The What, the Why and the How about "Getting Open" at Impact

What does 'get open' at impact mean? Why is it important to be open with your hips and chest as you approach impact? Now for the million dollar question - how can I do it? Start by taking a few minutes to watch and listen as I address all of these questions here...

What is it?

  • PGA Tour players are on average around 45º open with their hips and around 25º open with their chest at impact
  • Some are more and some are less, but all are open to some degree

Why is it important?

  • Getting the body rotating through impact allows for the hands to play a more passive role, thus allowing for a quieter clubface through the strike
  • Most golfers hit shots off line due to an inability to control the clubface through impact
  • All golfers would like to be more predictable with their ball flight and a quieter clubface through the strike will typically lead to improved control

How can I get open?

  • Get the clubhead deeper/more behind you as you start the downswing
  • Use your wrist angles to maintain control over the clubface and get it in place for a passive ride through impact
  • Observe your lead arm position going up and most importantly, coming down, while avoiding anything extreme
Impacto.jpg

The great golfers pictured above have an uncanny knack at controlling the clubface through impact. I'm convinced that getting the hips and the chest more than less open as the club strikes the ball will help you to become a more consistent golfer

Get to it!

Trajectory Tricks

The loft on the clubface at impact is largely responsible for the launch of the ball. When it comes to wedge play friction also plays a significant role in determining the launch angle, but the purpose of this article is to share an idea to help you improve the loft you deliver to the ball at impact.

Most of us will either hit the ball overly high or too low. This video illustrates a simple drill to get you to feel what you need to feel in order to grasp what is required to deliver either more, or less, loft.

For the high ball hitters:

  • Using a pitching wedge get set up with a narrow stance
  • Position the ball off the tip of your front foot
  • Feel the handle or butt of the club travel a long way forward into impact
  • It’s not easy but do all you can to hit low launchers

For the low ball hitters like me:

  • Stick with the PW and a narrow stance
  • The ball should be in line with the tip of your back foot
  • In the downswing you’ll feel the clubhead swinging a ton. The clubhead should feel like it outraces the hands
  • This will feel scoopy and that’s a good thing

Notice where my hands are just post impact in the image below - the low ball hitters need the hands less forward while the high ball hitters need to sense how much more forward they need to be…

It’s never easy making changes as they always feel so uncomfortable. Let’s get away from associating discomfort with ‘wrong’ as you work towards improvement. I know this exercise seems like it’s the opposite of what it should be, but as the task becomes more challenging (which this one is) we have no choice but to adapt.

The good news is that this drill applies directly to your long game too, so don’t be afraid to incorporate a few of these drills with those full swings too.

Thanks for checking in and I hope this helps you to enjoy your golf a little more.

How to Stop Hooking

There are literally thousands of articles pertaining to getting rid of slicing or fading the golf ball, yet not much sound information to help golfers overcome hooking (and blocking)!

The video clearly illustrates what the primary causes are...

The dispersion drill will not only get you to improve the club path, but also encourage you to get the clubface pointing to the right of the target. Exactly the opposite of what you have been struggling with! With the feel from the dispersion drill you will no longer have the:

  • club path traveling too far from in to out
  • clubface closed to the path
  • have to rely on perfect timing to quality golf shots

Give this simple drill a try if you tend to struggle with blocks and hooks. If you enjoyed this video and article please share it with a friend who you feel might benefit from it.

Thanks for tuning in!

 

Is Your Swing Built on Timing?

We've all played those rounds where we have 14 solid holes and 4 holes where it seems as if we've never held a club before. This is a classic indication that your golf swing is reliant on timing. A situation where the face angle at impact is determined by the golfer "manually" inputing clubface closure through the impact zone

Here's Sam Snead taking the handle "around the corner"....

Here's Sam Snead taking the handle "around the corner"....

While there is no one method or technique that allows us to position the face correctly through impact on a consistent basis there are certain elements in the golf swing that will allow us to do a better job of managing the clubface. Watch...

If you can work towards making the "motorboat" curve around the corner you'll become much better at getting the "tube" to fling around - this way positioning the clubface appropriately through the strike will start to become more automatic and your swing will be less reliant on timing.

Here's a clip to illustrate what the hands should be doing as they pass through the strike...

Ideally the handpath should be traveling inward and upward. Get to work on the proposed drills and you'll start to see a decreased reliance on timing and improved consistency out on the golf course. Thanks for reading...and watching!

Understanding Heel and Toe Klankers...

As the size of the clubhead has increased over the last two decades so has the role that gear effect plays on off-center strikes. As the volume of the head increases so does the importance of a quality strike. I think the following video will go a long way towards explaining how this works and what it can mean for your game...

Now keep in mind that gear effect can be a help or a hindrance - it can cause your ball to curve to the target or away from it. Here's an example of how an understanding of the importance of strike point, particularly with the driver, can help any golfer avoid trying to fix something that isn't broken.

A Neutral Swing with a Heel Strike

A Neutral Swing with a Heel Strike

The Same Neutral Swing with a Toe Strike

The Same Neutral Swing with a Toe Strike

Notice how the delivery numbers (attack angle & clubpath) from the above two shots are eerily similar, yet the resultant ball flight could not be more different. The difference in the outcome of the examples above is purely due to the location of the strike for each shot. While the two shots are very different I see no need for this player to address their swing. They simply need to develop their skill at striking the ball in a consistent location on the face.

  • Toe sided strikes will lead to more draw or less fade.
  • Heel sided strikes will lead to more fade or less draw.
  • High strikes on the face elevate launch and decrease spin.
  • Low strikes on the face lower launch and increase spin.
  • Gear effect works in 3D - the head will twist away from the strike location.
  • If the CoG is closer to the strike point, then there will be less curvature from gear effect on off-center hits. 
  • If the CoG is further from the strike point, then there will be more curvature from gear effect on off-center hits. 
  • Controlling the strike location is a skill - practice accordingly.

If you're looking to gain a better understanding of how you're striking the ball with your  "headcover" clubs, buy yourself a few cans of Dr. Scholl's Odor X. Spray the face of your driver the next time you're warming up or practicing to get some all important feedback.

Your next question might be - "How do I upgrade where I'm striking the ball?" Valid. I am of the opinion that controlling the strike point is a skill. A fun drill is to practicing striking the ball in a variety of unusual, yet intentional, locations on the clubface. Here are additional resources to help you understand and manage the strike point:

Collision! — Andrew Rice Golf

Strike Point Drill — Andrew Rice Golf

Optimal Strike Point for Longer Drives — Andrew Rice Golf

Spin Rate and the Driver — Andrew Rice Golf

Swing Pattern vs Strike Point — Andrew Rice Golf

A Golfer's Instinct

It never ceases to amaze me how important instinct is in any golfer's swing - that instinct to position their body or the club in such a manner as to give any shot the best possible chance of finishing at the target. Good golf instincts are the result of years playing the game, but also to a lesser degree, a player's innate talent.

In order to test and better understand this instinct I came up with an idea - I would change my normal grip to 90 degrees open and then 90 degrees closed as shown below and test my ability to adjust to the vastly different clubface angles - yet still attempt to get the ball to the target.

Now, as you might imagine, with an approximate 180 degrees difference between the face angle for these two shots I didn't get up and hit it beautifully straight away, but I was amazed that it only took 2-3 swings with each to adjust and get the ball to fly pretty much toward the target.

The image below shows the drastic difference that was required at impact in order to produce an acceptable result for each option. (The "weak" grip option is on the left while the "strong" grip option is on the right) It's also important to understand that the difference you're looking at is not from grip alone, quite the contrary. It is primarily my instinct to get the ball to the target that leads to the changes.

The TrackMan data shows how much the change in face angle altered both the shape of the swing and my impact alignments. There was more than a 10 degree difference between my clubpath with each swing and the swing plane (VSP) with each swing - both numbers that golfers tend to be very consistent with.

What can you take away from this test:

  • A golfer's primary instinct is to have the ball finish at the target. This instinct might cause them to swing and respond in unusual ways, but they are doing all they can to generate a successful outcome
  • Face angle can greatly influence the appearance and effectiveness of any golf swing
  • An open face throughout the swing will often encourage an out-to-in clubpath, while a closed face throughout the swing will often encourage an in-to-out clubpath
  • An open face will often promote a lower swing plane while a closed face will often elevate the swing plane through impact
  • Practicing unusual techniques and methods that are well outside your comfort zone will actually improve your instincts to make the ball go to the target and ultimately make you a better golfer

The next time you go out to practice, work towards bettering your golf instinct. As Chris Como once said:

 Repeatability does not necessarily come from just trying to be more repeatable. Learn to solve similar 'problems' in a variety of ways...

Think, and practice, a little outside of your box.

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?

TrackMan Teaches the Teacher

Five years ago I thought I knew just about all there was to know about ball flight and teaching golf. Then I started using TrackMan and my, how very quickly my eyes were opened. I came to realize that I had a long way to go, not only in truly understanding ball flight, but in understanding golfers and what their tendencies might be.

I think it's important to understand that TrackMan will not teach anything - it is purely a measuring device. A tool that better allows the teacher to perform their job. It allows me to diagnose a golfer's problems more quickly and start making improvements without any doubt as to what is causing a golfer's poor shot pattern. Once the technology has helped me diagnose a problem I then start using it to inform me how my recommended changes are working - if at all. If those numbers are not improving I'll change my approach very quickly.

TrackMan has taught me so much about ball flight, but it has also opened my eyes to patterns that exist for almost all golfers. Here are a few nuggets that myself and fellow TrackMan users Martin Chuck, Jason Sutton, Tom Stickney have noticed over the years:

Strike Point:

  • Where you strike the ball on the face plays a far bigger role in determining the flight of the shot than what was previously believed
  • As a result heel and toe misses can lead people down a road of trying to fix something that isn't broken

Advice - Use Dr. Scholl's Odor X footspray to mark the face and get a better understanding of where you are striking the ball on the clubface.

Swing Appearance:

  • The two dimensional appearance of the swing on video is not what determines the flight of the ball (Swing direction vs 3D club path)
  • The look of a golf swing has very little to do with the message the clubhead relays to the golf ball
  • Better players have to swing way more left than they often feel in order to hit predictable fades
  • You do not have to roll your hands to hit draws

Advice - Don't get too caught up in the look. It's all about the physics at impact, so always go for function over form.

Angle of Attack:

  • The angle of attack is hugely important in determining the shape, distance and trajectory of any shot
  • Most golfers hit down too much while many of the best golfers tend to have a shallower strike on the ball
  • A positive or upward angle of attack has a huge effect on tee shot distance for slower speed golfers

Advice - Almost all golfers should be working towards a shallower more "sweep-like" strike on the ball. With the driver you should learn to hit up as the gains are too great to ignore.

Shot Shape:

  • The clubface is primarily responsible for the launch of any shot
  • The loft of the face at impact (dynamic loft) will largely determine the launch angle of any shot
  • On full swings the launch angle is often lower than you might expect it to be
  • The clubpath is primarily responsible for the curvature of any shot

Advice - to hit draws (and most of us should) we need an in to out clubpath. To improve the launch you either need to change the loft of the club or improve the loft delivered at impact.

The Human Element:

  • It is all too rare to meet a man who hits the ball as far as they think they do
  • Or who swings the driver as fast as they think they do
  • Mention clubspeed to any golfer, male or female, and there's a 95% chance the next swing will be faster
  • While there are patterns, anything and everything is possible

Advice - check your ego at the door. You'll start shooting better scores when you plan to hit the ball the distance you're capable of hitting it.

TrackMan is a fanatstic tool - one that guides the teacher to what the problems are and then vets the quality of their solution. As a player I believe you will find it to be a feel machine. If you've had a first rate lesson you should leave with a clear understanding of what the problem was and the feel required to overcome it.

If you happen to be on Twitter please follow Martin Chuck, Jason Sutton and Tom Stickney - great guys, knowledgeable teachers and you won't regret it.

Thank you for reading and as always your thoughts and comments are appreciated.

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To Mill or Not to Mill?

My three test subjects...

I must be honest and write that I did this test in the hopes of proving a few people wrong. Instead, I have proven myself wrong. With my research for the Wedge Project I put my "stake in the ground" on what I believed regarding milling on the clubface. All the tests I performed using TrackMan and various wedges always showed that a wedge without a milled face generated less spin (albeit slightly) than wedges with the fine "corduroy" look of milling between the grooves.

I looked up a person I believe to be very knowledgeable when it comes to equipment, Tom Wishon. I read all that he had to say on the matter of grooves and surface roughness and his findings aligned with the results I was seeing in my tests.

Based on what I had available to me I had done my homework and had placed my "stake in the sand" in favor of milling on the clubface. It just made sense to me. Until this....

David Neville and the crew from Vokey Wedges have been kind enough to let me have access to a few test wedges. They sent me six wedges of which I chose to use three for this test.

No grooves and no milling

No grooves and milling

All three wedges have the same grip, shaft (DG S200), length, grind (M) and a stated loft of 56 degrees. I did not check their weight, actual loft, lie angle or bounce measurements. I hit 60 shots off a mat (to eliminate ground interference) with the no groove, no milling club and 60 shots off a mat with the no groove, milled club. I then eliminated the 15 lowest spinning shots to leave the remaining 45 highest spinning shots with each club. I used slightly used ProV1X balls and attempted to carry each shot 50 yards. I wiped or cleaned the clubface between every 3rd or 4th shot. Here are the results:

Titleist SM4 TVD M 56 degree Chrome Fly Cut without Grooves or Milling

Titleist SM5 56.10 M 56 degree Raw Surface without Grooves/Milling Only

As you can see the club that had surface milling or roughness actually generated less spin - 6009 RPM to 6229 RPM. While the difference between the two is negligible and most golfers would have a hard time telling the difference between the ball flight of one versus the other (myself included), the result is significant to me in that I firmly believed the outcome would be reversed.

Keep in mind this is a test involving one golfer hitting a limited number of shots to one distance. The results might be a slightly different with multiple golfers at different distances, but I don't believe different enough to sway the outcome of this test.

I recently posted this quote by Martin Palmer on Twitter: "The secret to mastery in any field is to forever be a student." Today my "stake in the sand" moved - I was a student and I learned something. I think it is vital as a coach, or even as a golfer, to place your "stake in the sand" and firmly believe in a method, approach or theory. Stand by it and argue in its favor. That is, until you uncover sound evidence or reasoning against your viewpoint - then you pick up your stake, admit you were wrong and adjust your approach.

As a point of interest I wanted to see how a standard clubface might interact with the ball. I hit 25 shots (keeping the best 20) with the Titleist SM4 TVD M grind that has 17 standard grooves and a milled face. Here are those results:

Titleist SM4 TVD M 56 degree Black Oxide 17 Grooves with Surface Milling

As you can see this clubface with both grooves and surface roughness generated the highest spin rates of all three clubs. This leads me to believe that grooves play a larger, more important role on cleanly struck shots than I originally thought.

As I continue to learn and work towards providing my students with what I believe to be the best current information and knowledge available I know that I will continue to be wrong. The blessing is that each time I am wrong I will learn, adjust and be less wrong than I was before.

Controlling the Clubface

Here's a great drill that will help to create awareness of where the clubface is angled at impact...

Keep in mind that the clubface is PRIMARILY responsible for where the ball launches, while the clubpath is PRIMARILY responsible for the curvature of the shot. If you know the predominant shape of your shots, the key is to launch the ball in the proper direction - this drill will help! Give it a try and please let me know if you've made any progress.

Understanding Shot Shape

Please watch....

I have never taught a predominant slicer that did not always have their clubpath travelling from out to in on a very consistent basis. I have never taught a predominant hooker that did not always have their clubpath travelling from in to out on a very consistent basis. In order to upgrade these golfers' ball flight we needed to improve their path first and then work to adjust the face to point somewhere between the path and the target line.

Here is an example of a lesson I might give to a golfer who predominantly fades/slices the golf ball:

I hope these two clips help you to better understand what it is you need to do to improve your ball flight and have more fun out on the golf course.

Why Do I Hit Offline Shots?

Fore! We are all capable of hitting amazing golf shots, yet it is those mind-numbingly bad shots that ruin our day and erode any measure of confidence that we may have been hanging on to.  The question we all would like to know the answer to is - why? Why was that shot so far offline when I've been hitting the ball straight just about all day? What is the primary cause of my inaccuracy?

My experience is that most golfers tend to look in the same place to find answers to their problems.  Just like husbands tell their wives on every bad shot she might hit - "You lifted up!" Well, so to do we tend look towards the same area as a cause for our bad shots.  Talking with my students it appears that far too many golfers are of the belief that bad shots are caused by a swing that was suddenly over the top or under plane - in other words the clubpath was different and that's what led to the offline shot.  This is even a favorite for the golf commentators on Sunday afternoons - if a golfer hits a shot left coming down the stretch you are very likely to hear Nick or Johnny chime in with, "Well, he came over that one..."

Teaching with TrackMan has taught me that most golfers' inaccurate shots are caused by one of two factors:

Golfers tend to be fairly consistent with their clubpath.  Keep in mind that this is a general statement and not all golfers are consistent, but my experience has shown that golfers that work at their game tend to have a good measure of consistency when it comes to the direction their clubhead is travelling at impact - clubpath. It may not be an ideal path or what they are looking for, but consistent it is!

Consistency to your shot pattern comes from passive hands through impact and a predictable point of contact on the face (even if it's not in the center!)

Please note that there is a mistake in my video! The face does not determine where the ball finishes, but rather where it starts! Sorry about that....

If you would like to find out what's causing your shots to veer offline contact me at andrew(at)andrewricegolf.com to set up a TrackMan lesson or to discuss an online lesson.

Get a Grip...On the Ball!

Grip the Road... 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.

Grip the Ball...

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....

Ultimate Spin Wedge Shootout | Andrew Rice Golf

Strike Point Drill

Strike Point Drill 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...

Optimal Strike Point for Longer Drives | Andrew Rice Golf

 

 

Hitting Draws and Smash Factor

Bobby Locke 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:

Hitting Draws

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?

Smash Factor

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:

Smash Factor (Simple)

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.

The objective with the driver should be 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.

A Clubface Primer

A Square Face at the Top
A Square Face at the Top

It is important to understand that the angle of the clubface will influence a golfers' ability to get into a proper impact position. Athletic instinct will always compensate in order to position the face squarely (or as squarely as possible!) at contact. Thus, a square clubface will allow any golfer to naturally more repeatable impact position.

There are three good check points that occur prior to impact to observe the position of the clubface. As these check points get closer to impact they tend to have a greater effect, not only on the impact position, but also the outcome of the shot. Here they are:

Going up:

An Open Face
An Open Face

- Invariably if the clubface fans open early in the swing the clubhead will assume a position inside the hands at this point.

- Here the face is looking more towards the sky than is optimal

- Also notice how there is more daylight between my left hand and right thigh than the picture below

A Square Face
A Square Face

Ideally the clubface should be vertical to slightly tilted down here with the clubhead covering the hands.

A Closed Face
A Closed Face

- In this situation the clubhead has lagged a little behind the hands and arms with a slight draggy start to the swing

-The arms are moving in and close to the body as the handle stays inside the clubhead

- The clubface is looking at the ground too much here

At the top of the backswing:

An Open Face at the Top
An Open Face at the Top

- Notice how the clubface hangs down vertically (almost perpendicular to the ground) and is visible under the shaft

- Also notice the cupping in the back of the left wrist

- This position requires active hands through impact and will generally lead to an over the top approach into the ball

A Square Face at the Top
A Square Face at the Top

Ideally here the clubface should parallel the shaft and the angle of the left arm.

Here you can see the clubface angled up toward the sky (almost parallel to the ground) and it is clearly visible above the shaft

- The left wrist position is quite flat and may even become bowed

- This face position will often cause a golfer to get under plane coming into the hit and force the body to raise up through the hit in an attempt to hold the face square

Coming down:

Open Face Approaching Impact
Open Face Approaching Impact

- This position invariably causes a wiping motion across the ball through impact

- The weight will invariably stay back as the golfer tries to position the body to aid in squaring the face

- Shots struck from this open faced position will be weak and generally not have any "sting" on them

Ideally here the clubface should be in a position where it is perpendicular to the ground.

Closed Face Approaching Impact
Closed Face Approaching Impact

- This clubface position will lead to a raising of the hands through impact

-There must be a loss of body angles through the hit in an attempt to deter the face from flipping closed

-Practice hitting high, cut up 8-iron shots that travel 50 yards to overcome this fault

Additional articles regarding the clubface:

What is a Square Clubface? by Dave Wesley

Secret to Squaring Your Clubface by Kelvin Miyahira

Keep a Square Clubface by Karen Palacios-Jansen

See open, closed, and square club faces by Ty Daniels

Ultimate Spin Wedge Shootout

The Line Up We should all be looking to spin the ball around the greens. Which of the current crop of wedges will give us the best chance to do that? If you have read any of my previous research on wedges you will know that friction between the face and the ball plays a huge role, not only in generating spin, but also in lowering trajectory - both vitally important for control.

Milled Face

The most important part of the clubface of any wedge is not the grooves, but the texturing of the flat areas between the grooves. Keep in mind that the primary purpose of grooves is to channel "matter" away from being caught between the flat areas and the ball - they are not in place to create spin. When you look carefully at the flat areas between the grooves of your wedge you should see some fine milling which looks like corduroy to me. Most club manufacturers will mill the clubface of their premium wedges and it makes a massive difference to the control and ball flight.

The idea behind the test was to see which wedge generated the better grip between face and ball. I had four very new 58 degree wedges available for the test:

  • Titleist Vokey SM4 with a DG Spinner shaft - conforming grooves with standard mill pattern on face
  • Ping Gorge Tour with a DG Spinner shaft - conforming "gorge" grooves with standard mill pattern on face
  • Callaway X Series Jaws CC with a stock steel shaft - additional conforming grooves with no apparent milling on face
  • TaylorMade ATV with a KBS shaft - conforming grooves with two-way mill pattern on face

You may notice that the wedges had differing shafts - I obviously would have preferred to have had all the clubs built to the exact same specs, but that was not feasible for this test. Apologies to all Cleveland Golf fans - would love to have had a Cleveland wedge in the mix, but did not have a new version. I had four golf professionals each hit four shots with each wedge. All shots were hit off a mat in order to limit friction being interrupted by matter being caught between face and ball. Titleist ProV1 golf balls were used and each shot had to land somewhere between 40 and 60 yards (ideally at 50 yards). The clubface was cleaned often even though it never appeared to need it. The "normalize" feature on TrackMan was off.

Here are the results:

TaylorMade ATV 58

 

Titleist Vokey SM4 58

 

Ping Gorge Tour 58

 

Callaway X Series Jaws CC 58

  • ATV 7365 rpm average
  • Vokey 7210 rpm average
  • Gorge 7193 rpm average
  • Jaws 7163 rpm average

As you can see the ATV wedge led the way in generating the highest spin of the four - albeit by a slender 2%. If I was a betting man I would have bet the ATV would generate the most spin as I have always loved the two-way milling treatment on the face. I would also have placed the Jaws wedge at the bottom of the pack, as no matter how many groove edges come in contact with the ball, there is way more flat surface area contacting the ball and it should be milled.

If you do take one thing from this research let it be the following: A fresh wedge with a clean, milled clubface will allow you to generate more spin and a lower trajectory - both important factors in controlling your golf ball around the greens. 

Thanks to Zack, Mark, Rick and Joe for your help with this article!

Ball Flight - What You Need to Know

The-Ball-Flight-Laws
The-Ball-Flight-Laws

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?

albert einstein
albert einstein

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.

They are:

Club Speed

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.

Clubface Orientation

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.

Clubhead Direction

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.

impact point
impact point

Read an earlier article on centerdness of contact and a great article on the TrackMan blog illustrating the importance of center contact.

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.....

Compress the Golf Ball

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....

Optimal Strike Point for Longer Drives

We've all heard the saying 'high launch and low spin'.  With the help of TrackMan I have been able to learn which part of the clubface to strike the ball with in order the get the ball to launch higher, spin less and ultimately travel further. Watch the following video...

optimal strike point
optimal strike point

Here are the factors that make a slightly high and toe sided hit optimal:

Launch Angle

  • Due to the roll/curvature of the face there is more loft above the center line than below.  The static loft of the club is measured in the center of the face, so if a club has 9.5 degrees of loft that is only in the one central location.  Half an inch above the center line the loft increases by around 2 degrees and vice versa for below the center line.
  • A strike above the center line will always lead to a higher launch angle and can often be achieved quite easily by teeing the ball higher.

Spin Rate

  • Due to vertical gear effect a strike that occurs below the center line will have a substantially higher spin rate than one higher on the face.
  • I have seen increases of almost 1400 rpm with low strike points - in addition to distance sapping lower launch angles.

Gear Effect

  • Most of the golfers that I teach need to hit draws.  A golf ball that is struck on the toe side of the clubface will tend to have a greater inclination to draw than one struck towards the heel of the club.

Clubhead Speed

  • If a shot is hit out of the center of the face with a swing speed of 100mph a spot on the face 3/4" out side of that will be travelling at almost 103mph and a spot the same distance inside that will only be travelling at 97mph.
  • The ball will travel faster and most often further with higher club speed.

If you'd like to get a feel for where you are striking the ball on the face try dry erase marker or Dr. Scholl's Odor X - they both work like a charm and give instant feedback.