May 2008 Golfsmith Clubmaker Back to Main
clubmaking tip
Measuring Loft
by: Bill Totten

There is plenty of detailed information out there about every aspect of the driver, the importance of each part and how it works in regard to fitting specifications. But to process this information and find a suitably fit driver, there must be a starting point. That starting point should be the clubhead, or more precisely, the clubhead’s loft. The tricky part is that what is written on the sole of the club is unimportant; what matters is the clubhead’s actual loft, which is often very different. In other words, you need to learn to measure a driver’s loft correctly.

Granted, every company in the golf industry has the right to measure their heads’ lofts as they wish. Because of this, there is no consistency in technique. However, two methods of measurement are used most often. A number of companies measure the club in the position where it sits at rest, i.e., at its intended face angle. Others measure the loft with the clubhead square, the face parallel with the shaft and perpendicular to the target line. In the Golfsmith Research and Development Department we use the latter method; we measure loft with the face square.

The sole of the driver is more like a ball than a beanbag, and therefore the driver is by far the most difficult clubhead to measure for loft. Because of its size and sole contours, it rarely sits in the same position twice. That is why we measure multiple times to ensure accuracy.

Start by placing a shafted driver head into our Professional Clubhead Measuring Gauge.Golfsmith Professional Clubhead Measuring Gauge Clamp the shaft tight enough in the fixture’s V to keep it from wobbling, but loose enough to let the head turn to different face angles. Measuring a metal wood for loft means ignoring the score lines and looking solely at the face of the club to set it up correctly. The face of the clubhead should be symmetrical, with the sole at the center of the face touching the plate on the Measuring Gauge. The angle created on either side of the contact point should be the same. Setting the lie correctly is imperative to measuring loft.

Next, place the face angle gauge on the two bars of the Professional Measuring Gauge and adjust the head to square. When the two prongs of the face angle gauge are touching the face equidistant from the center of the face, the head is square when the opposite side of the gauge is on zero. Tighten the two thumb screws that secure the shaft, and the head will remain square.

Place one part of the Loft Angle Protractor flat on theGolfsmith 2 inch. Loft Angle Protractor Professional Measuring Gauge plate and the other against the face of the clubhead. Since the head has roll (the vertical curvature of the face) the Loft Angle Protractor must make contact against the middle of the face, creating equal angles in the space above and below the contact point. This is the real loft of the driver.

A few golf companies measure driver loft at the face angle of the clubhead. This is the position in which the driver will rest on the ground at address or, when measuring, on the plate of the Professional Measuring Gauge. Then an adjustment is made to get the “effective loft.” Effective loft is the loft when the clubhead is square to the target. In the past, most clubmakers used a one-for-one, loft-angle-for-face-angle trade. This simply means that if the clubhead is 2° closed with 10° of loft, the effective loft is 12° when the head is placed and measured in the square position. In our recent measurements of OEM driver heads at Golfsmith, we have not found this to be the case. What we found was more like a half-degree of loft change for each degree of face angle change.

Most surprising was that what we measured was not what we found engraved on the bottom of the clubhead. Obviously, there are manufacturing tolerances with any product, but the amount of difference was plainly more than any reasonable tolerance. In virtually every case, the stated loft was less than the actual loft we measured. Conversely, on our Golfsmith, Snake Eyes and Killer Bee products, what is stated is most often what the actual loft is. The reason? Clubmakers use our clubheads, and most of you have the ability to measure each one you buy, not to mention the motivation to let us know when you find discrepancies. OEM drivers are sold to golfers who rarely have the means to measure their new clubheads’ lofts.

The reason for this slighting of the stated loft is quite obvious when looked at in a logical manner. As the males of our species lose strength, elasticity and swing speed, their egos can be placated by having a driver with the same loft as the one they played in their youth. In part, this also means that the OEMs improve their chances of having happy customers. They know what we at Golfsmith know: There is less resistance in the air than on the ground, and additional driver loft almost always delivers additional distance.

Below is an anonymous list of OEM drivers that we measured for loft. Take a look at the difference between engraved loft and actual loft. It’s an eye-opener!

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Drivers’
Stated Lofts vs. Their Independently Measured Lofts
Tested OEM Drivers Stated Loft Face Angle Actual Loft at Face Angle Actual Loft With Face Square
Driver 1 10.5° 3.5° Closed 10° 12.5°
Driver 2 10.5° 3° Closed 10° 12.5°
Driver 3 10.5° 2° Closed 10° 11°
Driver 4 10.5° 1° Closed 11° 12°
Driver 5 HT 1° Closed 13° 13.5°
Driver 6 9.5° 1° Open 10.5° 10°
Driver 7* 12° 1.5° Closed 13.5° 14°
Driver 8* 9.5° 1° Closed 11° 11.5°
Driver 9* 10° 1° Closed 12° 12.5°
Driver 10* 10° 1° Closed 13° 13.5°
Driver 11* 9.5° Square 11° 11°
Driver 12* 11° .5° Closed 13° 13°
Driver 13* 13° Square 15.5° 15.5°
Driver 14* .5° Open 11° 11°
Driver 15* 9.5° 1.5° Open 12° 11.5°
Driver 16* 2° Open 11° 10°
Driver 17* 9.5° 3.5° Open 12° 10°

*Tested drivers that have actual lofts at face angle at least 1.5° different from their stated lofts.

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