Having the ability and control to lower your launch angle, and therefore ball flight, is crucial for shooting better scores and dropping your handicap.
Launch angle refers to the angle at which the ball leaves the clubface, having an impact on the height and also spin rate of your shots.
Launch angle is closely related to spin rate, with higher-launching clubs usually producing higher spin, helping you to hold greens with your shots.
So then, what is the best way to lower your launch angle on command?
To lower your launch angle, you must deloft the club by increasing shaft lean, placing the ball farther back in your stance or experimenting with a bowed wrist. Moving the ball back in your stance will cause the shaft to lean more forward, but this can also be achieved with the ball in a central position. Bowing your wrist could also increase power along with reducing launch angle.
If you hit the ball overly high, then reducing launch angle is something worth working on in your golf game (you might even master hitting a stinger like Tiger Woods one day).
Hitting the ball too high will essentially boil down to the presentation of too much loft at impact, leading to a higher launch angle and ball flight.
Hit the ball too high and your shots will lack penetration and distance, causing you to struggle with those long Par 3s, playing in the wind, or when facing lengthy approaches into greens.
Shaft lean and ball position are the easiest ways to try and promote a lower launch angle, but I do sometimes worry that shifting the ball back in your stance can cause a ‘chopping down’ effect, especially if you have an over-the-top swing.
Keep reading, as this article will explain everything you need to know about lowering your launch angle, including the steps behind hitting flatter shots.
What affects launch angle in golf?
Launch angle is largely impacted by dynamic loft – that is, the loft presented when you strike the ball. If you present too much loft when you hit the ball, then the angle at which the ball leaves the clubface, referred to as launch angle, will likely also be too high. A ‘flipping’ swing, where the hands trail behind the clubhead through impact, is the most likely culprit.
Hitting up on the ball and failing to create compression are likely causes of this high launch angle, so long as you still make somewhat central contact with the clubface.
Look at it this way: if you have a 32 degree 7-iron, but have a shaft that leans backwards, rather than forwards at impact, you may present more-like 35 degrees of loft.
This makes the club behave similar to a short iron, so you’ll lose distance and find yourself coming up shorter in distance to what you might expect.
To try and determine whether you have a decent amount of shaft lean to help avoid adding loft to your clubs, film a few swings from a side-on position using a simple tripod for your phone.
If you pair this with an app allowing you to draw lines and slow the video down, you’ll very quickly determine whether your angle is leaning back or too close to neutral (read our article on how to record your swing correctly here).
Another high-tech option is a Flightscope which will give you real-time data on everything from loft and launch angle, to angle of attack, clearly outlining whether you are making a downward strike.
If the price tag is too much, maybe consider a cheaper version like the Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor which will still provide adequate, accurate data.
Why is launch angle in golf so important?
Launch angle is important as it indicates the angle at which the ball is leaving your clubface. If this angle is too high, you will experience high-flighted, weaker shots that don’t travel as far as you might have liked. It can also indicate poor ball compression, which will result in sub-optimal strikes. There is a window you should be trying to hit for the launch angle of each of your clubs.
Manipulating launch angle is the main way you are going to add to or reduce the height of your shots, and with it change the distance the ball travels.
The way in which you manipulate launch angle can differ, but if you hit the ball too high, low, short or far, then launch angle adjustments could help to remedy whatever problem you might have.
The relationship between elements of your swing and launch angle can also offer varying results in regard to ball flight.
You might have a really high swing speed, meaning you can get away with a lower launch and maybe even a driver swing that has a slightly negative attack angle (something you see with some pro golfers).
If you have a slow swing, you will require a higher launch angle to get more out of your driver, decent height and a respectable amount of distance.
If you feel you swing the club too slowly and want to find more distance, using a training tool like the SuperSpeed Golf Training System could do wonders for your game.
If you present a lot of loft when hitting driver because you have the ball well forward in your stance and strike with a positive attack angle, your launch angle could become extremely high, causing super-elevated drives that don’t go very far.
This is where some changes to your swing and a reduction in launch angle are necessary for you to improve your game.
How do you control launch angle in golf?
Launch angle can be controlled in several ways including ball position, attack angle and shaft lean. If you hit up on the ball or ‘flip’ your hands through contact, you need to work on increasing shaft lean and a downward strike. Sometimes moving the ball back in your stance a little can help promote these changes, as long as your swing isn’t too steep.
If you set up correctly at address, it is far more likely you will return the club to this position through impact, so long as you don’t make any movements that cancel it out, such as standing up out of your posture during the swing.
An unwillingness to lean the shaft forward can come from anxiety around chunking the ball or missing left, so you may need to look at solutions to fix hooking or a steep swing if shaft lean only accentuates these concerns.
As sitting on the back foot and ‘lifting’ the ball with a positive attack angle can cause a launch angle that is overly high, a way to work against this is to focus on a downward strike, transitioning more weight into the front foot through address and impact.
Using a pressure board or even a pressure mat can help you get the feeling of transitioning your weight into the front foot, aiding to strike downward on the ball.
If you really struggle with the concept of hitting down to make the ball go up, the book ‘Hit Down, Dammit!’ breaks down why it is such a hard idea for amateur golfers to truly grasp.
How do I stop hitting my driver too high?
To stop hitting your driver too high, you need to reduce your dynamic loft and launch angle. If your driver has 10.5 degrees of loft but you deliver nearly 20 degrees at impact, then it will produce an excessively high flight. If you have a high-lofted driver, reducing it to something in single figures could be a quick fix worth trying.
There are three things you should assess if you’re hitting your driver too high: your attack angle; where you position the ball in your stance; and the stiffness of shaft you’re using, along with the loft of the clubhead.
Each of these elements, as I explain below in more detail, will impact the flight of your driver.
Tip one: Assess your attack angle
If your attack angle is excessively high with your driver, you need to reduce this so it is closer to neutral and you present a lower loft at impact.
The reason you hit so up on the ball could actually be due to tee height, with an overly high tee causing you to lean back and hit upwards to find the middle of the club.
By teeing the ball lower, you will feel as if you need to almost hit down on the ball to find the centre of the club, but this – despite feeling like a downward blow – will instead likely create a slightly positive angle of attack.
If you find it challenging to tee the ball a consistent height every time, buy some tees with markings on them so you always have a reference point to follow.
Tip two: Check your ball position
Your ball position could also be a culprit, and if you have the ball teed up on, or even in front of, your lead foot, your driver swing could be making contact with the ball too far after its low point.
Bring the ball inside your lead foot and you will strike it earlier, which should reduce your launch angle and the height of your drives.
A massive trend in recent years on the PGA tour has also been to try and lower launch angle with a bowed wrist, making for more powerful shots.
Bowing your wrist, as opposed to cupping your wrist, will help take loft off of the club and make shots come out lower.
The only thing to be careful of here, however, is the tendency for this move to close the clubface.
This is why it is vital that you make a good turn, opening the hips early to negate the closed clubface and hit the ball straight, as opposed to missing left with hooks.
Tip three: Lower your loft, stiffen your shaft
Finally, the easiest way to try and reduce an overly-high launch angle is by experimenting with a lower-lofted driver with a stiffer shaft.
Senior or regular flex drivers can allow the driver head to catch up too quickly when swinging fast, so moving to a stiffer option will help the clubhead arrive to the ball at the right time in relation to your hands.
Thankfully, so many high-quality adjustable drivers are on the market nowadays, so if you do purchase a driver to utilise a lower loft and it doesn’t work for you, you can take it back up to a higher number without needing to change clubs completely.
What is a good launch angle for a 7-iron?
A good launch angle for the average golfer’s 7-iron is between 12 and 16 degrees, depending on your swing speed. If you swing the club slower, then something in the range of 15 to 20 degrees could see better results. Ultimately, the optimum launch angle for each of your clubs will be reliant on swing speed and swing rate and should be tailored to the conditions you are playing in.
PGA tour pros will hit their 7-iron with a launch angle of about 15 degrees, but you need to remember that they have quite high swing speeds that help to lift the ball into the air.
If you swing the club slower, you will probably need to present a little more loft and aim for a higher angle of launch.
Conditions are also crucial to factor in, as pro golfers will actually tweak and manipulate their launch angle dependent on whether they want a long carry distance onto a wet fairway or a low shot with lots of run when it is dry.
If the thought of buying a launch monitor makes you shudder given the expense, a magnetic face alignment rod is a cheap option to get some sort of feedback on where your clubface is pointing on impact.
If it looks excessively high, then you at least have some information to work with and can begin a journey on reducing your dynamic loft and launch angle.
Hitting the ball too high can be extremely frustrating, given it is often associated with weak shots, reduced power and shorter distances.
By harnessing forward shaft lean, tinkering with your gear and maybe even experimenting with wrist bow, you should have a greater chance of playing shots that are compressed, powerful and have a desirable ball flight.