Tales from the Trail Side

I’ve found that is can be tremendously helpful for any golfer to fully understand the ins and outs of impact. Today I want to address the trail side and what my preferences are for it as we approach impact. Let’s start with this…

What are we looking for at impact?

  • Hips and chest rotated open relative to the target line

  • The trail hip should be lower than the front side counterpart

  • As a result the trail leg is flexed and the knee has moved towards the ball

  • The trail arm is flexed

  • As a result the trail shoulder is lower than it started at address

  • The spine has tilted away from the target (side bend)

While generating speed can be genetic to a certain degree, our ability to control the club face at impact and thus the direction and shape of our shots is largely a product of both technique and skill. Merely posing impact, as I have demonstrated in the video above, might shed some light on what you need to work on in order to better control the strike and accuracy of your shots.

Brandon Stone

Brandon Stone

You might be shocked at your results when you can start to master the trail side through the impact zone. Now let’s get to work.

Understanding Swing Plane and Club Path

There are important differences that occur at impact when a golfer hits either down or up on the ball (attack angle).  I have always espoused that golfers hit down on all clubs, the driver included, but my research with Trackman has convinced me otherwise.  The ball should be struck with a subtle downward blow with all shots off the ground (irons, hybrids and fairways), but the driver should ideally be hit with an upward strike for optimal trajectory and spin patterns.  I will attempt to explain the differences in the direction the clubhead travels (relative to the target line) as it moves both down, and up, into the ball.

Firstly, it is important to understand the difference between swing plane (also referred to as swing direction) and club path, because too many golfers believe they are one and the same.  Let's view swing plane as the hula hoop in the pictures below - it is the angle upon which the arc of the swing travels.  Club path is the direction the clubhead is travelling in, relative to the target line, at the moment of impact.

Hitting down on the Ball:


PGA Tour golfers hit down on a 7 iron with an average attack angle of slightly more than 4 degrees.  You should be able to tell to what degree you hit down on the ball simply by analyzing your divots - too much dirt being moved and you're more than likely 8 degrees down, no divots would mean a flat or neutral attack angle.

When a golfer hits down on the ball with a neutral swing plane (straight at the target) notice how the pencil (used to illustrate club path) points right of the target. The table's edge indicates the target line.

Hitting down...

Down with a neutral plane...

This means that with a straight plane/swing direction, when the clubhead travels down, it is also travelling from in to out relative to the target line.

Left swing plane for neutral path...

In order to neutralize the club path, the swing plane must actually be rotated to the left.  Thus, with a descending attack angle, in order to create a straight club path, the swing plane must be rotated to the left of the target line (for right handers).

Hitting up on the Ball:


Better drivers of the ball tend to hit up on the ball - anywhere from 1-5 degrees up.  This reduces the amount of spin on the ball and increases the launch angle - thus increasing both carry and roll distance.

When a golfer hits up on the ball with a neutral swing plane (straight at the target) notice how the pencil (club path) points left of the target. 

In this example, with a straight plane/swing direction, when the clubhead travels upward, it is also travelling from out to in relative to the target line

This out to in path can be neutralized by rotating the swing plane/direction to the right (for right handers).  Notice how the pencil (club path) is now straight.

So if somebody ever asks you if the swing with the driver and the irons is the same, just smile and say, "No, not really!"

Any thoughts?  Questions....

Golf's Simplest Practice Aid

Simple Alignment Aid This must be one of the simplest, yet most helpful practice aids I have ever come across!

This teaching aid will greatly assist any golfer, not only with their alignment, but also provide an excellent visual image of what the swing path should be through impact.

If you are looking for a “high tech device” you are in the wrong place!  All you need is a 8-10 foot heavy piece of  nylon string available at any home improvement store and two golf tees.   Attach the ends of the string to each tee by burning off or tying and place the tees in the ground as illustrated.  There is no concern for a line that is 'parallel left' of your target here, as the string is placed almost directly on your target line.  It cannot be bumped off line or cause damage if hit during a swing.

The golf ball should be placed a few inches inside the string.  When hitting driver you can actually tee the ball up right on the string!

As you address the ball, not only will you be aligned correctly, but you will get a clear sense of what it means to swing "down the line."   This handy device can be used for all shots, including work on your chipping and putting.

If PGA Tour players are using this, surely you too should give it a try!

  • Place the tee closest to the target in the ground first and then back up and align the string at your intended target.
  • Start hitting shots toward the front of the string and work the divots back along the inside of the string.
  • The clubhead should never cross the string, either coming into impact or exiting the hit.  Feel the clubhead staying 'inside the wall' so to speak.
  • If you think you don't need this, trust me, you do!

Proper Practice!





Things to Ponder:

  • What do Kenny Knox, Nolan Henke, Tom Byrum, Willie Wood and David Peoples have in common?  Besides the fact that they all played in the 1988 Greater Hartford Open (?) they are all playing on the PGA Tour this week!  There must be more competent golfers out there......
  • Lance Ten Broeck (see above group) caddied for Jesper Parnevik in the morning and then played, shooting 71, in the afternoon!  Never heard of that before...http://www.geoffshackelford.com/
  • Hey, David Feherty, ever heard the joke about two bullets, Nancy Pelosi and Osama?  Ever heard of a fellow CBS commentator called Ben Wright?  BTW Feherty is working the Valero Texas Open this week although I'm surprised he's not playing!
  • Michelle Wie still wants to compete against the men!  And I want to drive down Magnolia Drive in a red Ferrari and win the Masters....
  • My pick this week, Justin Leonard, is looking good so far.  Go boy, go!
  • I know of two teams in fantasy golf who picked Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter!  How's that for a $2.8 million pay day?