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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

  5. Pingback: Two secrets to improve your ball flight | Spacetimeandi.com

  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

Walters: Avoid these 3 big chipping mistakes!

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Chipping causes nightmares for so many amateur golfers. This s mainly due to three core mistakes. In this video, I talk about what those mistakes are, and, more importantly, how to avoid them.

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The Wedge Guy: The importance of a pre-shot routine

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I believe one of the big differences between better recreational golfers and those not so good—and also between the tour professionals and those that can’t quite “get there”—is the consistency of their pre-shot routines. It is really easy to dismiss something that happens before the ball is even struck as irrelevant, but I strongly urge you to reconsider if you think this way.

To have a set routine to follow religiously before every shot gives you the best chance to execute the shot the way you intend. To do otherwise just leaves too much to chance. Indulge me here and I’ll offer you some proof.

It’s been a while back now, but I still remember an interesting account on this subject that used the final round of the 1996 Masters—when Nick Faldo passed a collapsing Norman—as his statistical proof. This particular analyst reviewed the entire telecast of that final round and timed the routine of both players for every shot. What he discovered was that Norman got quicker and less consistent in his pre-shot routine throughout his round, while Faldo maintained his same, methodical approach to every shot, not varying by more than a second or so. I think that is pretty insightful stuff.

A lot of time has passed since then, but all competitive tour professionals pay very close attention to their pre-shot routines these days. I urge you to watch them as they go through the motions before each shot. And notice that most of them “start over” if they get distracted during that process.

While I do not think it is practical for recreational golfers to go into such laborious detail for every shot, let me offer some suggestions as to how a repeatable pre-shot routine should work.

The first thing is to get a good feel for the shot, and by that, I mean a very clear picture in your mind of how it will fly, land and roll; I also think it’s realistic to have a different routine for full shots, chips and pitches and putts. They are all very different challenges, of course, and as you get closer to the hole, your focus needs to be more on the feel of the shot than the mechanics of the swing, in my opinion.

To begin, I think the best starting point is from behind the ball, setting up in your “mind’s eye” the film-clip of the shot you are about to hit. See the flight and path it will take. As you do this, you might waggle the club back and forth to get a feel of the club in your hands and “feel” the swing that will produce that shot path for you. Your exact routine can start when you see that shot clearly, and begin your approach the ball to execute the shot. From that “trigger point”, you should do the exact same things, at the exact same pace, each and every time.

For me (if I’m “on”), I’ll step from that behind-the-shot position, and set the club behind the ball to get my alignment. Then I step into my stance and ball position, not looking at the target, but being precise not to change the alignment of the clubhead–I’m setting my body up to that established reference. Once set, I take a look at the target to ensure that I feel aligned properly, and take my grip on the club. Then I do a mental check of grip pressure, hover the club off the ground a bit to ensure it stays light, and then start my backswing, with my only swing thought being to feel the end of the backswing.

That’s when I’m “on,” of course. But as a recreational player, I know that the vast majority of my worst shots and rounds happen when I depart from that routine.

This is something that you can and should work on at the range. Don’t just practice your swing, but how you approach each shot. Heck, you can even do that at home in your backyard. So, guys and ladies, there’s my $0.02 on the pre-shot routine. What do you have to add?

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6 reasons why golfers struggle with back pain: Part 1

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This article is co-written with Marnus Marais. Since 2011, Marnus has worked with some of the world’s best players on both the PGA Tour and European Tour, helping them to maintain optimal health and peak physical performance. His current stable of players includes Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, and Louis Oosthuizen, amongst others.

You find more information on Marnus and his work at marnusmarais.com

 

Back pain is by far the most common complaint among regular golfers. It is estimated that up to 35 percent of amateur golfers endure lower back injuries. And in our experience working with tour players, the prevalence is even higher in the professional ranks! 

Back pain can affect our ball striking and short game, diminish our enjoyment of the game, or even stop us playing altogether. It can make us feel anxious about playing (and making the pain worse) and just generally disappointed with current performance falling way short of our expectations. 

There is certainly no shortage of information on the topic of back pain, and with myriad back pain products and supplement options available, confusion about the best path to pain-free golf is one of the main reasons we don’t actually do anything effective to alleviate our suffering! 

We aim to present in this article an easy-to-digest explanation of the common causes of back pain, alongside some simple and practical ways to address the underlying issues. 

The recommendations we make in this article are generic in nature but effective in many of the low back pain cases we have worked with. However, pain can be complex and very specific to the individual. You should seek the personalized advice of a medical or exercise professional before undertaking any form of remedial exercise.

Reason 1 – Lack of mobility in 2 key areas

Certain areas in the body need to be more stable, and others need to be more mobile. The lumbar spine falls into the stable category, partly due to its limited capacity for rotation and lateral flexion (side bending). We know the unnatural golf swing movement imparts both rotational and side bending forces on the spine, so it’s an area we need to keep stable and protected. 

In order to avoid excessive low back rotation in life and especially in the golf swing, it’s very important that we try to maximize the range of movement in other areas, most notably the joints above and below the low back, where the majority of rotation in the golf swing should take place:

Area 1 – Hips

We need sufficient range of movement to turn into, and out of, both hips. For example, if we can’t turn and load into our lead hip due to a lack of internal rotation mobility, we tend to compensate with excessive rotation and side-bending in the lower back.

Suggested Exercises – Hip Mobility

Foam roll glutes, you can also use a spiky ball

90 90 hip mobility drills, fantastic for taking the hips through that all important internal rotation range

90 90 Glute Stretch – great for tight glutes / hips

Area 2 – Thoracic Spine (mid to upper back)

Having sufficient rotation in our thoracic spine to both left and the right is extremely important. The thoracic spine has significantly greater rotational capabilities compared to the lumbar spine (low back). If we maximise our mobility here, we can help protect the lower back, along with the cervical spine (neck).

Suggested Exercises – Thoracic Mobility

Foam rolling mid / upper back

 

Cat / Camel – working the T-Spine through flexion and extension

 

Reach backs – working that all important T-Spine rotation

Reason 2 – Alignment and Muscle Imbalances

Imagine a car with wheel alignment issues; front wheels facing to the right and back wheels facing to the left. Not only will the tires wear out unevenly and quickly, but other areas of the car will experience more torque, load or strain and would have to work harder. The same thing happens to the lower back when we have body alignment issues above and/or below.

For example, if we have short/tight/overactive hip flexors (muscles at the front of the hips that bend our knee to our chest) on one side of the body; very common amongst golfers with low back pain. This would rotate the pelvis forward on one side, which can create a knock-on effect of imbalance throughout the body.

If the pelvis rotates in one direction, the shoulders naturally have to rotate in the opposite direction in order to maintain balance. Our low back is subsequently caught in the middle, and placed under more load, stress and strain. This imbalance can cause the low back to bend and rotate further, and more unevenly, especially in the already complex rotation and side bending context of the golf swing!

Below is a pelvic alignment technique that can help those with the afore mentioned imbalance

Reason 3 – Posture

Posture can be described as the proper alignment of the spine, with the aim of establishing three natural curves (low back, mid/upper back and neck).

 

The 3 major spinal curves – 1-Cervical, 2 – Thoracic, 3 – Lumbar

Modern lifestyles and the associated muscle imbalances have pushed and pulled our spines away from those three natural curves, and this had a damaging effect on our spinal health. Our backs are designed to function optimally from the neutral illustrated above, and the further we get away from it, the more stress we put on our protective spinal structures. 

Aside from promotion of pain, poor posture also does terrible things for our golf swings; reducing range of motion in key areas (hips, mid back and shoulders) and creating inefficiencies in our swing action, to give us a double whammy of back pain causes.

Fortunately, re-establishing good posture is really simple and you can combine the information and exercises featured in the videos below with the mobility exercises featured in the Reason 1 section above. The equipment used in the videos is the GravityFit TPro – a favorite of ours for teaching and training posture with both elite and recreational players.

 

In the next installment of this article, we will cover reasons 4, 5 and 6 why golfers suffer from back pain – 4) Warming Up (or lack thereof!), 5) Core Strength and 6) Swing Faults.

 

If you would like to see how either Nick or Marnus can help with your golfing back pain, then check out the resources below:

Marnus Marais – marnusmarais.com

Nick Randall – golffitpro.net

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