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Are you properly managing your club face? Try this experiment

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Recently, I performed an experiment on how golfers manage their club faces. I was curious to see how I could instinctively resolve the problem of executing a straight shot with an extremely open-face grip, as well as an extremely closed-face grip. Although both “golfers” are me, we will refer to the golfer with the extreme open-face grip as Owen and the golfer with the extremely closed-face grip as Chuck.

To perform the experiment, I used three different forms of measurement (video, FlightScope and BodiTrak) to capture and analyze data and make observations about how innate athleticism unconsciously solved the problem. My hope is that some of these observations might prove to be missing links to your quest to control the golf ball better — and that you might learn to trust your inner “athlete” on the course more often.

*Remember that these observations are not absolutes. They are simply one man’s way of resolving a problem. I do believe, however, that some of the observations I make will be useful images to help others resolve their stray ball flights.

Let’s start off with the FlightScope data. Note the obvious differences between Owen and Chuck’s use of the face-to-path relationship. Chuck instinctively swung the club head well out to the right to manage his club face that was pointing so drastically to the left. Note the exact opposite tendencies with Owen.

Note The rightward Swing Direction and Closed Club Face.

Note the rightward swing direction and closed club face for Chuck.

Note the leftward swing direction and open face of the OFG Athlete.

Note the leftward swing direction and open club face for Owen.

Now take a closer look at the BodiTrak information. Note how Chuck has less pressure on the backswing leg at the top of the swing and significantly more pressure toward the target leg at impact. Chuck instinctively recognizes that the more lateral his motion is toward the target, the golf club will be delivered into impact sooner than normal, and result in more of an open-faced position.

Note the smaller amount of pressure on the Trail Foot for the CFG Athlete.

Note how 63% of Chuck’s pressure is on the trail foot at the top part of his backswing.

Note the higher degree of pressure on the lead leg at impact of the CFG Athlete.

Note how 73 percent of Chuck’s pressure is on his lead foot at impact.

Note the exact opposite tendencies with Owen, who applies more pressure on the backswing leg at the top of the swing and makes less of a move laterally toward the target at impact. Owen recognizes that the hands and arms need more time to square up a club face that is so open, which can be achieved by making a later, smaller lateral move towards the target.

Note the higher amount of pressure on the Trail Foot for the OFG Athlete.

Note how 66 percent of Owen’s pressure is on the trail foot at the top part of his backswing.

Note the smaller degree of pressure on the lead leg at impact of the OFG Athlete.

Note how 53% of Owen’s pressure is on his lead foot at impact.

Finally, let’s take a look at the Video, starting with the set up. Chuck (right images) has the trail arm lower at the address position compared with Owen’s (left images), simply due to the different grips.

OFG is on the Right. CFG is on the Left.  The different grip changes the arm positioning at set up.

Chuck is on the right. Owen is on the left. The different grips changes their arm positioning at set up.

When the lead arm is parallel to the ground, Chuck has made a bigger turn away from the target and flattened his shoulder plane in an effort to set up his body to deliver the golf club on a more shallow downswing plane. He has started to cup his wrist in an effort to get the club face into more of an open-faced position.

Owen, on the other hand, is doing the exact opposite. He is trying to bow his wrists in an effort to make the club face more closed. He is not making as big of a turn on the backswing and his arm swing is more in front of his chest because he instinctively knows that he must prepare his body to swing left on the down swing to help manage his very open club face.

It is interesting to note how each “athlete” is preparing himself early during the backswing to help manage the drastic club face positions. Most backswings take approximately three times longer than the downswing. They are trying to maximize the additional time of their backswing motion.

The bigger turn of the CFG Athlete results with visually seeing more of the Left Leg and a Deeper Arm Swing.

Chuck’s bigger turn results with visually seeing more of his left leg and a deeper arm swing.

At the top of the backswing, the characteristics of the previous position have continued their evolution. Chuck continues to make a bigger turn and cup his wrists. Owen continues to bow his wrists and make a smaller turn. Both positions are ultimately trying to give each respective golfer a better chance of succeeding by delivering the golf club on a path that will help them match up or manage their club face position.

Top of Backswing

Note the different wrist conditions of each athlete, trying to neutralize their drastic club face positions. Note Owen’s smaller turn, resulting in more upright arm plane.

Now each athlete hopes to reap the rewards of their preparation. The downswing delivery of the golf club is producing a very different path for both Owen and Chuck. Owen is unwinding his body sooner, and delivering the golf club with a more upright shaft position. This should lead to a path that is more left of the club face at impact. Chuck is unwinding his body later and delivering the golf club with a more shallow shaft position. This should lead to a path that is more right of the club face at impact.

Downswing Delivery

Note the different club face and shaft positions of each athlete. Even with bowed wrists, Owen’s club face is still open, and the shaft is on the lead arm. Note the exact opposite characteristics for Chuck. Also note Owen’s earlier unwind of his body.

The athletes have completed their mission, just past impact. Chuck continues to unwind his body later in the downswing sequence. This later unwind was instrumental in helping Chuck swing his golf club more right through impact. Owen has turned his body more towards the target at impact. This earlier unwind helped Owen swing the golf club more left through impact.

Post Impact

Both athletes succeeded! Chuck’s club face is still pointing to the right, past impact, for less of a hook. Owen’s club face is still pointing left, to help produce less of a slice.

In conclusion, because a primary goal of each golfer is to hit straight shots, managing his or her club face is an extremely important component to that execution. My hope is that each measuring device gave you clues to help solve the problem of managing your club face and hitting straighter shots.

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Certified Teaching Professional at the Pelican Hill Golf Club, Newport Coast, CA. Ranked as one of the best teachers in California & Hawaii by Golf Digest Titleist Performance Institute Certified www.youtube.com/uranser

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Joe Carrow

    Jul 23, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    I love these type of DATA driven article 🙂

  2. Tim Schoch

    Feb 28, 2017 at 8:26 am

    I just found this article and read through the comments. I would suggest that no one has to duplicate the science and methodology employed to make the author’s conclusions in order to apply the knowledge to his/her own game. The joy of these articles is that in golf very simple things can make all the difference. For me, I yank the ball left every now and then, and this piece reminded me that turning too early in the followthrough could be the problem, or maybe it is my grip to begin with.

    At any rate, I’d much rather have a well-organized article like this, full of photos and actually visual proof, than to hear some teacher on the radio tell me to strengthen my grip to get rid of my slice. For me, trying this method and “feeling” the swing and results reinforces my subconscious to step in and help me out if I go astray. If my subconscious does not help me out, it isn’t because the article is flawed, it is because I didn’t practice enough, and practice correctly.

  3. Bob Pegram

    May 16, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    This article illustrates why learning to intentionally hit crooked shots helps your golf swing. If you learn how to hit the ball crooked on purpose, you then know how not to swing on the course. You also learn swing path and wrist/grip control. The way you use your wrists can make the ball go in different directions depending on which way you use them. You will have way more control of ball behavior.

  4. Shankmaster

    Dec 5, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    You guys hurt Tim’s feelings, hope your happy!!!

  5. Bob Jones

    Dec 3, 2015 at 10:07 am

    What I get from this article is that your swing a grip have to fit. You can’t have a strong grip and swing like you have neutral one, and vice versa.

  6. Chris C.

    Dec 1, 2015 at 12:25 am

    First, I would like to thank Mr. Mitchell for sharing his insights. Second, I hope that my own observations are not met with Jack Nicholson like tirades. I respectfully submit that the swing manipulations demonstrated by Mr. Mitchell are far from instinctual. Instead, they are the result of Mr. Mitchell’s skill as a golfer. It is obvious that some have found this article instructive. Alas! I fail to grasp the point of this article and that is probably on me. Some years ago I was lucky enough to attend a demonstration put on by Bob Brue. He would strike balls alternating lay standing only on right leg then his left leg. He would use a ridiculously strong grip and a ridiculously weak grip. It did not matter how he started the swing. Every shot was a tight draw. Instinct had nothing to do with the results. The shots were the end result of a lifetime of honing his skill to insure that the bottom of each and every swing made solid square contact with the balls. Again, the point I am trying to make is that the various accommodations demonstrated by Mr. Mitchell are the polar opposite of instinctual. I much prefer tutorials assisting me in perfecting my grip; improving my swing and making it easier drop into the slot. Sadly, this article is not one to be saved.

  7. Travis Saxton

    Nov 29, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    This is a great article. I’m attempting to make a transition from Owen to chuck and I’m nearly there. This reinforces several of my swing thoughts.

    • Louie

      Jul 15, 2016 at 3:31 am

      I think most amateurs would prefer Chuck over Owen….and even low handicappers turn into Owen from time to time….Tim is a very good player and just has better control over it…lol

  8. Mad-Mex

    Nov 28, 2015 at 10:56 pm

    ATTENTION TIM!!!!!!!
    These are the type of articles which made me stop buying Golf Magazines!!!
    Tim the average player does not have access to the equipment you used!! How can US the general public who does not play in Private and $200+ green fee courses perform the same tasks WITHOUT SAID equipment!!!
    And a little tip, next time you want to publish something to help golfers think of the average muni player and maybe of something which has not been tried.

    • prime21

      Nov 29, 2015 at 7:28 am

      1st of all, do you pay to belong to Golfwrx? 2nd, did ANYONE hold a gun to your dome and make you read the article? I bet SOMEWHERE at a local muni, there is a closed face Average Joe, as well as a open faced Average Joe, and Tim just helped show them how to square up their faces at impact, so that they could play better golf. What was also GREAT about the article was that he included PICTURES which showed the positional differences of how each player is able to find “neutral”. These pictures could be taken on a free app or GASP….one may have to shell out $100 for a high speed camera. This price can certainly be justified by anyone SERIOUS about getting better, especially considering an Instructor who probably receives $200/hr just laid out a detailed “how to” game plan to do it. So instead of making this an unwarranted attack involving socioeconomic undertones and ridiculous commentary, why not just say THANKS FOR THE FREE ARTICLE TIM, IT WAS GREAT! I DO NOT HAVE ACCESS TO THE EQUIPMENT THAT YOU USED, BUT BECAUSE YOU GAVE US A DETAILED PLAN ON HOW TO OVERCOME OUR ISSUES, I NOW HAVE SOMETHING TO WORK ON WHEN I GO TO THE RANGE NEXT. USUALLY FOR CHRISTMAS, MY MOTHER WAVES MY MONTHY RENT FEE, SO I SHOULD BE ABLE TO GET TO THE RANGE AT LEAST TWICE NEXT MONTH. IF SHE LETS ME USE HER SMARTPHONE, I WILL BE ALL SET! THANKS AGAIN & MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

    • ungratefulPOS

      Nov 29, 2015 at 3:01 pm

      Mex, you are a piece of work. Why do you need a bodi trak, or a flightscope to measure this yourself. He provided the results of the differing actions so that the “average muni player” can relate to the positions. Moving weight vs. pressure in the swing, arm position in p5 and how that relates to p7. P1 reference point of grip and the effect that has on the swing.. He broke this article down into such safe terminology that the average person should be able to understand what he is saying. You need to calm yourself, people like you are the types that don’t come and get lessons from a professional, and then you complain that you can’t break 100. Give your head a shake and thank the man for his time. Golf professionals don’t exactly get the luxury of 8 hour work days, so you should be thankful that he put together the extra 2 hours of writing, formatting, and editing. That’s time away from his family and it is to help the average golfer.

      You are selfish, and I am disgusted by your ignorance.

  9. Tom

    Nov 28, 2015 at 10:27 am

    I’ll work on this as soon as I loose the ten pounds I’ve gained this holiday season

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Instruction

Stickney: A dangerous trend is developing for top players

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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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Instruction

Clement: Stop hanging back

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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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Instruction

Clark: On learning golf

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“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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