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  • Andrew Losey

The Ball Tells All

Updated: Aug 18, 2021

Solving your swing by looking at the ball flight

There is no better feeling than stepping on the tee in front of your group and hitting that perfect draw down the middle of the fairway. You hear, "Great shot!", instead of the all too common, "You should be alright there". After that great drive, you confidently pick up your tee and strut to your golf bag. However, throughout the round, your drive starts to curve to the right out of the blue. How did you hit those shots? How can you control your golf ball and hit more great shots? Answering these questions starts with understanding what happened at impact to make the ball fly using "The Ball Flight Laws" which govern the distance and direction of your shots. Once you understand the Ball Flight Laws, you can start to make simple changes to your swing to hit more consistent shots deserving of that "Great shot!". Let's take a look at the 6 Ball Flight Laws and what they mean.

The Ball Flight Laws

1. Club Face (Left or Right)

If you've taken a few golf lessons you have probably heard "Club Face is king", and it's TRUE! Where the clubface is pointed at impact is responsible for over 70% of the initial start direction of the ball flight with your 7 iron. Ask any Tour pro what they pay attention to first about their flight and their response will be the start lines. So to make things simple, if you aim perfectly straight at a target and the ball starts right, that's where the club face was pointed at impact. If the ball started left, the club face was pointed left at impact. The direction of the clubface in relation to the club's path will also produce curve.

2. Dynamic Loft (Vertical Club Face)

When playing in the wind or hitting over trees, this ball flight law, dynamic or delivered loft at impact, becomes very important. This is because dynamic loft is responsible for a large amount of the launch angle of the golf ball. Dynamic loft also plays an important role in the production of spin. Delivering more dynamic loft at impact will launch your ball higher create more spin than vice versa. Controlling the dynamic loft will allow you to hit low shots into the wind and high shots that stop quickly on the green.

3. Club Path (Left Or Right)

Bubba Watson is the perfect golfer to watch to understand club path. We have seen him hit high fades and monster hooks on command. He does this by swinging the club in a different direction at impact. When there is a difference in the directions of the Face and Path, the ball will curve. By creating a club path direction that is to the right of where the face is pointed, you will make the ball curve from right to left. And the opposite is true, a path direction that is left of the direction of the face will influence the ball to curve from left to right. Remember, the ball will start where the face is pointed and curve away from the path. For the perfectly straight shot, the face and path need to be pointed in the same direction.

4. Angle of Approach (Vertical club path)

This ball flight law has many influences and learning to control it will make you a ball-striking master. Angle of approach will help to create the launch angle of the shot. A steep, downward approach into the ball will create a lower launch than a flatter approach or upward approach. Spin is also influenced by the angle of approach in conjunction with the dynamic loft. When combining the vertical components of Face and Path you create an angle called "Spin Loft". If you want to hit a spinny wedge shot, you want this angle to be very wide, but when you want to crank your driver, this angle needs to be narrow.

Angle of approach also has a relationship with the left and right direction of the path, meaning it will influence the curve of the shot as well. That is when the club is swinging down towards the ground it is also swinging more "out" than if it were swinging up. For this just remember "down and out, up and in".

5. Centeredness of contact

Hitting the ball out of the center of the club face is necessary for hitting consistent shots. When you hit the sweet spot shot after shot, you will produce similar spin rates and ball speeds meaning the ball will fly a similar and full distance. As contact moves away from the center of the face, not as much energy is transferred into the ball. This is why on mis-hits your shots will often times come up short.

Also when your contact is off-center you will notice the club twists at impact and creates what is called the Gear-Effect on the ball. When you hit the driver and make contact on the toe of the club, the face will open, starting the ball away from the target but you'll notice that will curve back. Although this is a cool phenomenon, stick to making center contact to play your best.

6. Club head Speed

It's simple. All things being equal, the faster you swing the clubhead at impact, the farther your ball will travel. Greater clubhead speed gives you a major advantage on all shots. Off the tee, you will hit longer drives giving you shorter approaches. And if you are on a course like Harbour Town where you might not be able to hit as many drivers, you will still be hitting a shorter, more controllable club into the green even if your playing competitor has the same distance to the pin. From 170 yards, Jim Furyk might be hitting a 7 iron, but Dustin Johnson might be hitting a 9 iron. This gives DJ more spin and stopping power on the green, effectively making where he can land the ball and still have the ball stay on the green larger than Furyk with his 7 iron.

Solving your Swing

Understanding these ball flight laws will allow you to look at the ball flight of your shots and figure out what impact looked like. From there, you can piece together how you moved your body to move the club into impact. When you see your ball start right and curve right, you should automatically say "my clubface was pointed right and my path was left of that". Gathering this information you can now start to make changes to your swing, feeling something different to create a new ball flight. The ball flight tells you everything you need to know.

To practice and to gain more understanding of The Ball Flight Laws, I encourage you to try and curve the ball in different directions and amounts and to hit the highest and lowest shots you can. Feel what you do to create each shot and keep asking yourself, how did I make that shot happen. So the next time you go to the practice range, let go of the frustration you feel after a mis-hit or after you miss the target. Pause to analyze ball flight to think about how it was created, the ball flight tells you.


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