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.

No More Weak Iron Shots

We've all heard the sound. And we've all felt it too. That sense when you literally melt a ball off the clubface and you know instantaneously that you've hit the shot you've been waiting for all day. That feeling is compression! To learn more watch this....

Here is an example lesson where I felt it appropriate to use this drill with a student who was struggling with the quality of his strike and high, weak ball flight in particular. Here is his initial TrackMan data for a typical 7 iron shot...

It's important to be aware that the height of this particular shot was 103 feet! This player's club speed is only a few mph short of PGATour average, yet he is only carrying a 7 iron 145 yards. After working on his compression (spin loft) via the drill illustrated in the video this is what a typical shot looked like in drill mode (note the slower club speed)...

The exact same ball speed with more than 7 mph less club speed! The spin loft, which is not an easy change to make, has gone from 31.1º to a slightly low 24.8º and the height has come down to a more manageable 76 feet. I anticipate that as this golfer works to get comfortable with their new feel they would increase their compression to a more appropriate 26º or 27º.

Before on the left and while doing the Compression Drill on the right

Before on the left and while doing the Compression Drill on the right

Thanks for reading and for greater understanding on what compression really is please read:

 Compress the Golf Ball — Andrew Rice Golf

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....

How to Play Fairway Bunker Shots

Fairway bunker shots are different than those played in close proximity to the green. They are actually played in the same fashion as the rest of the shots in the game: ball first, ground second.

Play fairway bunker shots in the same manner in which you would play a shot from the fairway with a few subtle adjustments. Two checkpoints to determine: First, do you have a lie that allows for the clubface to get cleanly onto the back of the ball? Second, do you have enough loft on the clubface to get up and over the lip in front of you? If the answer to each of these questions is yes, go ahead and swing away as you normally would. If not, the shot must be played in the same fashion that you would play the above mentioned greenside bunker shot: with a lofted club and impacting the sand before the ball. Do not be greedy when you have either a poor lie or a high lip in a fairway bunker. Take your punishment and move on.

Technique:

Once you have met the above criteria, key on these few simple points to play successful fairway bunker shots:

  • Favor a ball position that is centered and grip down slightly, regardless of what club you have selected. It is far better to strike the ball first than sand first.

  • Shuffle your feet in lightly. Keep in mind that for every inch you descend into the sand the ball elevates, thus increasing the potential to hit a ‘fat’ shot.
  • Keep your lower body very quiet and work towards maintaining your elevation throughout the swing – any change in altitude could lead to a mishit - stay level.

  • When it comes to club selection make sure you allow for ample clearance over the lip in front of you (get it out) and plan on your shot travelling a half club shorter (due to gripping down) than what it normally does.

Hopefully this information will help you overcome a case of the fairway bunker blues!

View the video lesson here:

Additonal information for better fairway bunker shots: