Explaining How Loft And Lie Affect The Flight Of The Ball

Lie Angles

The lie angle of each club needs to be adjusted to ensure accuracy. If the lie angle is wrong, the ball will either fade left if the toe is up and right if the heal is up.

Within the golf industry, there is a generally accepted notion of what constitutes a "standard" lie angle for most golfers. Whether this factory norm is right for you and your swing, however, is something all golfers need to discover for themselves because accuracy with the irons is important to good scoring.

Here's the deal. When the club meets the ball, the sole of the head must be parallel to the ground, if it is, and if you have delivered the face square to your intended target, the ball will go straight every time. On the other hand, if the toe of the club is sticking up in the air so the point of sole contact with the ground is toward the heel, you will tend to pull your shots. Here, the club head would be considered to be TOE UP for the player. We would need to have the sole adjusted flatter to the ground.

The opposite is true, if the club makes contact with the ground on the toe side of the sole, the club is considered too flat. In this situation, you will push the ball when you make a perfect swing, every time every day.

There is a myth associated with the lie angle. Many golfers think that if the lie is wrong so that the sole contact with the ground is on the heel, the reason the ball flies left is that the heel is grabbed by the ground, which makes the face rotated closed, and the ball fly to the left (for right handed golfers). And vice versa, they think that the pushed shot from an incorrect lie comes from the toe side of the sole digging into the ground which causes the face to turn open. WRONG. No matter how square up you hold the leading edge of the club head to your target, as the toe rises up, the face AUTOMATICALLY points to the hook side of the target. And the opposite is true for when you hold the leading degree of face square to the target but tilt the heel up off the ground - the face now points to the face side of the hole. Want proof? What happens to your shot direction when you hit the ball from a side hill lie? That's a classic example of how the face automatically pointed off line and creates a pull or hooked shot when the ball is above your feet (toe tilting up compared to horizontal).

Now here’s the real kicker with lie - the more loft the club has the more pronounced the misdirection will be. As a result, the lie angles are far more critical to be fitted correctly in the higher-lofted short irons, for example, than they are for the woods.

How many golfers have altered their swings in unimaginable ways, or run screaming to the golf pro for emergency lessons because of balls that insist on going off to the left or right from ill-fitted lie angles, no matter how pure a swing they make? Most golfers automatically assume it's their swing because most golfers have no idea that something called "lie angle" even exists. Most clubs are bought standard, off-the-rack, and most golfers have no idea of the importance of properly fitting lie angles to their size and swing.

If every golfer were 5 foot 10 inches tall with a 32 inch sleeve length and swung through the ball with the same posture, then fine, the one lie angle design of standard made irons bought off the rack would fit everyone. But golfers are not all built the same, so, if you want to avoid the certainly of making a good swing only to see the ball head off-line, you and every other golfer along with you, regardless of handicap, need to be custom fitted for the correct lie angles on your irons. It’s fair to say that fewer than 10 percent of all golfers have ever been fitted for lie and had their clubs adjusted accordingly.

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Each iron is designed with a different loft angle, which is the primary reason you can hit each club a different distance. Each of the different loft angles generate different ball speed, launch angle, and amount of backspin on the ball, which is precisely why each club hits the ball a different distance.

The exact distance each club will hit the ball will vary from golfer to golfer depending on the swing speed, launch angle and loft of the club head. Depending upon the swing speed and loft, each numbered iron is designed to have an equal yardage spread between it and the next numbered iron. However, this consistent difference in distance between clubs will result only IF the loft angles are spaced evenly, and IF the lofts on each club are true to what each company intends them to be.

Here’s the problem...
There are millions of golf clubs manufactured each year. What do you think the odds are that all of them are coming from the factory with the correct loft angles? If one club is + 2 degree and the next numbered club is -2 degree, then the proper loft spacing is off. You would end up with a loft spacing of 4 degrees between the two irons, and up to 6 degrees on 2 others. Example: say the loft between the 7 & 8 irons is 2 degrees, then the loft between the 6 & 7 irons would be 6 degrees and between the 8 and 9 irons the loft would also be 6 degrees off. So now all the mid irons lofts are wrong and your yardage distance between 6 & 7 irons could be only2-3 yards and between the 8 & 9 could be 12 yards. Think about it.

To achieve consistency in shot distance, the separation of lofts between your fairway woods and irons should be no less than 3 degrees, and no more than 5 degrees, from club to club. Anything less than 3 degrees and you will have two clubs that hit the ball too close to each other. Anything more than 5 degrees and you will have a spread that will cause you to hammer one club, or ease up on another, to get the right distance.

If you have any questions, please give me a call. The above information is taken from Tom Wishon's book titled "The Search for the Perfect Golf Club", which can be purchased either though NO SWET GOLF or at Borders Book Store.