Posts Tagged ‘club path’
There is so much complex information out there regarding the Ball Flight Laws – a ten second Google search yields enough confusion to get my head spinning for a month. The “old” or “new” ball flight laws, Dr. Wiren, TrackMan…..who or what should you believe?
In light of Dr. Einstein‘s insightful quote I am going to give this touchy topic my best shot and try to keep it as simple as possible. Please don’t check out! This is important information for any golfer to comprehend, so bear with me and you’ll gain a far better understanding of why your golf ball reacts the way it does.
There are only four factors that influence ball flight when clean (not necessarily solid) contact is made between a golfball and a clubface.
The faster the clubhead travels the further and higher the ball will travel – generally with more spin. Compare a chip (slow speed) with a pitching wedge vs. a full swing (faster speed) with a pitching wedge…simple enough.
Orientation is a fancy term that refers to where the clubface is angled. Keep in mind that the face angles both left or right or up or down – left or right being an open or closed face and the up/down variable (although hopefully never down) referring to the loft imparted at impact (dynamic loft). The face angle largely determines where the ball launches – left or right of the target and at what angle relative to the ground. A good general point to remember is clubface (for the most part) = launch.
Once again the direction the clubhead travels relative to the target line at impact – left or right (clubpath) and up or down (attack angle) – plays a role in determining ball flight. A lesser role than the clubface, but a role nonetheless. A good general point to remember is clubpath (for the most part) = curve.
Centerdness of Contact
This is a big one and something the vast majority of teachers and golfers tend to underestimate. Most golfers strike the ball on the sweet spot far less frequently than they think . I often see golfers that swing for a draw, yet strike for a fade – in other words they have a clubpath that is in to out, yet hit the ball slightly out the heel which leads to a fade. An off center point of contact on the face leads to gear effect, which overrides or reduces the effect the face orientation and clubhead direction have on ball flight. This factor plays a bigger role than most realize – watch out for it. And the best way to do that – a spray of Dr. Scholl’s foot powder.
Here are a few simple factors to understand and remember:
- The ball launches primarily in the direction of the face – varying degrees of up and either left or right.
- Given a centered hit, clubpath leads to curve. With the curve being away from the clubpath.
- Hitting down does not increase spin, and conversely, hitting up does not necessarily reduce spin.
- Heel hits encourage fades or reduce hooks and toe hits encourage draws or reduce slices.
- The more you hit down on the ball, the more you will swing in to out and the more you hit up on the ball the more you will swing out to in.
Now that you’re finished reading shoot back up to the top and read again. This is vital information to assist with your understanding of of how your golf club “communicates” to your golf ball.
If you’d like to try out your new understanding of the Ball Flight Laws in southwest Florida check out this Fort Myers Golf Guide for a great course to play.
Thanks for reading and feel free to fire away with any questions you may have…..
Last week I had my first opportunity to work with a professional long driver. Having never taught one before I was not sure what to expect, but I knew that with TrackMan I could help him become more efficient and ultimately make him better at his profession. I must admit though – I was nervous about how to go about things prior to our meeting.
The fine young gentleman I taught was Patrick Hopper – already an accomplished and successful long driver that finished in the top 10 in Remax World Long Drive Championship in 2010.
He arrived with a golf bag full of 48″ drivers (all USGA spec) and after chatting for a while he shared that his tendencies were high fades and he sometimes struggled to find the grid. When he started hitting I was in shock – these were the highest and longest golf shots I had ever seen. We even had to get him to aim a little to the right so as to not rain down drives on the golfers warming up on the far side of the range over 350 yards away. The photo below shows how much the ball actually compresses into the face before departing in a hurry….
After watching him hit about a dozen drives we took a look at his TrackMan numbers for a few of his better shots:
- His average apex height was just over 200 feet which was massively high
- His spin rate at 2800 rpm was high
- While his club path was 5.5 degrees outward he tended to hit too many weaker fades which indicated a heel strike
We set out to lower the trajectory and encourage baby draws with a strike point that was very slightly favoring the toe side of the club. After some work and “chipping” a few drives at around 120-125 mph he started to get the hang of a straighter club path and an improved strike point.
Here is a comparison of his best shot before and his best shot after…..
The shot above indicates a slight toe-sided strike which was not his tendency in the early going. The shot below also indicates a similar strike point, but now with a more appropriate launch angle, better spin rate and 15 extra yards.
Keep in mind that the above shots were hit with newer Titleist NXT Tour golf balls into about a 10-12 mph headwind!
What an amazing talent this young man is – I was amazed at how calm and sincerely pleasant he was to work with. At the end of the day he received the same lesson I give golfers everyday – improved distance via better efficiency and improved accuracy via an understanding of how your swing should cause the ball to respond. Keep an eye on Patrick Hopper.
That really was fun!
With so many questions after my two most recent posts I thought it would be enlightening to show you what we see when using TrackMan. This particular driver was hit by Rick Hartmann – my boss and the Head Professional at Atlantic Golf Club. Rick played on the European Tour for ten years and is a fantastic driver of the ball. This is a good drive, but not anything unusual for Rick (it was into a very slight headwind). These particular numbers are very close to optimal and should be something we should all be working towards regardless of what our club speed might be. Of course that is if you happen to like high, long draws…
If you want to be efficient with your driver here is an explanation of what I look for:
- The Attack Angle (0.9 degrees up) is positive – a good sign for maximum efficiency as an upward hit is better than a downward hit (if you want to hit it as far as possible).
- Notice how (because the Swing Plane is very close to 45 degrees) that the Attack Angle + Club Path = Swing Direction. Not unusual really, this is a helpful indicator in understanding what factors effect the club path.
- The Spin Loft is close to 11 degrees – a solid number that seems to work for most golfers. Spin Loft = Dynamic Loft - Attack Angle. Think of spin loft as a measure of ‘ball compression‘.
- In order to hit good draws the face must be open relative to the target at impact and here you see how the Face Angle is open (2.7 degrees) with the Club Path being further to the right (3.5 degrees). Couple that with a centered hit and you’ve got lovely push draws.
- A centered hit is vital and that’s why I like to keep Face to Path alongside Spin Axis. If the hit is in the heel the face angle would be closed ( a negative number) and the spin axis would be tilted to the right (positive) and vice versa for a toe hit. Here you see how with the face slightly closed to the path, you should get a baby draw, and that’s exactly what we got – all from a centered hit.
- Club Speed and Ball Speed are fairly self explanatory, but if you divide the club speed into the ball speed you will get 1.48 which equals the Smash Factor. Smash factor is merely a measure of how efficiently you translated club speed into ball speed and is not purely a measure of how well you struck the ball. The maximum smash factor for a driver 1.53. (I have seen 1.54 twice!)
- The Height of the shot, which is measured from flat and not necessarily the ground, is right where I’d like to see it for this particular club speed. PGATour average swing speed is 112mph and they hit all their clubs 90 feet in the air. At around 108mph I think 88 feet high works very nicely.
- Launch Angle and Launch Direction are largely influenced by the club face and I like both here. I look for draws to launch to the right of the target (positive) and the launch angle to be somewhere between 10 and 16 degrees depending on the players club speed.
- The Spin Rate for this shot is a touch high, but I would attribute that to a shaft that is softer than what the golfer should be using. I’d like to see the spin rate at this club speed be somewhere between 2000 and 2200.
- Side Total indicates that this ball is straight down the center and finished less than 4 feet right of the intended target line – just another ho-hum 280 yard drive down the pipe.
Somewhat advanced I know, but after the response to my last few posts I know there are thousands of golfers out there who are looking for a better understanding of what really happens at impact and what they should be working towards for maximum efficiency. If you can duplicate these numbers you won’t need me for much…at least not for the driver.
I recently ran an interesting promotion where I offered golfers an opportunity to gain 10 yards if they participated in a twenty minute TrackMan session. The cost was $50 and if they didn’t gain the yardage their session was free. This meant I had to be on my game and I had to make simple and effective upgrades to get paid…it’s not often a golfer can take a lesson and only have to pay for the lesson if they see immediate results!
My reason for running the promotion was primarily to create interest and excitement in the new TrackMan unit and to give the Berkeley Hall membership a peek at what this technology can do for them.
I had eighteen golfers, eleven men and seven ladies sign up and I encouraged each of the participants to focus on the driver. In case a participant wanted to work with an iron I had them each bring their driver and a seven iron along.
When hitting the driver I try to get my students to have an attack angle of somewhere from 1 – 5 degrees up along with a club path of somewhere from 1 – 5 degrees from in to out. I prefer that most golfers hit out and up on the ball creating a high launch, low spin trajectory with the driver. We all could benefit from a few extra yards, no?
Here is a compilation of points of interest from the day:
- The average swing speed for the men with the driver was 83.9mph. The top speed achieved was 96.1mph while the slowest was 70.1mph. Keep in mind that this event was promoted as a “distance” event and as a result the golfers who came out tended not be the longest of hitters.
- The average speed for the ladies with the driver was 65.6mph with the top speed being 73.4mph and the slowest being 60.3mph.
- Before any changes were made 11 out of the 18 golfers hit down on the ball at an average of 1.6 degrees with the driver. After the changes had been made the same 11 golfers averaged 0.6 degrees up on the ball. Not bad…
- Before any changes were made 7 golfers (a surprisingly low number in my opinion!) hit from out to in at an average of 3.3 degrees with the big stick. This means that their club path was travelling 3.3 degrees left (for a right hander) of the target at impact. After adjusting, the same 7 golfers averaged 0.8 degrees from in to out – a very positive change.
- Prior to any changes 4 golfers hit too much (in my opinion) from in to out at an average of 6.6 degrees. After the changes they averaged 2.2 degrees in to out – a far more respectable number.
- Not every golfer gained yardage, although the majority did. A few golfers actually lost some clubhead speed while they were working on the changes which were primarily in the address position. It was interesting to note how some golfers adapted and changed easily while others had a tough time.
- The golfers with slower swing speeds tended to be more efficient, something I had already noted from the PGA Tour stat on Total Driving Efficiency and as a result it was quite difficult to get them make the “required” yardage gains. They were quite close to optimal already…
- Similarly, I found the ladies to generally be more efficient in transferring the energy they created to the ball than the men. I’ve also noticed that LPGA golfers also tend to be more efficient than their PGA Tour counterparts, particularly with the driver. The mantra seems to be “the more energy you create, the more likely you are to waste it!” It does not have to be that way though.
- Every golfer who attended the event improved in an important area regarding how they deliver the club to the back of the ball. Quite a few golfers did not gain 10 yards, but they all left feeling like they had the knowledge and feel they needed in order to realize longer tee shots.
- One lady had a fantastic golf swing with very efficient numbers, but, primarily due to her petite size, she was unable to generate much clubhead speed. She had an older, heavy driver with a 70 gram shaft and so I spent most of our time talking to her about what equipment (lighter = faster) suited her best and what exercises (Momentus woosh) she could do to increase her speed with the driver. I’ll be interested to see how she does with the new club.
- Almost all the participants commented that while the “numbers overload” from TrackMan was overwhelming at first, once we had isolated a particular problem (attack angle, club path, spin axis etc.) it seemed very simple. They were able to key in on one area and get a feel for how much change was required in order to reach their goal – all without much in the way of complicated, positional swing changes.
- The twenty minute time format worked well for the students and for me. They did not get overloaded with information and I had be concise and clear (for a change!) in what they needed to upgrade.
So, back to the question, “Can you get better in twenty minutes?” I would have to say an emphatic yes. With the right feedback mechanism, which TrackMan certainly is, and a simple approach, you can make fairly substantial changes in a short period of time. The important thing moving forward is that you practice the changes in order to gain a measure of comfort and confidence in them – and as we know, that takes more than twenty minutes.
Thanks for reading.
When I first got into teaching golf I learned a particular method of swinging the club – I was very much a method teacher. I believed there was an ideal pattern to be followed and all golfers would have been better if they could learn to swing the club and move their body in this manner. At one point I even went so far as to say that in a few more years there would never be another “homemade” golf swing on the PGA Tour! There was only one, ideal way to swing a golf club and I wanted every student I taught to get to this ideal.
That phase of my teaching career came to an abrupt end five years ago when I started a self-education project to study the swings of golf”s all time greats. As I researched and broke down these championship swings the very first thing I found was that not a single one of them had a swing that was similar to another. How could this be? I had spent the first fifteen odd years of my career teaching golfers a certain swing method and in the space of one month had figured out that no great golfer used the same method as any other great golfer. What did that say for my, or any other, method?
Think of the foursome you play golf with most often – there could be a multitude of body types, age groups, and personalities in every group on the course. And I, in all my brainwashed brilliance, had been trying to get every one of them to swing in the same fashion.
Little did I know that my self education project would turn my teaching upside down. I now know that there are many ways to swing, yet very few ways to hit – and all the greatest golfers employ those same narrow parameters to hit repeatable, quality golf shots. My research project actually culminated in the book “It’s All About Impact”.
Early in my career I attempted to achieve function or peak performance by improving the look and form of a golfers swing. Can you imagine what I’d have done if Lee Trevino, Raymond Floyd, Nancy Lopez, Hubert Green or Jim Furyk had come to me for help early in their careers? I’m thankful for their sake that they hadn’t as you might never had heard their names.
In my teaching now, I work to get golfers to squeeze the most out of what their unique bodies, minds and experiences will allow. It is all about function and very little about form. I often say to a student, “If I could get your swing to look worse and have you shoot five strokes lower, we’d both be happy campers.” I will do whatever I need to do to get my student to get the club to do what they want the ball to do…regardless of how it looks.
We are all different physically, mentally, emotionally and experientially – how can we possibly swing a golf club with the same form? The answer is – it cannot be done! Stop trying to swing like your favorite player and start learning how to hit like your favorite. Understand that you’re different and unique and if you can deliver the appropriate set of physics (forces and angles) to the back of the ball with your swing – it will follow the desired trajectory to the desired location. Isn’t that what you’re after?
I believe so strongly in providing my students with an understanding of what the “appropriate physics” at impact are that I have purchased a TrackMan unit. TrackMan is the ultimate in functional teaching as it measures all the factors that lead to ball flight. The radar unit tracks clubhead speed, swing plane, angle of attack, club path, face angle and dynamic loft all at the most important part of any golf swing – impact. Now, as golfer, imagine being able to know which of the previously mentioned measurements are stumbling blocks for your golf game. Wouldn’t it be great to know that you have to worry about nothing else other than the club path being too far from out to in? Or perhaps your attack angle is too far down and you need to feel like you sweep each iron off the ground?
My goal with any student is to change as little as possible and it often works that way, but sometimes we need to change quite a lot. The objective is always the same - influence the club at impact in order to make the ball what we would like it to do.
If you come to me for a lesson you will not be taught a method of swinging a golf club, but you will be taught a method of hitting a golf ball. None of my students will ever have golf swings that look similar, unless by accident, but many of them will hit shots that look and sound alike. You will leave the lesson knowing what you need to do to hit better shots – and you will also leave hitting better shots.
TrackMan arrives in early October at Berkeley Hall. Call Andrew at (843)247-4688 to book a lesson.