With all the data Swingbyte provides, we often find our users asking, “what does this all mean and which data points should I focus on?” Attack Angle is also one of the data points that we get asked about the most. So, instead of having our CTO give you the physics book definition, we asked Swingbyte user and experienced LPGA Pro, Kris Hogan, "is attack angle important?" Here’s what she had to say…
Yes! Attack angle affects the loft of your club head, which affects the trajectory of the ball flight, which in turn affects the distance that the ball flies. It can affect the feel of your shot and how solid you perceive the shot to be. It can affect the way your putt rolls on the green and the amount of spin on your chips. In short, it’s every bit as important as your clubface and path if you want your ball to get as close to the hole (or as far down the fairway) as possible.
Attack angle is the vertical angle with which club approaches the ball, with the horizon as the point of reference. The club can be ascending, descending, or level as it strikes the ball.
Since the golf swing is neither entirely horizontal nor entirely vertical, we need a way to distinguish between the two when measuring our golf swings. Angle of attack is the angle at which the club head vertically (up-down) approaches the ball, while the angle at which the club head horizontally approaches the ball is otherwise known as “path” (reference point is the target line). The two combine to create the diagonal golf swing plane. If the swing is close to being round, it will have one point in its arc that comes closest to the ground before ascending away from the ground again.
Attack Angle and Your Irons
When we hear that we should “hit down on the ball”, what does that mean? It means that the ball should be struck before the club reaches the bottom of the arc. According to Trackman, the average PGA Tour player hits his irons with a 3.1°- 5.0° downward blow (approximately 9°- 11° downward on Swingbyte). The LPGA average is 1.7°- 3.1° downward blow (approximately 8°- 9° downward on Swingbyte), with the longer irons more shallow for both groups.
Note: Trackman and other radar-based systems (RBS) use a point or points forward of impact to determine Attack Angle. Swingbyte uses the point of impact and one millisecond before impact. Therefore, Attack Angle is not an apples-to-apples comparison between technologies and will typically be a minute or so steeper on Swingbyte than RBS (1 minute = 6 degrees ).
After using my Swingbyte with my students I’ve noticed that most people hit down on the ball TOO MUCH. If you hit down on the ball too much with your shaft leaning forward along with this descending attack angle, you may:
- Lose quite a bit of loft, thus making the ball fly lower and shorter.
- Hit chunky or fat shots with very deep divots.
- Or if your shaft is leaning backward with a descending attack angle, the difference between the loft and the attack angle will actually make the ball spin backwards more, which is sometimes desirable and sometimes not.
Very few of my students actually hit their irons with an ascending angle but of you do hit your irons with an ascending attack angle, you will likely experience one of the following:
- A thin shot because the leading edge is striking the ball on the way up.
- A chunky shot because the club hit the ground before ascending up into the ball.
- A decent-feeling shot that flies higher and shorter because there was more loft added to the club when struck.
You should ask your local teaching professional about when to use one over the other. Use your Swingbyte to experiment with different shaft leans as you strike the ball with a slightly descending blow to see what works best for the ball flight you are trying to achieve.
Below is a before and after of a student who was hitting her 5 iron hybrid very low and couldn’t rely on it as her “go-to” club anymore. We discussed nothing more in her lesson than the angle of attack and the forward lean of the shaft at impact. Shocking improvement in 15 minutes!
Attack Angle and Your Putter
Here’s a student who came to his putting lesson complaining about his lack of distance control on longer putts (35’+). The general rule of thumb for well-struck putts that roll well is to hit them with 3° of loft. His Odyssey two-ball putter has a standard 3°of loft, while his angle of attack was 2° down with 8° of forward shaft lean. His ball was literally bouncing its way toward the hole for the first twenty feet of the putt! In order to strike the ball with 3° of loft, his angle of attack needed to be be level without any forward lean, 1° of forward lean with 1° of ascending attack angle, or 2° of forward lean with 2° of ascending attack angle.
Attack Angle and Your Driver
In the case of your driver, attack angle is a little different because the club should never touch the ground. The average PGA Tour player swings his driver 1° down, while the ladies swing theirs with a 3° ascending attack angle. Why the difference? The men want to hit the ball with a little more backspin to control the forward roll of the shot when it lands. The ladies need the extra height that an upward angle of attack gives them to hit the ball farther because their average swing speed is nearly 20 mph slower than the men’s. An interesting finding is that the ball will go farther if it is struck with an ascending angle of attack and a forward leaning shaft, thus resulting in a more stable and penetrating ball flight. For example, Bubba Watson swings his 7.5° driver with a 5° ascending angle of attack and we all know how far he bombs that!
In this photo above, a junior player hit a great drive in large because her angle of attack was 3° up with 2° of forward shaft lean. (Accounting for the 6* adjustment in attack angle when comparing to Trackman data).
About the author:
Kris Hogan is a Class A LPGA instructor at Palo Alto Hills Golf & Country Club and a certified Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) Golf Fitness Instructor. She has over 15 years of teaching experience and 25 years of competitive tournament experience, including the University of Arizona’s Golf Team and three years on the Futures, Ladies European, and Players West Tours. She has won three professional tour events, played in the 2001 Women’s U.S. Open, and was the Arizona Junior State Champion. In 2007 she was selected as the Assistant Coach of the NCAA Women’s All-Star Team.
Kris also serves as a LPGA Global Education Team Member, assisting in the evaluation of members as they test toward their Class A Status. She is a TPI Certified Junior golf coach and enjoys working with students of all ages and skill levels.