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Optimizing for different altitudes

Thu Jan 26, 2017 6:09 am

Posted by Kgrove


I'm about to embark on a driver fitting, but I play about 3/4 of my rounds in the summer at very high elevation (about 7000 ft) and the remaining 1/4 of my golf at only 1500 ft elevation. I know from reading that the optimal launch angle and spin rate both increase as altitude increases, but does anyone have any idea how to find out how much? I got this from Tracman's website where they summarize observed data, but not with enough detail for me to make a conclusion. My simplistic explanation is that as the air gets thinner, the spin doesn't provide as much lift so to maximize carry you ideally launch the ball higher and with more spin (which is both more needed to replace lift lost by the thinner air and is more allowable because the spin will produce less *** in thin air).

Part of it is curiosity, but part of it also is wondering if the 7000 vs 1500 ft is such a big difference that I should consider different drivers or at least different setups on the same driver depending on which location I'm playing. To add to the difficulty, my high altitude course often has soft, wet fairways which favor carry over roll while my low altitude courses most often are hard and allow for a long roll. Both conditions are pointing to very different setups on my driver.
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Location: Phoenix, AZ
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Re: Optimizing for different altitudes

Thu Jan 26, 2017 7:51 am

Posted by Brattz


No need for a different driver. At higher altitude the ball naturally flies further due to the thinner air. The only difference I found from playing quite a bit of golf at higher altitudes in Tuscany / Italy, is that hitting the driver on the up produced monster drives. With less spin and less air they flew like bullets.
I didn't see any issue with elevation from spin. The 3wd off the deck was climbing just the same if not a little more because it was flying further.
In Tuscany I was getting around 20-30yd extra distance with the driver and 3wd and around 15yd extra with each iron.
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Re: Optimizing for different altitudes

Thu Jan 26, 2017 2:51 pm

Posted by Kgrove


It's a given that I'll get more distance at altitude. The question is how do I optimize the club differently at high altitude than low? Trackman has found that distance at altitude is optimized by dialing in a higher launch angle and more spin than you would at low altitude ... I'm just trying to figure out how much. I could change my setup and swing a little - tee the ball up higher and concentrate on getting a little more upswing. The next step is (if I upgrade and get and adjustable hosel driver) adding a degree or so of loft.

If the optimal setup is too different, I could even end up with two different clubs - a lower launch, lower spin low altitude club and a higher lofted, spinnier driver for high altitude. Hopefully I can come close to the optimal setup by getting a single driver where I can just change a couple settings based on which location I'm playing.
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Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2015 7:37 am
Posts: 138
Location: Phoenix, AZ
HCP: 12
Local club/country: USA
Irons: MP5 4-PW KBS Tour 90, MPH5 2-iron, Titleist 716 T-MB 3-iron
Driver: JPX-900 w/ 569 shaft

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Re: Optimizing for different altitudes

Sat Jun 10, 2017 4:50 pm

Posted by Kgrove


Bump... now it's not theoretical, I actually have to do it. I just bought a new driver (JPX-900) and want to figure out how to tweak the settings based on the two primary cities where I play - one at over 6500 ft and one at about 1200 ft. Obviously drives at high altitude will travel further. The question is how to I optimize my driver differently when I play at high vs low altitudes?

My thoughts: At high altitude, spin will make less difference so optimizing to try and reduce spin makes less sense. That would imply I can add loft and move the weights back or out to the most forgiving settings as it won't make much difference (at least to carry distances) if the spin shoots up 6-800 rpm. The closer I get to sea level, the more I might want to decrease the loft and move the weights forward to keep the spin from imparting too much distance sucking ***. 

Does that seem like a reasonable application of the physics involved? 
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Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2015 7:37 am
Posts: 138
Location: Phoenix, AZ
HCP: 12
Local club/country: USA
Irons: MP5 4-PW KBS Tour 90, MPH5 2-iron, Titleist 716 T-MB 3-iron
Driver: JPX-900 w/ 569 shaft

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Re: Optimizing for different altitudes

Sat Jun 10, 2017 5:56 pm

Posted by LOS


As someone who doesn't hit monster drives no matter where I am at I wouldn't be bothered about an extra 5% on my drives at altitude to make me want to change my driver settings, however the extra 10% or more difference on my short irons would give me cause for concern on shots into the green.

Have you played with the Flightscope Optimizer?
http://flightscope.com/products/trajectory-optimizer/
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Re: Optimizing for different altitudes

Sat Jun 10, 2017 9:23 pm

Posted by Kgrove


Despite having "optimizer" in the title, that Flightscope tool is really a modeler, not an optimizer. It will tell you the ball flight for a set of inputs you give it, but it won't tell you where to push to improve some output. At best, I could test how different loft settings and weight positions changed ball speed, launch angle, spin, etc at one altitude and then play with the modeler at the other altitude to see which combination of loft and weight settings seemed to work best. Unfortunately, that would be a couple hours on a Trackman, which I don't have.

I know I'm trying to split hairs in optimizing that last few percent out of my driver, but if I can gain a few yards with just a few  few turns of the wrench, why not? Easy customization is one of the selling points to the JPX-900 driver - might as well use it. 
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Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2015 7:37 am
Posts: 138
Location: Phoenix, AZ
HCP: 12
Local club/country: USA
Irons: MP5 4-PW KBS Tour 90, MPH5 2-iron, Titleist 716 T-MB 3-iron
Driver: JPX-900 w/ 569 shaft

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