Posts Tagged ‘compression’
One of the most important aspects of great ball striking is compressing the golf ball. Now, we’ve all heard that statement and we know the feel of a purely struck shot, but what really is compression and how can we do a better job with it? Let’s start by understanding the photograph below. This is a simulated shot where the clubface is just about to reach the back of the golf ball. The red line indicates where the loft or upward face angle is at impact and the blue line indicates the direction the clubhead is travelling during impact. The white line connecting the two represents the amount of compression “experienced” by the golf ball.
The narrower the gap or closer the two lines are the more compression will be exerted onto the golf ball and assuming a decent strike and appropriate launch, the ball will travel further. TrackMan refers to this gap as spin loft and without being too detailed it is the difference between where the face points at impact and where the clubhead travels at impact.
Fredrik Tuxen – one of the founders of TrackMan refers to spin loft as compression itself. To get a better understanding of how the numbers work let me give you a few examples: Jack hits a 5 iron with the face pointing at 16 degrees and the clubhead moving 2 degrees down. Bob swings at the same speed as Jack with his 5 iron and he gets the face pointing 15 degrees up and the clubhead moving 6 degrees down. Jack has a spin loft of 18 and Bob has a spin loft of 21. Both shots are hit well, so which goes further? Jack’s does because he has a narrower spin loft gap and thus compresses the ball more than Bob. What spin loft would create the maximum compression? Zero! However, as we will learn spin loft is in large part responsible for the amount of spin imparted on any shot and a golf ball needs some spin to keep it flying in the air. I have found that a spin loft of 11 is very good for a driver.
Some interesting points about compression or spin loft:
- Hitting down will not increase your compression of the golf ball or the spin on the shot. Invariably this only leads to a shot where the face angle and the clubhead direction both move downward – there is no change in spin or increase in distance.
- A higher spin loft increases spin and generally slows down ball speed.
- If you have similar swing speed, but hit your shots far shorter than your playing partners – this is due to a lack of compression on your shots.
- Shots with a lower spin loft will curve in the air more easily than shots with less compression. That’s why it’s easier to keep a 7 iron straighter than a driver.
- Custom club fitting can help to improve your spin loft simply by delofting either your irons or driver.
Now that we really understand what true compression is we can start to look at methods to help us improve our own ball striking. There are two ways we can compress the ball better – deloft the face angle more at impact without hitting down any more or hit down less without increasing the the loft of the face during impact. Ideally we need to deloft the face without hitting down any more. Notice how in the Jack and Bob example I used above – Bob’s face was delofted more than Jack’s, yet he hit down more and this limited his ability to compress the ball.
To get a good sense of what is required:
- Get in front of a mirror with a 7 iron.
- Grip the club and facing the mirror get the clubhead about 3″ off the ground two feet back from where the ball would be.
- Now slowly glide the clubhead through impact while maintaining the 3″ space between the clubhead and the ground noticing that as you go beyond impact how much your hands need to stay in front.
- When you start hitting balls – start small and hit soft shots off of a tee.
- There should be no ground contact, try to leave the tee in the ground and see how low you can hit these little 7 iron shots.
This is the feel you want! Delofting the face without slamming the club into the ground. And believe it or not this applies to the driver as well. I know it may sound strange and it took me a while to wrap my brain around this, but it is entirely possible to hit up on the ball with the handle/hands in front of the clubhead.
If you have gained something from this article please share it with a friend. Let’s be honest, they could most probably do with the help….
I love this photograph taken by Robert Beck yesterday at the Open Championship. It reveals what it takes to hit compressed and penetrating iron shots – forward shaft lean. If you tend to hit the ball too high with your irons or haven’t taken a divot all year this is a fantastic image for you to keep in mind the next time you practice.
Remember these important points to help you get into this position at impact:
- If you have a weak grip it is almost impossible to get here. Strengthen your grip a touch and that will encourage the hands to lead and hold through the strike.
- Your weight must be forward at impact – favoring the lead foot 80%/20%. Drive the hips forward in the downswing with out the head shifting in front of the ball for proper weight distribution at impact.
- Deloft the clubface as much as possible at impact. Top players actually launch a 4 or even a 5 iron at a height similar to that which they launch the driver. Practice hitting low, punch type shots until you can hit the ball at head height.
A few additional articles to help:
This is a version of a drill that I have presented many times, but each time I use it, it impresses upon me the importance of a proper strike on the golf ball. In using Trackman I have come to learn that the correct attack angle (an upward or downward hit) with an iron should be anywhere between 2 and 5 degrees down. If you have ever topped shots or alternated between thin and heavy strikes, you are more than likely getting scoopy through impact and this drill is right up your alley.
This drill will get you to do the following through impact:
- Get the weight shifted onto the front foot
- Lead the hands ahead of the clubhead
- Hit down on the ball
- Take divots in the right place – after the ball!
All you need is a small piece of one of those swim noodles that all the kids like to use in the pool. Secure the strip of noodle into the ground by pressing tees through the center as illustrated. It may take a little experimenting, but eventually you’ll find the appropriate distance to line the balls up from the noodle. Before long you should start to see a consistent line of divots occurring on the target side of the golf ball – a positive sign! If you find yourself hitting a few of the dreaded “hosel rockets” your grip is too weak; Essentially you now need to scoop the face in order to square the clubface through impact. Get it stronger!
Some additional drills to help with impact:
- The Impact “Drag” Drill
- Hip Thrust Drill
- The Towel/Line Drill for Compression
- The Hip Slide and Why it is Important
- Golf’s #1 Impact Exercise
One of the biggest mistakes golfers make when playing in the wind is to make aggressive, full swings. It almost seems as if they try to overpower the wind – that cannot happen!
Here is a perfect example: A golfer faces a 120 yard shot that is into the wind; they calculate the shot to be playing approximately 130 yards; they pull their 130 yard club and make a full swing; the ball comes down 25 yards short of the pin. The reason this happens is that the harder you strike the ball the more it spins and spin creates turbulence, which leads to lift, which leads to height, which leads to the ball finishing far shorter than expected when flying into the breeze.
Here are a few keys to remember:
Always take far more club than you would normally use and hit the ball gently.
Narrow your stance slightly as this helps to hit down on the ball creating compression.
Use substantially less than a full swing – keep the follow through nice and compact too.
Grip down on the club slightly.
Some of the best shots I have ever hit have come in high wind situations: I recall the 9 iron from 86 yards at Old Head in Ireland and the 5 iron from 135 yards at Harbourtown as if it was yesterday. The reason I can recall them is because they were played in such a challenging situation. Look at these blustery days as a fun challenge – hey, most of your competitiors have already given up mentally. Throw the scorecard out and try to hit each shot to the best of your ability.
If you too can learn to swing softly and hit the ball gently, which in turn controls the trajectory and spin, you will begin to relish any challenge the wind may bring your way.
The manner in which the body works through the swing is integral to achieving a proper and productive impact position. In fact, body motion is the prime fundamental for striking a golf ball correctly. By pivoting and loading the body correctly in the backswing, you set off a chain reaction that automatically directs your body to where it should be at the moment of truth: impact!
Let’s start with the prime objective: To have your body weight 80% or more forward at impact while delivering a downward blow (at least with the irons and fairway woods) with your head over the ball.
In researching the great golfers, it quickly became apparent to me that there was something eerily similar about the manner in which they all pivoted or rotated their bodies to the top of the backswing. Their arms and clubs, however, were doing quite different things. I drew a straight line up the outside of each player’s back side. This way, when each player approached the top of their backswing, I could focus purely on their body movement.
The result was uncanny. Not only were the majority of the back side lines I drew at exactly 84 degrees – almost every player stayed not only inside that line, but flush up against it just prior to initiating the downswing. They were flush up against the 84 degree line prior to any part of the body initiating the downswing.
A few interesting points:
- In the past I taught golfers to get the weight into the back foot in the backswing. The 84 degree line does not advocate a reverse pivot, or moving the weight to the target in the backswing; it merely encourages keeping the weight centered throughout the wind up.
- I do believe the 84 degree line to be vitally important to any player’s game, because it keeps the body from straying too far from its final destination – impact.
- The more the body moves away from the target in the backswing the greater the distance it must travel in the downswing to get the weight onto the front foot.
- The 84 degree line also allows a player enough space to develop the necessary power for the shot without driving too far forward and in front of the ball.
The 84 Degree Secret is applicable only to iron swings. The reason for this is, as the stance gets wider, the line remains at 84 degrees, but that line gets pushed further from the golfers’ center, making it very difficult to get the full back side to press up against it.
With my new understanding that the golf swing is — or should be – all about impact, I now see that getting the body into proper position at address and at the top of the swing allows it to then glide down into a sound hitting position.
Set that chain reaction and allow the rest to happen.
Thanks for reading and I would love to hear your thoughts on the 84 Degree Secret.