The Most Important Thing In Golf

By: Adam Young

If you are a golfer, this article is simply too important to ignore.

As a teacher with thousands of hours coaching elite players and rank beginners, if you were to ask me “what is the most important thing in golf”, I would have to say “strike quality”.

The best mindset, nutrition, strategy, equipment and top of swing position are all in vain if the club doesn’t connect with the ball in the right way. While they all go into the mix for great performance, strike quality will ultimately be the dominant factor.

In this article, we will look at

  • What a quality strike consists of
  • Why it is important
  • How to improve it

What is a quality strike?

There are two main factors to master when it comes to pro quality strikes.

  • Contacting the ground in a functional place
  • Striking the sweet spot

In fact, strike quality is one of the few common denominators amongst all golf professionals on tour. While they all swing the club differently, they all strike the ball in a remarkably similar fashion.

If you do those two factors, you will gain huge performance benefits – namely improved total distance, tighter distance control, better spin rates and improved consistency.

Getting better at these two elements of strike is a product of improved technique and improved coordination.

Smash Factor

This is a more modern term for how much energy is imparted into the golf ball during impact.

For example, with a driver, if the club head is swung at 100mph and the resulting ball speed is 150mph, you are said to have a 1.5 smash factor (the ball has come off 1.5 times the speed of the clubhead). This number is actually the maximum allowed before a golf club becomes illegal.

However, due to poor strikes on the face, the average amateur (according to my studies using launch monitors) gets a smash factor of only 1.35. This means they are losing a massive amount of distance on average, simply due to the strike being less precise.

Striking the sweet spot is vital for energy transference

This is true with irons also. While modern clubs have become more forgiving, you are still losing yardage by not getting close enough to the sweet spot more often.

Gear effect

One of the number one requests on my lesson tee is to be more consistent with the driver.

During an off-center hit, the club head goes through an incredible amount of twisting – you feel this as vibration.

Here we see a driver hit on the toe – the club twists clockwise and this imparts an anti-clockwise spin on the ball

Due to the large heads of modern clubs, any off-center hits can create something called ‘gear effect’ where the club and ball act like two cogs during this twisting – and the ball goes spinning wildly out of control.

This can create wild hooks or slices.

Many amateurs will then try to change something in their swing (such as their grip) in order to fix the wrong issue.

For that reason, improving your understanding/awareness and skill of striking is vital to not only maximize your distance, but your directional consistency too.

Distance Control

Professionals pride themselves on controlling their yardages with their clubs. Ask a top touring pro how far they hit their 7 iron, and they will quote a distance to the nearest yard.

In fact, hitting your clubs the same yardage each time takes some serious pressure off your accuracy – a shot which is pin-high will almost always be close.

Improved distance control will increase your chance of hitting more greens in regulation – statistics have shown that 94% of amateur shots are short of the flag (many of these being short of the green) due to poor strike quality.

And greens in regulation have a direct correlation with your scores.

Consistency

This is the holy grail of golf, and the thing that every amateur desires.

But the fact is, most amateurs are consistent. I regularly see a struggling golfer who is striking the ground 3 inches behind the ball with incredible repetition. And someone who suffers with the occasional shank is often consistently hitting the heel side of their irons.

A player suffering with shanks will often have this type of pattern, where the red strikes produce ok results, but the blue strikes are disasters.

So, if you want true consistency, you have to do these skills not just more repetitively, but better.

For example, someone striking the ground 3-4 inches behind the ball is as consistent as someone striking the ground 0-1 inch behind the ball. However, the latter player will see much better results.

How Do We Get Better?

In order to strike the ground effectively (with an iron), we must have the lowest point of our swing circle in front of the golf ball, as shown.

This will enable us to create a ball-first strike.

We also have to control where the club swings in space laterally. For example, if the clubhead is located too much in the blue zone at impact, we will hit more heel biased shots. Too much in the red zone at impact and we will suffer with toe biased strikes.

Technique

If you look at the top professionals, they all seem to swing the club very differently. However, if you look close enough, you can see certain patterns in their movements which can create more consistency. For example, the professionals move their hands in a way (up and in) which enables a bigger margin for error.

Many of the things amateurs have been told (left arm straight, head down, hit down on the ball) generate a hand path which is lowers their margin for error – resulting in poor consistency and frustration.

Skill Exercises

While improved swing technique drastically improves our chances of connecting with the ball effectively, it is not enough. We also require coordination of the smaller moving parts which we can’t see on a video camera.

For this reason, utilizing the latest research in motor learning, there are exercises which can dramatically speed up your rate of learning, such as;

  • Differential practice
  • Variability practice
  • Improved sources of feedback

Many of these drills are unorthodox, but have been proven to work in scientific studies and in the field of coaching.

If you want to learn more about these skill exercises, along with the tour-pro movement patterns and techniques used to create incredibly consistent strikes, check out The Strike Plan.

It has 6 modules and over 3 hours of HD content, instructing you in everything you need to know to improve your distance, consistency and strike quality. Click HERE to learn more.

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Matt Saternus

Co-Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is a golf instructor, club fitter, and writer living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Matt's work has been published in Mulligan Magazine, Chicagoland Golf, South Florida Golf, and other golf media outlets. He's also been a featured speaker in the Online Golf Summit and is a member of Ultimate Golf Advantage's Faculty of Experts.

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3 Comments

  1. Chad Hershberger

    Great summary on the keys to being the best golfer you can be. I spend 45 minutes a day, during my lunch break, hitting balls at the range to improve and sustain my swing. My frustration is that some days it takes me longer to find my swing than other days but when I do I’m striking the ball extremely well. I’m going to check out this Strike Plan and see if it can help me improve my consistency and get the most out of those 45 minutes a day. On another note, when I read reviews on some of the new legal modern drivers, many strong hitters claim to be getting better smash factors than 1.50 (I never have) on launch monitors such as GC2. Do you think it’s just the launch misreading the swing speed or ball speed or have some drivers eclipsed that perfect smash factor number?

    • Matt Saternus

      Chad,

      I’ve heard a few different explanations for this – including the two you mention – but I don’t know the definitive answer.

      Best,

      Matt

  2. As a teacher for many years I have found a couple of things. The first is that people want it right now but cannot remember what they were told, and if the Teacher gets too technical they just get confused. Most don’t have much time to practice nor do they want to and these are facts. What I have found is to do these things you just slow down. Most people swing like they are coming off the Ground and of course this distance thing we have does not help. But an easier, controlled swing will create a lot of good things. I always want a person to feel like they are 60% and that is usually 80/90, and have had some I had to get them to feel like it was 40%, but they were always amazed at the distance of a solid hit, and because they aren’t off balance from swinging too hard much more accuracy. So rather than get all technical and confused, they can slow down for better, longer, more accurate hits and once they realize it they get better. It is all about effortless power vs. powerless effort. Start on the range with real easy swings and gradually work up until you lose control and then back down a bit to where you have control and that is it. It is not easy cause we all think swing hard to hit it long where swing under control, effortless to hit is solid and long. But it is tough to not whack it.

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