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Understanding the “NEW” ball flight laws



Over the last several years, golf instruction has gone through a unique transformation. The advent of 3D motion analysis, video, and ball/club flight launch monitors have proven to golf instructors that some of the “fundamentals” we were taught by our mentors were incorrect.

With the advent of Trackman and Flightscope, advanced Doppler radar launch monitors that cost upward of $10,000, we are now able to understand what actually happens during the impact interval. This has made golf instruction much simpler as a result.

Students are now learning improved fundamental motions in their own way, while instructors are not so much focused on the complex mechanics of the swing itself. For the facilities that have a Doppler radar launch monitors, such as Promontory, our students are learning under the guise of the “in my own way,” not “ in this way” type of golf instruction.

Screen Shot 2013-06-13 at 11.46.06 AM

Trackman and Flightscope provide video-based instruction coupled with the data of club and ball interaction, thus correlating exactly what is going on during the swing. Think of this new technology as providing your instructor with a MRI of your current fundamentals so you both can focus on facts, not opinions.

One of the most important things Doppler launch monitors have given us are the “new” ball flight laws. In the past, golfers were taught that the ball begins in the direction of a club’s path, and the curvature of the ball was due to the face angle at impact. Now, we know that this line of thinking is 100 percent INCORRECT.

In fact, the face angle at impact determines 75 percent or more of the ball’s starting direction, and at slower ball speeds it creeps up to almost 100 percent. This has made curving the ball much easier to understand for my students, and below are examples of this fact all backed up by the data that the my Trackman system shows for each shot.

Example 1: Hitting a Fade

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In Example 1, I am hitting the ball left to right, or fading the ball for a right-handed player.

  • The solid white line represents my target-line (directly at the flag in the distance).
  • The blue line shows the path of the club (negative numbers are out to in).
  • The red line determines the direction that my club face was pointing during impact (negative numbers mean a closed face).

You can see by the purple line that this ball began slightly left of my target (3.5 degrees left of my target-line) and faded 34.9 feet to the right of my intended target. This proves that when the path is left of the face angle (provide a centered hit on the club face), you will hit the ball left to right. Thus, if you want to move the ball left to right (for the right-handed player), you MUST have your face open to the club’s path.

NOTE: I said that the club face must be pointing to the right of the club’s path in order to hit a fade, not open to the target line.

My path was 6.6 degrees from out to in (Example 1), my face was 2.6-degrees closed and the ball moved from left to right. Yes, it moved left to right WITH A CLOSED FACE! If my club face had been open 2.6 degrees, then the ball would have curved exaggeratedly to the right. But in this case, there was only a 4 degree path to face differential — the lower that number the less the curvature. That’s why the ball only faded a small amount to the right.

Example 2: Hitting a Draw

Screen Shot 2013-06-13 at 11.46.44 AM

In Example 2, I am hitting the ball right to left, or drawing the ball for a right-handed player.

  • The solid white line represents my target-line (directly at the flag in the distance).
  • The blue line shows the path of the club (positive numbers denote from inside to the outside).
  • The red line determines the direction that my club face was pointing during impact (negative numbers mean a closed face).

You can see by the purple line that this ball began down the target line (launch direction is 0), while my face was 1-degree closed. These conditions started the ball at my target, and moved it right to left 55.4 feet.

As you can see in Example 2, when the path is right of the face angle at impact, you will hit the ball right to left (provide a centered hit). The ball flight began very close to the face angle as described above. Thus, if you want to move the ball right to left (for the right-handed player) you MUST have your face closed to the club’s path.

NOTE: I said closed to the relative path, NOT closed to the target line. That brings me to my next point about the shot in Example 2. 

You can see that my face-to-path ratio was -6.4 degrees, which means that my club face was 6.4 degrees closed relative to my path’s direction. This is why my ball started at the target and then moved left of it instead of starting right of my target and drawing back to the target.

There is a huge misconception that you must have a closed face to draw the golf ball, when in fact all you need to do is have your club face pointed left of your path. So in Example 2, if my face was more open at impact (let’s so 1 to 3 degrees), then you would have seen the ball start to the right and curve to the target — not to the left of the target as mine did in this example.

The golf swings thoughts above might seem complex due to the numbers involved, but the bottom line for you at home is to do the following:

To Hit a Fade

In order to move the ball left to right, you will need a path that is more left than the face is pointing. So if you keep the club face pointing right of the path it will curve from left to right

To Hit a Draw

Understand that in order to move the ball right to left, you must have a path that is more “in to out” than where your club face points at impact.  Another way to think of it is to have the face pointing left of your club’s path — this will allow the ball to move right to left


Read More Tom Stickney II : What Flightscope and Trackman can tell you (and me)

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Tom F. Stickney II, is a specialist in Biomechanics for Golf, Physiology, and 3d Motion Analysis. He has a degree in Exercise and Fitness and has been a Director of Instruction for almost 30 years at resorts and clubs such as- The Four Seasons Punta Mita, BIGHORN Golf Club, The Club at Cordillera, The Promontory Club, and the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. His past and present instructional awards include the following: Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, Golf Digest Top 50 International Instructor, Golf Tips Top 25 Instructor, Best in State (Florida, Colorado, and California,) Top 20 Teachers Under 40, Best Young Teachers and many more. Tom is a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 25 people in the world. Tom is TPI Certified- Level 1, Golf Level 2, Level 2- Power, and Level 2- Fitness and believes that you cannot reach your maximum potential as a player with out some focus on your physiology. You can reach him at tomst[email protected] and he welcomes any questions you may have.



  1. Alec Ordway

    Dec 24, 2017 at 9:15 am

    This info is as John Jacobs describe for years and years. You’re just proving him right. Swing left go left, swing right go right, swing square go square. Then face angle RELATIVE TO PATH determines ball flight. And all this info has same purpose, control the ball and learn fundamentals to do so. Geesh, same old same old, but now we have new tech to see what our body did as we swung.

  2. Pingback: The Top 10 Myths In Golf | The DIY Golfer

  3. Ian

    Aug 3, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    “My path was 6.6 degrees from out to in (Example 1), my face was 2.6-degrees closed and the ball moved from left to right. Yes, it moved left to right WITH A CLOSED FACE!” – Closed relative to the target line or closed relative to the swing path? – I know this article is old, but really hope you reply.

    • Kelly

      Aug 11, 2015 at 8:31 am

      I’m just another poster, but I am sure he means closed relative to the target line. The face is 4 degrees open to the swing path, but 2.6 degrees closed to the target line.

  4. Chris Howell

    May 5, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    Way too much confusion on target line and path. I was taught over 20 years ago that club face has to be closed relative to path for the ball to move right to left (right handed golfer) the clubface must be open relative to path for the ball to move right to left (right handed player). This really isn’t new information just that new technology makes it easier to see. As long as your club face is square to your path you will hit the ball straight, but it could be straight left or straight right.

  5. corey

    Mar 7, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    so much confusion comes from people not having the same definition of a draw and fade. some say a draw or fade starts on the target line and then (for a rh player) will draw to the right of the line or fade to the left of it. others say the ball should start right of the target line and draw back to the line or start left of the target line and fade back onto it. the second example i think should be considered a pull fade or push draw, this is what sean foley teaches. a lot of it comes down to what you are more comfortable using as your target line.

  6. Adrian

    Feb 28, 2014 at 2:36 am

    I am glad that articles like this continue to be written as there are still a great deal of people who still either have not been exposed to the correct information or have not quite grasped it fully yet. It is so important for this information to be understood.

  7. Jakub Budaj

    Feb 22, 2014 at 9:00 am

    Clubface starts the ball, path curves the ball.

  8. Michael

    Oct 19, 2013 at 11:14 pm

    Guys, does anyone know an official link (e.g. PGA) where above is stated ? I realised most teachers cite the older books where it says the path determines the direction and the face the curve. It’s very hard to come by unless you have something official..

  9. DK

    Jun 19, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    The ball generally starts down your path and finishes where the face is pointed. Your path should be parallel with your stance/line of your toes. Align your toes with where you want the ball to start and adjust the face to where you want the ball to finish. Take your normal swing. Simple (in general).

    • Damon

      Jun 20, 2013 at 5:07 pm

      that’s actually incorrect. The ball starts, depending on iron or driver, 80% or more in the direction that the face angle is pointing at impact, not the path. The ball curves away from the path relative to the face.

    • Jack

      Sep 2, 2013 at 1:50 am

      That’s how I used to think. I think I’ll have to go prove this out on the range again.

  10. OJ

    Jun 18, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    To hit a draw you must have the club open to the target and closed to the path. A draw must start right of the target and finish on it, this is not possible without the club face being open to the intended target

  11. Jcjmw

    Jun 17, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    Great article! And, the article is understandable.

  12. Nick

    Jun 17, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Great article. When I learne this golf became much easier, though I can’t say it ever got “easy”.

  13. Deaus7

    Jun 15, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Great Stuff. Very informative article leaving out all the subjective crap, Johnny Miller and other idiots on TV need to read stuff like this. Not saying he was not a good golfer, but some of the stuff that spews from his mouth regarding the swing is Madness.

  14. Blanco

    Jun 14, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    I think a big issue in this teaching divide is the semantics– that is, the definition of “draw” and “fade.” Most on this site get that both shots are designed to fall onto the desired target (positive end result) as a result of curvature from either side.

    However… I can cite many written and verbal examples of teachers/players, usually older, who will describe a draw as beginning at target and bending left and a fade being the direct opposite (so essentially a pull hook or block fade). They’re usually the guys who will tell me: “jeez, if you hit it where you were aiming (the line of my stance) you’d be into those houses way over yonder…”

  15. Rob

    Jun 13, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Almost forgot…. the easiest and quickest way to explain the ball flight: the ball starts generally at the direction the face is pointing at impact, and curves away from the path.

  16. Rob

    Jun 13, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Quote: “There is a huge misconception that you must have a closed face to draw the golf ball, when in fact all you need to do is have your club face pointed left of your path.”

    I think the problem here is that people either confuse or mix up ‘path’ and ‘target line’, as in the face open/closed to the path, or face open/closed to the target line. The ball only knows the path, it has no idea of where the target is.

    So with that, club face left of the path would be closed in reference to the path, and I think people confuse that with the idea that they need the face closed to the target line.

    All of which likely explains why slicers think they need to aim farther left, and in turn end up slicing the ball even harder. The mind has a hard time wrapping itself around this crazy game of opposites where if you want to keep the ball from going right, you must set up to the right.

  17. Bill Hughes

    Jun 13, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    As a recent Golf Academy of America graduate I am opening my own club fitting, repair and teaching facility. With retail goods as well. My question is, “What is the best teaching software/simulator on the market for the least amount of money?” I will be putting in a full size simulator but I want to get spot on readings to help my students with.
    Thanks for your help, Bill

    • DS

      Jun 18, 2013 at 4:29 pm

      Your two best systems are Flightscope and Trackman. Flightscope is cheaper.

  18. neal

    Jun 13, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    Could you post a picture of how the club face should look like at impact?

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The Wedge Guy: Anyone can be a better wedge player by doing these simple things



As someone who has observed rank-and-file recreational golfers for most of my life – over 50 years of it, anyway – I have always been baffled by why so many mid- to high-handicap golfers throw away so many strokes in prime scoring range.

For this purpose, let’s define “prime scoring range” as the distance when you have something less than a full-swing wedge shot ahead of you. Depending on your strength profile, that could be as far as 70 to 80 yards or as close as 30 to 40 yards. But regardless of whether you are trying to break par or 100, your ability to get the ball on the green and close enough to the hole for a one-putt at least some of the time will likely be one of the biggest factors in determining your score for the day.

All too often, I observe golfers hit two or even three wedge shots from prime scoring range before they are on the green — and all too often I see short-range pitch shots leave the golfer with little to no chance of making the putt.

This makes no sense, as attaining a level of reasonable proficiency from short range is not a matter of strength profile at all. But it does take a commitment to learning how to make a repeating and reliable half-swing and doing that repeatedly and consistently absolutely requires you to learn the basic fundamentals of how the body has to move the club back and through the impact zone.

So, let’s get down to the basics to see if I can shed some light on these ultra-important scoring shots.

  • Your grip has to be correct. For the club to move back and through correctly, your grip on the club simply must be fundamentally sound. The club is held primarily in the last three fingers of the upper hand, and the middle two fingers of the lower hand. Period. The lower hand has to be “passive” to the upper hand, or the mini-swing will become a quick jab at the ball. For any shot, but particularly these short ones, that sound grip is essential for the club to move through impact properly and repeatedly.
  • Your posture has to be correct. This means your body is open to the target, feet closer together than even a three-quarter swing, and the ball positioned slightly back of center.
  • Your weight should be distributed about 70 percent on your lead foot and stay there through the mini-swing.
  • Your hands should be “low” in that your lead arm is hanging naturally from your shoulder, not extended out toward the ball and not too close to the body to allow a smooth turn away and through. Gripping down on the club is helpful, as it gets you “closer to your work.
  • This shot is hit with a good rotation of the body, not a “flip” or “jab” with the hands. Controlling these shots with your body core rotation and leading the swing with your body core and lead side will almost ensure proper contact. To hit crisp pitch shots, the hands have to lead the clubhead through impact.
  • A great drill for this is to grip your wedge with an alignment rod next to the grip and extending up past your torso. With this in place, you simply have to rotate your body core through the shot, as the rod will hit your lead side and prevent you from flipping the clubhead at the ball. It doesn’t take but a few practice swings with this drill to give you an “ah ha” moment about how wedge shots are played.
  • And finally, understand that YOU CANNOT HIT UP ON A GOLF BALL. The ball is sitting on the ground so the clubhead has to be moving down and through impact. I think one of the best ways to think of this is to remember this club is “a wedge.” So, your simple objective is to wedge the club between the ball and the ground. The loft of the wedge WILL make the ball go up, and the bounce of the sole of the wedge will prevent the club from digging.

So, why is mastering the simple pitch shot so important? Because my bet is that if you count up the strokes in your last round of golf, you’ll likely see that you left several shots out there by…

  • Either hitting another wedge shot or chip after having one of these mid-range pitch shots, or
  • You did not get the mid-range shot close enough to even have a chance at a makeable putt.

If you will spend even an hour on the range or course with that alignment rod and follow these tips, your scoring average will improve a ton, and getting better with these pitch shots will improve your overall ball striking as well.

More from the Wedge Guy

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Clement: Don’t overlook this if you want to find the center of the face




It is just crazy how golfers are literally beside themselves when they are placed in a properly aligned set up! They feel they can’t swing or function! We take a dive into why this is and it has to do with how the eyes are set up in the human skull!

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Clampett: Why golfers aren’t improving



The average golf score in the United States is still 100 and has been for over 50 years, despite better equipment, improved technologies, and course conditions. Touring pros continue to improve. Seemingly every week is a new tournament scoring record, despite courses getting longer and tougher. So why doesn’t the average golfer improve?

Two major problems exist, and when combined, set the perfect “stymie,” preventing game improvement. Sadly, it’s hurting the game and is responsible for why four million golfers quit every year and why 10 million want-to-be golfers lie waiting, wondering how to learn. The Five Golf Powers, which form the World Golf Federation, have done little to address this problem.

Problem #1

Style-based instruction is the predominant form of golf instruction and continues to confuse golfers. This epidemic has stifled game improvement and established a landscape of frustrated golfers. The search for the perfect style of swing and the desire to create certain “good looking” or “preferred styled” positions has led to countless books, videos, and teachers who taught their “ideal” style of swing. “Stack and Tilt,” “Single Plane Swing.” “Natural Golf Swing,” “The A-Swing,” “The X-Factor Swing,” “The Morad Project,” “The One or Two Plane Swing,” “The Gravity Golf Swing,” and the list of style-based teaching methods go on and on… Meanwhile, the best golfers in the world don’t subscribe to any of these swings.

Television adds to the confusion. An analyst may express his or her opinion about the best grip, setup, backswing, plane, downswing, follow-through, etc. One teacher says to do one thing, and the other contradicts it. Confusion abounds everywhere.

One day while on air at the Golf Channel, I had just finished discussing how to hit a bunker shot by keeping the same swing, just changing the set-up; when another instructor, with little playing credentials, followed me and shared with the viewers an entirely different swing that included throwing away clubhead lag and flipping at the bottom of the swing to hit a bunker shot. The poor viewer who watched that day and who couldn’t interpolate which way was better. How many viewers were confused? My goal is to eliminate the confusion, not be part of it. So, I refused to join the Golf Channel on TV in that capacity anymore.

Today’s average golfer gets much of their information online, surfing the internet and watching YouTube videos while being bombarded with countless emails produced by golf instructors who deliver “swing tips” to promote their business. Contradictory views confuse undereducated golfers searching for clues to playing better golf. Desperate, they head to the driving range, ready to apply whatever they just read, but it rarely helps and never lasts.

Problem #2

Since I left the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions in 2014, I’ve gotten a rare insider’s look at the green grass golf business. I’ve witnessed a second problem that contributes to golfers not improving. A war has developed between golf club staff and professional golf instructors, who dedicate their careers to just teaching golf. Head and assistant professionals, who are underpaid, make much-needed additional income through golf instruction. The additional supplemental income is vital to their survival. They are not trained to teach golf per se, most learn to instruct through shadowing another club professional, or they read books, watch some videos, and learn much as the average golfer does. I was shocked to hear that the PGA does not train golf professionals to become teachers or directors of instruction, though they have just begun offering golf instruction as a track in the PGM College programs. Initially, when this track system began three years ago, the PGA estimated that only 20 percent would choose golf instruction. They were shocked to discover that 50 percent chose the track for golf instruction in their first year. It makes sense to me; golf instruction pays better, has more flexible hours, and, if you’re good at it, brings a smile to people’s faces.

Club staff professionals find it hard to compete with a competent golf instructor who has dedicated their livelihood to instruction. It’s a separate profession that requires a separate set of skills and specific training. It’s not easy to be a good golf instructor. Many full-time professional golf instructors have difficulty finding a job because staff professionals feel they will lose their business. Staff professionals often make their feelings known to management and owners and declare the club “their territory” for golf instruction. They often give the ultimatum and threaten to leave if management hires a professional golf instructor. With so few young people filling the needed gap of golf professionals, the staff usually gets their way. What is left at the club then are under-trained staff professionals teaching golf for the money and ill-equipped to give quality lessons.

No wonder recent statistics show that 70 percent of golfers who take lessons don’t improve. Additionally, 38 percent of private golf club members in the United States want a game improvement program, but their club doesn’t provide a satisfactory solution. One of America’s largest golf management companies; just discovered that clubs with a high-end golf instruction program reduce member attrition rates by 75 percent a year. The Proponent Group, the leading organization for professional golf instructors, reveals that the value of good golf instruction is much larger than most club owners and managers think. In fact, for every dollar an instruction program earns, the club benefits $1.75. Additionally, the lesson takers spend 78 percent more money at the club than non-lesson takers.

Management, to appease the staff’s request to earn an extra $20,000, costs the average club over $1 million per year, though they don’t yet realize the cost. The sadder picture is that most clubs generate less than $50,000 in golf instruction when a $1 million yearly program is available. The market is large; the eager golfers are plentiful, and golfers are starving for good instruction. History suggests that ownership and management don’t value good golf instruction. That’s why it’s unheard of to track instructors’ key performance indicators. But once ownership discovers this, they will emphasize member services and develop good golf instruction programs.

The answer to both problems

Style-based instruction is opinion-based, a failed attempt to find a perfect swing that doesn’t exist. Everyone is different, built differently, coordinated differently, skilled differently, with different natural propensities and learned behavior. Attempting to put them all in a box has proven disastrous.

Arnold Palmer once said, “Swing your own swing; I sure did!” Arnold had it right; style is individual, just like one’s signature, though I admire Arnold’s signature the most. But that’s my opinion. I have his signature on a picture of us hanging in my studio after our last round of golf together. The common denominator of all the best players in the world is impact. It’s the only thing that matters in the swing. Find your way to get there and make it consistent. That’s the name of the game. That’s why I developed “Impact-Based Teaching,” Learning to work from impact, backward, rather than swing-style, forward, is the key to quicker learning, improved instruction, happier golfers, and more golfers getting and staying in the game. Impact-based instruction is the vaccine to the “style-based” teaching methodologies epidemic.

The answer to the second problem is training staff professionals in Impact-Based Teaching and teaching them how to build their business. Track KPIs, improve their closing of new student assessments, and increase their retention, referral, and closing rates. Staff professionals can be successful in instruction once they are trained. It’s not their fault! The fields are ripe, and the harvest is plentiful for good golf instruction.

Good golf instruction is needed and can make a tremendous difference in the game, bringing more golfers, filling up club memberships, driving revenue, supporting junior golf, and more. It’s time we band together for the good of golf. Improve golf instruction and make it available.

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