Golf is a never ending quest to try and play your best. Whether that means changing your swing, buying new equipment, getting lessons, and everything in between.
One area that can have a big impact on your game is your driver. Some average golfers fear a driver and leave it in the bag for their more trusty 3-wood. While others love their driver and hit it as often as possible.
The better you can hit it off the tee, the easier it is to score well. While there are a lot of components to becoming a good driver of the golf ball, the loft on your driver is a big factor.
I’m sure you’ve asked yourself, “What loft should my driver be?”
As you’ll learn today, picking the right driver loft can be easy or slightly complex to try and get the most distance possible. But the last thing I want to do is overwhelm you with technical jargon that might not help you play better golf.
So, to help you find the perfect driver loft, I broke this into two parts; the beginner version (for everyday recreational golfers) and the advanced version (for those who are serious about reaching their golf potential).
Driver Loft Pt 1: Beginner
If you’re struggling to hit the ball consistently well off the tee, your loft might be to blame. While there are a lot of factors to consider including the driver head, shaft weight, shaft flex, and more, loft should be a top priority.
Too many golfers try to hit a lower lofted driver to get more distance. This is because most people think about loft and assume, “Higher loft means the ball won’t go as far.”
While it makes sense in theory as your 6-iron has much less loft than your pitching wedge and thus, goes much farther. But you also need to consider shaft length and club speed too.
When it comes to driver ball flight, it’s an entirely different story. Playing an 8-degree driver vs. a 10-degree driver doesn’t guarantee that you’ll hit it longer. For some golfers this might be the case but everyone has to experiment to find the optimal loft.
Let’s dive into why that’s the case…
Most Golfers Need More Driver Loft
If you’re an everyday golfer, remember these two statements:
- Driver loft can help you hit if further
- More bounce can help you get out of the bunkers
While I won’t go into why bounce is your friend in the bunkers (read more about that here), driver loft is also an ally for most players. The first reason why more loft is a good idea for the everyday golfer is that it will help you hit it longer (with both carry distance and maximum distance).
So, how does more loft help you hit it further?
Loft can help golf balls stay in the air longer and thus, have more carry and roll for longer total distance. This is especially good for those with a slower swing speed or don’t have an upward attack angle. There is a reason beginner drivers all have higher lofts.
Another reason why most players can benefit as much loft is accuracy off the tee. Because who doesn’t want to hit more fairways? For most golfers, a slice is all too common and a lower lofted driver can actually make it even worse.
The lower the loft on your big stick, the easier it is to have a more severe slice. If you’re slicing the golf ball more than you care to admit, you would benefit from a 10.5 degree or maybe even 11+ degree driver. This will help straighten out your ball flight and likely increase total distance too.
Standard Driver Lofts
So, what is the best driver loft without getting into all the details the average golfer doesn’t need?
Driver lofts for most golf clubs range from roughly 8-11 degrees. For example, the popular Callaway Rogue ST Max driver has three options; 9, 10.5 degree, and 12 degree actual loft. While the TaylorMade Stealth is available in the same three options.
Overall, the best loft is a higher lofted driver that will benefit the majority of players. 9.5-10.5 degrees of loft. Paired with the right ball position, a shaft that helps get the proper spin rate, and proper driver attack angle will lead to more consistent drives.
Faster swing speeds or those who have downward attack angle might benefit from less loft (more on that in the next section).
Driver Loft Pt 2: Advanced
The first section is a good starting point but there’s a lot more we can get into when it comes to finding the correct loft on your new driver. If you’re reading this section, chances are you’re ready to geek out some golf knowledge to play your best.
Getting the right golf clubs, including driver loft, can help your ball flight, consistency, and confidence. Here are some other factors to consider when it comes to picking the right loft for your driver.
The first thing you need to figure out before deciding on a loft is your swing speed.
So, why is swing speed so important?
Swing speed is the speed of the club that is traveling right before impact (also known as club head speed). The faster the speed, the more distance.
The highest recorded speed ever was 156 mph by Connor Powers during the 2014 World Long Drive Championship. Obviously, 99.99% of us aren’t long drive champions and thus, need a different loft to match a lower swing speed.
So, what’s the average speed for a male golfer?
According to a study from Trackman, who collected data from more than 10,000 golfers, the average male amateur has a 93.4 mph club speed for a total distance of 214 yards.
The study also found that only 7% of players swing over 110mph (the PGA Tour Average is 113mph and LPGA is 94mph) and 45% of players were between 91-100mph.
This is the most common swing speed for the everyday golfer. Take a look at the graph below to see more average swing speed numbers. (Make sure to read the full article on average distances for golfers.)
So, why does all this matter when it comes to picking the right loft for your driver?
Because the more speed you create in your swing, the less loft you likely need with a driver.
One of the more general rules in Golf Digest, Golf Magazine, and other publications is that higher handicap players need more loft. This is a general rule but as you’ll learn below, there are other factors too. This is because slower swing speeds don’t have as much speed and those players can’t get the ball high enough to max out distance.
A lot of times golfers would buy a club that didn’t have enough loft and their drives would suffer as a result.
How to Measure Swing Speed
Step one is measuring your swing speed which is pretty easy thanks to personal launch monitors. If you’ve already bought your own launch monitor for a golf simulator setup or to make practice more efficient, use it to measure your driver swing speed.
After warming up for 20-30 balls, work your way up to hitting the driver. Then, hit 10 shots and notate the average swing speed (not to be confused with ball speed) of the driver. Take the average of the 10 balls and you will have a baseline to work with.
If you haven’t invested in a personal launch monitor yet, you can also get this measurement at your local golf store. You don’t need to do a personal club fitting either and they should help you 100% free.
The second metric to figure out before picking loft is your attack angle.
This Golf Digest article provided some extra insight about the importance of attack angle. Specifically, how players now have a positive attack angle, which wasn’t always the case in the past.
“With an upward angle of attack, a player creates a more dynamic loft at impact, or the way the loft measures at impact compared to its static measurement. With less measured loft, an upward angle of attack and more dynamic loft, you’re creating the opportunity for high launch and less spin, a key metric for longer drives that hit the ground on a flatter angle, leading to more rollout.”
The same article went on to discuss how attack angle is changing. The PGA Tour average actually has a negative attack angle vs. the LPGA Tour where players have a positive attack angle. The upward angle compared to a downward angle is quite different and why each type of player needs the right loft for their golf swing.
The third thing to think about is launch angle which is different from attack angle. Launch angle is referred to as the angle the ball takes off relative to the horizon. This number is closely related to dynamic loft which we’ll cover in the next section.
According to certified fitter Jamie McConnell, “Having the correct launch angle and combining it with the correct spin rate is really important in order to get the most out of a golfer’s clubs during a fitting. Too high or too low a launch angle and the golfer will lose distance.”
The average launch angle on the PGA Tour is just shy of 11 degrees while the LPGA average is about 13 degrees. What about amateure golfers?
Trackman found this data for male amateurs launch angles:
- Scratch or better = 11.2 degrees
- 5 handicap = 11.2 degrees
- 10 handicap = 11.9 degrees
- “Average handicap golfer” (14.5) = 12.6 degrees
- 18 handicap = 12.1 degrees
In the past, it was easier for players to learn which loft they needed based on clubhead speed and skill level. But something called dynamic loft is making it a little more complex when it comes to picking the right driver loft.
Trackman Golf describes dynamic loft as, “The vertical angle of the club face at the center-point of contact between the club and ball at the time of maximum compression. Dynamic Loft is the amount of loft on the clubface at impact and is measured relative to the horizon.”
So, what affects dynamic loft?
A lot of factors including:
- How the shaft bends at impact
- How the golfer releases the club
- Attack angle (as previously mentioned)
- The club face (open or closed to the path)
- Where the club makes contact with the ball
This is why it’s not as simple as saying slower swing speeds need more loft. Does that rule hold true for the most part? Yes, but it’s not quite as cut and dry as it was in the past now that we can measure dynamic loft.
But as Trackman discussed in the same article, dynamic loft is wildly important. Here’s why…
“Creating the proper dynamic loft is important to creating the optimal trajectory and maximizing carry. Too much dynamic loft can send the ball too high into the air and reduce the golfer’s distance. Too little dynamic loft can send the ball too low making the ball roll out excessively causing it difficult to judge distance.”
Here are the Trackman averages of dynamic loft based on different type of handicaps:
- Scratch or better = 13 degrees
- 5 handicap = 13.2 degrees
- 10 handicap = 14.1 degrees
- “Average handicap golfer” (14.5) = 15.1 degrees
- 18 handicap = 14.3 degrees
Dynamic loft is an important factor in dialing in the right loft and why working with a club fitter might be the best solution.
The final thing to consider with picking the right driver shaft and loft are the spin rates. This is where you might need to work with a fitter to try out different shafts. For solid ball strikers, playing the right shaft is arguably more important than loft or clubhead.
The wrong shaft can make golf a lot harder as your misses will be all over the golf course. But the right shaft can make the game a lot easier by creating consistent shots and a tighter shot dispersion.
According to Graff Golf, “When the average PGA Tour player hits a driver, their spin rate is typically in the area of 2,700 RPMs. For a player who is a scratch handicap, their average is right around 2,900 RPMs. If you are a 10-handicap, you are probably around 3,200 RPMs.”
FAQs About Driver Loft
Do you still have questions about finding the right amount of loft for your driver? Check out our FAQs and answers below to find out more now.
What loft driver do pros use?
Professional golfers use all types of loft and are 100% dependent on their swing speed, attack angle, launch angle, and other factors. As mentioned above, one of the most important factors for elite golfers is dynamic loft.
Andrew Rice of Berkeley Hall Golf Club had this to say about dynamic loft. “Dynamic loft often will show me what a golfer is capable of, as better golfers seldom hit shots with too much dynamic loft. Learn to deloft the club face into impact and you are well on your way to being able to compress the golf ball.”
The best players in the world are used to delofting the club but swing speed, ball speed, and other factors come into play with driving off the tee. For example, Bryson DeChambeau uses a very little amount of loft.
As quoted in Golf Monthly, “Bryson was using a Cobra King Radspeed driver which had only 7.5 degrees of loft but in 2022 he has switched to a Cobra LTDx which only has five degrees of loft.”
Most golfers would get the ball more than 10 feet off the ground with that little loft. While other pros like Justin Thomas play a driver with 9.5 degrees of loft.
Needless to say, there’s a big gap between the lofts of professional golfers. Some might go as low as five like Bryson, while others play more conventional lofts.
Should I do a driver fitting?
If you’re a committed golfer and someone who takes your game seriously, I think a driver fitting is the best $100 (or so) you can spend. Think about it, the driver sets up your approach shots on nearly all par 4s and par 5s. The better you can hit your driver, the easier you’ll have it 14/18 holes during the round.
As you can tell from the advanced section above, there are a lot of components when it comes to getting the right loft. For solid golfers it’s not as simple as just playing a little more loft. There are so many factors to consider including shaft flex, shaft weight, overall club weight, driver head, driver loft, hosel settings, and more.
You want to have an enormous amount of confidence with your driver, which is why it’s such a good idea to get a custom club fitting. Plus, the fitter will usually give you some best practices on how to match your fairway wood and hybrids based on your driver settings.
What is spin loft?
Spin loft is another piece of data that can help you find the best loft for your driver.
According to Peter Field Golf, “Spin loft is approximately the angle between the dynamic loft and attack angle. Spin loft is actually the three-dimensional angle between the direction the club head is moving (both club path and attack angle) and the direction the club face is pointing (both face angle and dynamic loft).”
What is the difference between 9.5 and 10.5 degree driver?
The difference between the two lofts is only one degree. But depending on your golf swing, speed, and other factors, it can have a big impact. One degree more or less with your driver loft can change your total distance, accuracy, and ball flight.
Most adjustable drivers allow you to change the loft about two degrees with each club. Which is why it’s a good idea to test out different lofts on the range to see which performs best.
For most every day, mid to high-handicap golfers, 10.5 loft will help driving performance. Older golfers shopping for senior drivers should always consider a minimum of 10.5 degrees of loft and even experiment with a little more loft.
Will a lower loft driver go further?
Maybe, a lower loft driver will usually make the ball go further if the conditions are right. Lower loft means a lower trajectory, which if the conditions are firm or fast, will increase the total distance.
However, if the conditions are wet and cold, lower loft might actually hurt your distance.
Should you add loft to your swing?
Christop Bausek of Progress Golf said this on Trackman’s website about adding or taking away loft in the swing:
“Dynamic loft is a very good indicator of whether a golfer is adding too much loft or delofting the club too much. But be careful with drivers…hitting the ball high on the face will create a higher dynamic loft due to the roll of the club face.
Dynamic loft is the main factor for launching a ball into the air. There is a myth that “hitting down on the ball gets the ball up. Instead, pay attention to the dynamic loft if you want to get the ball up.”
Remember, a teeing up a driver and requires you to hit up on the ball. This is not the time to hit down on a golf shot. You want to tee the ball high and hit up on the ball.
Does a higher loft driver help my slice?
More loft can help reduce your driver slice but it’s not an instant cure. However, adding loft and adjusting your clubhead to a draw setting can make a big difference. They also make anti-slice drivers that have offset made to minimize the slice.
But don’t forget, this is a short-term solution. Fixing your slice means changing your grip, backswing, or something else in your swing. This usually takes some more extensive practice time to make the changes stick.
While you’re making swing changes, it’s always a good idea to optimize your driver settings to help you in the short term.
What degree driver does Tiger Woods use?
Throughout his illustrious career, Tiger has played all sorts of different equipment. Currently, according to the PGA Tour, Tiger is playing a 9-degree TaylorMade Stealth Plus driver. But he isn’t opposed to changing out shafts and club heads on a week-to-week basis.
It’s still hard to believe that in his dominance in the early 2000s this guy was playing a steel shafted driver! And absolutely lapping the field in terms of most distance.
Final Thoughts to Maximize Distance
Driver loft is an important part of your tee game and something you need to consider. As you can tell, you can make it easy or wildly complex but it depends on your skill levels.
For the majority of amateur golfers with a 14+ handicap, slightly more loft will help with distance and accuracy. But since most drivers are adjustable, it’s worth trying out on all settings to see how more/less loft impacts distance and trajectory.
For single digit handicap golfers and scratch golfers, driver loft is a component but not the end all be all number. You still need to consider dynamic loft, attack angle, launch angle, driver shaft, and more. It’s best to use a launch monitor and/or get a professional fitting to make sure the most important club in the bag is dialed in.
Regardless of skill level, don’t be afraid to experiment with different lofts, club heads, and driver shafts. The driver is one of the three most important clubs in the bag so make sure it’s optimized for your game.