of Attack For Your Irons?
Given that not all irons are created equally, we need to separate this one down a little further, you see, your long irons will need a different AoA than your mid and short irons. Getting these right will have great benefits.
These are notoriously the hardest clubs in the bag to hit well and consistently. This is one reason that golfers often turn to hybrids instead. However, getting your AoA right on long irons can really make everything easier. Too many hit down too much and have a real negative AoA.
For long irons you want to generate a negative AoA, it definitely helps to have a descending blow on all irons, however, less loft should mean less negative. You want a shallower AoA of around minus three degrees for optimal long iron performance.
As we move down the bag and into the more lofted irons, accuracy becomes more and more important and distance less so. As we’ve discussed already, a negative AoA will help you generate spin, this is control that can help you hold the ball on the green.
A slightly more negative AoA will help you in the mid irons, something around minus four is the PGA Tour average and this is a good number for you to aim towards. This can actually give you a lower ball flight and will allow the spin on the ball to take charge of the trajectory.
We are now right into the scoring clubs. This is where we want to be throwing darts at flags and controlling the ball as much as possible to help lower our scores. Spin is our friend and ally, to a point, so we should be trying to optimize this.
Have you ever watched tour golf and paid attention to the size of divots that golfers take with their wedges? They are huge! The average AoA for wedges goes to minus five degrees and even less as the try to zip that ball close in to the pin for birdies.
What’s A Steep Angle of Attack And How To Correct It
From reading the sections above, you would be forgiven for thinking that getting steeper and steeper on your wedges, for example, can only be a good thing. However, getting too steep can cause too much spin, fat shots and misses to the left. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
If you are getting too steep, hitting full shots from a practice bunker can be really helpful as a way of learning how to shallow out. You won’t be able to hit the ball until you are more shallow. Another good drill is to hit shots from a very low tee and try to sweep it from the tee.
Is A Flatter Golf Swing Better?
Think of some of the really flat swings out there like Matt Kuchar or Rickie Fowler, is your swing like that? In that case you definitely don’t want to go any flatter. My swing is quite upright and so I have been working on getting a little flatter to help with my AoA which can be quite steep.
It is worth filming your swing when you are at the driving range. If you do swing quite steep then a flatter swing will definitely help you improve your swing dynamics. If you hit the ball really high and often struggle with a hook, these can be signs of coming over the top and getting really steep.
How To Lower Your Spin Rate With Your Driver
Excess spin with the driver absolutely kills distance. One of the best ways to improve your spin rates on your driver is to start “hitting up” on it. This video will help you with how to set-up etc, but this is something that many amateur golfers get wrong and it is just a quick fix.
Essentially, by shifting your bodyweight slightly at address and focussing on catching the ball on the upswing, you will kill spin and launch the ball into the air. Other things you can do are change to a lower spin shaft with the help of a fitting expert to kill that spin.
Swing Direction And Attack Angle
When you get yourself on a lunch monitor you feel like your swing is naked. There is literally nowhere to hide as the data shows everything about your action in black and white figures. This is a positive thing though as you can learn what needs to improve and get to work quickly.
Many golfers who have an overly steep AoA also have a swing direction from right to left as they come over the top and into the ball. This can be the cause of many problems for steeper swings. Getting on a launch monitor with a pro can revolutionize your game as you see this kind of thing.
Does Adjusting Driver Loft Open The Face?
Adjustable drivers have many great benefits and the ability to tinker with the loft is up there with the best of them. Depending on the brand of the driver, you need to be careful when you increase the loft that you don’t also change anything else like the lie.
On a normal adjustable driver, increasing the loft shouldn’t open the face. When you buy a new driver or even with your current one, go see you club pro and have them adjust it for you. Get on a launch monitor and ask them to optimize the set-up with you under their expertise.
Just when you thought golf was already technical enough, more and more measures of the swing come out and there is more to learn. Launch monitors are incredibly powerful tools to help you with your game but they need to be used properly as they can easily overwhelm you.
If you can work to get your Angle of Attack and Launch Angle figures looking good you will see huge benefits in how far you start to hit the ball. Getting a lesson with a pro who uses a launch monitor can really help you to get these measure right and your game can benefit greatly. Get an appointment booked now!