The goal of this study was to show how inconsistent distances can actually be when practicing on the Driving Range.
One of the reasons for this is the large discrepancies between different types of Driving Range balls and how they react when hit from various surfaces.
Seeing as not all Golfers have the luxury of practicing off grass tees all year round, many of us are forced to practice off mats. (There are also BIG differences between Driving Range mats but that would be too much information for this study)
Practicing in these conditions often results in different Carry Distances, where you can hear the Golfers say „boy, am I hitting it short today“ or „man, I am killing it on the Range today“. These two scenarios are not entirely dependant on the golfer´s daily form – but this could happen on any day on any Driving Range in the world.
Another variable, besides the hitting surface, is the quality of the practice balls (see pictures). Some facilities are able to buy new Range balls regularly, whereas other facilities are forced to keep the old, battered balls due to financial reasons.
You might even find a facility where the quality of the Range balls are mixed (like at our facility). Not many Golfers could imagine there being any differences between new and old balls or even whether it matters if the practice balls are wet or dry.
All shots that where hit (15 shots in each test) in my study were recorded with a TMe3 and Normalized to a Premium ball, in order to create a comparable scenario. When the normalising function is not switched on, the ball is set on Hard, which is the equivalent of the standard Driving Range ball.
I am aware of the fact that the Normalise mode would alter the data to a certain extent but I wanted it to be as comparable as possible (especially because it was a cold, cloudy day when I did my testing), relying on the other variables to produce different data.
Unfortunately I did not have a robot to do my test, so my largest variable would be the human element. Because of this I selected a player with a low handicap (-2) because his club data would have a high consistency.
I specifically chose wet & old balls, VS dry & new balls in order to exaggerate my point.
The main variables that I focused on were the following:
- Shots with wet & old balls from grass
- Shots with wet & old balls from the mat
- Shots with new & dry balls from the grass
- Shots with new & dry balls from the mat
On all of the wet shots I wet the balls and the clubface deliberately with some water from a bottle, without drying the clubface in between shots.
Before every dry shot I made sure that the ball and the clubface was dry and clean by using a clean towel.
The grass that was played off was dry in order not to tamper with the result of my study.
The most astounding result was the variation in spin rates
a) Between new & dry balls and old & wet balls
b) And between those 2 types of balls hit from different surfaces
The old & wet balls could be seen as a simulation of the „Flyer“-shot, that many of us know and dread. Most people do not have a clue how this shot actually occurs.
Let me explain what happens on a Flyer:
Usually you hit a Flyer out of a damp or wet, semi-rough lie.
The wet grass gets caught between the club face and the ball at impact, causing less friction i.e. less spin.
Imagine you are hitting a 9iron (with a loft of 42°), and due to the reduced friction between the ball and the club face at impact your shot produces a much lower Spin Rate, then you will have a shot with high Launch Angle and a low Spin Rate which will most definitely fly past your desired target.
The modern selling slogan for most golf club manufacturers´ new drivers is: „High launch, low spin“.
This effect is desirable for maximizing distance with your driver, but not very helpful when approaching a green and expecting the ball to stop quickly.
So do not be fooled by one-off freaky distances with your irons on wet days, assuming that you „got hold of that one“, because these shots are accidental and not your standard distance.
|Avg. Club Speed||Avg. Spin Rate||Avg. Carry Distance|
|New & dry balls hit from grass||92,5mph||4482rpm||163,6m|
|New & dry balls hit from the mat||88,3mph||6281rpm||145,9m|
|Old & wet balls hit from grass||91mph||2878rpm||152m|
|Old & wet balls hit from the mat||87mph||1592rpm||157,1m|
To be honest, I was expecting all the shots played from the mats to have a lower Spin Rate due to less friction. The super low Spin Rate with the shots hit with the old & wet balls from the mat were the biggest surprise to me.
The only explanation I have for that result is the higher Club Speed and/or that some shots hit from the grass surface produced a higher Spin Rate due to a contact point somewhere low on the face bringing the Gear Effect into play.
What else was very interesting was the increase in Club Speed when the player was playing from the grass hitting surface and the steeper Angle of Attack when he played from the mat.
I have no explanation for the change of this data other than that the data is always going to be player dependent and down to individual swing characteristics and preferences in hitting surfaces.
The next time you are on the Driving Range warming up for a tournament round or just practicing: forget about the distances and just check the direction in which your shots are going. This will give you peace at mind and could quite possibly help you lower your scores on the course.