How to Shallow the Attack Angle

I teach far more golfers that hit down on the ball too much more than those that don't hit down enough. If you are one of those golfers that typically takes big divots and hits a low ball flight then stay with me....

I have found this sequence to work nicely with all golfers looking to shallow their attack angle and improve the crispness of the strike. Try the following (with either irons or driver):

  • PHASE 1 - 5 drags over the top of the ball
  • PHASE 2 - 5 low to high pitch style shots, keeping clubhead low in the backswing
  • PHASE 3 - 5 half speed and half size swings sensing an ascending strike (even with irons)

(all shots are struck with the ball on a tee)

Another drill I like to use to help golfers learn to deliver an ascending strike with the driver is what I call the Box Drill pictured below...

Place an empty sleeve box between a teed golf ball and the target as indicated. The box should be approximately a grip length ahead of the ball. On a windy day it might be necessary to use tees to anchor the box in place. This is a costly addition to this drill!

If you can hit shots without running the clubhead into the box then chances are that you're no longer hitting down on the ball and you should see an increase in both distance and the altitude of your tee shots. Keep in mind that as you "upgrade" your attack angle, should you have an adjustable driver, you might need to alter the loft.

Thanks for reading and I hope these ideas are going to help your game. Cheers!

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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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.....

Hitting Up or Down? Here's How to Set Up

Correct Set Up for a Descending Hit
Shots struck off the ground need to be hit with a descending blow and shots struck off an elevated tee are better when hit with an upward blow - fact! While TrackMan stats for the PGA Tour may show that on average Tour players hit down on their driver (1.3 degrees), as mere mortal golfers, we need to make sure we are efficient and get the most distance we can out of the driver by hitting up on the ball.  If you need some more convincing how about this: Golfer A swings at 90mph and hits 5 degrees down on the ball (-5 attack angle). Their average well struck tee ball goes 234 yards. Now, golfer B swings at 90mph and hits 5 degrees up on the ball (+5 attack angle). Their average well struck tee shot travels 256 yards - a gain of 22 yards while swinging the same speed!  Ready to listen now....?
I have recently started noticing that many golfers actually set up to hit their irons in the same manner as their woods or vice versa. Ever wondered why so many of your playing partners are either good with the woods and not the irons or no good off the turf and solid with the driver?  The answer is, is that there are two different types of swings. One that suits shots hit off the ground or close proximity to it and a swing that suits the upward, efficient hit of a driver off a high tee.
The picture above is an excellent illustration of what I have been seeing.  Here, I have a student setting up to a driver and an iron. Notice any similarities? In case you're wondering the seven iron stance is on the right.  They look decidedly alike don't they? The good news is that this was taken at  the beginning of the lesson, she made the necessary changes and gained 14 yards with her driver while maintaining a solid descending impact with the irons.
It should stand to reason that if there are two swings then there should be two different set up positions.  Here are the important differences...
Setting up for shots off the ground:
  • As in the picture at the top of the page the weight should be anywhere from a 50/50 split to favoring the front foot slightly
  • Your head should be centered between the heels
  • There should be very little spine tilt away from the target and as a result the shoulders will be fairly level

Setting up for shots off a high tee:

  • As in the picture below the feet are fairly far apart and there should actually be a little more weight on the back foot than the front foot
  • The ball is positioned inside the left heel and teed high
  • The spine should be tilting away from the target a little as you prepare to "swing uphill" 

Set Up for an Upward Strike

The best teacher you have available to you to help with this is a mirror. You are now aware as to what it should look like, but you don't quite have the feel yet. Get in front of a mirror, set up so that it looks correct (your feel might have something else to say about it!) and take that with you to practice or play.