Why Your Ball Does What It Does
By Terry Koehler, The Wedge Guy
Terry Koehler has been in the golf industry for over 30 years and currently spends his days as the President of EIDOLON Golf, a small premium wedge company in Victoria, Texas. He's been blogging for over 3 years and has written hundreds of articles ranging from golf tips to equipment issues. His blog will appear on ClubSG twice per week. You can reach Terry to have your golf questions answered at email@example.com.
One of the most interesting things about golf ... to me at least ... is the many things a golf ball can do based on a tiny fraction of a second of contact with the clubface. Launch angle, spin, direction, curvature, distance ... all input to the ball in what is actually milliseconds of time on the fact. Pretty darned amazing, actually. And managing those few milliseconds is really what golf is all about, isn't it?
The reason I picked this topic today is that one of our readers, Rory M., sent me a link to an article about the debunking of many of the myths of ball flight control that he had run across. Though he really didn’t ask a question (except to get my take on this study), Rory is winning a new EIDOLON wedge for sharing his "find" with all of us.
The study is an in-depth look into the real physics of ball flight – and a debunking of the long-held belief that the initial direction of the ball is determined by club path, and the final curvature a function of clubface angle. I've never found the old advice –"aim the clubface at the target and align your body with the intended starting line" – to produce the desired shot pattern, and when I first saw this research about ten years ago, it changed the way I tried to shape shots. If you are interested in more, read this. The article draws on in-depth research that Trackman (the launch monitor) published about what really affects ball flight, and it is quite interesting.
In essence, the article shows the starting direction of the ball is much more affected by face angle than swing path, which is just the opposite of what we have always been taught, and what many instructors still teach. I've always believed that to be true, and when I worked over my own shot pattern in my twenties ... to evolve from a low draw to a higher fade, I achieve the result by altering my club path through impact to be more down the line, rather than as much from the inside as I had earlier learned. I think an examination of Hogan’s swing would show that he actually achieved the same thing.
So, with this "new" information, I think curing a shot pattern flaw is made even easier than before. If you are starting the ball on the correct line more often than not, you already are squaring the clubface, so all you have to do is alter your swing path a little more to achieve the curvature you want. And I think that can be done through "mind tricks".
If you have a fade or slice that you want to straighten out, it's obvious your swing path is too much from the outside. My suggestion would be to take some slow practice swings, feeling your right elbow (for RH players) staying a little closer to your side on the downswing. The easiest way to achieve this is to feel more control of the club with your left hand and arm, which will cause more of a pulling motion through impact. See what happens. As you get more comfortable with that move, build up to fuller swing speed and watch your fade/slice be reduced dramatically or disappear completely!
Conversely, if you tend to hook or draw the ball, and want to straighten that out a bit, you can make your swing path more down-the-line by moving a little closer to the ball at address and slowing down your lower body in the downswing. This will allow the shoulders and upper body to keep up and result in a less "from the inside" swing path.
Science is a wonderful thing, and I've always believed that the more we know about the physics of what is happening, the better we can make the ball do what we want. I hope this will prove to be a topic that generates lots of dialog.
* The Wedge Guy's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of SkyGolf.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.
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