The Art of Being Skillful

As many of you know I enjoy deciphering which elements contribute to being a great wedge player. Ever since I started with my 'Wedge Project' research in 2010 chipping and pitching have really piqued my interest.

My recent testing, and philosophy, has been aligned alongside golfers using one club and applying their skills to control the trajectory and outcome of their shots in close proximity to the green. For ease of illustration and testing I selected a 58º wedge and a 15 yard carry requirement. I then played three different trajectory shots - a high, mid and low shot. I recorded each version in slo-motion and at regular speed along with running TrackMan in the background to capture data on a handful of each type of shot.

As you can tell there is a dramatic difference in the pace required to execute each intended trajectory. The technical changes for each shot changed as follows:

High: ball positioned off front big toe, face square at address and a sense that the handle slows dramatically approaching impact as the clubhead passes the handle prior to impact. Freddie Couples is a good image here.

Mid: ball positioned centrally, face square at address, medium pace and a sense that the shaft will be vertical at impact.

Low: ball positioned off the back big toe, face square with hands forward as a result of the ball position and an upbeat pace that encourages the handle to 'beat' the clubhead to the ball at impact. Zach Johnson's brisk pace comes to mind with this type of shot

At Impact

At Impact

The TrackMan data provides some interesting differences:

Club Speed: Low 23mph; Mid 30mph; High 37mph

Ball Speed: Low 27.8mph; Mid 28.5mph; High 28.0mph

Smash Factor: Low 1.2; Mid 1.0; High 0.8

Launch Angle: Low 29.6º; Mid 40.6º; High 51.6º

Spin Rate: Low 2230rpm; Mid 1630rpm; High 1250rpm

One thing that struck me was that the average ball speed was the same for each type of shot, yet the club speed was very different. The attack angle was steepest with the lower shot primarily due to the ball position and the shaft lean. I also found it interesting that there was roughly 10º difference in the launch angle of each version.

The numbers might be important for coaches to understand, but what can you, the player looking to save strokes take away?

  • Stick with one club around the greens - you'll become a skilled artisan with it in your hands.
  • Alter the trajectory with subtle changes at address and less subtle changes in the pace.
  • The manner in which you release the clubhead through impact will make a big difference
  • Now get to work!

Thanks for reading and please share with a friend. Happy New Year and all the best for a fabulous 2018. #birdies

3 Key Drills for Great Wedge Play

Far too many golfers struggle with their wedge play. I see it all the time! In this article and video I have dug deep and come up with my three favorite drills for you to practice if you'd like to get better from close range. Take a look...

Impact Drag Drill

  • Using an alignment rod in lieu of a club take your normal pitching address position
  • Place the tip of the rod on the ground about 3 feet behind where the ball would be
  • Keeping the arms extended, rotate and elevate the lead shoulder to get the rod through impact

Pitching Draw Drill

  • Tee the ball up and place an alignment rod between the ball and the target
  • The objective is to get the ball to draw around the rod
  • Have the handle traveling up and in while the clubhead travel down and out for draws

9 Ball Trajectory Drill

  • Using nine balls to develop skill and adaptability
  • Hit the first three balls to three different targets with your stock trajectory
  • The second three balls are hit with a slightly higher trajectory to different targets
  • The final three are hit with a lower trajectory to different targets as well

My hope is that these drills will help to upgrade your technique, develop your skill around the greens and ultimately help you become a more well-rounded golfer.

Thanks for reading/watching and if you enjoyed this article please share it with a friend who you feel might benefit.

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....