5 Distance Questions With TaylorMade's Brian Bazzell
A: To maximize your driving distance you need three things – speed, launch, and spin. The swingspeed portion of the equation is obviously up to the individual, but launch and spin are things we can really help optimize. The key is to launch the ball high with low spin – actually the ideal target for maximum distance is 17-degrees of launch with 1700-rpm of spin. Clubs like our SLDR and SLDR S that feature a low, forward CG location produce lower spin, which also increases ball speed. All you have to do is play more loft, maybe a lot more than you’ve ever played before, like 14-degrees in some cases, and you can get a lot closer to those magic distance numbers.
Q: Are there some common misconceptions among average golfers regarding driving distance?
A: There are definitely two big myths. The first one, that slower swingspeed players need more spin to maximize their distance, is prevalent and it’s totally wrong. To hit the ball longer, players with moderate swingspeed do not need more spin, they simply need a higher launch angle. And players with slower swings tend to produce less spin to begin with, making it easier for them to reach the desired 17-degree launch, 1700-rpm combination. Get a driver with more loft and you’ll hit it longer. The second myth is that clubs with deeper CG locations are better for average players because they’re more forgiving. While it’s true that a more forward CG location tends to produce a slightly lower MOI, we’ve found that the significant distance gains that come from lower spin and higher ball speed far outweigh whatever slight forgiveness gains a deep CG driver might provide.
Q: Some players seem to hit their 3-wood as long or even longer than their driver. Why is that and what can they do to get more out of their driver?
A: There are several factors involved but by far the biggest cause of that situation is launch angle. Most 3-woods are around 15-degrees, which obviously produces a much higher launch angle than a 9- or 10-degree driver. Though a fairway wood spins more than a driver the added spin is not what produces the distance. Actually, the higher spin rate hurts these players but the higher launch is so valuable in terms of distance gains that they still hit their 3-wood better than their driver. Another factor is shaft length. Drivers tend to be over 45” while 3-woods are more like 43.5”. Though you lose some swingspeed with a shorter shaft it makes it easier for many players to make solid contact, which produces better ball speed and a higher launch. Our SLDR Mini driver addresses this exact issue – it’s 43.5”, produces very low spin, and is available in higher lofts. If you hit your 3-wood as long or longer than your driver you need to check out a club like our SLDR Mini.
Q: So are a lot of players better off trying to swing under control and make solid contact, or do they still need to go after it if they want to drive it long?
A: There’s no doubt that solid contact is key to maximizing distance. In fact a lot of Tour players will give up a bit of speed in order to hit it solid. But with all the technologies we put into our woods, especially the 430cc and 460cc drivers, the average player can swing aggressively and still make the type of contact required to hit long shots. I say go for it and give it a healthy rip.
Q: The original SLDR, which was introduced last year, quickly became the most popular driver on Tour, yet TaylorMade just introduced the SLDR S. Is the new model actually a better choice for some players?
A: The SLDR S has a little bigger footprint and a bit friendlier look at address, which simply gives some players a bit more confidence. The original SLDR is a fantastic product and has an adjustable hosel but it’s also more expensive. The SLDR S driver is offered in a lot of higher lofts, so finding a model that fits your swing isn’t a problem. It’s also a slightly lighter club, which makes it easier to swing for the average player. The fairway wood and hybrid are a bit more low profile than the original SLDR making them easier to launch. If you were interested in the original SLDR but thought it was too expensive or too Tour-centric, the SLDR S is for you.
-Brian Bazzell is TaylorMade senior director of product creation, metalwoods
(Photo: Courtesy of TaylorMade)