Analytics 101

The Optimal Max Height When Hitting Your Driver

January 2, 2023
6 min

How High Should a Golf Ball Go When Hitting a Driver?

Over the last decade, golf launch monitors such as Trackman and FlightScope, have changed how both instructors teach and golfers examine their game. As a coach myself, I am constantly referencing the Trackman PGA and LPGA Tour averages chart. I am sure that that chart is very familiar to many a coach and golfer.

While those PGA and LPGA Tour averages are far from achievable for most amateur golfers, having that frame of reference, and that data, is very useful still the same. Those numbers allow golfers to see what the best of the best can achieve, per club, in areas such as:

  • Club Speed
  • Ball Speed
  • Angle of Attack
  • Smash Factor
  • Launch Angle
  • Spin Rate
  • Carry Yardage
  • Max Height
  • Land Angle

One common question that golfers ask is How High Should a Golf Ball Go When Hitting a Driver? 

According to that Trackman data, the PGA Tour average Max Height on a driver is 32 yards. The LPGA Tour average Max Height on a driver is 25 yards. 

The average golfer can look at these numbers at face value and simply try to strive to achieve them. However, it is important to understand how all the numbers tracked affect each other. In terms of looking to achieve a higher Max Height on your driver, you need to look at the following other numbers:

  • Launch Angle
  • Club Speed/Ball Speed

Let’s look at those numbers for the average player on the PGA Tour vs. the average player on the LPGA Tour. The average PGA Tour player hits the driver with a launch angle of about 10.9 degrees vs. a LPGA Tour player average of 13.2 degrees. Now, with those numbers in mind, you may ask, “Why is the Max Height 7 yards lower for an LPGA Tour player when they have a higher launch angle?” The answer: Club Speed and Ball Speed.

As ball speed decreases, as is typically the case for a LPGA Tour player vs. a PGA Tour player, the optimum launch angle must increase (as well as backspin) in order to get the most out of the swing in terms of carry distance. The average clubhead speed for a PGA Tour player with the driver is 113 mph, and their ball speed is 167 mph. For LPGA Players, the average clubhead speed is 94 mph and the average ball speed is 140 mph. For continued comparisons, and especially in terms of the ultimate goal with a driver, which is distance, the PGA Tour average carry distance, on a driver, is 275 yards and for an LPGA Tour player, the average carry distance is 218 yards. 

The average amateur golfer, male or female, young and old, is almost certainly going to have a slower swing speed and ball speed than a professional golfer. The problem, very often, is the fact that most amateurs do not reach a maximum height with their driver, relative to their speed averages, which are necessary to optimize their distances. This is the case because most amateurs do not have the needed launch angle necessary with their driver to reach an ideal maximum height, which will help produce optimum carry distances. 

Let’s look at three common Clubhead Speed average ranges and see what the recommended Launch and Max Height ranges should be for them. I also threw in Spin averages as well for reference. 

An Average Swing Speed of 85 to 95 mph

  • Launch: 13-16 Degrees
  • Max Height: 23-29 Yards
  • Spin: 2400-2700 rpm

A Slow Swing Speed of 72-84 mph

  • Launch: 14-19 Degrees
  • Max Height: 19-23 Yards
  • Spin: 2600-2900 rpm

A Very Slow Swing Speed of Less than 72 mph

  • Launch: 14-19 Degrees
  • Max Height: 15-19 Yards
  • Spin: 2600-2900 rpm

To help increase launch angle with a driver, which will in turn, help create more optimized results relative to a golfer’s current swing speed, you should look at the following:

  • Ball Position: If you are struggling with hitting the ball too low with your driver, the first place to look would be your ball position. Your driver should, at a minimum, be played off your left heel (right heel for left-handed golfers). Golfers often feel like they have proper ball position, but that is often not the case. Have a friend take a picture or video of your set up with the driver so you can see for yourself where the ball is positioned. You may be surprised by what you see.
  • Secondary Spine Angle: Primary spine angle, in set up, is basically how much you tilt your upper body towards the ball. An acceptable primary spine angle is 35-45 degrees. This is with your hips staying back as your chest or upper body moves slightly towards the ball. The Secondary Spine Angle is an important, and often overlooked, aspect to having a good, solid posture at set up. Secondary Spine Angle is the tilt of the torso, or upper body, back and away from the target. I often tell students to achieve this by “bumping” their lead hip towards the target. This will help, especially with a driver, in reaching the optimal numbers necessary to maximize your distance, based on your swing speed.
  • Tee Height: Many golfers do not tee up the ball nearly enough with a driver. According to a GOLF Magazine 2020 poll of GOLF's Top 100 Teachers, the ideal tee height for a driver is about 1.5 inches. According to that poll, and advised by many GOLF’s Top 100 Teachers, a good checkpoint is to make sure that half the ball “peeks” above the crown after you sole the club at address.

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