Every golfer wants to know how to strike the ball like a pro, and strike quality alone is such an important element. It determines:
- Energy transfer into the ball (and hence maximal distance)
- Spin rates
- Consistency of clubface delivery
- Gear effect
All of the above factors will affect our ability to hit greens in regulation, the leading correlator to lower scores.
As discussed HERE, the pros hit their irons from the ground with a descending blow, where the club is traveling on the downward part of the arc, strikes the ball, and then enters the turf. In order to do this, it is necessary to have the lowest point of your swing arc in front of the ball to some degree as seen in the video below.
There are a million videos/books/bits of information out there regarding low point control, but they are missing a key element. It’s called “Arc Height Control.”
Having a low point that is in front of the ball is not enough in itself, although it is a necessary starting point. If your low point is in front of the ball, we have to match it with the correct “depth.” Think of this as the depth at which the club goes into the turf. Some golfers dig deep into the ground, while other golfers pick the ball off the top of the turf.
In the above picture, we see how a deeper swing arc (bottom) produces a ground contact that is farther back than a higher swing arc (semi-transparent). The video below explains how, with a good low point location, we can:
- Still hit a fat shot if our arc gets too deep.
- Hit the ball thin if our arc gets too high.
What Controls Arc Height?
In basic form, anything that gets your hands closer to or farther from the ball at impact (in 3D space) will change arc height. This is where it gets infinitely complex.
If we are to look at body motions in the golf swing, there could be many reasons why we might see a change in arc height. All of the following can create a change in arc height:
- A change in knee flex
- A change in lead shoulder distance from the ground
- A change in lead shoulder rotation
- A change in spine angle
- A change in lead arm flex
- A change in release/amount of shaft lean aft impact compared to address
These six elements are only the tip of the iceberg, too.
When I am teaching arc height in a live lesson, I look for patterns. For example, is the player consistently too deep, or consistently too high with their swing arc? If there is a pattern, I may look at the body motion and see if there is something we can change to improve this pattern.
For example, if a player is hitting deep divots behind the ball consistently, and this correlates with a big drop in head height, we could reduce the head drop or add more “jump” through impact. I know that teaching a “jump” might be controversial, but many of the world’s best players move their bodies in a squat-jump fashion. It can actually be a nice way to shallow the swing arc while adding speed. Ever see the jump moves that the long-drive champions use?
I will always consider what I feel is best for the player and what I think they can manage more easily, as well as other goals. For example, there might be ways to add “arc-raising” moves and improve swing path at the same time.
Any technical changes to your golf swing should be made with an experienced instructor, however, there are ways that every single golfer can improve their control of arc height without consciously-directed motion changes. Through using skill drills (think “tasks” that improve your coordination while subtly improving your technique unconsciously), we can get quite dramatic improvements in our ability to strike the ball.
The video below shows a great skill drill for all golfers using a bottle cap. It’s particularly effective for golfers suffering with fat shots that are created by a deep arc depth.
The bottle-cap drill fits in with the latest motor learning science in that it has an external focus, or a focus placed outside of our body. These kinds of drills improve coordination by focusing golfers on one task, which allows our subconscious mind to improve our ability to coordinate all of the moving parts (shoulder, arm, knees etc.) into a workable solution.
I have developed many drills similar to this that deal with specific issues, such as low-point issues or arc- depth issues. You can learn more about those drills on my website: www.AdamYoungGolf.com/The-Strike-Plan
I hope this article provided you some value. Here are the summary points:
- Having a good low point position helps, but it is not enough. We also have to control the height/depth of our swing arc.
- Many body movements can contribute to the arc height changing.
- Technical changes should be done under the supervision of a competent instructor, but skill drills will improve all golfers regardless of swing style. They are tasks that improve the coordination of all the moving parts with an external focus. All of the leading motor learning science says practicing with an external focus is ideal for optimal learning and retention.