Ball Flight 101
A popular debate among golf instructors is whether or not students need to understand the facts about ball flight. I am firmly in the camp that believes golfers will be better off if they have a practical understanding of what makes the ball do what it does. Do they need to understand every bit of minutia down to the fifth decimal? Of course not. What they need is some functional knowledge.
With that in mind, I bring you the first in a 5-part series on ball flight. Today’s lesson: Start Direction
Face or Path?
One of the biggest misconceptions about ball flight is that the ball starts where the path is pointing. This is inaccurate. Speaking generally:
The ball starts where the club face is pointed at impact
For those who want to be perfectly accurate, the ball starts somewhere between the club face and the path, but it’s primarily controlled by the club face, especially for lower-lofted clubs.
Try It For Yourself
Rather than take my word for it, try this:
Get your putter, a golf ball, and a 2X4 (or anything with a long, straight edge). Lay the 2X4 down and put the heel of the putter against it. Make a stroke keeping the heel on the 2X4 so that your club path is perfectly straight. Now, with that stroke, hit the ball with a dramatically open club face.
Where did the ball go? It went where the face was pointing.
Don’t Forget Loft
Let’s not forget that the club face has loft, too. Just as your swing can bring the club into impact with a face that is pointed left or right of the target, you can add or subtract loft. If you find that your shots are starting too high or too low, that’s primarily a result of the club face.
You now have a very simple, but very powerful, tool for understanding your ball flight.
Go to the range and set up your practice station. Hit some shots and observe where the ball starts relative to your target (it’s even better if a friend can stand behind you to watch this because it can be hard to perceive accurately). Once a pattern emerges, you will know whether you need to work on getting the club face more open or closed at impact.
In future lessons, I’ll address the techniques that will help you improve your impact conditions. If there are specific topics or shots you’d like to see addressed, please feel free to leave a comment below.
Understanding Ball Flight
Part 1: Start Direction