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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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Graduating from the Professional Golf Management program at Eastern Kentucky University, Michael started his professional career as an Assistant Golf Professional. After a brief hiatus from the industry, Michael began to teach golf part-time at the Kendall Academy where Dave Kendall helped Michael find his true calling and passion in life. In addition to being exposed to Trackman, Michael was also exposed to Scott Hayes and “The Golfing Machine”. Scott Hayes was paramount in exposing Michael to the “science of golf” which has consumed him ever since. Without knowing the difference between kinetics and kinematics, Michael knew that there was a piece to the puzzle that was missing and quickly added his first set of force plates to go along with his Trackman. The force plates immediately unlocked the world of ground reaction forces and Biomechanics which led Michael into the BioSwing Dynamics group including Mike Adams, E.A. Tischler, Terry Rowles, etc. Getting a crash course into how the anatomy affects the motion of the golf swing, as well as how the forces and torques are acting on the anatomy gave Michael the piece to the puzzle that he had been missing all along. Michael wanted to create a performance training environment where everything was measured and quantified, and opinions didn’t matter. In November of 2020, Measured Golf opened for business. In addition to coaching athletes of all skill levels, Michael also works with several tour players and serves as an Advisory Board member to Swing Catalyst. Michael also consults and works with several other industry leading technology companies and continues to attend and present at education events around the world.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. lambs

    May 1, 2022 at 4:30 am

    I’m going to hang myself…straight !!!

  2. Bob

    Apr 30, 2022 at 5:04 pm

    Cliff’s Notes:

    Everybody needs to have and know their preferred curve. If you draw the ball, aim at the right side of the fairway. If it draws, you are in the middle of the fairway. If you hit it straight, you are on the right side of the fairway. Vice versa for a preferred fade.

    Very simple.

    If you hook or slice, quit.

    • Acemandrake

      Apr 30, 2022 at 6:05 pm

      True. I play a fade & my “miss” is a straight ball.

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Equipment

Davis Love III was still using a persimmon driver in 1997?!

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The revolution of metal drivers was happening quickly in the early-to-mid 1990’s, but Davis Love III was set on sticking with his Cleveland Classic Oil Hardened RC85 persimmon driver. He wasn’t oblivious to the emerging technology, though. He knew exactly what he was doing, and why.

“The Cleveland has been in my bag since 1985,” Love III wrote in his 1997 book, “Every Shot I Take.” “It was given to me by a good friend, Bob Spence. I experiment with metal drivers often; I find – for me, and not necessarily for you – they go marginally longer than my wooden driver, but they don’t give me any shape. I find it more difficult to create shape to my drives off the metal face, which is important to me. …I also love the sound my ball makes as it comes off the persimmon insert of my driver.

“I’m no technophobe,” he added. “My fairway ‘woods’ have metal heads … but when it comes to my old wooden driver, I guess the only thing I can really say is that I enjoy golf more with it, and I think I play better with it…golf is somehow more pleasing to me when played with a driver made of wood.”

Although his book came out in 1997, Love III switched out his persimmon driver for a Titleist 975D titanium driver in the same year.

It was the end of an era.

During Love III’s 12-year-run with the persimmon driver, though, he piled on four wins in the year of 1992, including the Kmart Greater Greensboro Open — now known as the Wyndham Championship.

Love III, who’s captaining the 2022 Presidents Cup United States team next month at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C., is playing in the 2022 Wyndham Championship in nearby Greensboro. In celebration, we took a look back in the archives to see what clubs Love III used for his win in 1992 for an article on PGATOUR.com. We discovered he was using a Cleveland Classic persimmon driver, in addition to a nostalgic equipment setup.

In our latest Two Guys Talking Golf podcast episode, equipment aficionado and co-host Brian Knudson, and myself (GolfWRX tour reporter Andrew Tursky), discuss Love III’s late switch to a metal-made driver, and why he may have stuck with a wooden persimmon driver for so long.

Check out the full podcast below in the SoundCloud embed, or listen on Apple Music here. For more information on Love III’s 1992 setup versus his 2022 WITB, click here.

 

 

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Opinion & Analysis

Why the 2022 AIG Women’s Open is a momentous week for the women’s game

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The 47th Women’s British Open, currently sponsored by AIG, is unquestionably historic.

Not only is the purse a record $7.3 million, but this week’s venue has a darker, less inclusive past than it would like to be remembered for.

Despite holding 16 Open Championships, the Ryder Cup, Walker Cup and a Curtis Cup, in 2016, the membership controversially voted against permitting women to join the club.

Having then courted controversy and after receiving a ban from hosting The Open, they predictably reversed the decision, and three years later allowed their first ever female members.

It’s been a long time coming but, from now on, things are definitely on the up.

Tournament director Zoe Ridgway told Women & Golf that, “Along with our partners at AIG, we have a real ambition to grow the AIG Women’s Open. We are creating a world-class championship for the world’s best players and, as such, we need to provide them with the best golf courses in Great Britain and Ireland to compete on.”

She continued, “Muirfield is certainly one of these and it will be a historic moment when the women tee off on the famed layout for the first time. That is a moment which we hope becomes iconic for golf and encourages more women and girls into the sport.”

2009 winner, Catriona Matthew, hit the historic first tee shot yesterday, the two-time winning Solheim Cup captain symbolically teeing off alongside another home player, 22-year-old Louise Duncan.

From one stalwart and veteran of the tour to the fresh face of Scottish golf, Duncan won the 2021 Women’s Amateur Championship before becoming low amateur at the Women’s British Open at Carnoustie, 12 months ago.

Duncan turned pro recently, missing her first cut at the Women’s Scottish Open last week, but bouncing back in today’s first round, a 4-under 67 leaving her in third place, just two off the lead.

There is something particularly special about links golf, and certainly when it hosts a major, but this week seems to have additional sparkle about it.

Yes, there are the practicalities. For example, this year will mark the first time the players have their own all-in-one facility, available previously to the male competitors.

Ridgway explained, “It will have dining, a gym, physio rooms, locker rooms, showers, and everything that they need to prepare for a major championship.”

This week is momentous in so many ways. It will be tough, windy and cold – links courses are – and there will be a very deserving winner by the end of the 72 holes, but the event is summed up by Visit Scotland CEO Malcolm Roughead:

“It sends the signal that the women’s game is being taken seriously.”

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: My BIG guys golf trip WITB and building a custom TaylorMade Spider GT putter

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This weekend is my big guys golf trip. We have a great group of 16 guys who play a mini Ryder Cup style tournament for a trophy and major bragging rights. Trying to put together the two full sets I will bring with me. I love custom golf clubs and the My Spider GT program from TaylorMade is awesome! I built a custom Spider GT that matches my custom Stealth Plus+ driver!

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