Vertical Gearing – A Key To Extra Distance

Vertical Gearing – A Key To Extra Distance

This article explains how a small tweak might add 20 yards or more to your drives.

Please note, the information in this blog is specifically refering to shots with a driver. Maximum distance with irons will have a slightly different set of rules.

A couple of weeks ago, I did an article describing gear effect. To summarise that article,

  • Toe hits tend to hook more/slice less
  • Heel hits tend to slice more/hook less


If you want to read that article and understand why, CLICK HERE

The gear effect article only looked at the horizontal component – the heel/toe part. What most people don’t know is that there is also a vertical component to this.

Before We Read More

If you haven’t read my Ebook, “Golf Hacks” – a quick and easy guide to fixing shanks, toes, fats, thins, slices, hooks, as well as practicing better and improving on-course strategy – I’m giving it away FREE.

Just pop in your email below, and continue to read this blog. The book will be sent to your email.


My Drives

I have never been a powerful player (with only 103 mph of swing speed). However, I have been able to maximize what little power I have and turn it into serious yardage.

max AOA

I can occasionally get 300 yards out of it, even with my pathetic speed. It’s as maxed out as you can be – even more so than any player on tour.

I once did an article on driver consistency and I showed my clubface after 15 shots using marker pen to indicate the strikes.

driver face

What a lot of people noticed (and commented on) was that my strikes are a little high on the clubface. I do this intentionally for a specific reason.

Basically, if the ball is struck on the sweet spot there is no/minimal gear effect. However, if the ball strikes above the sweet spot, the clubhead will twist in a way which adds loft.


The clubhead twists in the direction of the green arrow, around the center of mass of the club (blue cog). This impacts more topspin on the ball (pink arrow) – which effectively means less backspin (a ball doesn’t actually have topspin).

When the club twists in this way, it creates a counter twist on the ball (the gear-effect). While every golf shot has backspin, by striking the upper part of clubface, we can effectively reduce this backspin rate.

This can turn a shot with 3000 rpm of backspin and turn it into a shot with 2000 rpm or less.

Throw Out The Loft

You know how your club says it has 10 degrees of loft printed on it? Well, that is only for a specific part of the face.

The loft of your driver actually varies depending on where you strike it on the face. This is because the club has what we call roll – where the face is convex.


This means that, by striking above the center of the face (pink), we have more effective loft, which results in a higher launch of the ball. The reverse is also true.

This is one of the reasons why I can take my 8.5 degree driver and launch it 16-18 degrees in the air.

A Powerful Combination

When you combine the two effects of striking higher on the clubface, we have a recipe for greater distance.

As I wrote in THIS ARTICLE, the combination of a high launch and low spin rate can be quite dramatic for distance.

In fact, a ball launched at 150mph with

  • 8 degrees of launch and 4000 rpm spin = 238 yards carry
  • 16 degrees of launch and 2000 rpm spin = 259 yards carry

That’s 20 yards extra by only changing launch and spin.

If you have ever hit that drive that didn’t feel 100% solid, but when you walked down the fairway you saw it was 20 yards past your normal hit – you probably hit this hot zone.

Reverse Is True

It goes without saying that, if striking high on the face = high launch and low spin, striking low on the face = low launch and higher spin.


Striking low on the face causes the club to twist in the direction of the green arrow. This creates more backspin on the ball, as well as lower launch.

This is what many amateurs are doing, and losing a lot of distance in doing so.

Usually, this is the result of hitting too many skied shots (pop-ups) and then figuring out that teeing it lower prevents that. Unfortunately, skied shots are more a result of a steep angle of attack, and teeing it lower really produces a sub-optimal launch of the ball.

In Pictures

As a summary of vertical gear effect, this picture explains the effects of striking in a certain zone on the face.


In the red zone, we get high launch and lower spin rates. the blue zone produces lower launch and higher spin rates.

How To Do It

When working on this, there is a relationship between your

  • swing arc height
  • low point position
  • tee height

In The Strike Plan, I not only discuss how to get this optimal strike point on the driver, but how to combine it with an upward angle of attack.

This is exactly the combination I personally use to create the incredibly efficient drives I hit. If you want to learn more about how to do this (as well as how to improve your ground contact and fix shanks/toe shots), click the link below to learn more about the program.

Strike plan enter


  • Sam Wiley


    I am a PGA Professional and I own your book. I am amazed at your Trackman numbers. Is your third number angle of attack? How do you get that angle of attack? The smash is amazing. Is the last number your ball speed?

    Thanks, Sam

    • admin

      Smash is slightly high because I hit towards the toe of the club – this part is moving quicker than the rest of the clubhead. My AOA typically is around 6 degr up. This example was me doing ti more extremely. I have another blog post (how I gained 55 yards) showing my swing and how I hit 11 degrees up on the ball.

  • Nedum

    What say you about vertical gearing with irons? From a ball on a fairway say, when the ball isn’t teed up, what would cause someone to hit it too high on the face and what does that do for distance and launch etc?

    There’s always lots of talk about low on the face from thin shots but never any talk about the opposite? But surely it must be a point worth making?

    • admin

      Hi Nedum. I thought this article addressed the second point? Low on the face would tend to produce lower launch and higher spin and vice versa. However (as mentioned in my previous gear effect article) the effect is minimal on iron shots due to the center of mass of the club being closer to the face. The reason a thinned shot can spin more with an iron is due to thin shots having less grass trapped between clubface and ball (increasing friction).

      Regarding the first point (why it would happen), having the arc height too deep into the ground causes it – and often coincides with an early turf strike too. I discuss this in detail in The Strike Plan video series.

  • Gordon

    Hi Adam, I heard your advice on Strong18 podcast a couple days of ago, on hitting longer drivers, and thought I give it a try as I have struggling for length on my drives for years. Amazing, after a couple of practise sessions, convincing myself to tie the ball higher, I am now hitting my drivers constantly 20 metres longer and straighter. Looking forward to learning more in your Strike Plan video series.

    • admin

      Great stuff Gordon. Be careful you dont over-do it. Keep using face-spray or a marker pen as feedback to check the strike point.

  • Peter

    Hi Adam, I must say I love the strike plan programme and have found the driver section teeing up higher has added distance for me. I just wanted to ask about driver loft, by doing this on track man the optimiser was suggesting my dynamic loft was too high. I am using a 10.5 degree head, do you think i should consider a lower loft driver?

    • admin

      What were launching and spin numbers? Also, which part of the face were you hitting?

  • Bryan

    Can you just use a higher lofted club?

    • admin

      Hi Bryan – If you use a higher lofted club, the launch angle does increase, but the smash goes down and spin increases (which loses distance). This is why a 3 wood goes shorter, even though it launches higher. For maximum distance, you need a combination of higher launch, higher smash and lower spin.

  • DaveG

    MorningAdam, Have always had a severe in to out swing which means length of the tee always good but short game consistently poor.
    Started working on driving range ( outdoor with mats)on getting a consistently higher plane for all shots and early results are good ie picking the ball off much more cleanly,flight higher and surprisingly consistently longer.
    One thing I have noticed ( all work done so far only with short irons) is that the contact area on the clubface is showing tighter grouping and everything seems to be coming off towards the bottom of the face ie about 3 grooves up.
    This extra distance off a lower clubface hit seems to be at odds with one of your earlier articles on distance relative to vertical strike on clubface.
    Any thoughts on what could be happening here and should I be trying something to move strike up clubface or leave as is as everything else is improvement.

    • admin

      Hi Dave – yes this vertical gear effect adds distance with the driver only. It doesn’t exist in irons – and as the sweet spot is much lower in an iron, a strike that is lower on the face (not too low) will gain maximum smash factor. I will edit this article to reflect this information.

  • Terry Koehler

    This is a great explanation and the very thing we’ve been talking about at Edison Golf as we explain why our EDISON 2.0 wedges out-perform all traditional ‘tour design’ wedges for recreational golfers. We engineered the mass distribution to optimize gear effect higher in the face, where everyday golfers make contact most often. That lowers the launch angle and increases the spin rate for nearly everyone.
    Check them out.

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