Driver Backspin Rates and launch angle

We have lots of people come into the venue that are interested in getting a driver fitted and often the first question they ask is about their backspin rate or their launch angle. Most people assume that a lower spin rate and higher vertical launch angle will maximise distance and try to select a driver accordingly. This will not maximise driving distance.

The problem with this approach is that the optimal launch angle and spin rates vary with ball speed. Once you know your ball speed you can then try to optimise these other 2 variables. The reason for this is that if you have a low ball speed rate you need more spin and launch angle to keep it in the air long enough to travel any distance. Conversely if you have a high ball speed your spin rate and launch angles do not need to be as high to keep the ball in the air. If you can keep the ball in the air with a low spin rate then it will travel further because there is less resistance with a low spin rate.

The table at the bottom of this article shows the optimal launch angle and spin rates for each given ball speed measured in kilometres per hour. The Golftec simulators will accurately measure all of these statistics so it is the perfect training environment to maximise these variables to obtain the ultimate goal of the maximum driving distance. For example, my ball speed is approximately 224 kmph. For this ball speed my vertical launch angle needs to be in the 13 to 15 degrees range and my spin rate needs to be in the low 3000s.

Let’s look at 2 players on tour and see how they compare. Adam Scott’s ball speed is an impressive 286 kmph. His launch angle is 9 degrees and his spin rate is 2600 as you can see he is perfectly in the correct zone for launch angle and spin rate for his incredible ball speed of 286 kmph. No wonder his average driving distance is over 270 meters (over 300 yards).

Corey Pavin is not renowned for big hitting. His ball speed is 240 kmph and his launch angle and spin rate are 12.5 degrees and 2800 rpm respectively. Even though Corey Pavin’s ball speed is down, he is very close to the optimal launch angle and spin rates for his ball speed. Put another way, given his limitations in ball speed ability he is maximising his distance via optimising his launch angle and spin rate.

The longest hitter the world has even known is Jamie Stadlowski (winner of 2 world long drive championships) he has a staggering ball speed of 344 kmph. He is able to hit the ball 450 yards because his spin rate is incredibly low (around 2000 rpm). The low spin rate is sustainable because his ball speed is so high. Interestingly he launches at about 11 degrees. He might be able to hit it even further with a lower launch angle. By the way he is only 5 foot 10 and slightly built.

Optimal distance table

Ball Speed Kmph Verticle Launch Degrees Back Spin rate (RMP)
286 9.5 to 11 2450 to 2650
272 12 to 13.5 2750 to 3200
256 12.5 to 14 3000 to 3300
240 13 to 15 3300 to 3550
224 14 to 16 3500 to 3800
208 15 to 17 3750 to 3900
192 15.5 to 17.5 3750 to 3900
176 15.5 to 17.5 3800 to 4050
160 16 to 18.5 3900 to 4200