Altitude adds significant distance
When watching this week’s World Golf Championship-Mexico Championship, don’t be shocked if an approach shot or two fly a green. The reason, in part, is because the host venue, Club de Golf Chapultepec, ranges between 7,603 feet and 7,835 feet above sea level.
At that altitude, the air is far less dense than in Los Angeles (average elevation of 285 feet above sea level), site of last week’s Genesis Open, or even Denver (average elevation of 5,410 feet above sea level. Thus, a golf ball moves through the air easier, resulting in improved distance.
Steven Aoyama, a principal scientist for Titleist Golf ball research and development, breaks down the altitude dynamics in a blog post for Titleist that originally was published on March 2, 2017.
The high altitude could increase the distance of shots by between 10 and 18 percent, depending on club and shot type.
What impact does 7,800ft elevation @WGCMexico have on a golf ball?— TaylorMade Golf (@TaylorMadeGolf) February 19, 2019
1. Thinner air = less drag = further
2. Less drag = flatter trajectory = more roll = further
3. Less drag = less side spin = straighter shots
So, #TP5x will go 10-15% further. https://t.co/oxVP8toDol pic.twitter.com/8UNS7k8Mzc
In starting birdie-birdie on the back nine of his first round on Thursday, noted long hitter Dustin Johnson, who actually ranks 58th at 296.0 yards per drive, drove the second green with a drive of 378 yards. His longest drive was 401 yards.
Justin Thomas told GolfChannel.com’s Rex Hoggard that the distance difference for his 6-iron between last week at the Genesis Open and this week in Mexico could be close to 60 yards.
“Last week in the mornings when we were warming up for the restarts, we were going about 180 [yards], and this week could be anywhere from 230 to 240 just depending on the height I hit it, how hard I hit it and whatnot,” he said.
Tiger Woods reportedly opted for a 5-wood instead of a 2-iron this week. TaylorMade confirmed via Twitter that in preparation for the WGC event, Woods increased the loft of his M5 Fairway from 13 to 15 degrees at the Genesis Open.
According to a Titleist tour rep, most of the players worked on TrackMan this week to dial in distances at altitude and the majority believed they could flight the driver higher for distance increase rather then changing specs.
Webb Simpson moved up a degree in loft on his Titleist TS3 driver, from 10.5 to 11.5 in the A1 SureFit setting, and saw an increase in carry by 10 yards with the adjustment. Following the first round, Simpson ranked sixth in Driving Distance in the 72-player field with an average of 334.4 yards. His season average is 280.6, though some of the added length can be attributed to the altitude.
Argolf's new AR-F18 forged cavity back irons. [Photo: Argolf]
IN THE BAG
- Callaway is the No. 1 driver, iron and putter brand at this week’s WGC-Mexico Championship. The driver victory was led by the Epic Flash Sub Zero, which was also used by J.B. Holmes in last week’s Genesis Open win. The company reports that Odyssey accounted for more than 40 percent of the putters in play in Mexico.
- Titleist is having a banner week at the Puerto Rico Open. Ninety-nine players in the 132-player field are playing Titleist golf balls, more than six times the nearest competitor with 13. Titleist is also the field favorite in drivers (37), hybrids (22), irons (40) and wedges (169).
- Argolf appears to have turned back the clock somewhat with its new AR-F18 forged cavity back irons. The blade is slightly larger and reminiscent of older blades of the past.
- KBS’ new $-Taper Lite iron shaft is positioned to provide a slightly higher ball flight than the $-Taper.
- If the name Saintnine does not ring a bell when thinking of golf balls, then you likely are not alone. The company, which was founded in South Korea, introduced its golf balls to the U.S. golf marketplace at last month’s PGA Merchandise Show. What helps set Saintnine apart from its competitors is that select balls feature a graphic — or “mental mate” — that focuses on a mental-game characteristic such as confidence, focus, trust, competitiveness and positivity.
NAMES AND NOTABLES
Miura Golf, which began in 1957 with founder Katsuhiro Miura hand-crafting and grinding irons, announced the signing of Mexico’s Abraham Ancer to become its first PGA Tour ambassador. “I switched to Miura irons well before any partnership; I just wanted to play the best forged irons available,” said Ancer, 27, who is currently ranked No. 61 in the Official World Golf Ranking and was fitted for Miura irons in 2017. ... Nike’s rep may have taken a hit on Wednesday night when Duke’s Zion Williamson blew out his shoe in the early moments of the Blue Devils’ 16-point loss to North Carolina.