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Adjustable Drivers, Effective Loft and You

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(Note: This is a 2013 article written shortly after the Christmas holiday.) The Christmas holiday has come and gone. Thanks to your dedication to staying on his "nice" list, Santa left you a brand new adjustable driver under the Christmas tree. You're excited to play the best golf of your life, but there's one glaring question that you just can't shake from your mind:

How the hell do I use the adjustable settings on this beast?

Well kids, the best place to start is to visit your local golf pro for a proper club-fitting session. However, I wanted to introduce an adjustable driver term that may be new to most of you: effective loft.

In a nutshell, "effective loft" refers to how much loft your club will have AT IMPACT. This is an important distinction that you should keep in mind because we'll come back to this in a bit.

When I first started using an adjustable driver, it came pre-set to 9.0 degrees in the neutral setting. I typically like to play a 10.5 degree driver, so I wanted to find a way to increase its loft by using one of the many settings on the club. I was also fighting a nasty hook, so I also decided to open the face angle of the club a couple degrees. Next stop: the PGA Tour!

Not so fast. After making my adjustments (I increased the loft to 10.5 degrees and opened the clubface 2 degrees) and hitting a few drives, I was puzzled. While my hook was eradicated thanks to the open club setting, my drives were actually shorter than before and my ball flight was much lower. What gives?

In my mind -- which is a scary place -- opening the clubface of the driver should have added even more loft to my newly-adjusted 10.5 setting. After all, when you open the face of a sand wedge to hit a flop shot, you are adding a ton of loft to help shoot the ball into the air.

What I eventually learned was that opening the face of your driver via an adjustable setting has the opposite effect on loft. This is where effective loft comes in.

The effective loft of your driver will DECREASE one degree for every degree you open the face. The opposite is also true; clubhead loft will increase one degree for every degree closed.

Going back to my example, while I had increased the loft of my driver by 1.5 degrees (9.0 to 10.5 degrees) opening the face by 2 degrees ultimately decreased the driver loft by the same amount (10.5 to 8.5 degrees), leaving me with less loft than what I started with.

Effective loft suggests that you cannot truly change the loft and face angle of a club independent of one another. Furthermore, adjustable drivers all have the same goal in mind in regard to their buffet of clubhead settings: to help you square the clubface at impact. Adjustable drivers are built to react to your swing tendencies, not the other way around.

Before you start messing around with loft, lie and face angle settings on your new driver, be sure to educate yourself on how each setting interacts with one another.

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