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What Flightscope and Trackman can tell you (and me)



I have worked with all the technologies that have come along in my 20 years as a golf instructor in an effort to make my job much easier.

In the beginning I only used my eyes. Then digital video came along, followed by 3D Motion analysis that showed me every nuance of the body during the swing. And now Doppler radar launch monitors like FlightScope and Trackman can show me the actions of the club and ball flight. I have always loved technology and the data it produced, and have thoroughly enjoyed my time using my Trackman. But I try not to teach in a numerical or technical way, because I get asked what this number means or what that number means. I love that many of the students I teach want to know everything, however, 99 percent of the time I will not explain the numbers during a lesson because I don’t want to confuse them. My job is to make things simpler, not more complex!

In this article, I thought it would be neat to explain to golfers what each of the numbers that Doppler radar launch monitors tell me about a golfer’s overall motion. I am going to explain MOST of the numbers, but not everything that systems like FlightScope and Trackman can show me. For more detailed and/or scientific definitions of the terms below, please see Trackman’s website.

Different instructors like to see things a different way, and thus they set their home screens up accordingly. With the help of Michael Pinkey, Trackman’s PGA Tour and LPGA Tour rep, I have set my data parameters up as shown below.

Trackman Screen Shot

Attack Angle

Angle of attack shows whether golfers are hitting up, level or down on the golf ball at impact. Amateur golfers usually have attack angles that are more up with drivers, and down with hybrids and irons for the most part. A golfer’s angle of attack is a big key because it can help golfers get more distance with their driver (most players hit too much down), and correlates with the swing’s direction. That shows a golfer his or her true path at impact. The more golfers hit down on a golf ball, the more it skews their path to the right. The more golfers hit up on a golf ball, the more their path will move to the left. This is one of the most important instructional discoveries in golf to date.

Swing Direction

This is the general “direction of the swing,” and shows whether the club is moving from in-to-out, down-the-line or out-to-in through impact. However, it is NOT a golfer’s swing path! Swing direction correlated with a golfer’s angle of attack determines the “true swing path” during impact.

I use a golfer’s swing direction to see how much he or she tends to swing in or out, because most people have a tendency to swing one way or the other. It tells me how a golfer’s angle of attack must change, or how much a golfer’s aim must be adjusted in order for the golfer to zero out his or her path. It also helps me to understand why a golfer’s angle of attack is what it is. Usually, the more exaggeration a golfer has within his or her swing direction, the more that golfer must alter his or her angle of attack.

Club Path

Club path is a golfer’s “true path” at impact. It takes into account a golfer’s angle of attack and his or her overall swing’s direction. The ONLY way to accurately gauge a golfer’s true swing path is to be able to see this correlation! Contrary to popular belief, divots do not show a golfer’s true swing path. In fact, divots are basically useless, as they also do not show golfers the starting direction, curvature or angle of attack. They are also not an accurate gauge of lie angle. I use a golfer’s club path coupled with his or her face angle to understand why the golfer has the curvature on the ball they do. Provided a centered hit, the ball will bend AWAY from the path. Remember, path does not determine a golf ball’s starting direction: face angle does.


Face Angle

A golfer’s face angle is where the face is pointing when he or she impacts the ball. Face angle determines roughly 75 to 80 percent of a golf ball’s starting direction, and it correlates with a golfer’s club path to curve the ball by tilting the ball’s spin axis right or left. The correlation of a golfer’s face-to-path ratio (as we will see below) is how the ball’s curvature is controlled. If golfer’s face angle is right of the path (provided center contact), the ball will curve to the right. And if a golfer’s face angle is left of the path, the ball will move to the left.

Now, here is where it can get tricky. If a golfer hits the ball off-center, gear effect will take over. If I see shots that that curve the opposite directions to the above rules, I know a golfer has hit the ball off-center.

Face to Path

The face-to-path relationship that on that all golfers want to master. Simply stated, the closer a golfer’s face and path are correlated to one another, the lower the spin axis will be with centered contact. Professionals strive to keep their face-to-path ratio very low so the ball does not curve too much either way, however, they understand how to change the relationship so that they can curve the ball more when they need to. When the face and the path diverge to any great degree, a golfer will generally hit shots that curve one way or another a great deal. Thus, I try and help my students understand this relationship so that they can control the curvature of the ball at all times.

Most amateurs tell me that their goal is to have the club path move from the inside to the outside slightly with the face OPEN to the target-line, but CLOSED to the path in order to create a slight “push draw.” The most common flaw is to have the face too closed relative to the path, thus creating a “pull draw:” a ball that starts at or left of the target and curves away from it.


Spin Axis

Every ball a golfer hits has some degree of backspin. The only way a ball can curve is to tilt its backspin on an axis that can be either “right” or “left.” The greater this “tilt” or spin axis, the more the ball will curve. This number tells me to what degree a golfer has tilted a golf ball’s “spin axis” and how much the ball should curve with everything else being equal.

Swing Plane

At address, each club has a certain lie angle that fits a golfer’s swing and body type (if they have been correctly fit) at impact. Changing this lie angle can influence impact points and/or the fitting of a golfer’s clubs if not taken into account. If a golfer returns the club shaft to a much higher angle than it sat at address, he or she will tend to leave the face open and hit the ball off the toe. If a golfer’s swing plane returns into the ball on a much flatter angle than what was established at address, then he or she will tend to hit the ball with a closed face off the heel.

Changing the address swing plane to a great degree at impact tends to be more of a swing issue rather than one that can be fixed by a fitting. However, if you have not taken the time to get fit, I would suggest you do so ASAP! See Golf Digest’s 100 Best Clubfitters for more information.

Spin Loft

A golfer’s spin loft is the difference between his or her angle of attack and the dynamic loft of the club delivered at impact. The greater the difference is between these numbers, the more the ball will spin (up to a certain point). The smaller the spin loft, the more exaggeratedly the D-plane will tilt, making a golf ball curve more. This is the reason why it’s easier for a golfer to curve a driver than a 6 iron. “Compression” can also measured by the spin loft of the club a golfer is using, as there are ranges that each club should fall into. The smaller the spin loft number, the greater the compression.

For those of you who desire more spin on your wedges, please instructor Andrew Rice’s story on how spin-loft affects your wedge play.

Smash Factor

A golfer’s smash factor is the correlation between the club-head speed he or she delivers at impact and the subsequent speed imparted to the ball when the it leaves the club. This gives a rough estimate of how “efficient” a golfer is at impact. Every 1 mph of club-head speed would allow a golfer to gain 1.5 miles per hour of ball speed with a driver in a perfect world. However, the higher a golfer’s spin loft, the lower his or her smash factor will be. Thus, shorter clubs tend to have a lower smash factor than the 1-to-1.5 ratio that a driver can have. I check this number more often when someone hits with longer clubs, while I focus more on spin loft for the shorter clubs.

Club Speed

Club speed measures how fast the club moving at impact. I’d like to see a golfer use the most club-head speed he or she can handle while keeping the same sequencing within the swing as it pertains to the kinematic sequence. When the club reaches an in-line condition with a gofler’s forward arm, the club begins to slow down. So if a golfer “casts” the club, his or her fastest club-head speed usually occurs well BEFORE impact. Basically, the faster a golfer can swing the club the more likely he or she is going to create more ball speed.

Ball Speed

Ball speed measures how fast the golf ball leaves the club. Factors that can influence a golfer’s ball speed can be simple things like impact point, swing direction and low-point control. Ball speed can help me to see how consistently a golfer delivers the club in efforts to maximize distance with a driver or control and distance with his or her irons. On a very rough scale with a driver, the average amateur has a ball speed of 115-to-125 mph, club pros have ball speeds of 155-to-160 mph, tour pros have ball speeds of 160-to-170 mph and long-hitting tour pros have ball speeds of 170 to 185 mph. The long drive guys can get into the 190-to-220 mph range, just to give you some perspective.

Trackman Screen Shot

Spin Rate

A golfer’s spin rate shows me how much backspin her or she is imparting on the golf ball when it leaves the club. It is greatly influenced by spin loft (described above). Golfers should aim to see lower backspin values with their long clubs relative their wedges because that allows them to get more distance with the long clubs and more stopping power with their wedges. Sometimes I want to see golfers create more spin, other times I want to see them create less.

Launch Angle

Launch angle is a measure of the angle that a golf ball leave the club after impact. A good way to think about it is to relate it to the spraying of garden hose: you don’t want the water to come out flat, nor do you want it to come out too high. A golfer’s goal is for the water to leave the hose at an angle that allows it to carry the farthest distance possible. This is the same way the ball should leave the club for most shots.

My job is to ensure the ball is launching off the club correctly, i.e. correlating with the loft of the club, so golfers can maximize their distance output. One of the most forgotten aspects of launch angle is impact point and vertical gear effect. If golfers hit the ball too high on the face, vertical gear effect will increase launch angle and create less spin. Hitting the ball lower on the face will launch the ball lower with less spin.

Dynamic Loft

While it is important to launch the ball with certain conditions, golfers must also have control of the club face as it pertains to the actual loft that they deliver to the ball itself. If golfers have a sand wedge with 56 degrees of loft and “lean the shaft back” 10 degrees at impact, they have now created a golf club with 66 degrees of dynamic loft. Distance is a problem for most average golfers, and these type of golfers tend to add loft to their irons through impact by “flipping” their hands. Yardage is reduced accordingly. Coupling launch angle and dynamic loft helps me to determine if golfers are getting what they need from their driver and irons in the way of trajectory and yardage control.

Carry Distance

Everyone golfer needs to know how far the ball carries in the air, as well as their total distance output. It’s the most basic requirement of top-level golf. Amazingly, most golfers have no idea how far they carry the ball, and do not even come close to understanding what their limitations are. That’s why they tend to come up short on the golf course so often.

Professionals know to the half yard how far their clubs go, and they learn to play within those yardages. If they did not, they would never be able to manage themselves around the course optimally. Accurate carry distances have helped players improve their wedge play, because if golfers cannot control their launch angles, dynamic lofts and spin rates they will never have consistent distance control.

Launch Direction

Launch direction tells golfers if their ball began left, at, or right of their intended target. A golfer’s initial launch direction is controlled by the club face, NOT the club’s path. I like to use this number to understand what the face is doing relative to the path at impact. I also like to know just how far off target the ball begins so that I can correlated the aim, face and path of my student in efforts to create the shot shape and curvature amount the golfer desires.

Everyone has a shot they like to “see.” Some golfers want more curvature, while others want less. By monitoring the ball’s initial starting direction, I am better able golfers create the shot golfers are confident playing under pressure.



The “side” number alerts me to the exact amount in feet that the ball finished right or left of the intended target. Some people like to see total curvature, but I am only interested in where the ball finishes. That’s because every player has a different amount they like to see the ball move in the air. If I can help my students hit the ball a certain distance, as well as control their side-to-side movement of the ball, then I am confident I can lower their handicap. It’s always nice to see if better positions and numbers actually cause the ball to go straighter.

Landing Angle

The angle at which the ball lands on the ground can make the ball stop dead or cascade forward. With the irons, most golfers desire more stopping power. With the driver, golfers mostly desire the ball to run after landing. The higher the descent angle, the less the ball will move forward after hitting the ground (with backspin being the same). Different course conditions require different set make ups, and a golfer’s landing angle is a huge part of how the ball reacts after landing that golfers need to know.


I hope by now you understand the true power of what FlightScope and Trackman tells me within one swing. As I have said previously, it’s not about “pleasing the machine,” but finding optimal parameters that golfers can use to play their best.

I love to say that the orange box is not watching you, it’s watching ME, making sure that I am doing the right thing in order to improve your swing. If I tell you the “right” thing, your numbers will improve, however, you will be the one that tells me if you can actually play from there. Thankfully we have some latitude as instructors to change your swing in different ways. The FlightScope and Trackman systems make sure I am always moving in the most efficient direction possible.

Read more about how launch monitors are changing the game, by Tom Stickney:

Looks or numbers: What makes a better golf swing?

Understanding the “NEW” ball flight laws

Using Trackman has made me LESS technical as a teacher

To use video, Trackman or both?

Hitting hooks and slices? Here’s how to control your ball’s curvature

The three things that need to correlate for more driving distance

Like to hit it low with your driver? You must like shorter drives

Charting the putting stroke differences in different handicap golfers

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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 [email protected] and he welcomes any questions you may have.



  1. Tom Landis

    Mar 3, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    Kudos for this article. Can’t wait to get fitted with Trackman! I know it will take a knowledgeable professional, like yourself, to decipher the numbers and help with the swing. I spent a couple of days with a golf master instructor, Peter Croker, a few years back. I was thinking Tiger could use his help. Comment?

  2. Brian Stowell

    May 3, 2014 at 8:18 am


    Great article. I am fortunate enough to own my own Trackman. As a golf junkie, it helps me get through New England winters. I was confused by by the stats represented in the first graphic to the point I didn’t think they were possible. With a 1.48 smash and 3,657 spin rate the ball still carried 249? (I know the swing was 97 MPH.). And achieved normal height despite a spin rate that was a good 50% higher than desired? And despite having a face that is closed to the path the ball ended up fading? Not trying to be a “know it all” as nothing could be farther from the truth. Just really confused! Thanks for clarifying! Final note, I have shared my Trackman with almost 40 friends, employees, and golf buddies. They LOVE it. Really helps them see cause and effect.

    • Matt

      Sep 24, 2014 at 9:46 pm

      In the example, face and path with a centered hit would produce a “pull draw.” However, I will next look at spin axis. Spin axis opposite of shot shape suggests “gear effect” and this had to be a “healed” shot. Now, the player gets a high smash with a heal hit. That tells me his club has a nice spring effect in the heal. Really amazing the stuff you can interpret from the numbers without ever needing to see the swing, player or equipment.

  3. Todd

    Apr 1, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Tom, Great article. Thank you for sharing.

    Question, how do carry distances vary hitting off of turf vs grass? TM I have access to is set up in a hitting bay with turf. I need to get exact carry distances but wasn’t sure if they would be “accurate” off the turf.


    • tom stickney

      Apr 11, 2014 at 5:03 pm

      should be very close…always audit on the course after the fact

    • Bryan Savage

      Apr 22, 2014 at 3:36 pm

      If you’re hitting to an open range, where the ball lands before hitting any obstruction, it’ll be accurate in either scenario.

      TM/FS track the ball until it lands. That’s not a function of what surface you hit off of.

  4. JH

    Mar 20, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    I understand the benefits of doppler in regards to instruction and the golf swing, but what about in retail/club fitting applications? What are the benefits/shortcomings of doppler systems vs camera systems?

    • tom stickney

      Mar 31, 2014 at 10:27 am

      All fitting applications would benefit from using TM.

  5. Nick

    Dec 4, 2013 at 1:17 am

    How does swing path not determine where the ball starts? And how does club face determine that? That defies common logic. If I swing left with an open club face my ball will start left and cut. If I swing right with a closed club face I hit a push draw. Keep it simple!!

    • tom stickney

      Dec 4, 2013 at 6:52 pm

      Sorry to burst your bubble Nick, but those ball flight laws have been proven to be incorrect.

      I would suggest reading up on the D-Plane on the internet and see James Leitz youtube video on understanding the new ball-flight laws.

      You owe it to yourself to learn more so you can make your practice sessions more productive.

      Good luck

  6. Martin

    Dec 2, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Great article! I did a fitting of a new 5wood and I really got good numbers according to the fitter on the trackman. My swingpath (I believe it was) was around 2-3 (he said that was a sign of me coming from the inside) and my face angle was 4-6 and it produced a nice draw. He said that the launch angle was a little low, I think it was 10-11, but I noticed that the smash factor was really close to 1.50(on the last shot it actually was 1.50. After reading your article I wonder how my low launch still “is the correlation between the club-head speed he or she delivers at impact and the subsequent speed imparted to the ball when the it leaves the club. This gives a rough estimate of how “efficient” a golfer is at impact”.

    • tom stickney

      Dec 4, 2013 at 6:57 pm

      If your path was 2-3 in to out and your face was 4-6 open you should have hit a cut…did you hit the ball off the toe.

      You are forgetting to factor in the angle of attack. Spin loft measures compression, while, smash factor just talks about the energy transfer between the clubhead speed and ball speed only.

      If you hit the ball low it could come from several different factors, so I can’t determine how it happened. Could be low on the face, an overly high aoa etc

      • Martin

        Dec 5, 2013 at 8:53 am

        When I come to think of it was the face angle that was 2-3 and the swingpath 4-6. I did have some minus on the angle of attack. Thats correct. I think he mentioned that, so maybe thats whats causes the low launch. Thanks a lot for your information!

  7. Rus

    Dec 1, 2013 at 10:02 am

    Great article Tom… As a Pro at a high end club in Dallas we are in the process of adding a TM to our club fitting and teaching arsenal. Thanks.

  8. Corrie-Lynn's Dad

    Dec 1, 2013 at 2:51 am

    take that brandle ! good article

  9. Dave Hewitson

    Nov 29, 2013 at 3:41 am

    Great article and very interesting to read the comments of others. My club has just committed to buying a FlightScope over the GC2. The amount of data you get via the iPad app is just mind blowing!! If you use this info in the right way there is no reason why every player you teach cant improve or fit players for the right clubs. I can not wait for our FlightScope to arrive and start fittings.

    • Tom Stickney

      Nov 30, 2013 at 11:22 pm

      Fs over gc2 was the right decision at this point; the Gc2 on the right track but needs more time to perfect their club data

  10. Manny Guzman

    Nov 23, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Tom… Fantastic article. Wish I had read this prior to taking my Flightscope certification exam. Really explains and clarifies alot of questions. Just one for you… Do you use the shaft acceleration profiles for determining player shaft choices?

    • Tom Stickney

      Nov 24, 2013 at 10:43 am

      Thank you; I only have a trackman…

  11. Carlos Carvalho

    Nov 20, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Great article. You got all my respect. You really know what you are saying. I love to hear “Spin Axis” and your statement “The only way a ball can curve is to tilt its backspin on an axis that can be either “right” or “left.”. There are tons of pros that say ridiculous things like “side spin”, “hook spin”, “slice spin”. Every time someone says “side spin” I think Einstein spins inside his coffin. I would love to have you as my swing teacher. Congrats.

  12. Jim Johnson

    Nov 19, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    What about the consumer that can’t afford a Trackman or a Flightscope? Is there a more affordable launch monitor out there?

  13. O

    Nov 18, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    I would like to know if it is also possible to capture the MOI as the ball is hit along with the amount of deflection caused by the friction of the ground that forces the face angle to change thereby causing spin in the direction that it was re-routed.

    • tom stickney

      Nov 19, 2013 at 1:38 am

      Seriously, I believe there are studies being done on the ground/club/ball reaction with the Phantom camera that the military uses in some RD Lab. Gear effect is very interesting to say the least. I had no idea just how much it was in play (other than the very exaggerated off center hits) until I had Trackman.

  14. Lgolfer54

    Nov 18, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    This sentence spurs a question regarding vertical gear effect(One of the most forgotten aspects of launch angle is impact point and vertical gear effect. If golfers hit the ball too high on the face, vertical gear effect will increase launch angle and create less spin. Hitting the ball lower on the face will launch the ball lower with less spin.)So if you were hitting into a 20-30mph wind would it beneficial to purposefully hit the slightly higher or lower of center to engage the vertical gear effect and drop the spin rate which would allow it to travel further into the wind? Or would the decreased ball speed of a lower smash factor basically cause you to hit it the same distance or teeing it at normal height and hitting it in the center of the face?

    • tom stickney

      Nov 18, 2013 at 6:09 pm

      Great question….I think it’s up to the player to decide what tends to work best for them under pressure. Some things work perfectly in theory but have issues when brought into practical application

    • tom stickney

      Nov 18, 2013 at 6:13 pm

      I also know that some players hit the ball in different parts of the face for just that reason on the Tours…I don’t know if most people could do so but it’s cool to have that option if you can do so

  15. Lgolfer54

    Nov 18, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Tom, given the context of the paragraph did you mean to say Amateur or Pro golfer’s in the sentence below: Amateur golfers usually have attack angles that are more up with drivers, and down with hybrids and irons for the most part. Thanks!

    • Zeeraq

      Nov 18, 2013 at 9:24 pm

      I would say it’s correct. The average AoA with the driver on tour is actually about 1-2 degrees down (not exactly efficient, distance-wise). If you look over at the ladies, who have distance-driven swings, you’ll see that AoA move into the positive range.

  16. jeev

    Nov 18, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Nice article. Well done, Tom.

  17. Dieter Wiedmayer

    Nov 18, 2013 at 11:29 am

    As an instructor and fitter, what key factors made your decision Trackman over Flightscope.

    Thank you.

    • tom stickney

      Nov 18, 2013 at 6:11 pm

      In regard to TM vs FS…I will leave that up to the reps of each company to help you make your decision. Far better to have either rather than neither in my opinion

  18. Tom Stickney

    Nov 18, 2013 at 11:01 am

    Thank you for your comments; I’m glad you enjoyed the article. All the best.

    • Steve H

      Nov 22, 2013 at 11:20 am

      Tom –

      Great information for the masses that have never been through a lesson or a fitting on Trackman. The science of golf and being able to share data with players of every level makes what works and what does not VERY clear.

  19. Tom

    Nov 18, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Well this article explains a lot and terminology is useful for future reference. Thank you for the great information.

  20. Mark

    Nov 18, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Like the other guys have said, that is a great article. Very good information and now I want to get on a Flightscope/Trackman to see where I can improve!

  21. Dave

    Nov 18, 2013 at 5:55 am

    That was a great article. Very informative and I now have amuch greater understanding of how lauch monitors can be used in teaching.

    Thank you

  22. Keith keep

    Nov 18, 2013 at 2:11 am

    Great article, very informative and really helps out a ton!

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Kelley: How to easily find your ideal impact position



If you look at any sport, the greats seem to do more with less. Whether it be a swimmer gliding through the water or a quarterback throwing a pass, they make it look it easy and effortless.

In golf, there are a variety of distinct swing patterns to get into a dynamic impact position. I believe in efficiency to find that impact position for effortless power and center contact. Efficiency is defined as “the ability to produce something with a minimum amount of effort.” This can easily apply to the golf swing.

It all starts with the address position. The closer we can set up to an impact position, the less we have to do to get back there. Think of it like throwing a ball. If your body is already in a throwing position, you can simply make the throw without repositioning your body for accuracy. This throwing motion is also similar to an efficient direction of turn in the golf swing.

Once you set up to the ball with your impact angles, if you retain your angles in the backswing, the downswing is just a more leveraged or dynamic version of your backswing. If you can take the club back correctly, the takeaway at hip-high level will mirror that position in the downswing (the desired pre-impact position). In the picture below, the body has become slightly more dynamic in the downswing due to speed, but the body levels have not changed from the takeaway position.

This stays true for halfway back in the backswing and halfway down in the downswing. Note how the body has never had to reposition or “recover” to find impact.

At the top of the swing, you will notice how the body has coiled around its original spine angle. There was no left-side bend or “titling” of the body. All the original address position angles were retained. From this position, the arms can simply return back down with speed, pulling the body through.

The key to an efficient swing lies in the setup. Luckily for players working on their swing, this is the easiest part to work on and control. If you can learn to start in an efficient position, all you need to do is hold the angles you started with. This is a simple and effective way to swing the golf club.

Twitter: KKelley_golf

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Wedge Guy: Short iron challenges — and a little insight (hopefully!)



In my experience, almost all golfers could benefit from better short iron play. The ability to hit it closer to where you are looking with your 8-, 9- and P-irons will do more for your scoring than most anything else you can do. So, why is it that so many golfers just don’t hit the quality shots with these clubs that they do and should expect?

I chose this topic in response to an email from Phillip S., who wrote:

“I’m hitting straight and consistent most of the time but I’ve got a big problem between my 8-iron and everything else below.  I can hit my 8-iron 140-145 fairly consistently every time.  I hit my 9-iron somewhere between 110-135.  My pitching wedge is a mystery….it varies between 85 -125 yards.  No matter how “hard” I swing, I can’t seem to hit my short irons consistent distances.  It’s maddening to hit a great drive followed by a pitching wedge short of the green from 110 yards away.  What am I doing wrong?

Well, Phillip, don’t feel alone, because this is one of the most common golf issues I observe. It seems that the lion’s share of technology applied to golf clubs is focused on the long stuff, with drivers and hybrids getting the press. But I firmly believe that the short irons in nearly all “game improvement” designs are ill-suited for precise distance control, hitting shots on the optimum trajectory or knocking flags down. I’ve written about this a number of times, so a little trip back in Wedge Guy history should be enlightening. But here are some facts of golf club performance as applied to short iron play:

Fact #1. Short irons are much more similar to wedges than your middle irons. But almost all iron sets feature a consistent back design for cosmetic appeal on the store racks. And while that deep cavity and perimeter weight distribution certainly help you hit higher and more consistent shots with your 3- or 4- through 7-iron, as the loft gets in the 40-degree range and higher, that weight distribution is not your friend. Regardless of your skill level, short irons should be designed much more similar to wedges than to your middle irons.

Fact #2. As loft increases, perimeter weighting is less effective. Missed shots off of higher lofted clubs have less directional deviation than off of lower-lofted clubs. This is proven time and again on “Iron Byron” robotic testers.

Fact #3. It takes mass behind the ball to deliver consistent distances. Even on dead center hits, cavity back, thin-face irons do not deliver tack-driver distance control like a blade design. In my post of a couple of years ago, “The Round Club Mindset,” I urged readers to borrow blade-style short irons from a friend or assistant pro and watch the difference in trajectories and shotmaking. Do it! You will be surprised, enlightened, and most likely pleased with the results.

Fact #4. The 4.5-degree difference between irons is part of the problem. The industry has built irons around this formula forever, but every golfer who knows his distances can tell you that the full swing distance gap gets larger as the iron number increases, i.e. your gap between your 8- and 9-iron is probably larger than that between your 4- and 5-iron. Could there be some club tweaking called for here?

Fact #5. Your irons do not have to “match.” If you find through experimentation that you get better results with the blade style short irons, get some and have your whole set re-shafted to match, along with lengths and lie angles. These are the keys to true “matching” anyway.

So, Phillip, without knowing your swing or what brand of irons you play, I’m betting that the solution to your problems lies in these facts. Oh, and one more thing – regardless of short iron design, the harder you swing, the higher and shorter the shot will tend to go. That’s because it becomes harder and harder to stay ahead of the club through impact. Keep short iron shots at 80-85 percent power, lead with your left side and watch everything improve.

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Clement: Easily find your perfect backswing plane with this drill



When you get on one of these, magic will happen! You can’t come too far inside or outside in the backswing, and you can’t have arms too deep or shallow at the top of the backswing nor can you be too laid off or across the line either! SEAMLESS!!

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