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Two secrets to improve your ball flight

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In recent years, advances in golf technology have shown that there are many variables that go into a desired ball flight. Doppler radar launch monitors like FlightScope and Trackman have proven that the club face’s position at impact is responsible for a golf ball’s starting direction and the path of the club is responsible for the curvature of the ball.

In order to play a proper fade, for example, the club face will need be closed to the target line but open to the path of the club at impact. To play a draw, the orientations need to be the exact opposite: the club face is open to the target and closed to the path.

Understanding these ball flight laws is very important to owning your shot shape. After golfers have a good understanding of them, it’s time that they learn how to achieve their desired flight.

Two things I rarely hear discussed when it comes to curving the golf ball is hand path and the use of the ground during the swing. They are two keys that are vital to controlling the face angle and club path at impact.

Hand path is the direction that the hands move in the backswing and downswing. An easy way to think about it is to imagine a U-shaped arc on the inside of the golf club that sits directly under a players hands at address. Depending on the desired shot shape, the hands can move on the arc, outside the arc or inside the arc in the backswing. The hands can do the same thing in the downswing and at impact: they can move on, inside, or outside the arc depending on the desired shot shape.

How a player uses the ground during the swing also has a big influence on their body lines at impact. The movement of pressure from the ground up can be quite different for a golfer who hits a draw compared to one who fades the ball.

In one of my previous articles, I talked about ground forces in regards to the center of pressure (COP) and how player’s COP trace can affect his or her golf swing. I gave a generic example to help the everyday golfer. I’m now expanding on that to help the golfers improve their shot shape. Below I have listed some keys to help each player.

Fade Hand Path and COP Trace

Backswing

  • The hands move in front and away from the body.
  • The pressure will move between the balls of the feet and the toe of the trail foot as the player gets closer to the top of the backswing.

Downswing

  • The hands continue to work in front of the body, causing them to pull in closer to the body through impact.
  • Pressure will move towards the heel of the lead foot as the hand path moves in.

Below is an example of what the fade hand path looks like as shown by a very good fader of the ball, K.J. Choi.

KJ-Choi-TopKJ-Choi-Step2KJ-Choi-Impact

Here is the example of what this type of player would look like on a balance plate (at impact). The COP is in the lead heel as indicated by the red, orange, and yellow colors.

Fade COP

Again, this is a photo of impact, but if we backtrack and look at where the initial COP trace line begins (between both feet on graph) at the address position, you will find the line moves back and slightly up toward the ball of the foot at the top of the backswing (this is when the hands in the backswing would be moving away from the body). As the player begins the downswing (hands moving in front) and finally gets to the impact position (hands moving inside) you see the line move towards the lead heel.

Draw Hand Path and COP

Backswing

  • Hands move inside and close to the body.
  • Pressure moves between the ball of the foot and the heel in the trail foot as the player gets closer to the top of the backswing.

Downswing

  • Hands move deeper as the downswing is initiated with the hand path moving more outward through impact.
  • Pressure will shift forward as the pressure moves between the ball of the foot and toe in the lead leg.

Below is an example of what a draw hand path looks like as shown by a very good drawer of the golf ball, Charlie Wi.

CW31Charlie-Wi-Top1Charlie-Wi-Impact1

Below is the example of what the draw hand path would look like on a balance plate. You will see that the COP is in the ball of the foot/toe region. The pressure is indicated by the red, orange, and yellow colors.

Draw COP

This is a photo of impact, but if we backtrack and look at where the initial COP trace line begins (between both feet on the graph) at the address position, you will find the line moves back somewhere between the ball of the foot and heel (the hands are moving inward and staying close to the body). As the player begins the downswing (hands moving deeper behind body) and finally gets to the impact position (hands moving outward) you see the trace line moves outward as well.

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Bill Schmedes III is an award-winning PGA Class A member and Director of Instruction at Fiddler's Elbow Country Club in Bedminster, the largest golf facility in New Jersey. He has been named a "Top-25 Golf Instructor," and has been nominated for PGA Teacher of the Year and Golf Professional of the Year at both the PGA chapter and section levels. Bill was most recently nominated for Golf Digest's "Best Young Teachers in America" list, and has been privileged to work and study under several of the top golf coaches in the world. These coaches can all be found on the Top 100 & Top 50 lists. Bill has also worked with a handful of Top-20 Teachers under 40. He spent the last 2+ years working directly under Gary Gilchrist at his academy in Orlando, Fla. Bill was a Head Instructor/Coach and assisted Gary will his tour players on the PGA, LPGA, and European tours. Bill's eBook, The 5 Tour Fundamentals of Golf, can now be purchased on Amazon. It's unlike any golf instruction book you have ever read, and uncovers the TRUE fundamentals of golf using the tour player as the model.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Anon

    Jul 7, 2014 at 11:53 am

    So correct me if I’m wrong, but to sum up the article, you basically finish more on your front heel to fade it, and front toes to draw it?

    • Bill Schmedes III

      Jul 8, 2014 at 10:26 pm

      For the fade, the hands are moving more inward, body lines are opening quicker (circular), and pressure is moving more towards the heel because of that at impact.

      For the draw, the hands are moving more outward, body lines are staying closed longer (lateral then circular), and pressure is moving more towards the ball of the foot (more centralized) at impact.

  2. Hellstorm

    Jul 5, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    I would say that my normal ball flight favors a draw, but I can’t hit it consistently. I have taught myself how to hit a fade pretty well and with a significant amount of power, but when I want to hit a draw on purpose, I really struggle. If I miss my fade, the result is a dead straight shot. If I miss my draw, it is a disaster snap hook. I think I just figured out why thanks to your explanation. I close my stance and close my clubface to the target. Thanks for the help. Now I got something to work on.

  3. S

    Jul 5, 2014 at 5:53 am

    Bill – What are some ways to get the hands more inside and deep if the desired shot is a draw? Does this get the hands behind the torso with the potential to get “stuck”?

    • Bill Schmedes

      Jul 5, 2014 at 8:15 am

      Thanks for the note. I’m big on mirror work allowing the player to get the feel with a visual to back up what they’re doing is correct. The hands can be deeper in the downswing and still be working with the body. I’ll have a player take their setup, then have them drop back foot back so the toe is off heel of front foot, then make 3/4 swings. This helps hand path get deeper but not stuck.

      Hope that helps. Thanks!

  4. Pingback: Two secrets to improve your ball flight - I'd Rather Be Golfing

  5. Pingback: Two secrets to improve your ball flight | Spacetimeandi.com

  6. AJ Novelli

    Jul 4, 2014 at 12:02 am

    Great article! Now time to get the high draw back into my game…

  7. Tom Stickney

    Jul 3, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    Like it!

    • Bill Schmedes

      Jul 4, 2014 at 2:01 pm

      Thanks Tom. I always enjoy your articles

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Instruction

What you can learn from Steve Elkington

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When you think of great golf swings from the past and present time, Steve Elkington’s golf swing instantly comes to mind. His playing career has included a PGA championship, two Players Championships and more than 50 weeks inside the top-10 world golf rankings. This article will examine not only key moves you can take from Elk’s swing but learning to take your swing to the golf course.

As opposed to looking at a swing frame by frame at key positions, viewing a swing at normal speed can be just as beneficial. This can give students a look at the sequence of the swing as one dynamic motion. Research also suggests learning a motion as one movement as opposed to part-training (stopping the swing at certain points) will enhancing learning.

When viewed at full speed, the simplicity of Elk’s swing is made clear. There is minimal motion as he gets more out of less. This swing pattern can correlate to a conversation he once had with five-time British Open winner Peter Thomson.

When asking Thomson keys to his golf swing and it’s longevity, Thomson explained to Elk, “You have to have great hands and arms.” Thomson further elaborated on the arms and body relationship. “The older you get, you can’t move your body as well, but you can learn to swing your arms well.”

So what’s the best way to get the feel of this motion? Try practicing hitting drivers off your knees. This drill forces your upper body to coil in the proper direction and maintain your spine angle. If you have excess movement, tilt, or sway while doing this drill you will likely miss the ball. For more detail on this drill, read my Driver off the knees article.

Another key move you can take from Elk is in the set-up position. Note the structure of the trail arm. The arm is bent and tucked below his lead arm as well as his trail shoulder below the lead shoulder – he has angle in his trail wrist, a fixed impact position.

This position makes impact easier to find. From this position, Elk can use his right arm as a pushing motion though the ball.

A golf swing can look pretty, but it is of no use if you can’t perform when it matters, on the golf course. When Elk is playing his best, he never loses feel or awareness to the shaft or the clubface throughout the swing. This is critical to performing on the golf course. Using this awareness and a simple thought on the golf course will promote hitting shots on the course, rather than playing swing.

To enhance shaft and face awareness, next time you are on the range place an alignment stick 10 yards ahead of you down the target line. Practice shaping shots around the stick with different flights. Focus on the feel created by your hands through impact.

Twitter: @kkelley_golf

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Dennis Clark: Hitting from the turf

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I have seen as much as 4-5 MPH increase in clubhead speed when my students hit form a tee compared to hitting off the turf. Why?  Fear of FAT shots.

First question: Are you better hitting off a tee than on the turf?

Next question: When you play in a scramble and you have the option of dropping in the fairway or slightly in the first cut, do you choose the rough-especially when hitting over water or sand?

The answer to all these the same: Because the vast majority of golfers do not have a bottom of the swing arc safely in front of the golf ball consistently.

Consider a PGA Tour event, Korn Ferry, Champions Tour, LPGA Tour, whatever…You might see missed fairways, missed greens, hooks, blocks, etc. but we rarely, if ever, see a FAT shot. They simply do not hit the ground before the golf ball. Of course, there are exceptions, into the grain on short pitches, for example, but they are just that-rare exceptions. On the other hand, go to any golf course and watch average golfers for a while. Fat shots are not uncommon. In fact, they, or the fear of them, dominate most golf games.

The number one mistake I have seen on the lesson tee for over 35 years is unquestionably a player’s inability to control the bottom of the golf swing. I have seen everything from hitting 4 inches behind the ball to never reaching the bottom at all It has been my experience that that hitting fat shots is the number one flaw in most golf swings.

Let’s start with this fact: elite level players consistently reach a swing bottom (low point) some 3-4 inches in front of the golf ball-time after time after time. This happens for a variety of reasons, but the one I’d like to look at today is the position of the golf club at impact with the golf ball.

The club is leaning forward, toward the target, the hands are ahead of the club head, never straight up over it, never behind it-always, always leaning forward is the only way to consistently bottom out in front of the golf ball.   

A player cannot hit a ball consistently from the turf until he/she learns this and how to accomplish it. For every golfer I teach who gets into this position, I might teach 50 who do not. In fact, if players did not learn how to “save” a shot by bailing out on the downswing (chicken wing, pull up, raise the handle, or come over the top, (yes over the top is a fat shot avoidance technique) they would hit the ground behind the golf ball almost every time!  Hitting better shots from the fairways, particularly from tight lies, can be learned, but I’m going to be honest: The change required will NOT be easy. And to make matters worse, you can never play significantly better until you overcome the fear of hitting it fat.. Until you learn a pattern where the bottom of the swing is consistently in front of the ball, the turf game will always be an iffy proposition for you.

This starts with a perception. When first confronted with hitting a golf ball, it seems only natural that an “up” swing is the way to get the ball in the air-help it, if you will. The act of a descending blow is not, in any way, natural to the new player. In fact, it is totally counterintuitive. So the first instincts are to throw the club head at the ball and swing up to get the ball in the air; in other words, it makes perfect sense. And once that “method” is ingrained, it is very difficult to change. But change if you must, if your goal is to be a better ball striker.

The position to strive for is one where the left wrist (for a right-hander) is flat, the right is slightly dorsiflexed, and the handle of the golf club is ahead of the grip end. Do your level best to pay attention to the look and feel of what you’re doing as opposed to the flight of the golf ball. FEEL that trail wrist bent slightly back, the lead wrist flat and the hands ahead. It will seem strange at first, but it’s the very small first step in learning to hit down on your tight lies. If some degree of that is not ultimately accomplished, you will likely always be executing “fit in” moves to make up for it. It is worth the time and effort to create this habit.

My suggestion is to get on a Trackman if possible to see where you’re low point actually is, or perhaps you may just want to start paying close attention to your divots-particularly the deepest part of them. I’m sure you will get into a pattern of bottoming out consistently in front of the ball when you begin to learn to get the hands ahead and the club head behind. And best of all, when this becomes your swing, you will lose the fear of hitting the turf first and be free to go down after the ball as aggressively as you like.

Ok, so how is this accomplished? While many players are looking for a magic bullet or a training aid which might help one miraculously get into a good impact position, I dare say there is not one. It is a trial and error proposition, a learn-from-the-mistakes kind of thing achieved only through repetition with a thorough understanding of what needs to be done. The hardest thing to do is IGNORE the outcome when learning a new motor skill, but you must do it. A couple of things you might try:

  • Start with 30-50 yard pitch shots, paying close attention to the hands leading at impact. Again ignore the outcome, look only at the divot.
  • Hit a TON of fairway bunker shots. Draw a line in the sand 3-4″ in front of the ball and try to hit it.
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Instruction

What you can learn from the rearview camera angle

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We often analyze the golf swing from the face-on view or down-the-line camera angle. However, we can also learn how the body moves in the swing from the rearview or backside view.

When seeing the swing from the rearview, we can easily see how the glutes work. The trail glute actually moves back and around in the backswing. This means the glute moves towards the target or towards the lead heel. Note the trail glute start point and endpoint at the top of the backswing.

To some, this may seem like it would cause a reverse weight shift. However, this glute movement can enable the upper body to get loaded behind the ball. This is where understanding the difference between pressure, and weight is critical (see: “Pressure and Weight”).

This also enhances the shape of the body in the backswing. From the rear angle, I prefer to have players with a tuck to their body in their trail side, a sign of no left-side bend.

This puts the body and trail arm into a “throwing position”, a dynamic backswing position. Note how the trailing arm has folded with the elbow pointing down. This is a sign the trailing arm moved in an efficient sequence to the top of the backswing.

Next time you throw your swing on video, take a look at the rearview camera angle. From this new angle, you may find a swing fault or matchup needed in your golf swing to produce your desired ball flight.

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