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Understanding the “NEW” ball flight laws



Over the last several years, golf instruction has gone through a unique transformation. The advent of 3D motion analysis, video, and ball/club flight launch monitors have proven to golf instructors that some of the “fundamentals” we were taught by our mentors were incorrect.

With the advent of Trackman and Flightscope, advanced Doppler radar launch monitors that cost upward of $10,000, we are now able to understand what actually happens during the impact interval. This has made golf instruction much simpler as a result.

Students are now learning improved fundamental motions in their own way, while instructors are not so much focused on the complex mechanics of the swing itself. For the facilities that have a Doppler radar launch monitors, such as Promontory, our students are learning under the guise of the “in my own way,” not “ in this way” type of golf instruction.

Screen Shot 2013-06-13 at 11.46.06 AM

Trackman and Flightscope provide video-based instruction coupled with the data of club and ball interaction, thus correlating exactly what is going on during the swing. Think of this new technology as providing your instructor with a MRI of your current fundamentals so you both can focus on facts, not opinions.

One of the most important things Doppler launch monitors have given us are the “new” ball flight laws. In the past, golfers were taught that the ball begins in the direction of a club’s path, and the curvature of the ball was due to the face angle at impact. Now, we know that this line of thinking is 100 percent INCORRECT.

In fact, the face angle at impact determines 75 percent or more of the ball’s starting direction, and at slower ball speeds it creeps up to almost 100 percent. This has made curving the ball much easier to understand for my students, and below are examples of this fact all backed up by the data that the my Trackman system shows for each shot.

Example 1: Hitting a Fade

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In Example 1, I am hitting the ball left to right, or fading the ball for a right-handed player.

  • The solid white line represents my target-line (directly at the flag in the distance).
  • The blue line shows the path of the club (negative numbers are out to in).
  • The red line determines the direction that my club face was pointing during impact (negative numbers mean a closed face).

You can see by the purple line that this ball began slightly left of my target (3.5 degrees left of my target-line) and faded 34.9 feet to the right of my intended target. This proves that when the path is left of the face angle (provide a centered hit on the club face), you will hit the ball left to right. Thus, if you want to move the ball left to right (for the right-handed player), you MUST have your face open to the club’s path.

NOTE: I said that the club face must be pointing to the right of the club’s path in order to hit a fade, not open to the target line.

My path was 6.6 degrees from out to in (Example 1), my face was 2.6-degrees closed and the ball moved from left to right. Yes, it moved left to right WITH A CLOSED FACE! If my club face had been open 2.6 degrees, then the ball would have curved exaggeratedly to the right. But in this case, there was only a 4 degree path to face differential — the lower that number the less the curvature. That’s why the ball only faded a small amount to the right.

Example 2: Hitting a Draw

Screen Shot 2013-06-13 at 11.46.44 AM

In Example 2, I am hitting the ball right to left, or drawing the ball for a right-handed player.

  • The solid white line represents my target-line (directly at the flag in the distance).
  • The blue line shows the path of the club (positive numbers denote from inside to the outside).
  • The red line determines the direction that my club face was pointing during impact (negative numbers mean a closed face).

You can see by the purple line that this ball began down the target line (launch direction is 0), while my face was 1-degree closed. These conditions started the ball at my target, and moved it right to left 55.4 feet.

As you can see in Example 2, when the path is right of the face angle at impact, you will hit the ball right to left (provide a centered hit). The ball flight began very close to the face angle as described above. Thus, if you want to move the ball right to left (for the right-handed player) you MUST have your face closed to the club’s path.

NOTE: I said closed to the relative path, NOT closed to the target line. That brings me to my next point about the shot in Example 2. 

You can see that my face-to-path ratio was -6.4 degrees, which means that my club face was 6.4 degrees closed relative to my path’s direction. This is why my ball started at the target and then moved left of it instead of starting right of my target and drawing back to the target.

There is a huge misconception that you must have a closed face to draw the golf ball, when in fact all you need to do is have your club face pointed left of your path. So in Example 2, if my face was more open at impact (let’s so 1 to 3 degrees), then you would have seen the ball start to the right and curve to the target — not to the left of the target as mine did in this example.

The golf swings thoughts above might seem complex due to the numbers involved, but the bottom line for you at home is to do the following:

To Hit a Fade

In order to move the ball left to right, you will need a path that is more left than the face is pointing. So if you keep the club face pointing right of the path it will curve from left to right

To Hit a Draw

Understand that in order to move the ball right to left, you must have a path that is more “in to out” than where your club face points at impact.  Another way to think of it is to have the face pointing left of your club’s path — this will allow the ball to move right to left


Read More Tom Stickney II : What Flightscope and Trackman can tell you (and me)

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico ( He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email:



  1. Alec Ordway

    Dec 24, 2017 at 9:15 am

    This info is as John Jacobs describe for years and years. You’re just proving him right. Swing left go left, swing right go right, swing square go square. Then face angle RELATIVE TO PATH determines ball flight. And all this info has same purpose, control the ball and learn fundamentals to do so. Geesh, same old same old, but now we have new tech to see what our body did as we swung.

  2. Pingback: The Top 10 Myths In Golf | The DIY Golfer

  3. Ian

    Aug 3, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    “My path was 6.6 degrees from out to in (Example 1), my face was 2.6-degrees closed and the ball moved from left to right. Yes, it moved left to right WITH A CLOSED FACE!” – Closed relative to the target line or closed relative to the swing path? – I know this article is old, but really hope you reply.

    • Kelly

      Aug 11, 2015 at 8:31 am

      I’m just another poster, but I am sure he means closed relative to the target line. The face is 4 degrees open to the swing path, but 2.6 degrees closed to the target line.

  4. Chris Howell

    May 5, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    Way too much confusion on target line and path. I was taught over 20 years ago that club face has to be closed relative to path for the ball to move right to left (right handed golfer) the clubface must be open relative to path for the ball to move right to left (right handed player). This really isn’t new information just that new technology makes it easier to see. As long as your club face is square to your path you will hit the ball straight, but it could be straight left or straight right.

  5. corey

    Mar 7, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    so much confusion comes from people not having the same definition of a draw and fade. some say a draw or fade starts on the target line and then (for a rh player) will draw to the right of the line or fade to the left of it. others say the ball should start right of the target line and draw back to the line or start left of the target line and fade back onto it. the second example i think should be considered a pull fade or push draw, this is what sean foley teaches. a lot of it comes down to what you are more comfortable using as your target line.

  6. Adrian

    Feb 28, 2014 at 2:36 am

    I am glad that articles like this continue to be written as there are still a great deal of people who still either have not been exposed to the correct information or have not quite grasped it fully yet. It is so important for this information to be understood.

  7. Jakub Budaj

    Feb 22, 2014 at 9:00 am

    Clubface starts the ball, path curves the ball.

  8. Michael

    Oct 19, 2013 at 11:14 pm

    Guys, does anyone know an official link (e.g. PGA) where above is stated ? I realised most teachers cite the older books where it says the path determines the direction and the face the curve. It’s very hard to come by unless you have something official..

  9. DK

    Jun 19, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    The ball generally starts down your path and finishes where the face is pointed. Your path should be parallel with your stance/line of your toes. Align your toes with where you want the ball to start and adjust the face to where you want the ball to finish. Take your normal swing. Simple (in general).

    • Damon

      Jun 20, 2013 at 5:07 pm

      that’s actually incorrect. The ball starts, depending on iron or driver, 80% or more in the direction that the face angle is pointing at impact, not the path. The ball curves away from the path relative to the face.

    • Jack

      Sep 2, 2013 at 1:50 am

      That’s how I used to think. I think I’ll have to go prove this out on the range again.

  10. OJ

    Jun 18, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    To hit a draw you must have the club open to the target and closed to the path. A draw must start right of the target and finish on it, this is not possible without the club face being open to the intended target

  11. Jcjmw

    Jun 17, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    Great article! And, the article is understandable.

  12. Nick

    Jun 17, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Great article. When I learne this golf became much easier, though I can’t say it ever got “easy”.

  13. Deaus7

    Jun 15, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Great Stuff. Very informative article leaving out all the subjective crap, Johnny Miller and other idiots on TV need to read stuff like this. Not saying he was not a good golfer, but some of the stuff that spews from his mouth regarding the swing is Madness.

  14. Blanco

    Jun 14, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    I think a big issue in this teaching divide is the semantics– that is, the definition of “draw” and “fade.” Most on this site get that both shots are designed to fall onto the desired target (positive end result) as a result of curvature from either side.

    However… I can cite many written and verbal examples of teachers/players, usually older, who will describe a draw as beginning at target and bending left and a fade being the direct opposite (so essentially a pull hook or block fade). They’re usually the guys who will tell me: “jeez, if you hit it where you were aiming (the line of my stance) you’d be into those houses way over yonder…”

  15. Rob

    Jun 13, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Almost forgot…. the easiest and quickest way to explain the ball flight: the ball starts generally at the direction the face is pointing at impact, and curves away from the path.

  16. Rob

    Jun 13, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Quote: “There is a huge misconception that you must have a closed face to draw the golf ball, when in fact all you need to do is have your club face pointed left of your path.”

    I think the problem here is that people either confuse or mix up ‘path’ and ‘target line’, as in the face open/closed to the path, or face open/closed to the target line. The ball only knows the path, it has no idea of where the target is.

    So with that, club face left of the path would be closed in reference to the path, and I think people confuse that with the idea that they need the face closed to the target line.

    All of which likely explains why slicers think they need to aim farther left, and in turn end up slicing the ball even harder. The mind has a hard time wrapping itself around this crazy game of opposites where if you want to keep the ball from going right, you must set up to the right.

  17. Bill Hughes

    Jun 13, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    As a recent Golf Academy of America graduate I am opening my own club fitting, repair and teaching facility. With retail goods as well. My question is, “What is the best teaching software/simulator on the market for the least amount of money?” I will be putting in a full size simulator but I want to get spot on readings to help my students with.
    Thanks for your help, Bill

    • DS

      Jun 18, 2013 at 4:29 pm

      Your two best systems are Flightscope and Trackman. Flightscope is cheaper.

  18. neal

    Jun 13, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    Could you post a picture of how the club face should look like at impact?

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Stickney: A dangerous trend is developing for top players



As a teacher, I obviously have my own particular biases as it pertains to the different stroke patterns I teach to the random levels of golfers I see, however, one thing remains the same they ALL want a predictable ball flight in the end.

To me, it doesn’t matter if you swing it upright like Wolff or flatter like Kucher because they both work, as do all the swings in the middle IF they produce a consistent result under pressure. What we now understand with the advent of GEARS and Trackman is that everyone has their own individual motion and sure there are certain fundamentals that everyone great possesses but end the end we are all left to “find what works best” for us. And over time, the great players have gravitated towards the best and most desirable way that they swing the club without worrying what it looks like only what it produces.

However, I have been noticing a trend amongst the highest level of players that is disturbing…and this trend that we’ll be discussing in a second is beginning to filter down to the kids whom have ready access to launch monitors in high school and just entering into. This trend is the culprit of a two-way miss, albeit a very small one, but a two-way miss nonetheless all in efforts to try and hit the ball too straight.

First, let’s show you examples of some of the best players I have seen personally at the top amateur levels. Every one of these players shown below are proven winners and are ranked very highly nationally on the amateur and Division I college circuits.

I asked each player above what their normal ball flight was day-to-day and each replied, “mostly straight, but if I miss it then it tends to go X, but very, very slightly.” (For those Trackman users, these swings are “normalized,” which takes out the wind etc. for a touch more reality regardless of the conditions outside at the time.)

Now look in the left frame of each player’s swing, and you will see a blue line, and if you look closer, you will see that it is laying directly on top of a white line. The white line is the player’s target line—where they were trying to hit the ball. And the blue line is the PATH of the club for the particular swing shown.

What you will see is that the path of the club is basically “zeroed” out where the path and the target line are moving directly in the same direction. While this might seem like a great idea, in fact no one can play from this position because it’s impossible to zero out the path and clubface at the same time. No teacher in history has seen this consistently. We have seen very small face to path relationships but never 0 for the path, 0 for the face, 0 for the face to path, and 0 for the spin axis. We’re talking trying to manage a degree which is basically 1/6 to of a click of your second hand on your watch dial!

If you could play from a zero path and zero face, then this is what it would look like on Trackman. I have only seen 0 path and a 0 face just once in ALL the shots I have seen with Trackman, and the shot I am talking about curved way offline due to the fact that it was a longer club coupled with a faulty impact position (gear effect).

Now here is the key for people who desire a ball flight that curves as little as possible and zeroing out the path is not the answer! The key is to play with a face to path ratio that is very, very low which helps to lower the ball’s spin axis and thus the ball would curve slightly. If you have the path sitting a couple of degrees left or right of the path then you will be able to have some predictability of your curvature which will give you freedom when you don’t have our “A” swing working that day.

NOTE: Think about pro bowlers, how many do you see that roll the ball directly at the head pin?! Zero. They curve the ball to some degree for more predictability.

As we know, in order to hit the ball where we want, we need to have some consistent curvature and when the path is on top of the target-line a slight twist of the face right or left causes baby pulls or baby pushes.

The goal of ballstriking efficiency is to eliminate ONE side of the course.

Secondly, we know that the ball begins mostly in the direction of the face at impact and will curve away from the path with a centered hit. Therefore, regardless of the curvature left to right or right to left you must work in this order- PATH then the FACE then the Target (as shown below) if not then you will hit pushes and pulls, slices and hooks!

Let’s examine this player above, who moves the ball left to right. We see a path that is leftward at basically -3.0 degrees and the face is almost -2.0 degrees left of the target but only 1.0 degree RIGHT of the path thus the ball curved gently left to right. For players desiring a mostly “straight” ball without the danger of missing it both ways, then the path has to be just far enough left or right of the target line so that the face can fit between the path and the target so you can begin the ball in the correct direction before it begins to curve. This reduction in the face-to-path relationship is the forgotten fundamental of the straight ball hitters!

As you can see, this player has a path that is slightly leftward and the face is only 1 degree rightward of this causing a very low face-to-path, and from this point, he has a spin axis of 0.3 meaning the ball barely moved rightward. This is the key to hitting the ball straighter…not zeroing out the path but reducing the FACE-to-PATH relationship! This cannot be mastered with a zeroed-out path because the face won’t consistently have room to fit between your path and target line as discussed. Thus you will hit micro-pulls or micro-pushes giving you the dreaded two-way miss…all because you have the path working too much down the line!

Path, face, and target…in that order will help you reduce your face to path difference and this will help you to lower your ball’s spin axis and straighter but MORE PREDICTABLE ball flights will ensue. Anything else spells disaster for the people who desire a “straight” ball flight!

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Clement: Stop hanging back



Whether you are a beginner hanging back or an advanced player hanging back, there are very specific reasons for this as well as a very specific task to focus on to OBLITERATE this issue. You will CLEARLY see how this simple task will engage your machine’s hard drive And get you the action you need to hit quality golf shots; TODAY!

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Clark: On learning golf



“A true teacher will teach how to think, not what to think”

There are several versions of the above adage, but when you teach every day, you get to see this up close and personal. In my opinion, all a teacher can do is to guide you as to what happens when you hit a golf ball. The student has to discover what works for them to achieve better results. It is that simple. The internet is loaded with “how-to” info, and some of it might actually apply to your individual issue, but do yourself a big favor: Go beat some balls and see how it goes; try this, try that, repeat steps one and two!

Let’s take turning as a classic example. If someone were to ask a teacher HOW to turn, there could be a dozen answers. What the teacher, the data, video show is simply this: You are NOT turning. Let’s try this, let’s try that, no, how about this? There are an unlimited number of ways, but the student needs to: FIRST, realize the lack or incorrectness of turn, and SECOND, find a way to do it. Any way, YOUR way. This is called participating in your learning and discovering process. When Ben Hogan said: “the secret is in the dirt,” this is precisely what he was referring to. 

I have a short section each day in my golf school dedicated to the ballistics of impact. A student needs to know exactly what happens at impact. And when you know what produces good flight, then find what you personally are doing to violate those laws. How to correct an open and/or closed clubface means nothing to a student who doesn’t know what open or closed actually is, or does. Swing path and its relationship to clubface resulting in ball flight curvature is knowledge every teacher has, but is like rocket science to the student who knows none of this. I once had a student who thought his shanks were coming off the toe! When I told him that just the opposite was happening, he immediately moved away from the ball a little and stopped shanking (there were other reasons he shanked but just that much knowledge got him off the hosel!)

In order to correct anything, anything at all, it is first necessary to discover the problem and find a way, any way to correct it. No teacher, book, TV tip, or article can do what you can do for yourself. All the teacher might do is make you aware of the problem. But in the end, just go play and try this, that and the other thing. The answer is there, believe me, the answer is in you. You have to find it!

The problem, very often, is that golfers are looking for someone to offer them a light bulb moment, a flash of “aha,” the “I’ve-got-it-now” solution. The aha moment is the only way to get sustained improvement, but it must come from you, the individual. There is no universal “light-bulb moment,” it is uniquely-yours alone to discover.  As I’ve said before, “it’s not what I cover, it’s what you discover.” Discover what? That “thing” you can grasp and go hit ball after ball until you have, at least to a functional degree, internalized it!

Good luck on your personal journey!

On a personal note, this will be my final article for GolfWRX. I have written 100-plus articles over the last 10 years or so and I have thoroughly enjoyed helping all of you who read my articles.

If you read through them on some rainy day, you’ll notice a theme: “If this, then that.” Meaning: If your golf ball is consistently doing that, try this. The articles are all archived on this site, and I am writing a book about my life on the lesson tee. It has been a labor of love as my whole career has been. There is no greater joy in my professional life than seeing the look on a golfers face and feel the joy within them when they improve. The minute that slice straightens, or that ground ball goes up in the air, is a special bond and a shared joy in the student-teacher relationship.

But I’ve said most of what I think is pertinent and anything after this would be redundant. There is now a plethora of how-to info out there, and I personally feel the reader may begin to think he/she should do this or that as opposed to thinking “I should try to discover this or that through my own personal exploration.”

If any of you wish to contact me directly regarding help with your game, you know how to do so. But do remember this: You cannot learn golf from words or pictures. My advice is to get a good teacher to look at you a few times, then go out and find the answer in the dirt. Golf is a game to played. And in that playing, in that trial-and-error process, you will find things that will help you achieve better outcomes. No one owns this game: We only to get to borrow it from time to time!  


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19th Hole