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What does the golf ball know? Very little, actually

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As the age of video draws to a close and the age of launch monitors begins to take over, people seem to be less concerned with “position golf” and have graduated into “numerical golf.” Obviously, there are positives and negatives with both instructional styles. I believe that in a few more years teachers will be less concerned with numbers and more focused on the ball’s flight in general.

I try to use Trackman to AUDIT what types of shots players want to hit and develop mechanical thoughts that will help them produce that desired shot. Personally, I feel that Trackman is best used to teach “feel,” NOT “positions,” because the ball doesn’t know anything more than how it’s programmed at impact to fly.

In this article, I want to help you to take all the random data aside and understand a few facets of ball flight control that will help you to become less technical on the practice tee when learning to curve the ball.

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 3.11.26 PM

There are 26 data parameters that the Trackman can show you at impact, but I’d like to break it down so you can focus ONLY on the numbers that matter to you — because the ball doesn’t know anything… yet!

To control the ball’s curvature

First, we know that the ball begins mostly in the direction of the face angle at impact and curves away from the path with a centered hit. As Don Sargent, a Top-100 Teacher and friend of mine says, “The face sends it and the path bends it!”

So what does the ball actually know at impact, when it is fully compressed?

Path: The direction the club is moving relative to the target –right, straight or left — at maximum compression (understanding that angle of attack and swing direction are factored into this measurement).

Face Angle: The direction the club face is pointing relative to the target — right, straight or left — at maximum compression (this is during impact, NOT at address).

Face to Path: The difference between the path and the face at maximum compression (Based on centered impact. Whenever the face is left of the path at impact, the ball will curve left and vice versa).

The ball doesn’t understand anything more than the three facets listed above. Off-center horizontal hits can, however, alter your face-to-path ball programming. For example, whenever the ball has a negative face-to-path relationship, meaning that the ball should move to the left, a ball hit on the toe will exaggerate the ball’s leftward motion. If you hit the ball on the heel with the same negative face to path alignments, the ball will straighten out or even curve to the right!

It’s best to use Dr. Scholl’s Odor X Spray to figure out if you are impacting the center of the face and you will understand your total impact equation.

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 3.11.47 PM

In this sample shot, you can see that the path was -1.0 degree left and the face was 0.2 degrees right, producing a face-to-path relationship of 0.5 degrees right — fade numbers. As you can see, the ball curved gently from left to right meaning that the ball was hit in the center of the blade. A ball hit off-center would have produced a different curvature amount either left or more rightward.

Take your time, use your spray and audit your ball’s flight. Watch where it begins and how it curves and you can determine what the face and path were doing at impact.

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) 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: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Chris

    Feb 8, 2015 at 10:15 am

    I enjoyed this article. Think we can get obsessed with data since there is so much of it available. Last time at the range, you could see the impact residue on my club face. I showed the instructor where I was hitting it (he was hanging out in the pro shop) and he replied, “well, what was the outcome?” I replied a slight draw or pretty much dead straight. He said go with that. The impact residue was just to the toe side of center, repeatedly. Think we all suffer from paralysis by analysis. Focus on the outcome and you will be just fine.

  2. Stretch

    Feb 5, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    M, sounds like a tired or energy depleted golfer. Snacks during the round can help down the stretch. No pun intended. Rats.

  3. Jon Silverberg

    Feb 4, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    Below the second Trackman screenshot, don’t you mean a face to path relationship of 1.2 right?

  4. frendy

    Feb 4, 2015 at 11:08 am

    I try to leave my path alone and only change the face/path relationship by opening or hooding the face at address. For me it’s been a much simpler way to curve the flight of the ball than manipulating my path.

  5. Pow

    Feb 3, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    “I try to use Trackman to AUDIT what types of shots players want to hit and develop mechanical thoughts that will help them produce that desired shot. Personally, I feel that Trackman is best used to teach “feel,” NOT “positions,” because the ball doesn’t know anything more than how it’s programmed at impact to fly.”

    So you use Trackman to teach feel by processing data and providing mechanical thoughts? Wow, that is insane.

    • Jake Anderson

      Feb 4, 2015 at 3:33 am

      no. that is not what tom stickney does.

    • Anon

      Feb 6, 2015 at 3:56 am

      No, you can easily use the numbers to determine what someone should change. Rather than look at a video screen and telling someone they should be in position ‘a’ or ‘b’, Tom can tell them that he would like to see the student feel more of ‘a’ or ‘b’. The student would then be more concerned by what it feels like that what it looks like.

      TLDR; Tom is correct.

  6. Tom Stickney

    Feb 3, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    M– would guess it’s bc of your grip being too strong

  7. tom stickney

    Feb 3, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    M– Too much hand action through impact…work on hitting cut shots so the impact motion balances out

    • Duh

      Feb 4, 2015 at 6:32 pm

      Well there you go… You have a grip issue. Work on getting neutral especially with your right hand…

  8. tom stickney

    Feb 3, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    Keith– Thank you

  9. tom stickney

    Feb 3, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    Johnny– Obviously you missed this part of the text, “In this article, I want to help you to take all the random data aside and understand a few facets of ball flight control that will help you to become less technical on the practice tee when learning to curve the ball.” A few factors….

  10. Johnny P

    Feb 3, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    *no way of knowing

    sorry for the typo(s)

  11. Johnny P

    Feb 3, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    I really like most of your articles, but definitely not this one. For starters, the ball has know way of knowing anything at all about the target. In the 20 seconds I’ve thought about it, the ball knows 1) club path (Left/Right and Up/Down) 2) face angle relative to the path, also loft 3) club momentum 4) friction or something to determine spin. The only thing the ball knows is what direction it is heading (L/R U/D) and spin rates (back/side) and nothing else

  12. Keith

    Feb 3, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Always a great read, thank you!

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