There's a good reason for this. These factors are the most important keys to gaining clubhead speed and ball speed, which are the core tenets of distance. All of them also have a massive impact on spin rate, which is a primary concern when trying to increase yardage or hit a golf shot the proper distance for an approach shot.
But there is a lot more to golf equipment than these variables. Some of them may not be as sexy, but they are mission critical to making proper contact and managing the shape of your shots. And yes, they can even affect distance.
One of the most misunderstood elements is lie angle. In this article, we will go into what lie angle is, why it matters and how you can evaluate your own clubs to see if you need to change the lie angle of your clubs.
The simplest way to think about lie angle is that it's the angle of how the club sits on the ground.
Picture a golfer in a proper setup position, the club resting flat on the ground. If you drew a line from the hosel of the club up to the shaft and compared that against the horizontal axis of the ground, that is the lie angle.
Lie angles for drivers are generally in the mid-to-high 50's, usually in the 56-60-degree range. The angle will go up from there depending on the club, but not as much as you might think. For instance, fairway woods, hybrids and driving irons are usually in the high 50's, bleeding into the low 60's. Irons are predominantly in the low 60s, ranging from about 60-64 degrees. Shorter clubs have a greater lie angle. Wedges will be on the upper end of that range, around 63-64 degrees. Because of the variety of models and shaft types, putters can vary with lie angles, but 70 degrees is often where they fall.
You may have heard the terms "upright" and "flat" before. These are just fancy ways of saying when a lie angle increases or decreases. Increasing the lie angle — which makes the shaft more vertical — is called making the club more upright. The opposite is true for decreasing the lie angle. A flatter lie angle brings the shaft more horizontal.
This is all relative, of course. Typically, changes in lie angle are within a couple degrees. Altering your lie angle can be done fairly easily in most golf shops, as the club can be bent to change the lie angle.
There is no perfect lie angle for all golfers. Depending on your swing, you may want to have a standard lie angle or one that is more upright or flat. A golfer that has a swing that is more upright — meaning they bring their hands and the club up higher, closer to their head — generally needs a more upright lie angle. The opposite is true for a golfer that swings more around their body on a flatter angle. This necessitates a flatter lie angle.
Lie angle directly impacts making great contact, and it plays a huge role in shot shape as a result.
If you have clubs that are too upright for your swing, you are naturally going to make contact with the heel portion of the clubface more often. This will generally result in the ball going too far to the left. Also, not making contact on the center of the face reduces ball speed.
If your clubs are too flat for your swing, the contact will usually come on the toe. This will result in shots going too far to the right.
These aren't hard and fast rules because you can have other factors in play, such as clubs that are too long/short or shafts that are too stiff or whippy. But if all other factors are equal, an improper lie angle will affect accuracy.
Every club has its own lie angle. Don't assume that just because your clubs are a part of one set that they all have corresponding lie angles. It's also important to remember that lie angles will be slightly altered over time because of the impact they make with the ground. This isn't a massive thing for most golfers, but it's worth keeping an eye on over the long haul.
So where do you go from here in terms of evaluating your lie angle?
This means that how you set up to a driver should correspond to how you set up with an 8-iron, for example. Obviously you will be closer to the ball for an 8-iron, but your posture should be close to the same.
Next, you can have someone take a picture of how your club rests on the ground. If the heel of the club is coming up off the ground, it's likely your lie angle is too flat. If the toe is coming off the ground, it's likely your lie angle is too upright.
This will give you a starting position to understand where you stand with lie angle. However...
We can't state this enough: the arc of your swing is ultimately the most important factor in determining lie angle.
It may seem like a taller golfer has to have more upright clubs. However, a tall player could have a really flat swing. The opposite can be true for a shorter player.
The easiest thing is to get instructional advice from a golf professional. They can determine how your current lie angle of each club matches your swing. This is really about coming up with a perfect marriage between your swing and how the club enters the turf.
If you are consistently seeing a lot of divots pointed to the left with the left part of the divot deeper than the left, then it's very possible that your clubs are too upright.
It's also important to remember that lie angle changes can help your current swing. This isn't about having the perfect swing. If you play standard lie angle clubs and have a really flat swing, for example, then you could greatly benefit from lowering the lie angle.
Lie angle is often one of the last considerations golfers have, but it's a mistake to not at least check to see where you are with lie angles in your current setup.
Having clubs that are off multiple degrees from the proper lie angle can really ruin your entire experience on the course. Golfers have a way of learning to adapt their swings to get by — and this may work on occasion — but it's not a recipe for long-term success.
Do yourself a favor and check your lie angles. You could see a world a difference with the smallest of alterations.