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Hole 4: Ben Hogan had his own math

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I’ve heard that great people do things that are different. I never thought when I went to work for Mr. Ben Hogan, however, that the man would have his own personal set of numbers and math.

I learned this about Ben Hogan when I tried to reconcile the number of degrees on a personal wedge Gene Sheeley was making for him. That same wedge design and specs would later need to be forged and duplicated at a Chicago factory.

Sometime long before I came along, Mr. Hogan, Gene and previous engineers developed a unique fixture to measure the loft and lie angle on irons and wedges, which you can see below. It was a rotation turret table pitched at an angle with some extra engineering measurement features welded on. With this fixture, one could fix or press the face of the club to a plate and turn the turret handle until the butt of the club pointed at a target lie measurement scale (in the shape of a sweep radius). After the club was aimed correctly, one could site out and read the lie of the club on the scale radius. At the same time, the loft could be read on the turret gauge.

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The Ben Hogan Company loft and lie machine, which is on display at the Ben Hogan Museum in Dublin, Texas.

With no engineering or formal physics schooling, Mr. Hogan knew instinctively that the loft and lie of an iron combined to determine the launch vector. He must have learned these specifications were interrelated and synergistic while “digging his game out of the dirt,” and Mr. Hogan and Gene had come up with this ingenious fixture. It was very creative thinking for its time. After they conceived and built the one fixture, it was used to set and gauge all of Mr. Hogan’s clubs — both his personal clubs, and his company’s clubs. It became the only standard for Hogan touring pros, the factory and all things Ben Hogan.

Years later, Gene gave me this historic fixture. I have since donated it to the Ben Hogan Museum in Dublin, Texas, where it is on display. I think Gene and Mr. Hogan would have wanted that. I would implore anyone who loves Hogan lore (or his real clubs) to make a trip there some day. The museum is full of Mr. Hogan’s things and is a wonderful tribute.

Back to 1988 in Fort Worth. The one problem with the ingenious loft and lie machine was that the fixture did not travel. It was massive — about the size and weight of a modern washing machine. And while Mr. Hogan’s loft and lie fixture was very consistent and the products of this machine fit his eye and expectations, it did not read in true engineering degrees. That’s right, what Hogan and his machine called 56 degrees was not really 56 degrees. Hogan degrees were about 1-to-2 degrees different!

As the head of the product development team in Fort Worth, I needed to communicate the actual and accurate degrees and dimensions of irons and wedges to vendors in California and Chicago, so I was in a box. As a side note, Mr. Hogan was a patriot and wanted all clubs and components under his name to be 100 percent made in the USA.  I will give you a detailed story of how I know this on a later hole.

Earlier in my engineering training, I had learned the engineering standard measurement technique for machined parts required a sine plate and a Bridgeport-type mill. Yes, the same sine as you might have learned in high school trigonometry. Early in this club degree dilemma I tried to have a discussion with Gene about it, but he didn’t see a problem. As far as he was concerned, he, Mr. Hogan and their bulky fixture were right and the trigonometry and engineering worlds were wrong. “Case closed,” Gene said, and he would never bring it up with Mr. Hogan. I considered pushing the math matter higher up the company food chain. If I did, however, it might appear to embarrass Gene and Mr. Hogan. I also considered the fact that sometimes the messenger with bad news is killed, or in my case, fired.

Tom Stites with loft and lie

Here I am using Hogan’s loft and lie machine.

Only recently during one of our jaunts up to his office had Mr. Hogan shocked me by asking me a question. Mr. Hogan asked me how much hook I saw in a wood Gene was showing him. Without knowing when, I must have crossed over a trust line and paid the final installment of my dues.

“It does look a bit hooked,” I stammered. That was a safe response, because Gene had told me Mr. Hogan sees everything a couple of degrees more hooked than it measures, and I’ve run across many elite players over the years who see face angles the same way. With Mr. Hogan actually talking to me now, I wasn’t ready to blow up the new trust by telling him and Gene his machine “lied” consistently by a couple of degrees. With that, I quietly developed a chart and formula that would convert all Sheeley/Hogan fixture degrees to true engineering sine-plate calibrated degrees. With this secret formula and chart, I was able to do my job properly and those two incredible and historic men of the club I loved could stay happy.

A bit later, however, I screwed up and got bit in the butt. By this point, I could go in and see Mr. Hogan alone. One morning I went in there to show him one of Gene’s new prototype models. I don’t remember where Gene was. When I got to his office, Hogan dropped the wedge to the floor and eye balled it like he always did. Just a few seconds later, he barked at me and told me it was 0.75 degrees too weak.

I’m sure Mr. Hogan could see my skeptical reaction and read my thoughts. In my head I was saying to myself:

“That old man can’t sit in that chair on his butt and look down and see 0.75 degrees. No way. There are 360 degrees total and he says it is off by less than 1. I don’t think so!”

I walked out of his office and headed to the backroom shop with the wedge in question. All the way, I was muttering to myself the same disbelief. I grabbed my conversion chart and the sine plate and measured the club several times. I found both showed a discrepancy of 0.5-0.75 degrees.

He was right, I was wrong. I then had to go back up and eat some sour crap.

On the way back to his office, I vowed to never argue or doubt Mr. Hogan again. In the future, I would measure his clubs not once, but multiple times (with both measurement systems) before I went in to see him.

That incredible man who some called “The Hawk” could indeed see minuscule amounts of golf club right and wrong. He did it again and again during my time at his company. Many years later, I would work a “Tiger” — another super talented golf creature — who too had that same kind of alien accurate eyes and feel. He could discern incredibly small differences in clubs that were not able to be noticed by normal humans, and a certain “Golden Bear” could do the same thing.

I don’t know how to explain it, but I’m wondering if maybe some of the greatest players in the history of our game were dropped on earth by spaceships and have been living among us posing as our elite golfers. I’m not kidding! I’ve seen examples of a different perception and wiring system in them, and I’m certain they are different!

Maybe, I will tell you some of those stories on the back nine.

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Tom Stites has spent more than 30 years working in the golf industry. In that time, he has been awarded more than 200 golf-related patents, and has designed and engineered more than 300 golf products that have been sold worldwide. As part of his job, he had the opportunity to work with hundreds of touring professionals and developed clubs that have been used to win all four of golf's major championships (several times), as well as 200+ PGA Tour events. Stites got his golf industry start at the Ben Hogan Company in 1986, where Ben Hogan and his personal master club builder Gene Sheeley trained the young engineer in club design. Tom went on to start his own golf club equipment engineering company in 1993 in Fort Worth, Texas, which he sold to Nike Inc. in 2000. The facility grew and became known as "The Oven," and Stites led the design and engineering teams there for 12 years as the Director of Product Development. Stites, 59, is a proud veteran of the United States Air Force. He is now semi-retired, but continues his work as an innovation, business, engineering and design consultant. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Ben Hogan Foundation, a 501C foundation that works to preserve the legacy and memory of the late, great Ben Hogan.

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Timothy Flaherty

    Jan 1, 2019 at 6:38 pm

    Great article: I want to know more about Hogan’s personal specs on his woods and irons-I know that they are flat.

  2. petie3_2

    Aug 6, 2015 at 12:56 am

    One problem with a perfectionist; they’re never happy.

  3. JTW

    Aug 5, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Tom thank you so much for these articles
    Looking forward to the next

  4. cody

    Aug 5, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    when the legend becomes fact. Print the legend

    “the man who shot Liberty Valance”.

  5. Colin Gillbanks

    Aug 5, 2015 at 7:32 am

    Really enjoying this series.

    Can we make it a 36 hole match, please?

  6. Martin

    Aug 4, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    Very cool series, I am enjoying it immensely.

    Some people have tremendous eyes and hands, years ago I worked in sales for a high end Dental Lab we started producing a new product that involved a dovetail attachment bridge.

    The idea was you put a crown on the healthy end tooth, then we produced the “middle” part which fit into the dovetail. I may be remembering this slightly off to any dentists here.

    We had one Dr who had a reputation as a perfectionist, who complained about the process not being perfect. We had him into the lab with some of the work he had done, he had misunderstood the product and would do a root canal on the good tooth and was cutting the dovetail freehand in the tooth rather than having us produce it in the lab in a crown and he had 2 reworks out of 20.

    Our Lab Manager was flabbergasted as were the two other Dentists in that day that anyone could cut something freehand and get it perfect 18/20 times, one of them said he didn’t think he would be able to do it once and he was in awe of the guys skills.

  7. slimeone

    Aug 3, 2015 at 1:41 am

    I have a set of Slazenger Hogan Precisions which are stamped “made in England”.

  8. RG

    Aug 2, 2015 at 10:57 am

    It is amazing what some individuals can pick up with there eyes. Ted Williams once stepped into the batters box, and immediately called time out. He looked at the ump and said,”First base isn’t where it’s supposed to be.” They stopped the game, measured and it was 2 inches off. He could see 2 inches off in 90 ft.
    In the middle ages an artist Giooto ( I think that’s correct spelling) commissioned to do artwork in a new chapel for the Vatican. When the pope questioned him as to his worthiness and ability he called for a paper and a quill and famously drew a perfect circle free handed. That takes eyes and a steadiness of hand.
    I brought up those examples to say it is incredible the great artistry of eye that Mr.Hogan had to go along with the fluidness of body. Great article.

    • KN

      Aug 6, 2015 at 3:42 pm

      It’s Giotto (di Bondone), but good for you for remembering the first genius of art in the Italian Renaissance. Can Hogan be put into the category of “genius?” Many would say yes. It’s difficult to have a discussion about the game’s greats without his name being prominent in it.

  9. M.

    Jul 30, 2015 at 9:05 am

    Birdie on the 4th

  10. Todd

    Jul 30, 2015 at 8:23 am

    Love these posts on people of the game. An inside look at the great Mr. Hogan. I started out with Hogan clubs. They were great. Wish I kept them now. It doesn’t surprise about Mr. Hogan’s knowing the wedge loft was off. Think about home many times he has hit one. All that practice setting the club down behind the ball. I also like that he was involved in the company, he cared about the product later in life.
    Great set of posts, please keep these up!

  11. stephenf

    Jul 30, 2015 at 2:04 am

    Good GOD. Can you imagine being given a machine that Ben Hogan himself had a hand in developing? That would just end the you-know-what out of any bar conversation.

  12. Chuck

    Jul 30, 2015 at 1:19 am

    Absolutely terrific series.

    So Tom what do you use now for measuring and bending lofts/lies on irons? How do measure lofts, lies and face angles on woods?

    You must have stories about Lanny Wadkins, who is reputedly fanatical about his lofts and lies.

  13. Matto

    Jul 29, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    This is a fantastic tale. Thumbs up.

  14. talljohn777

    Jul 29, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    A Tom Stites story about Tiger that I remembered and found:

    “We sent him six drivers to try out,” says club designer Stites. “He told us, ‘I like the heavy one.’ I was like, what? There couldn’t have been a difference of more than a gram in any of the drivers we sent him. When we reweighed all the clubs, sure enough, he’d picked the one that was maybe a half-gram heavier than the rest. That’s like if I gave you two stacks of 150 $1 bills, then tore one bill in half and told you to pick the heavier pile.”

    • Side

      Jul 30, 2015 at 1:51 am

      Myth. If he was that good, why can’t he hit it straight, then, eh? May be he should pick the light one so he can!

      • dapadre

        Jul 30, 2015 at 7:26 am

        Good enough to have won 14 majors and countless tournaments. The suspense is killing is, o great God, who art thou?

      • prime21

        Jul 30, 2015 at 7:43 am

        IF? Really? Top 2 all time, no debate. Next time you feel the need to post a comment, take a second, recognize your ignorance, and go to a sight that discusses anything other than golf. It is obvious that u know nothing about the subject.

    • bob

      Jul 31, 2015 at 12:55 am

      heard the same about Curtis strange. was told he could tell you where the seams in a steel shaft were.

  15. blake janderson

    Jul 29, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    sounds like this person, hogan, was not a very good golfer. otherwise he would not have seen clubs aligned more ‘hooked’ than they were.

  16. BR

    Jul 29, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    Great story. I hope you share more stories/experiences from Mr. Hogan, others.

  17. PH

    Jul 29, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    No way on earth that I want this to only be 18 holes. Mr. Stites has entirely too much experience and too many stories to keep these confined. I impatiently wait for the next article every single time I finish one.

  18. Christosterone

    Jul 29, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    Awesome article….best hole so far!!!
    -Christosterone

  19. Greg V

    Jul 29, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    Great story. A perfectionist would stand for nothing less than perfect tools.

  20. ddetts

    Jul 29, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    I am very much enjoying these installments by Mr. Stites. What a great contribution to this golfing community. It’s such a treat to get to hear these personal accounts of interactions with Mr. Hogan.

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Opinion & Analysis

2022 Wells Fargo Championship: Outright Betting Picks

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The PGA Tour heads to Potomac, Maryland to play the 2022 Wells Fargo Championship. Typically, the Wells Fargo Championship is played at Quail Hollow Golf and Country Club but due to the course hosting this year’s President Cup, TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm will be hosting the event temporarily.

TPC Potomac at Avenel Farms is a par 70 golf course measuring in at 7,139 yards and features bentgrass greens. The course has been used professionally since 1987 starting with the Kemper Open from 1987 to 2002 After that, the course hosted the Booz Allen Classic until 2006. Most recently, TPC Potomac hosted the 2017 and 2018 Quicken Loans National.

The field this week will consist of 156 players, including plenty of superstars who are preparing for the PGA Championship in a few weeks. Some of the notable golfers in the field include Rory McIlroy, Abraham Ancer, Paul Casey, Corey Conners, Tony Finau, Matt Fitzpatrick, Sergio Garcia, Tyrrell Hatton, Marc Leishman, Louis Oosthuizen, Webb Simpson, and Gary Woodland.

2022 Wells Fargo Championship Best Bets

Corey Conners (+2000)

Corey Conners has been knocking at the door all year long and now finds himself at a course where the fit feels almost too good to be true.

TPC Potomac favors golfers who can put the ball in the fairway. There are plenty of courses on Tour in 2022 where players can get away with spraying it off the tee. This is not one of those tracks. Errant tee shots will be penalized with big numbers on the scorecard, and few can put the ball in the fairway while also maintaining field average distance as well as the Canadian does. Conners ranks 5th in the field in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and 4th in the field in Good Drives Gained.

In addition to being a great driver of the golf ball, Conners is also a phenomenal iron player. With tricky green complexes at TPC Potomac, sharp iron play will be a major advantage when trying to get the ball on the right level of the putting surface.

Additionally, in his past 24 rounds, the 30-year-old ranks 15th in the field in Strokes Gained on short par 70 courses.

Simply put, Corey Conners checks all the boxes this week. The price tag is a bit steep, but this is the right course at the right time for a potential second PGA Tour victory.

Matt Fitzpatrick (+2200)

In 2018, there was a certain narrative regarding a supremely talented European golfer who “couldn’t win” on the PGA Tour. Leading into the 2018 Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac, Fransesco Molinari had never won a PGA Tour event. Prior to the victory, he had contended at numerous events throughout his career but couldn’t get over the hump. After Moli got his win at TPC Potomac he went on to win the Open Championship in 2018 and the Arnold Palmer invitational in 2019.

Another golfer who carries a reputation thus far in his career of not being able to get it done on the PGA Tour is Matt Fitzpatrick. Like Molinari, Fitz has gotten into contention plenty of times including at the Players and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The Englishman also has a very similar skillset to an in-form Molinari and feels like a perfect fit for TPC Potomac.

The Englishman ranks in the top 25 in the field in Fairways Gained, Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, and Good Drives Gained. He is excellent with the driver and will keep the ball in play at a course where that is an absolute requirement.

The main concern I have when betting Fitzpatrick is whether or not he can make enough birdies to keep pace on the scoring fests we usually see on the PGA Tour. Considering TPC Potomac has played quite difficult in the past, I don’t expect the winning score to get out of hand this week, making it an ideal fit for Fitzpatrick’s style of play.

Paul Casey (+4000)

There is a definite injury concern with Paul Casey considering he was forced to withdraw from his past two starts with a back injury. However, the risk is baked into the price this week. If he was healthy, his betting odds are most likely cut in half in this field. Additionally, I don’t think he would attempt to play this week if he wasn’t healthy with the PGA Championship right around the corner.

When Casey is at his best, TPC Potomac should be an ideal fit for the Englishman. He ranks 2nd in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach in his past 24 rounds and is a great all-around driver of the ball. He has excelled throughout his career on difficult courses and all three of his PGA Tour victories have had winning scores of worse than -11. I expect conditions to be fairly difficult this week so the event should be right in Casey’s wheelhouse.

Betting on Casey this week is by no means safe, but with outright bets I like to play the “ceiling” on players. If he is indeed healthy this is a great number on a world class player.

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The best bets for the week on the DP World and PGA Tour

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A decent week for the props on the PGA Tour, with the bonus of an Aaron Wise top-5 foiled by a shot having gone missing on Friday.

This week, a pair of events on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour that call for accuracy over brute strength. Whilst they (sort of) match in that regard, the betting markets couldn’t be more different.

A week after Jon Rahm justified his superior world ranking in Mexico, Rory McIlroy attempts the same at TPC Potomac, home for the 2022 Wells Fargo Championship. As short as +750, this is in complete contrast to the British Masters at The Belfry, an event that sees bookmakers go +2200 about the favourite, Robert MacIntyre.

Let’s leave others, including our own Matt Vincenzi, to worry about outright winners. Here are four of the best prop bets for the week.

Corey Conners Top-20 +120 

No surprise that Conners is strongly fancied to go close, and at around +2000, he looks the one to take advantage of the emphasis on iron play.

Indeed, this column put up the Canadian for place returns at the Texas Open (against favourite McIlroy), which sadly failed, and at The Masters, and I see no reason not to go in again this week.

The 30-year-old started the season well in Hawaii before going through a rough spell as the tour hit California.

However, in five ‘proper’ events starting with Bay Hill at the beginning of March, Conners has recorded three top-11 finishes, 26th and 35th, all that without featuring his bronze medal at the World Matchplay. Those couple of finishes outside of the top-20 feature one poor round each, with him standing in fifth place at halfway at the Players, and 27th when fancied in Texas.

Conners ranks 6th off-the-tee and 33rd in approaches for the season lending itself to a ranking of 3rd in greens-in-regulation, and whilst his putting can always be improved, winners around here include Francesco Molinari and Kyle Stanley. Demons with the irons but hardly special on the dance floor.

DK’s -125 looks far closer to the correct number, so jump in where you can.

Ryan Armour Top-40 +240

The 46-year-old isn’t one to spring off the page as a contender, but once going past the top-15 or so of the field this week, it all becomes very hard to separate.

It might be four years since he finished runner-up to a rampant Molinari around here, but Armour thrives in conditions that put emphasis on accuracy and long iron play, and after hints of his best over the last year or so, he can take advantage of his standing as a quality tee-to-green merchant.

Currently leading the tour in driving accuracy, he ranks 38th for green-finding, again topping the tour in proximity to the pin.

Of course, like most of these types, he lacks a little on the greens and at his age is hardly likely to improve – Richard Bland may have something to say about that – but on a course with some severe par-4s (yardages of 450, 495, 477, 470 and 500) his status in the top-25 from 150 to 175 yards in will give him an advantage over many of the ‘rags’ this week.

Whilst he tends to find his best in lesser events, Armour can add a 12th top-40 to the previous 11 in his last 32 outings.

Justin Harding Win +4500

Justin Harding Top-10 +450

I’m pleasantly surprised that a three-time winner on the DP Tour goes off at a bigger price than a couple of players that find it very hard to get their nose in front, but that just creates more appeal.

The 36-year-old South African has been near the top of his home contingent for several years now, and whilst he may not repeat his stellar year of 2019, he is showing enough progressive form to think he can contend around this tree-lined track.

Throughout that impressive period, in 2018, Harding won four times in six events on the Sunshine and Asia tours before taking that form on to better class, gaining a win in Qatar, top-10s at the Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour, and the Byron Nelson. In between, a 12th at Augusta and two further top-10s in Europe cemented his best-ever world ranking of 72.

In 2021, Harding won the first of a double-header in Kenya and should have followed up a week later when leading after three rounds before collapsing on Sunday. Shaking that off, he returned five top-10s for the rest of the year, along with four top-20 finishes, including when 19th here behind Richard Bland.

Referring to that effort 12 months ago, Harding stood in the top-10 for all three opening rounds and added to yet another good finish in the Dubai Desert Classic; he ticks all the boxes for course and relative form, especially given both Bland and Rasmus Hojgaard (winner here in 2020) both have an excellent form line at the Emirates GC.

Thriving on tree-lined courses, recent form is also good, the 5th in Qatar cementing the idea that he repeats form at the same tracks, and last weekend’s seventh place at his home Tour Championship just shows he is trending in the right direction.

With a smart all-around game, I expect Harding to outplay his starting odds and shouldn’t shirk any issues should he find himself in the mix over the weekend.

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Opinion & Analysis

Curved or straight? How should you hit the golf ball

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When you hit the golf ball close to the hole and have a short birdie putt, we call that positive variance. When you hit a less than ideal shot that curves into the woods, we call that negative variance. They both represent the same thing, a change in the average or normal outcome. With that said, almost every first coaching experience begins with an athlete wanting to become more consistent, but once shown how consistently they curve the ball, they quickly change their answer to wanting the ball to land closer to the hole on average.

There are only two ways to help the golfer. Either change the motion pattern to produce a different ball flight that better matches their intent, or help the athlete better understand their pattern and learn to use this consistency to their advantage when it comes to the formation of their strategy for maneuvering the golf ball around the course safely. Both options are valid with one requiring more “work” in the short-term than the other.

Is there a way in which we could use both strategies to improve performance faster, you bet! This is where we learn that aiming the face of the club head exactly at your target and expecting the ball to have zero curvature is an option, but probably not a likely outcome. Therefore, if we know the ball is likely to have some curvature, then we want to make sure that the ball is always curving towards the target, and not away from the target line and towards trouble.

Keep in mind you don’t hit it solid and straight when you hit it out-of-bounds and into the hazard, you hook and slice it into the out-of-bounds and the hazard, therefore learning to minimize curvature is the easiest way for a golfer to improve their score and save money on golf balls.

The Nine Ball Flights from a Physics Perspective

In general, we can swing the golf club head in three directions; left of target (out-to-in), at the target (square-to-square), or right of the target (in-to-out). Similarly, we can only point the face of the club head in three directions; left of the target, at the target, or right of the target. Understanding that we can swing the club head and point the face of the club head in different directions at the same time is key and explains why curvature happens.

If you assume center contact between the golf ball and the club head, the only thing the golf ball is aware of is which direction the club head is traveling in, and in which direction the club face is pointing. Transitioning away from a linear model of the golf swing motion, we now understand that angular momentum is needed to create maximum speed, and when we apply angular momentum (the club head torquing about the mid-hand point) we introduce “twisting” of the club head face about the club shaft. This “twisting” causes a separation between the direction the club head is moving in and the direction the club head face is pointing.

If the direction of the club head (Club Path) and the direction the club head face is pointing (Face Angle) are equal, assuming centered contact between the club head and the golf ball, the ball will fly straight with zero curvature. If the direction of the club head (Club Path) and the direction the club head face points are not equal, the ball will curve.

“The Face Sends It, And The Path Bends It” -Unkown

Assuming centered contact, the golf ball will always curve the opposite direction relative to the direction the club head is moving in (Club Path). Therefore, if you have your club head moving “in-to-out” by five degrees (+) with a club head face pointing (Face Angle) directly at your target (zero degrees), the golf ball will start fairly straight and then curve to the left (away from rightward club path).

The opposite of this is also true. If the club head is moving “out-to-in” by negative five degrees (-) (Club Path) with a club head face pointing (Face Angle) directly at your target (zero degrees), the golf ball will start fairly straight and then curve to the right (away from the leftward club path).

Shallow/Steep | Fade/Slice |Draw/Hook

As learned from Dr. Kwon, the golf club head only travels on an inclined “plane” from mid-downswing to mid-follow through. What determines the pitch of that “plane” has to do with the Biomechanics and the relationships within the human anatomy. Using Mike Adams definitions, a Side-Cover style athlete is going to have a “steeper” or more upright pitched “plane” meaning that the club head (Club Path) will be traveling more leftward at impact. This will tend to produce a more downward decent into the golf ball (Attack Angle). A Side-Under style athlete is going to have a “shallower” or flatter pitched “plane” meaning that the club head (Club Path) will be traveling more rightward at impact. This will tend to produce a shallower descent into the golf ball (Attack Angle). A Side-On Style athlete is going to have a more “neutral” pitched plane meaning that the club head (Club Path) will be very neutral at impact. This will tend to produce a more “average” decent into the golf ball (Attack Angle).

When Does a Fade Become a Slice and Vice Versa?

When the golf ball crosses the target line and begins to curve away from the target, either curving leftward or rightward of the target-line, then it goes from being classified as a draw/fade to a hook/slice. For example, if you line up “straight” at your target and start the golf ball 20-feet left of your intended target line, and it begins to curve back towards the target line, as it curves the amount of lateral dispersion between begins to diminish. The entire time the golf ball is curving towards the target line the “gap” between where the ball started, and the target line decreases. In this example the golf ball is curving rightward and if that golf ball should curve right of the target line while still in the air, it has become a slice and is now increasing the amount of lateral dispersion until the golf ball comes to rest.

Pattern vs. Straight

Without getting into “rabbit-hole” Biomechanics conversations about immobilizing joint segments, we are equipped with wrist that are capable of three translational movements and three torques which creates six degrees of freedom. We also need to create acceleration and force which will require angular momentum to create maximum distance. With that said, we are going to be introducing twist about the handle which will cause the club head face (Face Angle) to rotate open during the backswing and will require “closing” during the downswing.

Due to the rotation of the club face about the club shaft, there becomes an element of timing to having the club head face (Face Angle) equal to the direction the club head is traveling (Club Path) consistently. As Humans, and not machines we have to be willing to accept a certain amount of variance in our movements. It is impossible for a Human Being with as much variation as we have to repeat the same motion time after time consistently. Therefore, attempting to create zero curvature on every shot becomes a very elusive goal and tends to make golf very difficult.

If we are attempting to hit the golf ball with the center of the club head face, create a club head movement (Club Path) of zero degrees or “straight”, and point the club head face (Face Angle) directly at your target (zero degrees), more often than not, you are going to be unaware of which way the ball is going to curve on “non-perfect” golf shots creating a two-way miss.

There are two reasons for this, one is gear-effect which is another conversation, and the second reason is due to human variance. One swing, you may accidentally rotate the club face closed relative to the club path and the ball curves leftward, on another swing, you may have learned from your previous mistake and now you leave the face open relative to the club path and the ball curves rightward.

By Owning YOUR Curve, YOU Can Eliminate the Double Cross!

“Square” is a relative term. If we understand that a contributing factor to the “shallowness/steepness” of the golf swing is the relationship that exist which would be the between the overall height of the athlete and the wingspan of the athlete, for example if the athlete has a wingspan that exceeds their height, the hands will move more away from the center of the body as the hands make the backswing. This will in turn create less hand path “depth” and the athlete will tend to have a more leftward Club Path and a more deciding strike into the ball (Attack Angle). The opposite would also be true for an athlete having a wingspan less than their height, with the hands traveling more around the body during the backswing and swinging more rightward (Club Path) with a “shallower” Attack Angle.

Armed with the knowledge that we are going to swing it either leftward, rightward, or square-to-square, we now can begin to understand where our club head face (Face Angle) needs to be at impact to get the ball to start opposite of the intended curvature. As mentioned earlier, attempting to always have the Face Angle return to zero degrees at impact and getting the golf ball to land near the target is going to be very difficult for a Human Being to accomplish consistently. Therefore, moving them away from a “linear” approach and into a “pattern” approach becomes much easier to accomplish and produces the results wanted more consistently.

Once the Club Path (combination of Swing Direction and Attack Angle) is understood from an individual Biomechanics perspective, we can create a strategy that aligns with how we are designed to move. For example, an athlete has a wingspan that exceeds their height, will create a more “negative” or leftward Club Path at impact. Understanding that the “path bends it” and assuming centered contact between the club head and the golf ball, the ball is generally going to curve rightward (away from the club path). This means that we will need the golf ball to start or launch leftward of the target. Understanding that Face Angle is the first touch point of the golf ball and represents the majority of the factor that will indicate where the golf ball will start in time and space, it now becomes paramount that the club head face (Face Angle) returns “closed” relative to the target line.

Face Angle is a measurement of where the club head face is pointed relative to “square”, which is determined by the position of the Launch Monitor relative to the Target. Face-to-Path is a calculation of the relationship between where the club head face is pointing (Face Angle) and the direction the club head is moving (Club Path). With that said, if we have a leftward Club Path and the club head face (Face Angle) is “closed” relative to the target line, the Face Angle can still be “open” relative to the Club Path which will create a positive Face to Path relationship.

Creating the patterns becomes much simpler due to the simplified approach. If you are determined to create a more leftward pattern from a Biomechanics perspective, then creating a leftward Club Path must be accompanied by a matching “closed” Club Face relative to the target line, and an “open” or positive (+) Face to Path relationship. An athlete wanting to draw the golf ball would need a more “shallow” or rightward Club Path with a matching “open” Face Angle, and a negative (-) Face to Path relationship assuming centered contact.

Consistency Through Built in Margin of Error

Keeping with the idea of creating a pattern when we discuss error, the error becomes much smaller, and it becomes easier to eliminate one of the “misses”. For example, an athlete that is predetermined to make a “shallower” club head path from a Biomechanics perspective will understand that the Face Angle needs to be “open” relative to the target line to match their naturally occurring rightward Club Path. Therefore, if they should swing a little too far rightward, assuming centered contact and the face remains “open” relative to the target line the ball may Hook (cross the target line) some but is still a very manageable miss. This pattern is easy to manage as long as the athlete stays aware that Club Path or Face Angle becoming leftward not only doesn’t fit their Biomechanics, but also produces the worst outcome.

In conclusion, while attempting to create a zero-curvature golf shot can be accomplished, over a large enough sample size is going to produce very few occurrences due to the variable nature of the Human. Also, by understanding the geometric relationships within the golf swing, we can curve the golf ball either way and still maintain efficiency and speed production. While playing from the middle of the fairway is always going to be a great position, it is also important to be able to have a good chance of landing in the fairway/on the green while taking the obstacle that leads to a higher score completely out of play. 

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