Clear as Mud...Balls!

mudballs

It's never a good feeling when you've striped one down the middle and you get to your golf ball only to see a large chunk of mud attached to one side of your golf ball. For years I had heard that mud on the right would cause the ball to go left, but I never was sure. The best way to build some clarity - do a test! Here's a sampling of what we found...

For the "Facts of Golf" series I filmed recently with Revolution Golf in conjunction with PING this was one of the first ideas we were interested in testing. Thanks to some guidance from Erik Henrikson, Director of Innovation for PING, these were our findings:

  • Mud on the left with a 'neutral' swing will almost always cause the ball to move strongly right in the air
  • Mud on the right with a 'neutral' swing will almost always cause the ball to move strongly left in the air
  • The large clumps of mud will be 'ejected' off the ball very quickly after impact, but it's the remaining small particles that alter the ball flight
  • Mud that's located on the top, front or back will cause for quite a significantly shorter shot without much directional change
  • It's hard to find good quality mud to do a test like this

Shot data for mud on the right (a fairly neutral swing) from TrackMan:

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Shot data for mud on the left (a fairly neutral swing) from TrackMan:

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As I hit each of these shots I was floored at how much the ball moved in the air relative to the feel of the shot. The feel was neutral, yet the ball seemed to take off with a mind of it's own. I hope this information helps you save a stroke or two the next time you encounter the dreaded mud ball!

A Drill for Skill

As anyone who follows me here or on social media is aware I am a huge fan of skill development for my students. I believe the ability to precisely control the clubhead, clubface and strike point though impact is what makes the difference between a great golfer and someone who is merely, a golfer.

I recorded the following TrackMan screencast following a lesson I recently did with a strong collegiate golfer named Seth Gandy. My objective was to not only give Seth the feel necessary to be able to hit draws, but also to improve his ability at controlling the amount of draw. Watch...

I created what I called the Clubpath Ladder Drill for any golfer to become skillful at controlling the shape of their golf shots. I am a big proponent of what I call practicing "outside the lines" and this drill forces the golfer to hit a sequence of shots where not two are alike. Keep in mind I wanted Seth to be able to hit his go to baby fade, but by making him practice shots that are outside his comfort zone he is improving his skill at making the club communicate his intent to the ball - a necessity for great golf.

If you are a coach who uses radar technology or even a golfer looking to improve your skills I would encourage to add this type of practice into your improvement plan. You can apply this ladder type drill to a variety of elements including club speed, dynamic loft and even face angle.

Have some fun with this and if you can fit more than ten shots into the clubpath ladder drill please let me know. That's very good!

Remember this - technique will get you into the arena, but it's skill that gets you onto the podium!.

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.

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.