Swing Pattern vs Strike Point

You may have heard me talk about how common it is to see golfers hit a tee shot with a fade (out-to-in club path) swing pattern, yet strike it off the toe for a baby draw or vice versa. The other day I was giving a lesson and a student hit a shot that was too interesting to not share. Here are the TrackMan details of the driver shot:

trackman heel hit

First a few basics:

  • Club path is primarily responsible for the curve of any shot
  • The direction of the club path relative to the target, out-to-in (fade pattern) or in-to-out (draw pattern), is what I refer to as a players swing pattern
  • Players that swing from in-to-out will tend to hit draws and players that swing from out-to-in will tend to hit fades
  • Where the ball is struck on the face of the driver (strike point) can drastically alter the effect of a players swing pattern on ball flight
  • Shots struck off the heel will tend to fade more or draw less and shots struck off the toe will tend to draw more or fade less

The player who hit the above shot has a fairly strong draw bias to his swing pattern and we are always working to neutralize his strong in-to-out club path as he tends to struggle with blocks and hooks. As you can tell from the above shot the club path (first highlighted yellow box) was strongly from in-to-out - 9.2 degrees to the right of the target. Well then why did the ball fly straight (spin axis 0.2)

The particular shot we're looking at was struck well off the heel (yellow circle) and essentially what happened was the draw bias of the swing pattern was cancelled out by the fade bias of the strike point. Notice how in the second yellow box above there's a closed face to path relationship, which should lead to a hook, but the ball flew straight - always a dead give away for a heel strike.

I've come up with a simple formula to help explain this:

A + B = C 

Where A is the swing pattern, B is the strike point and C is the resultant ball flight. You see it's the combination of A and B that gives us the ball flight - not just A. Here's a video I did with TrackMan that might help to explain some of this more clearly:

When you're practicing driver you should always mark the face with some Dr. Scholl's Odor X foot spray. If you do that you will always get B (strike point) and C (ball flight) from any shot. Should you be practicing without a TrackMan you'll at least have a clear idea as to what your swing pattern is and can make well-informed adjustments if necessary.

All the best and thanks for reading.


Spin Rate and the Driver

I was recently teaching an accomplished senior golf professional and he happened to hit three very interesting consecutive shots. They are illustrated in the image above starting from the orange circle and working up to the blue circle.

I thought there was some valuable information to learn from each of these three shots. Here is some TrackMan data to ponder:

Orange Strike

Spin Rate - 3252 Launch Angle - 7.5 Total Distance - 256.5 Club Speed - 103.6

Green Strike

Spin Rate - 2623 Launch Angle - 9.6 Total Distance - 269.5 Club Speed - 102.9

Blue Strike

Spin Rate - 1928 Launch Angle - 10.9 Total Distance - 274.6 Club Speed - 103.1

My experience has shown that golfers tend to be fairly consistent when it comes to club speed and this illustration shows us just that - there was a change of less than 1 mph between the golfers slowest and fastest swings. Nothing new there...

What is interesting is that where the ball was struck on the face, influenced the spin, launch and ultimately the distance that the shot traveled. You may have heard that with a driver you want to launch the ball high and spin it low. The purpose of this article is to get you to start believing it! 

Stay tuned as this is the stuff that can make a tangible difference in your game...

Launch Angle

The clubface is curved from top to bottom and this is called roll. If you have a 9.5 degree driver that means (assuming the manufacturer is correct) that your club has 9.5 degrees of loft in the center (picture the "equator") of the clubface. If you strike the ball lower on the face your club effectively has less loft and vice versa for a higher strike point. well hitting the ball higher on the clubface introduces more loft to the ball and it will thus launch higher - bingo! We've got the higher launch taken care of. As you can see the ball launched more than 3 degrees higher by elevating the strike point.

Spin Rate

But what about the spin rate? How do you get that down and what is ideal? I have great news, as this is a two for one deal. When you strike the ball higher on the face the "off-center" hit causes the clubhead to twist slightly during impact and this leads to vertical gear effect and a strike above the equator will have less spin than a strike below it. I prefer to see a spin rate somewhere between 1900 and 2400 rpm's if you're looking to really make the ball go. It's amazing what a strike point that's about 1/2" above the equator will do towards getting you into that optimal spin rate range.

If you're wondering where to strike the ball on the face the above photo is just about perfect - a touch above center for higher launch and less spin and a touch towards the toe for a hint of gear effect draw. Who wouldn't want to hit high launching, low spinning, baby draws that go 20 yards longer with the exact same club speed?

This Guy is Really Long...

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!