Coach Camp London

If you're a coach or a golf professional you may have heard about Coach Camp. If you've been fortunate enough to attend one then you already know what it's about. If you haven't and would like to learn more then this 90 seconds is for you...

When the idea for Coach Camp was hatched I wanted it to be something that made a significant change in the way coaches and professionals helped students improve, operated their business and marketed what they do. It has and always will be "Two days of industry leading coaching information designed to positively enhance the course of your career."

Chuck Cook Teaching at Coach Camp USA

Chuck Cook Teaching at Coach Camp USA

The feature presenters in London will be coaching legend Chuck Cook, putting guru David Orr, biomechanics expert Scott Cowx and myself. We will also have Dr. Scott Lynn share his presentation on ground reaction forces

There will be live lessons, Q&A sessions, putting demonstrations and perhaps best of all - the cocktail party on Monday evening where we can get down to the nitty gritty questions you might have. All so that you can be more successful on the lesson tee!

Daily Itinerary

Daily Itinerary

We will be at the Drift Golf Club in East Horsley outside London on September 25 & 26. Our title sponsors: KVEST3DSwing CatalystTrackMan; and True Spec Golf will also have representatives on site. Not only will you be able to see this technology in action, but the company representatives will be able to answer any questions you might have. I hope you take advantage of this opportunity to learn from some of the best in our business.

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Register for Coach Camp London HERE

 

How to Deal with a Headwind

Controlling your golf ball in the wind is one of golf's greatest challenges. For quite a while now I have been asking my junior players to hit a 140 yard approach shot directly into whatever wind might be blowing that day and none of them have ever reached the flag! Now, part of this is ego and another part inexperience, but being a curious coach I wanted to do what I could to help them play these headwind shots effectively. At Savannah Harbor we have a double sided range and in the spring we can experience some strong winds. The double sided range means that I can hit shots into and down the same wind. Having TrackMan is a huge help here as it tracks the ball accurately throughout it's flight. Watch...

After quite a bit of testing on and off the golf course I have found that this formula produces positive results. Please keep in mind that hitting any shot in the wind is not exact science and there will always be a subjective side to selecting the appropriate club and shot.

  1. Determine how many MPH of wind are blowing in your face
  2. If its 12 MPH then add 12 yards per 100 yards of distance required
  3. Determine what club you would need to hit the ball that distance
  4. Take one additional club and play a knockdown type shot

Example scenario: For a 140 yard shot into a 20 MPH headwind. I would add 28 yards (20 yards per 100) to 140 to get to 168 which is a full 7 iron for me. I would thus take a 6 iron and hit a knockdown for this scenario.

You might wonder how you'd come to recognize the wind speed...? Experience certainly helps, but there's nothing against checking a weather app on your phone prior to going out to play to help you gauge wind speed. And remember - there is no such thing as a one club wind!

Thanks for reading and I hope this information helps you better control your ball in challenging windy conditions.

How to Practice: 2. SKILL

Boys are typically much better chippers than girls! And it's not because they're more creative or the fact that they're stronger physically which allows them to hit a broader variety of shots. It's because they love to practice 'dumb' and crazy shots! Boys continually strive to outdo one another and I believe it's via this innate behavior that they learn to hit those amazing and skillful shots around the green. Ever seen a female trick shot artist? Hmmm...

My approach to developing skill is that we take this 'outside the lines' approach to practicing the shortgame and apply it to every element of golf. From driving to putting we can develop our skill and our ability to control the golf ball by spending time purposefully hitting 'abnormal' golf shots. Watch...

When practicing to develop your skill challenge yourself to become better at intentionally controlling the following elements of a golf shots:

  • Distance
  • Launch direction
  • Peak height
  • Curvature of the ball flight
  • Where you strike the ball on the face

When practicing 'outside the lines' change your intent after every second shot. Use a variety of clubs, targets and lies. Keep in mind it's really easy and fun to practice these elements when you have a TrackMan, but they are entirely doable without any technology. Here are a few ideas:

The 3 Ball Strike Point Challenge

The 3 Ball Strike Point Challenge

This drill is great fun for golfers of all abilities and ages. All you need is a can of Dr. Scholl's Odor X foot spray. I firmly believe we become better at completing any task when we learn to complete it a variety of different ways. Shot 1 is outside the vertical line, shot 2 inside it and shot 3 is on the line.

The Spin Axis Challenge

The Spin Axis Challenge

When taking on this challenge you want to use a 6 iron and try to hit the biggest hook or slice possible for your opening shot. From there the objective is to progressively reduce the amount of curvature until you get to a straight shot. If you can get 9 shots, as in the example above, you're doing very well.

When practicing to develop skill I cannot encourage you enough be creative, have fun and think outside the box. You can even hit one-handed or one-legged shots! Close your eyes, change your grip, hit it out of divots - anything goes. Come up with your very own, out of the ordinary practice session. Now get out there and start spending some time practicing like a teenage boy...

Here is the first article in my series on how to practice:

How to Practice: 1. SWING — Andrew Rice Golf

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

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!.

Titleist's New 915's vs the Old 913 Driver

We recently received the 915 stock for our fitting cart here at Berkeley Hall and I thought it would be a good opportunity to test both the new 915 series drivers - the D2 and D3 against the older 913 series D3 driver I've used for the past few years. I was excited to see if there are any positive changes with the new line. 

The test I conducted involved the same shaft in each club (44.5' Motore Speeder VC 6.0 S) along with the same setting (B1) and the same loft (9.5). I hit seven shots (kept all shots) with each club on TrackMan. Here is the data:

Old Titleist 913 D3 9.5 with 44.5' Motore Speeder VC 6.0 S (B1)

Speed 99.8 - Smash Factor 1.48 - Launch 11.9 - Spin 2523 - Carry 226.7 - Total 248.6

New Titleist 915 D3 9.5 with 44.5' Motore Speeder VC 6.0 S (B1)

Speed 98.9 - Smash Factor 1.48 - Launch 13.1 - Spin 2341 - Carry 226.8 - Total 247.5

New Titleist 915 D2 9.5 44.5' Motore Speeder VC 6.0 S (B1)

Speed 100.5 - Smash Factor 1.47 - Launch 12.8 - Spin 2478 - Carry 232.9 - Total 254.3

My thoughts and observations:

  • The first thing I noticed was the appearance of the newer club - from the golfer's perspective the clubhead has quite a different look than Titleist drivers of the past. The toe seems a little more pronounced and the head didn't seem quite as sleek as previous models. It didn't look bad, just different.
  • The next thing that caught my attention was the sound. Definitely louder than the 913 model, but not to the point where it was offensive. 
  • As you can tell the spin rates fell right where I anticipated them to fall. Word on the street is that the 915's spin the ball less and the results illustrated that.
  • I did notice that mishits with the 915's seemed to do marginally better than commensurate mishits with the 913 model and there were a few mishits in each set.
  • I was surprised to see the difference in launch angle as I had anticipated that the 915's would launch the ball lower - not so in this case! 
  • Ball speed and smash were very similar for the three clubs.

As I looked over these numbers I noticed a few factors that are vital for longer tee shots - higher launch, lower spin and better performance on mishits. I liked the new club and also liked the fact that Titleist did not change the sleeve on the new model so older shafts can easily cross over into the 915 clubheads.

It does appear that Titleist has finally stepped up to the plate and joined Callaway, Ping and TaylorMade in the driver game.

Swing Pattern vs Strike Point

You may have heard me talk about how common it is to see golfers hit a tee shot with a fade (out-to-in club path) swing pattern, yet strike it off the toe for a baby draw or vice versa. The other day I was giving a lesson and a student hit a shot that was too interesting to not share. Here are the TrackMan details of the driver shot:

trackman heel hit

First a few basics:

  • Club path is primarily responsible for the curve of any shot
  • The direction of the club path relative to the target, out-to-in (fade pattern) or in-to-out (draw pattern), is what I refer to as a players swing pattern
  • Players that swing from in-to-out will tend to hit draws and players that swing from out-to-in will tend to hit fades
  • Where the ball is struck on the face of the driver (strike point) can drastically alter the effect of a players swing pattern on ball flight
  • Shots struck off the heel will tend to fade more or draw less and shots struck off the toe will tend to draw more or fade less

The player who hit the above shot has a fairly strong draw bias to his swing pattern and we are always working to neutralize his strong in-to-out club path as he tends to struggle with blocks and hooks. As you can tell from the above shot the club path (first highlighted yellow box) was strongly from in-to-out - 9.2 degrees to the right of the target. Well then why did the ball fly straight (spin axis 0.2)

The particular shot we're looking at was struck well off the heel (yellow circle) and essentially what happened was the draw bias of the swing pattern was cancelled out by the fade bias of the strike point. Notice how in the second yellow box above there's a closed face to path relationship, which should lead to a hook, but the ball flew straight - always a dead give away for a heel strike.

I've come up with a simple formula to help explain this:

A + B = C 

Where A is the swing pattern, B is the strike point and C is the resultant ball flight. You see it's the combination of A and B that gives us the ball flight - not just A. Here's a video I did with TrackMan that might help to explain some of this more clearly:

When you're practicing driver you should always mark the face with some Dr. Scholl's Odor X foot spray. If you do that you will always get B (strike point) and C (ball flight) from any shot. Should you be practicing without a TrackMan you'll at least have a clear idea as to what your swing pattern is and can make well-informed adjustments if necessary.

All the best and thanks for reading.

 

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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Controlling Wedge Shots

Here is a video I did with the help of TrackMan and a student of mine James Willis. This was actually the first time I had seen James pitch the ball and it was nice to see how quickly he hit better shots and improved the flight and spin rate of these important shots.

From 60 yards and in I like to see a dynamic loft of 40 degrees, a launch angle of less than 30 degrees, a spin rate higher than 6500 rpm and a slight draw shape.

Take a look to see how it's done...

For a deeper understanding of this shot and all wedge shots around the green you need to go HERE

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.

Swingbyte vs TrackMan

swingbytevstrackman I was recently contacted by Swingbyte and asked to test their device to see how the data it generated held up against data generated by TrackMan. Please remember this is not a contest and I am not saying that TrackMan is perfect (I'm not sure there is such a thing), but I do believe TrackMan is the benchmark when it comes to reporting club and ball data in golf and I was interested to see how a $150 swing aid held up.

Swingbyte is a swing analyzing device that attaches to your club just below the grip and sends data to a mobile phone or tablet via Bluetooth. With a price point of $150 it provides a tremendous amount of data and sifting through the information on the App might be a little confusing at first, but with patience you will eventually find what you're looking for.

Having used TrackMan for a long time one of the notable things I've found with passionate golfers is that the direction the clubhead is travelling through impact (attack angle and club path) is generally quite consistent. When testing/comparing other devices to TrackMan, whenever I see a dramatic change from one swing to the next in either attack angle or club path numbers a red flag goes up. With the Swingbyte I hit pitching wedges, 7 irons and drivers and I primarily keyed in on club speed, attack angle, club path and face angle. Here are my ratings out of a possible 5 stars:

swingbyte

Club Speed:

If you purchased the device to simply know your club speed you are ahead of the game. It is important to enter detailed specs from each club into the App, but once you've got that done the feedback is surprisingly accurate. All the numbers I saw were within 4 mph of where TrackMan reported. (4.5 out of 5)

Attack Angle:

It is important to know that TrackMan and Swingbyte report attack angle from slightly different portions of the swing and thus differences should be expected, however I thought the device did a fairly accurate job most of the time. With the irons I felt the numbers indicated were close enough to "actual" in order to be actionable. It did seem that attack angles with the driver were a little too ascending. Their were also a few crazy numbers reported, but as you use the device more you'll easily be able to recognize any outliers. (3.5 out of 5)

Club Path:

These numbers were a long way from what TrackMan was reporting and I would not put too much into this particular parameter.  For example with the driver TrackMan reported my average club path on multiple shots was 0.2 degrees out to in, while Swingbyte indicated that every swing I made was from in to out with a range of 1.7 degrees to 13.6 degrees from in to out. (1 out of 5)

Face Angle:

Even with TrackMan I seldom give much credence to the reported face angle as it is too easily influenced by off center hits and I most often use the reported number to determine where the ball was struck on the face. The original Swingbyte reports face angle at impact relative to where it was aligned at address. Assuming you have aligned the device on the club correctly, start with a square clubface and no twisting occurs, you might get an actionable reading - otherwise, I'd move on. (1 out of 5)

The problem Swingbyte has faced is that it could not latch onto a target - it only registered where the device was aligned at address. This means that any data regarding club path and face angle is based around where the device was aimed at address. The Swingbyte 2 addresses this issue. Founder and CEO, Alex Pedenko had the following to say:

You can now point your iPad and it will know what your target is and figure out all the numbers based on that. So now you have true, accurate numbers about what you did, not just in general but relative to the target line, relative to where you want it to go.

I am hoping that these upgrades will make this already useful device even better. While the device is not perfect (what is?) and should not replace quality coaching I feel that with a few practice sessions any golfer can start to gain a better understanding of what they need to do in order to make progress.

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.....

Wedges and Water

I recently stumbled onto an interesting tidbit whilst working with a young professional on his wedge game. It was early in the morning and we had been hitting beautiful 50 yard pitches the afternoon before and suddenly he could not get the ball to launch low enough with the spin rate he had been generating the day before. Now as you may know I've tested almost all there is to test in regards to a 50 yard wedge shot and of course I had looked into the effect of water interfering with the friction between the face and the ball. One problem - I had tested a wet club striking a dry ball. My results from the earlier test showed very little difference in launch and spin when there was water involved and I had since adopted that belief.

As I watched the young pro struggle to lower his launch in the morning dew it came to me - there was a difference between a wet club striking a dry ball and a dry club striking a wet ball! I had to run the test again.

I had to be very careful with the test in that I needed to use the same club, my 54 degree sand wedge, in very controlled conditions, with golf balls that were consistent. I used brand new Titleist NXT Tour golf balls and made sure that I cleaned the grooves and clubface off between each shot. I attempted to hit each shot to carry 50 yards flat and hit eight shots for each portion of the test. I removed the two shots that had the lowest spin from each portion. With the help of my TrackMan here are the results:

Wet club and dry ball:

  • Launch angle was 27.8 degrees
  • Spin rate was 5463 rpm
  • Height was 26.5 feet

Dry club and wet ball:

  • Launch angle was 30.1 degrees
  • Spin rate was 5291 rpm
  • Height was 28.4 feet

Dry club and dry ball:

  • Launch angle was 25.4 degrees
  • Spin rate was 6603 rpm
  • Height was 21.2 feet

The interesting thing in looking at the trajectory chart is how much lower the dry club and dry ball (purple) shots flew. Clearly there was more friction between the face and ball which led to a lower launch with substantially more spin. The dry club and wet ball (yellow) sample flew the highest as the water on the ball greatly decreased friction which led to higher launch, due to slippage and thus decreased spin - certainly not the optimal shot.

The interesting thing when comparing the wet club/dry ball versus the dry club/wet ball results was that the spin and launch were better when the BALL was dry. This was due to the water being forced off the clubhead and into the groove channels during the motion of the swing. Not to mention that the air dried the face during the swing too.

Moral of the story - always clean the clubface (unless it has sand on it) and dry the club and ball when possible. If you happen to have an early morning tee time and you're a dew sweeper, don't plan on hitting any low spinners! The drier the ball and club, the better the friction and the better the quality of shots you will hit.

Please read my first two articles on wedges and pitching:

The Science Behind Superb Wedges: Part I | Andrew Rice Golf

The Science Behind Superb Wedges: Part II | Andrew Rice Golf

News and Notes from AndrewRiceGolf.com

There is so much happening at AndrewRiceGolf.com at the moment that I thought this would be an opportune time to let everybody know what's been happening and what's coming up....

Peter Millar

I have just formed a relationship with Peter Millar for 2013. I am very excited as I approached the company about wearing their line - it has always been a favorite of mine. Look for Peter Millar clothing in all AndrewRiceGolf.com photos and video shoots.

Comprehensive TrackMan Days

This in-depth day long program will explain all the factors that influence ball flight and clearly illustrate what is required for you to perform at your best. All elements of ball flight  and club delivery will be addressed - from drivers to wedges. Clubfitting will also be included. Due to the intensity of this  program there will be a maximum of 3 students in each school. (Minimum 2) Cost is $650 per person and lunch is included.

9AM-5PM Wednesday March 20, April 17 and May 8
Please call Andrew Rice at (843)247-4688 to sign up.

Modern Golf Comes to Berkeley Hall

Modern Golf will be coming to Berkeley Hall to do professional clubfitting from March 13-16. Have you ever wanted to be fitted like  a Tour player and have access to the same equipment they do? This is your chance. The guys from Modern Golf are simply the finest clubfitters I have been exposed to and this is an opportunity not to be missed. They do not recommend clubs and then order them for you - they actually build each club specifically for you!
Each fitting will be 2 hours and the cost is $150. Please inquire with me at (843)247-4688 as space is limited.

South Africa 2013

As many of you may know we recently returned from another fantastic South Africa trip. Here is a short video showing some of the sights and sounds that we experienced along the way.

Looking to Get Longer or Straighter this Year?

Once again I am offering my "Results or FREE" sessions! Spend 20 minutes with me on TrackMan hitting your driver or 7 iron and I guarantee you will get longer or straighter or it's on me. These fun and educational mini lessons cost $60 and have proven to be very helpful to all attendees in the past. Here is an interesting READ from the last time I offered these sessions.
Tuesday March 12, April 23 and May7 from 9AM-2PM
Please inquire with me at (843)247-4688 for reservations.

Atlantic Golf Club

Once again I will be returning to Atlantic Golf Club for the summer season. My final day of teaching in the South Carolina Lowcountry will be May 15th.

Thanks for reading and please shout if you have any questions....

Looking for a 'Low Spin' Driver?

This summer I had the privilege of meeting expert club fitter Ian Fraser from Modern Golf in Toronto, Canada. Ian is the most knowledgeable and passionate fitter I had been around and before long I was peppering him with all my questions and concerns regarding equipment.  One question that came up early in our discussions was spin rate off the driver. We both commented that it was far more common to encounter golfers with too much spin than too little and that led to my question, "Were there any drivers or shafts that stood out from the rest in their ability to reduce spin rates?" Remember that the optimal spin rate for just about all club speeds with the driver is somewhere between 1800-2200 rpm when supported by the correct launch angle.

With Ian's expertise I have compiled a list of the three commonly available drivers that currently do the best job at reducing spin. Keep in mind that that I said 'currently' in that, as with technology, this is a moving target and this list could change very soon.

  • The TaylorMade R-11 S: this club is far better than the original R-11 which did very little in reducing spin. According to Ian the R-11 S also ranks right up there in ball speed - she's a hot one!
  • The new Ping Anser: the newest of the three drivers, my testing shows that this may perhaps be the best at reducing spin.
  • The Callaway Razr Fit: certainly the simplest, most classic looking of the three heads. This driver also received a nod from Ian regarding a hot face.

As a side note - the new Cobra AMP driver often came up in our discussions regarding both low spin and hot heads and it seemed to be a favorite among many of my students this summer. I would give it "honorable mention" status.

Obviously very soon after discussing low spinning heads I quickly turned to shafts to see what kind of help golfers could get in that department. Here are Ian's recommendations:

So if you're a golfer who has access to TrackMan or similar radar device and you know your spin rate with the big stick is too high look into one of the above combinations to get you a few welcome additional yards off the tee. And of course, should you be anywhere near Toronto look Ian up....you will not regret it!

Ian and the crew from Modern Golf will be visiting Berkeley Hall in January, so should you be interested in a fitting please contact me to schedule a time.

This Guy is Really Long...

Last week I had my first opportunity to work with a professional long driver.  Having never taught one before I was not sure what to expect, but I knew that with TrackMan I could help him become more efficient and ultimately make him better at his profession. I must admit though -  I was nervous about how to go about things prior to our meeting.

The fine young gentleman I taught was Patrick Hopper - already an accomplished and successful long driver that finished in the top 10 in Remax World Long Drive Championship in 2010.

He arrived with a golf bag full of 48" drivers (all USGA spec) and after chatting for a while he shared that his tendencies were high fades and he sometimes struggled to find the grid. When he started hitting I was in shock - these were the highest and longest golf shots I had ever seen. We even had to get him to aim a little to the right so as to not rain down drives on the golfers warming up on the far side of the range over 350 yards away.  The photo below shows how much the ball actually compresses into the face before departing in a hurry....

After watching him hit about a dozen drives we took a look at his TrackMan numbers for a few of his better shots:

  • His average apex height was just over 200 feet which was massively high
  • His spin rate at 2800 rpm was high
  • While his club path was 5.5 degrees outward he tended to hit too many weaker fades which indicated a heel strike

We set out to lower the trajectory and encourage baby draws with a strike point that was very slightly favoring the toe side of the club. After some work and "chipping" a few drives at around 120-125 mph he started to get the hang of a straighter club path and an improved strike point.

Here is a comparison of his best shot before and his best shot after.....

The shot above indicates a slight toe-sided strike which was not his tendency in the early going. The shot below also indicates a similar strike point, but now with a more appropriate launch angle, better spin rate and 15 extra yards.

Keep in mind that the above shots were hit with newer Titleist NXT Tour golf balls into about a 10-12 mph headwind!

What an amazing talent this young man is - I was amazed at how calm and sincerely pleasant he was to work with. At the end of the day he received the same lesson I give golfers everyday - improved distance via better efficiency and improved accuracy via an understanding of how your swing should cause the ball to respond. Keep an eye on Patrick Hopper.

That really was fun!

Driver Test: Old vs. New

My wife encouraged me to clean out the garage the other day and I happened upon an old driver I used in college. I still remember how cool this driver was - it was the latest and greatest and even had a titanium shaft! When was the last time you saw one of those? Just for kicks I placed it up alongside my current Titleist driver and was shocked at the massive difference between the two - the older club looked smaller than my current three wood! How could I have possibly played well with this mini club? This got me thinking about a TrackMan test.

For the record the smaller club was a TaylorMade Burner Plus 9.5 degree with a titanium X flex shaft and my current club is a Titleist D3 8.5 with a Motore F3 70 gram graphite S flex shaft. There is a fairly substantial 1.5 inch difference even though both clubs were standard length in their day. I am not sure about the weight or the true frequency/flex of each club as I did not have the appropriate equipment to check those measurements.

For the TrackMan test I hit 12 shots with each club and deleted the data for the two worst shots. I noted that the attack angle, club path, swing direction and plane were very similar from club to club.

The primary differences seemed to be:

  • Club speed 99.7mph vs 101.8mph - I believed that this difference would be greater due to the large difference in length of shafts.
  • Ball Speed 145.7mph vs 152.4mph - I put this down to the fact that the smaller head led to more off-center hits and thus a decreased average ball speed and smash factor.
  • Point of contact - there was a noticeable tendency for me to strike the bigger club in the heel. This led to more shots missed to the right due to gear effect and an increase in the spin rate 2455rpm vs 2895rpm.
  • Height - even though the smaller club launched the ball slightly higher the apex height was lower due to less spin and ball speed.
  • Carry and total distance - the smaller club carried the ball almost 17yards shorter, but with less spin and a flatter land angle rolled further to only finish just over 10 yards short of the bigger club.
  • Dispersion - the smaller club had more shots finish further from the center line due to a much smaller clubface and substantially lower MOI.

Here are the TrackMan generated dispersion charts (yellow is the smaller club) and averages:

(click to enlarge)

I was amazed at how small the difference between the two drivers, total distance wise, there was. Going in to the test I would have thought that there would be a 15 yard difference at least. I expected the smaller club to spin the ball less and lower the apex which it did, but I was truly amazed at how little distance I lost with it. I did notice a much greater tendency to hit the ball outside the sweet spot with the smaller club and that led to some fairly aggressive gear effect draws and fades.

Driving is not my strong suit and I am always looking to keep the ball in play off the tee. Armed with this new knowledge I am going to try a shorter shaft in my current driver head and see what that does for my fairways hit statistic. I also plan on practicing with the older club - I think it is vital in improving ball striking to practice with smaller headed clubs.

I also think this test might also illustrate that the majority of the distance gains we see on the PGATour today are not equipment based, but primarily due to the ball.....your thoughts?

Testing Mudballs....

I recently decided to test a widely held philosophy that mudballs curve a certain direction - if the mud is on the left, it is believed that the ball will curve to the right. Essentially the ball will curve away from the mud....

As you might imagine it is quite difficult to purposely attach mud to a golf ball. In order to keep things fairly consistent I rolled a small strip of duct tape into a ball and then taped over it to keep it in place with additional duct tape. I primarily wanted to create a scenario where the ball carried additional weight along with increased friction on one side.

All shots were hit with a seven iron and I selected the three 'best' swings for each of the options (mud on the left or right). Here are the Trackman dispersion charts and average numbers for the shots that I measured: (yellow is mud/tape on the left and white is mud/tape on the right)

Click to enlarge

The mud/tape on the left is the top line and vice versa:

Click to enlarge

The averages for the shots actually showed that the ball could curve either right or left when mud is present - regardless of which side it is located. The results were inconclusive, but I can say this - the spin rate seemed to be decreased and there were a few shots that seemed to actually curve both ways.

The coolest thing about the test was how clearly you could see the ball rotating around a fairly horizontal spin axis. With the black tape contrasting the white of the ball it was amazing how you could see the black side remaining on the side it started for the entire flight of the shot. So much for side spin!

The next time you have a mudball all you can really do is aim for the center of the green and hope for the best.