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Two secrets to improve your ball flight

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In recent years, advances in golf technology have shown that there are many variables that go into a desired ball flight. Doppler radar launch monitors like FlightScope and Trackman have proven that the club face’s position at impact is responsible for a golf ball’s starting direction and the path of the club is responsible for the curvature of the ball.

In order to play a proper fade, for example, the club face will need be closed to the target line but open to the path of the club at impact. To play a draw, the orientations need to be the exact opposite: the club face is open to the target and closed to the path.

Understanding these ball flight laws is very important to owning your shot shape. After golfers have a good understanding of them, it’s time that they learn how to achieve their desired flight.

Two things I rarely hear discussed when it comes to curving the golf ball is hand path and the use of the ground during the swing. They are two keys that are vital to controlling the face angle and club path at impact.

Hand path is the direction that the hands move in the backswing and downswing. An easy way to think about it is to imagine a U-shaped arc on the inside of the golf club that sits directly under a players hands at address. Depending on the desired shot shape, the hands can move on the arc, outside the arc or inside the arc in the backswing. The hands can do the same thing in the downswing and at impact: they can move on, inside, or outside the arc depending on the desired shot shape.

How a player uses the ground during the swing also has a big influence on their body lines at impact. The movement of pressure from the ground up can be quite different for a golfer who hits a draw compared to one who fades the ball.

In one of my previous articles, I talked about ground forces in regards to the center of pressure (COP) and how player’s COP trace can affect his or her golf swing. I gave a generic example to help the everyday golfer. I’m now expanding on that to help the golfers improve their shot shape. Below I have listed some keys to help each player.

Fade Hand Path and COP Trace

Backswing

  • The hands move in front and away from the body.
  • The pressure will move between the balls of the feet and the toe of the trail foot as the player gets closer to the top of the backswing.

Downswing

  • The hands continue to work in front of the body, causing them to pull in closer to the body through impact.
  • Pressure will move towards the heel of the lead foot as the hand path moves in.

Below is an example of what the fade hand path looks like as shown by a very good fader of the ball, K.J. Choi.

KJ-Choi-TopKJ-Choi-Step2KJ-Choi-Impact

Here is the example of what this type of player would look like on a balance plate (at impact). The COP is in the lead heel as indicated by the red, orange, and yellow colors.

Fade COP

Again, this is a photo of impact, but if we backtrack and look at where the initial COP trace line begins (between both feet on graph) at the address position, you will find the line moves back and slightly up toward the ball of the foot at the top of the backswing (this is when the hands in the backswing would be moving away from the body). As the player begins the downswing (hands moving in front) and finally gets to the impact position (hands moving inside) you see the line move towards the lead heel.

Draw Hand Path and COP

Backswing

  • Hands move inside and close to the body.
  • Pressure moves between the ball of the foot and the heel in the trail foot as the player gets closer to the top of the backswing.

Downswing

  • Hands move deeper as the downswing is initiated with the hand path moving more outward through impact.
  • Pressure will shift forward as the pressure moves between the ball of the foot and toe in the lead leg.

Below is an example of what a draw hand path looks like as shown by a very good drawer of the golf ball, Charlie Wi.

CW31Charlie-Wi-Top1Charlie-Wi-Impact1

Below is the example of what the draw hand path would look like on a balance plate. You will see that the COP is in the ball of the foot/toe region. The pressure is indicated by the red, orange, and yellow colors.

Draw COP

This is a photo of impact, but if we backtrack and look at where the initial COP trace line begins (between both feet on the graph) at the address position, you will find the line moves back somewhere between the ball of the foot and heel (the hands are moving inward and staying close to the body). As the player begins the downswing (hands moving deeper behind body) and finally gets to the impact position (hands moving outward) you see the trace line moves outward as well.

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Bill Schmedes III is an award-winning PGA Class A member and Director of Instruction at Fiddler's Elbow Country Club in Bedminster, the largest golf facility in New Jersey. He has been named a "Top-25 Golf Instructor," and has been nominated for PGA Teacher of the Year and Golf Professional of the Year at both the PGA chapter and section levels. Bill was most recently nominated for Golf Digest's "Best Young Teachers in America" list, and has been privileged to work and study under several of the top golf coaches in the world. These coaches can all be found on the Top 100 & Top 50 lists. Bill has also worked with a handful of Top-20 Teachers under 40. He spent the last 2+ years working directly under Gary Gilchrist at his academy in Orlando, Fla. Bill was a Head Instructor/Coach and assisted Gary will his tour players on the PGA, LPGA, and European tours. Bill's eBook, The 5 Tour Fundamentals of Golf, can now be purchased on Amazon. It's unlike any golf instruction book you have ever read, and uncovers the TRUE fundamentals of golf using the tour player as the model.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Anon

    Jul 7, 2014 at 11:53 am

    So correct me if I’m wrong, but to sum up the article, you basically finish more on your front heel to fade it, and front toes to draw it?

    • Bill Schmedes III

      Jul 8, 2014 at 10:26 pm

      For the fade, the hands are moving more inward, body lines are opening quicker (circular), and pressure is moving more towards the heel because of that at impact.

      For the draw, the hands are moving more outward, body lines are staying closed longer (lateral then circular), and pressure is moving more towards the ball of the foot (more centralized) at impact.

  2. Hellstorm

    Jul 5, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    I would say that my normal ball flight favors a draw, but I can’t hit it consistently. I have taught myself how to hit a fade pretty well and with a significant amount of power, but when I want to hit a draw on purpose, I really struggle. If I miss my fade, the result is a dead straight shot. If I miss my draw, it is a disaster snap hook. I think I just figured out why thanks to your explanation. I close my stance and close my clubface to the target. Thanks for the help. Now I got something to work on.

  3. S

    Jul 5, 2014 at 5:53 am

    Bill – What are some ways to get the hands more inside and deep if the desired shot is a draw? Does this get the hands behind the torso with the potential to get “stuck”?

    • Bill Schmedes

      Jul 5, 2014 at 8:15 am

      Thanks for the note. I’m big on mirror work allowing the player to get the feel with a visual to back up what they’re doing is correct. The hands can be deeper in the downswing and still be working with the body. I’ll have a player take their setup, then have them drop back foot back so the toe is off heel of front foot, then make 3/4 swings. This helps hand path get deeper but not stuck.

      Hope that helps. Thanks!

  4. Pingback: Two secrets to improve your ball flight - I'd Rather Be Golfing

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  6. AJ Novelli

    Jul 4, 2014 at 12:02 am

    Great article! Now time to get the high draw back into my game…

  7. Tom Stickney

    Jul 3, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    Like it!

    • Bill Schmedes

      Jul 4, 2014 at 2:01 pm

      Thanks Tom. I always enjoy your articles

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Instruction

Why you must practice under pressure if you want to play better golf

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Practice, as most of us employ it, is borderline worthless. This is because most of the practices, if you will, typically employed during practice sessions have little chance of improving our performance under pressure.

The type of practice that improves performance is, for the most part, rarely engaged in because practicing under typical “practice” conditions does very little to simulate the thoughts, feelings, and emotions we deal with once our performance actually means something. If we want to really improve our performance when it matters, we need to put ourselves in situations, often and repeatedly, that simulate the pressure we experience during competition. And nowhere is this statement more true than on the putting green.

The art and skill of putting is a funny thing. No element of the game requires less inherent hand-eye coordination or athletic talent. Putting’s simplicity makes it golf’s great equalizer. You roll a ball along the ground with a flat-faced stick in the general direction of a hole nearly three times its size. Sure, green speeds vary wildly, and there are those diabolical breaks to deal with, but despite that, putting is truly golf’s most level playing field; it’s the one element of the game where even the highest handicappers can potentially compete straight up with the game’s most skilled. At the same time, there are few other situations (other than maybe the first tee) when we feel as much pressure as we do on the putting green.

Ben Hogan, during the latter part of his career — years that were marred by poor putting — claimed that putting shouldn’t even be a part of the game because, in his words, “There is no similarity between golf and putting; they are two different games, one played in the air, and the other on the ground.”

Now, Hogan suffered a serious case of the yips later in his career, and while this statement was likely uttered following a frustrating round of missed three-footers, it serves to highlight not only the differences between putting and the rest of the game, but how taxing on the nerves it can be for even the game’s greats.

Its inherent simplicity, the slow pace of the stroke, and how much time we are given to contemplate it, are in truth what sets us up. It’s golf’s free throw. We very often know exactly what to do, and how to do it, like when we’re faced with one of those straight three-footers, but with more time to think, it opens the door wide for the type of second-guessing that arises during those moments we feel a bit of pressure. And that’s the biggest part of the problem.

The self-sabotage that leads to missing relatively short easy putts, the reasons behind it, and practices to overcome it is something for a different article. What I really want to get into at the moment is a practice that I think can help ensure you never end up in that desperate place to begin with.

Most of us rarely practice our putting, and when we do, it’s in about the most useless way we can. We’ve all done it. You grab a sleeve of balls just prior to the round, head to the practice green, and begin rolling them from hole to hole around the typical nine-hole route. Now I could go into a whole host of reasons why this isn’t very helpful, but the No. 1 reason it’s such a pitifully poor practice is this: there is no pressure.

Early in my career, I worked at a club where there was at least one money game on the putting green every day, and many nights too. The members (and staff) putted aces, 5 for $5, rabbits, and many other games for hours on end, and when the sun went down they often switched on the clubhouse roof-mounted floodlights and continued into the wee hours. Many days (and nights) I witnessed hundreds of dollars change hands on that putting green, occasionally from my own, but in my younger days, that was fortunately an infrequent occurrence.

Those money games were a cherished part of the culture of that club and an incredibly good arena in which to learn to practice under pressure. To this day, I’ve never seen as many really good pressure putters (many of very average handicaps) as I did during that period, and when I think back, it’s no small wonder either.

The problem with practicing golf, or just about any other sport for that matter, is that it’s difficult to practice under the types of pressure we compete in. In 4 or 5 hours on the golf course we might only have a half dozen putts that really mean something, and maybe only 2 or 3 of those knee-knocking 3 footers with the match on the line or the chance to win a bet.

When I was younger and playing in those money games on the putting green, I had a meaningful putt every minute or two, for hours on end, and you either learned to handle that pressure pretty quickly or your hard-earned paycheck was being signed over to someone else. Now I’m not bringing this up to encourage gambling, as I know for some people that can become a serious issue, but rather to point out how the opportunity to practice repeatedly under pressure helped me learn to deal with those situations. And with how infrequently we even get the opportunity to face that same pressure when we actually play, it’s important to try do our best to simulate it as often as we can during practice.

So when it comes to my own students these days, I don’t necessarily encourage gambling (I don’t discourage a little bit of it either), but I do encourage putting and practicing for something. I’ll get three of my students together on the putting green and say “look, you guys putt for 30 minutes and the loser has to do 100 push-ups” or something similar. I’ll tell students to putt against a parent for who has to mow the lawn, do the dishes, or some other mundane household chore neither of them really wants to do. The point is to have something on the line, something that will make it really hurt to lose.

You can even do it by yourself. Wait to practice putting right before lunch or dinner and make a pact with yourself that you can’t eat until you make 15 three-footers in a row. Until you find a way to practice under pressure all that practice is really just that: practice. You shouldn’t be surprised if, when the chips are down, mindless practice doesn’t translate to improved performance. Hopefully, by learning to simulate pressure during practice, you’ll play better when the heat is really on.

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WATCH: How to execute the “Y-style” chipping technique

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Top-100 instructor Tom Stickney of Punta Mita Golf Academy shows an easier way of chipping around the greens to get the ball rolling faster and ensure ball-first contact. Enjoy the video below, and hope this helps!

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WATCH: Try the “battering ram” drill to achieve ball-first contact

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Yes, you heard me, one of the best drills we have is the battering ram drill. It is awesome for getting the relationship between body turn and arm swing correct, and improving your impact conditions. Enjoy the video, and hope this helps!

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