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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

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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Walters: Try this practice hack for better bunker shots

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Your ability to hit better bunker shots is dramatically reduced if you have no facility to practice these shots. With so few facilities (especially in the UK) having a practice bunker it’s no wonder I see so many golfers struggle with this skill.

Yet the biggest issue they all seem to have is the inability to get the club to enter the sand (hit the ground) in a consistent spot. So here is a hack to use at the range to improve your bunker shots.

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Golf Blueprint: A plan for productive practice sessions

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Practice range at the Dormie Club. Photo credit: Scott Arden

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

You’ve gotten lessons.  Several of them.  You’ve been custom fitted for everything in your bag.  You even bought another half a dozen driver shafts last year looking for an extra couple of yards.  And yet, you’re still…stuck.  Either your handicap hasn’t moved at all in years or you keep bouncing back and forth between the same two numbers.  You’ve had all the swing fixes and all the technological advances you could realistically hope to achieve, yet no appreciable result has been achieved in lowering your score.  What gives?

Sample Golf Blueprint practice plan for a client.

One could argue that no one scientifically disassembled and then systematically reassembled the game of golf quite like the great Ben Hogan.  His penchant for doing so created a mystique which is still the stuff of legend even today.  A great many people have tried to decipher his secret over the years and the inevitable conclusion is always a somewhat anticlimactic, “The secret’s in the dirt.”  Mr. Hogan’s ball striking prowess was carved one divot at a time from countless hours on the practice range.  In an interview with golf journalist George Peper in 1987, Mr. Hogan once said:

“You hear stories about me beating my brains out practicing, but the truth is, I was enjoying myself. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning so I could hit balls. I’d be at the practice tee at the crack of dawn, hit balls for a few hours, then take a break and get right back to it. And I still thoroughly enjoy it. When I’m hitting the ball where I want, hard and crisply—when anyone is— it’s a joy that very few people experience.”

Let me guess.  You’ve tried that before, right?  You’ve hit buckets and buckets of range rocks trying to groove the perfect 7-iron swing and still to no avail, right?  Read that last sentence again closely and you might discover the problem.  There’s a difference between mindful practice and mindless practice.  Mindful practice, like Mr. Hogan undoubtedly employed, is structured, focused, and intentional.  It has specific targets and goals in mind and progresses in a systematic fashion until those goals are met.

This is exactly what Nico Darras and Kevin Moore had in mind when they started Golf Blueprint.  In truth, though, the journey actually started when Nico was a client of Kevin’s Squares2Circles project.  Nico is actually a former DI baseball player who suffered a career-ending injury and took up golf at 22 years old.  In a short time, he was approaching scratch and then getting into some mini tour events.  Kevin, as mentioned in the Squares2Circles piece, is a mathematics education professor and accomplished golfer who has played in several USGA events.  Their conversations quickly changed from refining course strategy to making targeted improvements in Nico’s game.  By analyzing the greatest weaknesses in Nico’s game and designing specific practice sessions (which they call “blueprints”) around them, Nico started reaching his goals.

The transition from client to partners was equal parts swift and organic, as they quickly realized they were on to something.  Nico and Kevin used their experiences to develop an algorithm which, when combined with the client’s feedback, establishes a player profile within Golf Blueprint’s system.  Clients get a plan with weekly, monthly, and long-term goals including all of the specific blueprints that target the areas of their game where they need it most.  Not to mention, clients get direct access to Nico and Kevin through Golf Blueprint.

Nico Darras, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

While this is approaching shades of Mr. Hogan’s practice method above, there is one key distinction here.  Kevin and Nico aren’t recommending practicing for hours at a time.  Far from it.  In Nico’s words:

“We recommend 3 days a week.  You can do more or less, for sure, but we’ve found that 3 days a week is within the realm of possibility for most of our clients.  Practice sessions are roughly 45-70 minutes each, but again, all of this depends on the client and what resources they have at their disposal.  Each blueprint card is roughly 10 minutes each, so you can choose which cards to do if you only have limited time to practice.  Nothing is worse than cranking 7 irons at the range for hours.  We want to make these engaging and rewarding.”

Kevin Moore, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

So far, Golf Blueprint has been working for a wide range of golfers – from tour pros to the No Laying Up crew to amateurs alike.  Kevin shares some key data in that regard:

“When we went into this, we weren’t really sure what to expect.  Were we going to be an elite player product?  Were we going to be an amateur player product?  We didn’t know, honestly.  So far, what’s exciting is that we’ve had success with a huge range of players.  Probably 20-25% of our players (roughly speaking) are in that 7-11 handicap range.  That’s probably the center of the bell curve, if you will, right around that high-single-digit handicap range.  We have a huge range though, scratch handicap and tour players all the way to 20 handicaps.  It runs the full gamut.  What’s been so rewarding is that the handicap dropping has been significantly more than we anticipated.  The average handicap drop for our clients was about 2.7 in just 3 months’ time.”

Needless to say, that’s a pretty significant drop in a short amount of time from only changing how you practice.  Maybe that Hogan guy was on to something.  I think these guys might be too.  To learn more about Golf Blueprint and get involved, visit their website. @Golf_Blueprint is their handle for both Twitter and Instagram.

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