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Is your swing broken, or are you just missing the sweet spot?



For the majority among us who often struggle to hit fairways, watching a good driver of the golf ball can seem like a magician pulling your card. How does he do that?!

“If only I could drive it like that, the game would be so much easier,” you think to yourself. And you know what, you’re right. Driving the ball consistently long and straight does make the game easier. Just like the rest of the game, however, it’s a skill you need to learn. And a good place to start is figuring out exactly why you’re hitting drives offline.

Big hooks and big slices can either be caused by a problem with your swing (an inconsistent face-to-path ratio) or something as simple as missing the sweet spot of your driver. Your job is to figure out which one is the culprit before you take any drastic measures such as changing your swing or equipment. If it turns out that you have a repeatable swing, then your wild hooks and slices are likely due to something called “gear effect.”

Related: Learn more about gear effect

Basically, here’s how gear effect works. I’m using right-handed golfer terms, so if you’re a lefty just reverse them.

  • Toe hits usually make the ball move to the left or reduce the amount a golf ball will move from left to right.
  • Heel hits make the ball move to the right or reduce the amount a golf ball will move from right to left.

Let’s look at one of the best drivers of the golf ball I teach here at the Vidanta Resort in Mexico. Jesus Torres played professionally for 10 years all over the world and hardly misses a fairway, so I figured I’d use him for this sample test.


Above is a chart of 10 drives he hit. If you look at the Trackman screen shot, you’ll notice he hit one shot way left. It was his first shot, and the rest of his drives were basically center cut. I told you, he’s a very good driver of the ball.

Below is a list of the face-to-path ratios for his swings, which are highly consistent. His variance only moves from 2.6 degrees to -1.9 degrees, which is very tight.

  • -0.4
  • 1.2
  • 0.4
  • 0.1
  • -1.9
  • 2.6
  • -1.2
  • -0.2
  • 0.4
  • 1.5

His average face-to-path ratio is 0.2 degrees, which shows that his “normal swing” has a face-to-path average that won’t cause the ball to curve offline too radically… that is, unless he hits the ball off-center. Now let’s examine the swing that caused his huge left miss.


Looking at the Trackman screen shot above, you can clearly see that Jesus hit the ball off the toe of his driver. With a slightly negative face-to-path ratio (-0.4 degrees) this ball should have moved gently left. The ball had a -11.7 degree spin axis, however, and you can see it moved way left. How? Gear effect from the toe hit, NOT his face-to-path ratio.

This example shows that Jesus should focus first on hitting the ball in the center of his club face before going out to the range and “working on his swing.” His swing is fine as you can see from his 10 drives; it was just a funky toe hit that caused the big miss.

Many golfers who struggle off the tee may face a bigger problem, but the only way to know for sure is to get on a Trackman or another launch monitor that measures face-to-path ratio and see how drastic your swing variance is. If it’s a fairly tight tolerance, then get yourself some foot spray and see where you’re hitting the ball on your club face.

Remember, let’s not worry about “fixing your swing” until we determine that your swing is actually the problem.

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico ( He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: [email protected]



  1. golfomatic

    Feb 26, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    The great thing about using foot spray at the range is that you can begin to guess pretty accurately where on the face you contacted the ball and associate that with both a feel and a ball flight. After awhile, you don’t need the spray any more to know how you’re contacting it. Thanks, Tom, for the tip about the RiteAid spray – I swear by it; I had another brand in the closet that didn’t work.

  2. Skip

    Feb 24, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    With TrackMan, it’s just a guess that gear effect caused the hook. GC2 with HMT or the new GC Quad, it’s actually measured where on the face contact was made.

  3. Jerry C

    Feb 24, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    Here’s the question. If you can’t find the center of the clubface does that not point out a swing flaw? I agree you need to hit the center before you go fixing something that’s not broken, like path. Tip: Get your foot spray at the $0.99 store. Works just as good as the Dr. Scholl’s for this at 20% of the cost.

    • TR1PTIK

      Feb 24, 2017 at 12:51 pm

      My experience has shown me that if you play and practice frequently enough, that you probably have a repeatable swing. Whether the swing is good, bad, or somewhere in between is anyone’s guess, but chances are with a repeatable swing and a consistent setup you can strike the same spot on the club (or close to it) every swing. If you can then make the necessary adjustments (often in the setup) to find the center of the clubface, you can examine ball flight to tell you what your swing is doing. This is essentially the point of the article as I interpret it.

      Ball flight from a centered strike will tell you more about what your swing is doing than anything else if you don’t have a launch monitor available.

  4. Scott

    Feb 24, 2017 at 9:44 am

    What are some good drills to practice hitting the middle of the club face more consistently?

    • Eddie

      Feb 24, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      Impact tape or athletes foot spray and a large bucket of balls. Slow your swing down until you find the center consistently and slowly work your way back up to full speed.

  5. david

    Feb 24, 2017 at 9:44 am

    why don’t you first check your grip and alignment?

  6. TR1PTIK

    Feb 24, 2017 at 9:18 am

    Good article. I struggled to believe I had a very consistent swing for a long time and would always hit the range to try and fix things that were never a problem. Even after having some lessons with a FlightScope handy I still didn’t really grasp what was happening. It wasn’t until last month when I did a full bag analysis on Trackman that I learned just how consistent and repeatable my swing actually is. Now, I pretty much just focus on ball striking using foot powder spray to detect impact location.

  7. Don M

    Feb 24, 2017 at 9:14 am

    It’s funny to me that club designers seem to be making clubs that don’t have the proper amount of bulge. In theory, if the bulge is proper, Jesus’s toe hit would have started more to the right, and come back to center. In the 460cc era, this type of correction seems to be lost, so we get hooks from toe hits.

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



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



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



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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