What do racing tires have in common with wedge play in golf? Read on because there might be a lot more to this than you might think.
It’s all about traction or friction, or more simply put – grip. The more the tires grip the road, the faster the driver can go and the more our clubface grips the ball, the lower the flight and the more the ball spins. Let’s look at how these tires work and see if we can draw a few parallels to how the specialized clubface on our wedges interact with the golf ball….
On a dry, sunny day day a race car will have tires that are wide, soft and completely grooveless. The tires are wide and grooveless in order to get as much rubber in contact with the road. Any grooves simply decrease the amount of traction the tire exerts on the road. They are softer than normal tires to increase traction. In rainy conditions the drivers will switch to tires with grooves (as seen above). The grooves on the tires channel water away from the road and thus allow the flat portion of the tire to grip the road cleanly. Grooves reduce the amount of rubber in contact with the road, thus reducing traction.
Club manufacturers now make their top tier wedges with a milled, legally grooved clubface. The milling on the clubface represents the softness of the racing tire as it allows the cover of the ball to settle into the mini grooves, even on these partial shots, and friction is increased. Our clubface needs grooves because we encounter many different lies during a round of golf. Many of those lies dictate that matter (grass/moisture) will be trapped between the face and the ball, greatly reducing friction. Grooves are not on the clubface for spin, but primarily as a channel to keep matter from being caught between the face and ball thus decreasing grip. Race car drivers have the luxury of changing tires for rainy conditions, while golfers do not have the luxury of changing their clubface for a variety of lies.
If we hit all our pitch or partial wedge shots off a tee using a premium ball and there was no way any grass or moisture could interrupt friction I actually believe a non-grooved, yet milled clubface would actually spin the ball as much or slightly more than the current grooved clubface designs. Good luck trying to convince your playing partners to go for that idea, but isn’t it helpful to know how the clubface is really designed to interact with the cover of the ball?
A milled clubface will increase friction in a similar fashion that softer racing tires will, but those milling lines also wear out like a softer tire does. If you are a competitive golfer have a practice set and a tournament set of wedges. This way you’ll always have that lower, spinning wedge shot when it matters most….
I have had so many people ask me how to better control where they strike the ball on the face that I had to share this drill. Most golfers display a consistent pattern when striking the golf ball and although the impacts points may not be in the exact same position, after hitting a handful of shots a definite pattern will start to emerge. Many golfers want to hit draws and a slight toe side bias to that strike pattern will encourage draws. The ideal strike point with the driver is above and outside of center. Here’s how to build your strike point awareness and ultimately improve your ability to hit it on the good part of the face.
I spray the clubface with Dr. Scholl’s Odor X foot spray and then divide the clubface into four quadrants. The objective is to place the center of the ball in each intended quadrant.
- The frist shot should be the high toe strike
- Followed by the low heel
- Then the more difficult shots, the low toe
- And the high heel.
The above photo is the first time I have ever seen anyone complete this drill on the first try. The more I learn about the importance of impact location, the better I feel about this quote from my Twitter feed:
I see a higher correlation between quality shots and where the ball is hit on the face, than just about any other factor in the swing.
You may ask why don’t we just practice hitting the shot on the intended location? As my friend and fellow coach Chris Como once shared:
Repeatability does not necessarily come from just trying to be more repeatable. Learn to solve similar ‘problems’ a variety of ways…
In other words – learning to hit the ball in a variety of locations on the face will actually make you better at hitting it in the desired location. If you can learn to better (you’ll never be perfect!) control where you impact the ball on the clubface you will dramatically improve the consistency and quality of your shots. Give it a try and feel free to share your experience and photos.
Any idea which shot went the longest out of the four? Read the link below for the answer…
There has been a fair amount of banter online recently regarding various topics and I thought it would help both of us if I jotted down a few thoughts:
A functional draw is one that finishes at the target – something many of us strive for. In order to hit functional draws you need a clubpath that is traveling outward (in to out) and a clubface that is angled slightly closed relative to the clubpath, yet open to the target (assuming center contact).
It is possible to hit both functional draws, ones that finish at the target, and bad draws, ones that move away from the target, with a clubface that is open, square and closed to the target at impact. You can even hit good and bad draws with the appropriate clubpath, but I believe an outward moving clubpath is integral to hitting functional draws. And here’s why…
I am yet to teach a golfer who fades the ball that consistently swings from in to out!
Clubpath is king and clubface is queen – I might get the desired shot shape with clubface, but I cannot get the desired result without clubpath. It is simply not possible to hit a functional draw with a clubpath that travels from out to in (assuming center contact). It is clearly not the only thing, but in my opinion it is the most important thing.
I am well aware there are many different ways to achieve this and whether as a coach or golfer you upgrade the clubface first or the clubpath first is entirely up to you. After all it’s all about results no?
Many golfers and TrackMan users are under the impression that smash factor indicates how well a ball was hit, or how centered the strike was – this is not necessarily the case. A high smash factor purely indicates high ball speed relative to club speed. Here is the simplified formula:
It is quite possible to have a smash factor with irons that is too high. Golfers who play from a closed face position and who tend to flight the ball low will often have a higher smash factor than golfers who flight the ball appropriately. This does not mean the low ball hitters are striking it better, it just means they are generating too much linear ball speed off of a particular club.
It is important for golfers to understand that ball type and condition, dynamic loft, clubhead mass, attack angle, CoR and of course quality of strike go into determining the smash factor for any given shot. If you don’t believe me take a look at the real formula for smash factor:
The objective with the driver should 1.50 or higher, but with the shorter clubs a higher smash just might not necessarily better. Go for solid hits and ball flight over smash factor any day!
A Note to Golf Coaches:
I have made more than my fair share of mistakes in life. From these mistakes I have learned and improved as a coach and a person. One of the many valuable lessons I have learned from making mistakes is to never deride, belittle or insult another golf coach. It does nothing to enhance your image or reputation and you will never look better while attempting to make someone else look worse. Be wise when addressing other coaches and the methods they employ – you’ll be better off for it.
Here is an exercise to help you gain a few miles per hour of clubhead speed over time and allow you to pick up that much needed yardage off the tee. The objective is to slowly introduce your body to the increased speed, efficiency and agility necessary to generate additional clubhead speed.
Here is what is required:
- It is important to get loose prior to starting your speed sets
- Using your driver you want to hit two sets of five golf balls with a recovery period in between each set
- There should be little concern for accuracy or even quality of shot – the sole objective is speed
- The first shot in each set should be at your normal driver speed
- Each shot builds on the speed of the previous shot
- The final shot in each set should be the absolute fastest you can possibly swing
If you can do two speed sets as mapped out above 3 times a week for a month I would be surprised if you had not gained 4 mph of clubhead speed when making a normal feeling golf swing. That’s enough for 10 more yards off every tee box!
Additional resources for more distance off the tee:
As many of you may be aware I have done a tremendous amount of research on pitching the last few years. My research continues and I wanted to share a few important truths regarding this often misunderstood stroke:
- Great pitchers generally take very little divot, flight the ball low and create high spin rates
- Lower trajectory shots are substantially easier to gauge than higher ones
- When struck correctly lower trajectory shots will have more spin than higher lofted ones
- Most golfers perform better when pitching with their second most lofted club (SW vs LW)
- There are two controllable ways to stop a golf ball – high spin rate and a steep land angle
- Thin shots have more spin than you might think
- The quality of the clubface to ball interaction (friction) is very important in generating spin
- The quality of the lie plays a big role in determining the clubface to ball interaction
- The optimal lie for amazing pitches is a fairly tight, downgrain lie
- Any moisture that gets between the face and ball will decrease friction and thus increase launch angle and reduce spin
- Sand between the face and the ball will increase friction and thus lower launch angle and increase spin
- When practicing it is important to keep a wet towel handy to clean the face after every few shots – don’t use a tee
- Older clubs with worn down grooves or without a milled face will never spin the ball as much as a fresh wedge with a milled face (all else being equal)
- A fresh (new), milled face is more important than fresh grooves or even square grooves
- Premium golf balls flight better and spin more than inexpensive golf balls
- The optimal technique is based almost entirely around managing the angle of attack
- Controlling what the handle does through impact is vital in managing the angle of attack
- A club path that tracks from from in to out will most often lead to better strikes, lower trajectory and more spin
- Where a golfer seeks to add loft – bounce, and thus the grind/shape of the sole, will play a bigger role
- For stock. and thus lower flighted shots the bounce plays less of a role than you might imagine
I have found there to be a multitude of different, and somewhat unusual techniques that work well for certain individuals. My objective has been to find a pitching technique that works best for the majority of golfers. I have found a technique that fits the bill and I am able to explain it simply and vividly.
Please note that I will be producing a video on pitching that will be for available on my website in the Fall. I had previously indicated it would be available in the Summer, but I want to make sure I have the best product available for you, thus the delay. The video will explain all my findings including what I have found to be the optimal pitching technique…stay tuned!