MyGolfSpy Labs: The Vertical Impact Location Study

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Does where you hit the ball on the club face make a difference?

Stupid question. Of course it does.

Many of you know that hitting the ball high on the face decreases spin, while hitting it low on the face increases spin. And even if you don't understand launch conditions to that degree, you probably didn't need many reps to figure out that when you miss the center of the face, the ball doesn't go nearly as far.

We thought it would be interesting to study how exactly impact location affects launch conditions (ball speed, launch angle, and spin rate) and total distance. Along the way, we found some interesting correlations between the dynamics of the swing itself and the actual point of impact.

About the Data

Before we get to the data, here's a quick recap of where it comes from.

  • Data was gathered during this season's Most Wanted Driver test.
  • Included are data points from over 5000 shots (for this sample, it's actually just under 5700), generated by 20 golfers hitting 25 different drivers.
  • Ball data was gathered using Foresight GC2 Launch Monitors, while the head data, including impact location, comes from an attached Foresight HMT unit.
  • All testers hit Bridgestone B330-RX Golf Balls.
  • For this analysis, we defined the center region as +/- 4.5mm from face center. Arguably this is a generous definition, and we would expect more significant ball speed decreases if  we redefined center more narrowly (+/- 2mm for example).
  • The header graphic (top) shows the impact pattern from our test, though representative of the actual data, it's not exactly to scale with the clubface.

impact-loaction-bnr4

IMPACT LOCATION: ALL TESTERS

The chart below includes shots from all testers across all swing speeds of our 2016 Most Wanted Driver Test.

Observations:

  • As you would expect, the highest ball speed and total distance resulted from center face shots.
  • Ball speed dropped by more than 6 MPH on high face shots, and 2.73 MPH on low face shots.
  • Despite lower ball speed, average distance was greater with high face contact (compared to low face contact) due to higher launch and lower spin.
  • Note that for launch angle, spin, angle of attack, and dynamic loft, center face contact produced the middle value in the chart.

IMPACT LOCATION: SWING SPEEDS OVER 100 MPH

The chart below contains data from shots initiated with swing speeds of 100MPH or more. The fastest swings included in this data approach 130 MPH.

Observations:

  • Ball speed was again greatest on center face contact.
  • Low face ball speed for this group was less than 1MPH slower, however, low face shots resulted in substantially less distance (-10.68 yards) due to significantly lower launch and significantly higher spin.
  • Benefitting from higher launch and lower spin, and despite lower ball speeds, high face impact produced only 1.04 yards less total distance than center face contact.
  • Once again, center face contact produced the middle number for launch angle, spin, angle of attack and dynamic loft.

IMPACT LOCATIONS: SWING SPEEDS UNDER 100 MPH

The chart below contains data from shots initiated with swing speeds of 100MPH or more. The slowest swings included in this data are just under 75 MPH.

Observations:

  • No surprise, center face contact again produced the highest average ball speeds.
  • For sub-100 MPH swings, low face contact produced ball speeds just over 1 MPH slower, while high face contact resulted in a loss of nearly 5 MPH on average.
  • That loss is, in part, due to lower clubhead speed, which we'll discuss in more detail below.
  • Interestingly, among this group, low face contact resulted in 3.74 more yards on average over high face contact.
  • This is likely due to the significantly higher ball speeds (+3.82 MPH) from swings resulting in low face contact.
  • Swings in the lower end of the group may also benefit from higher spin.
  • Note that, once again, center face contact produced the middle number for launch angle, spin, angle of attack and dynamic loft.

Additional Notes:

  • There appears to be a correlation between club head speed and impact location - and it holds true for both group averages and individual tester data.
  • When high face impact occurred, corresponding swing speeds were, on average, lower than those that resulted in center face and low face contact.
  • Also worth noting, high face contact was generally accompanied by a steeper angle of attack and less dynamic loft*.
  • For all but our lower swing speed players, low face contact was accompanied by a more upward angle of attack coupled with the presentation of more dynamic loft.

*Loft or static loft is the physical (actual) loft of the club, Dynamic Loft is the actual loft of the club face delivered to the ball at impact.

The Verdict:

At the risk of stating the obvious, impact location matters - and our data supports exactly what we've been told for years.

  • High Face impact results in higher launch and lower spin; often with a measurable decrease in ball speed.
  • Low Face impact results in lower launch with higher spin; often with less drop-off in ball speed.
  • The decreased ball speed and distance from non-center contact suggests OEMs have a tremendous opportunity to increase ball speed resiliency over a greater percentage of the face.
  • Interestingly, the data suggests that slower swingers may be better off missing low on the face, while higher swing speed players are better served by missing high.
  • That said, middle of the face contact is best.

About Tony Covey

Tony is the editor of mygolfspy. His coverage of golf equipment extends far beyond the facts as dictated by the companies that created them.

He believes in performance over hype. #PowerToThePlayer

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Comments

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

fatscot October 12, 2016 at 5:07 pm

This was a really interesting articles and looks to me start to provide some statistical evidence for why, through trial and error, Pros generally seem to prefer a neutral to descending blow on driver swings.

Regarding the AoA and the strike location on the face, the trackman guys have long been into this correlation and believe it to be very strong; i.e. if you teach someone with a steep AoA to hit the bottom of face of their driver their AoA will naturally shallow out or if your teach someone that is hitting the bottom of the face all the time to hit down more (steepen) they will start hitting it higher on the face. In fact, my friend who is a trackman master says that with a driver AoA that is down greater than 5 deg you will never hit below the centre of the face and most of your strikes will be high.

Funnily enough I have a Newtons time cradle on my screensaver and I think it provides a simple model for why this correlation exists. If the face of the club is pointing down then the collision between the centre of masses of both the ball and club will take a vector through the top of the club and vice versa. As the AoA becomes more downward the face points more vertically and the vector moves higher up the face. Before I get hammered this is a simple model that does not cover non solid blows or swings that are not on an Arc.

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Tony Covey October 12, 2016 at 5:27 pm

The correlation between angle of attack, dynamic loft, and impact location makes perfect sense. When you hit down, you deloft and more or less point the top of the face at the ball. It’s the relative correlation to swing speed that has me spinning.

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fatscot October 13, 2016 at 3:30 pm

I love these kinds of discoveries, especially when you see statistical evidence bringing some concrete to historic wisdom.

For what it is worth my theory is, feel free to disprove it (hint hint as to your next article 😉 ) the correlation is primarily due to the relationship with spin and acheving optimal launch conditions. My view belief is the slower you swing the less spin you are able to generate to provide the additional lift necessary to keep the ball in the air. Therefore using a lower strike both raises the launch angle and raises the ball spin providing additional lift to increase carry. I think that once you are over 107 mph (approximately 150 mph ball speed) then actually spin starts to hurt forward trajectory and actually lowering spin starts to be important….

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Mike October 12, 2016 at 2:04 pm

As many other have said, I’d love some heel/toe data to supplement this.

Also, there’s a belief out there that unless you’re hitting a very low spin driver (which many these days actually are), the ideal strike location is slightly high and slightly toe. High to take some spin off and raise launch angle, toe because the toe end of the club is actually moving a bit faster than the heel – so you get a bit more speed. I’d love to see this idea put to the test with this much data already at hand.

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Mike October 11, 2016 at 10:00 pm

Responding to Steve Chandler comment on facebok (I don’t do social media) – I have observed exactly what you noticed regarding impact position. In a test I witnessed by a newly minted PGA professional using a 2015 Great Big Bertha Driver – he had heard that the sweet spot was high face toe-ward. Using a Foresight GC2 monitor, the pro could and would hit on demand various spots on the GBB driver face – and invariably the longest shots were all located high face toe-ward. The results here also reflected what was found in the MGS test described.
So this entire test seems to make sense to me and I have seen first hand results using at least one driver make / model used by a accomplished golfer.

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Dan Mackey October 11, 2016 at 8:48 pm

Great info!!! Can you do the same thing for center, heal and toe hits? Please, with center line miss info too???

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Lane October 11, 2016 at 12:49 am

Love your work. These tests are fantastic! I can’t believe how many conversations I have on the golf course telling people to check out the MGS blog and website.

I would loooove if you could test the Knuth golf driver. They’ve made some big claims against the mainstream drivers. Time for a head to head face off.

http://www.knuthgolf.com/products-a/260.htm
Check it out

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Sherwin October 10, 2016 at 3:19 pm

Did you do any testing regarding strikes near the toe and heel of the club and how that effects these numbers?

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Mbwa Kali Sana October 10, 2016 at 3:18 pm

A very interesting and compréhensive study .Alas ,complétely useless in réal Life golf ,since you have nô means to contrôl THE point OF contact between THE Ball and THE clubface .You choose OF course THE TEE height ,but then you just swing and do your best .I expérimented with THE stickers on THE clubface and with THE Dr SCHOLL spray ,but this is purely anecdotic ,it doesn’t tell you HOW you make contact with THE sweet spot .( Curiously ,by THE way ,I was THE CEO OF Dr SCHOLL at one périod OF my business Life .Our spray was designed for THE Sore feet ,not for THE golf club face !)

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Steve K October 10, 2016 at 5:21 pm

“complétely useless in réal Life golf ,since you have nô means to contrôl THE point OF contact between THE Ball and THE clubface”

What??? Are the pros randomly good at hitting the center of the clubface? No. Like Allen Iverson said… we talkin’ bout practice!

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Buckical October 10, 2016 at 2:48 pm

Always interesting to see your variety of tests….some tend to relate more to high swing speed than I have, but all very interesting. However, I’m wondering if there is any way to establish just what the norm of driver swing speed is of “patrons” on this site? I once was around 100/105 mph. Unfortunately, age has reduced that to, at best, 85/87. That’s when I’m feeling good! Just want you to keep in mind that I would imagine a relatively high % of “fans” on here share my position…….Problem is, even if you find, for example, that “golden grail” shaft, you know, the one we oldsters can stick on a driver head and reclaim the lost distance we (probably never) had back in our youth, we would no doubt forget where we read about it!… While I’m thinking about it, any chance of obtaining one of those black putter covers (The MY SPY) that I bought couple years ago (the one someone pilfered)? Enough said…have a good one Tony!

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Mbwa Kali Sana October 10, 2016 at 3:24 pm

Dear fellow senior Golfer .You CAN keep clubhead speed from diminishing by exercising every DAY ,working on flexibility ( See ROGER FRÉDÉRICK exercises) and taking ” dry run ” practice swings at home with overspeed/underspeed clubs .

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Buckical October 10, 2016 at 4:05 pm

Hello… You are correct, of course…however, I have incorporated the Frederick exercises, and I still use both swing “gizmo’s”, but I still got older! Seriously, I find my “famous” relative “uncle Arthur” has moved in permanently it seems, and it makes it more and more difficult to obtain the results I would like. You would think that a new hip, new knee, new shoulder would alleviate some of my problems, but that does not appear to be in the cards. The good thing is, I still am able to play, and will continue as long as this “rebuilt—in transition” body allows!
Thanks for your comment….lol

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Jimbo October 10, 2016 at 1:44 pm

I get strange looks at the driving range when I spray the face of my driver with Dr. S’s foot powder. It’s great instant feedback for impact position. I’ve shared that technique with others, including total strangers. Every one of them are surprised when they see the results. If you want more distance you may not need a new driver, just improve your impact position.
Excellent article MGS! Keep it up.

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Steven C October 10, 2016 at 1:32 pm

Another great test. Thanks for the data.

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ryebread October 10, 2016 at 12:50 pm

Your results here are consistent with what I’ve seen over many hours of driver testing across many different drivers on my monitors. For those that I might doubt, my completely unrelated research suggests the same thing. You are citing total yards but it might be interesting for people who haven’t looked into this to see the carry yardage vs. roll yardage because that’s where that low hit, high spin shot really stands out from that high on the face, low spin shot.

What I’d be interested in hearing is a part two where you take a couple of extreme examples of high vs low CG and face forward vs face back and repeat the same test. How much does say a Bombtech Grenade and a King LTD change the impact of a high vs. low strike? How much does a SLDR or Aeroburner change this vs a Ping G30? We heard a lot of conversations about how changing CG changes dynamic loft, and this is where it ought to show up.

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Uhit October 10, 2016 at 8:05 pm

You name it:

Beef!

Also interesting would be to expand part two with a part three,
where shaft properties, like kick point and stiffness (bend profile), are also involved…

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GilB October 10, 2016 at 12:45 pm

Thank you again for testing and providing us golfers with extremely interesting and insightful testing data.

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Dan October 10, 2016 at 12:05 pm

As Scientist said, it would be interesting to dive into the data in a little more depth regarding attack angle. I don’t see any negative attack angles in your study but the lower attack angle and high face impact on both the higher speed and lower speed players would indicate to me that at least some of them have a negative attack angle. Good article on the general indication to hit on the center or slightly above center. I think the results of the lower speed swingers getting better results hitting it lower on the face are a little misleading. If you look at the spin numbers, I think the Total Yards may not be as realistic as what actually occurs out on the course. Because every golfer is unique, optimizing performance also requires matching the right head and shaft to that particular golfer. Still, good insight.

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Tony Covey October 10, 2016 at 1:16 pm

There’s definitely been some interesting stuff to come out of this ones. As I mentioned in our previous post, it’s always tough to…I guess you might say…balance the data load. We don’t want to underwhelm and we don’t want to overwhelm the reader with data. Hindsight, I’d definitely add carry distance to our charts as well, and there’s a case to be made that we should have looked to put the individual golfer stuff in a dynamic chart.

As far as the specifics go…in this test, we had more positive AoA guys than negative, so that’s why the average data shows positive, but in general terms, what was true for the positive guys was also true for the negative ones. What I found most interesting was the apparent correlation between swing speed, angle of attack, and ultimately impact location.

We could have (and probably should have) included carry distance. Those show what you’d expect (a bit less carry and more roll on high face, a bit more carry and less roll on low face), but the averages, anyway, were reasonable proportional to the total distance (at least under the Foresight roll models).

Distance variations notwithstanding, the apparent relationship between swing speed and ultimately impact (both within the group averages and on an individual basis) is interesting. Frankly, I’m not sure what to make of it just yet, but the fact that we see it both in our group averages and in (I think) 90% of the individual cases, is fascinating.

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David J Rose October 10, 2016 at 11:49 am

Excellent piece. Useful for all golfers.

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Scientist October 10, 2016 at 11:22 am

I believe angle of attack is having a bigger effect then you are giving it credit for. I’d like to see test results from shots that are hit high on the face, but with the club having a positive angle of attack vs the descending angle high on face stats you listed. I think you’ll see a significant difference. (Test using 4 inch tees, and have them set higher than their standard recommended setting, and make sure the ball is forward in setup so that are arc is going upward when the ball is caught).

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Kenny B October 10, 2016 at 12:00 pm

You would think that is the case, but I have a 4* positive AoA and when I tee it high, my tendency is to hit the ball lower on the face.

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Tony Covey October 10, 2016 at 12:25 pm

The correlations we found are quite interesting. It’s important to understand that optimization charts largely assume center contact. And so, yeah, if you can hit the center of the face with a more ascending angle of attack, then all of the spin loft equations work like they’re supposed to and you get more distance. That’s perfect world stuff.

What our data show is, for us anyway, an interesting correlation between more a more ascending angle of attack (on a relative basis) and low face impact. The key here is that it’s all relative. So for an individual tester (I’m making up numbers for simplicity’s sake), you might see a tendency for something like this:

100 MPH – AoA 1.5° – reduction in dynamic loft – high face contact
102 MPH – AoA 2.0° – our baseline for dynamic loft – centered contact
101.5 MPH – AoA 2.5° – increased- dynamic loft – low face contact

Focusing exclusively on AoA, 2.5 should be better than 2.0 for reducing spin loft, however, the increase in dynamic loft increases the spin loft, and so you lose a bit of that benefit. By the same token, the lower dynamic loft, reduces spin loft for lower AoA higher face contact. And that’s before we look at actual ball speed differences.

My point is that while AoA is extremely important for maximizing distance, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Ideally what you want is a more positive AoA without a corresponding increase in dynamic loft, while also maintaining centered contact. It turns out, that’s doesn’t happen very often.

What was interesting to us is the correlation between decreased swing speed, steeper AoA, less dynamic loft, and ultimately high face contact.

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Gary October 10, 2016 at 11:21 am

Since all OEM drivers have approximately 10″ radius of face roll, It would be interesting to test a Tom Wishon driver with his Graduated Roll Technology.

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Steve S October 10, 2016 at 11:21 am

Thanks, Tony. Always wondered what the differences are. I’m usually only interested in carry distances since “roll out” depends so much on course conditions. Is it possible to add carry distance to your charts?

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Kenny B October 10, 2016 at 11:20 am

It’s nice to see actual test data that supports what we have been told. Thanks. I’m in the slower swinging category, and I can say through my observations that I tend to hit more balls low on the face, which works out OK if playing on hard turf; more roll. I have been working on hitting higher on the face and have been getting more carry which I need when the fairways are softer.

Any data coming on shots towards the toe and heel??

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Gary G October 10, 2016 at 11:50 am

I agree with Kenny B about data on heal and toe hits. I don’t know to many golfers who hit every shot in the center of the face(although I wish I could). I tend to hit bad shots toward the toe.

Thanks,Gary

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Steve K October 10, 2016 at 5:16 pm

Agree. Would like to see the same data presented for heel/toe off center strikes, with not only distance information but also dispersion from center landing zone.

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NJV October 10, 2016 at 11:16 am

I love these test and I think they’re incredibly useful in understanding the swing….I would have been interested to see the disbursement data on those hits as well….maybe adjusting the tee length might help to “miss on the good” side??? Does that make sense? I have a a consistent swing speed between 100 – 105 mp/hr with the driver but when I miss low I tend to pull the drive as opposed to hitting high on the club face usually results in a spray to the right. Anyway…..Keep these test coming….information is power. Thanks

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