Monday, December 28, 2009

Golf Swing Key Concepts - Part IV

Part IV of this series is about a subject that I've discussed almost relentlessly on this blog and that is the 'new ball flight laws.'

The laws are actually not new, just 'correct.'

Here's the basics:

Initial Ball Flight Direction = 85% Clubface Angle at impact + 15% clubhead path.

Ball Flight Curvature = Clubhead path in relation to the clubface angle at impact.

Before I explain further, let's just show a diagram of the basic clubhead paths.

As you can see, the clubhead moves on an arc on the downswing. Clubhead PATH is the direction the arc is moving.

It should also be noted that you should make contact with the inside aft part of the ball. What does that mean?

Address the golf ball and look at the back side of the golf ball. Now split that back side of the ball into 1/3rds. You want to hit the golf ball on the 'inside' 1/3rd closest to you. Even if you 'swing left' which is something I would ignore for now until you develop your swing and want to take your game to the next level. The classic 'Over The Top' move is really more of the golfer not hitting the inside aft part of the ball than having an 'outside-to-in' club path. In other words, you can be a fantastic ballstriker with an outside-to-in club path *if* you can consistently hit the inside aft part of the ball.

Now, back to the 'new ball flight laws.'

For the most part, initial ball flight direction is due to where the clubface is pointing at impact. So if you hit it dead right, your clubface was likely pointing dead right. If the clubface was pointing left of the target at impact, the ball will start out to the left.

Curvature, be it a hook or a slice spin is due to the club path in relation to the clubface at impact. It's important to note the words that are in italics because it's not necessarily the club path in relation to the target.

What does that mean?

If your clubface is at 2* open (or right of the target) and your club path is also out to the right by 2* of the target, the club path is actually SQUARE to the clubface. This will result in a straight push shot because the face is pointing to the right and the path is actually square to the face.

Now, if you the face was 2* open to the target and the path is 0* (square) to the target, this actually will produce a slice spin. Why? Because that square path to the target is actually outside-to-in to the clubface at impact. So the result will be a push fade of some sort.

This diagram by Brian Manzella helps explain this.

As you can see, the pic above has the clubface pointing slightly right of the flagstick. The path is actually in the direction even more to the right of the flagstick. So the ball starts out about where the face is pointing and then hooks left of the flagstick.

This key concept cf understanding ball flight can greatly help golfer's play better golf. If your shots are starting out dead right and slicing, then you likely have an extremely open clubface at impact. Why? Because obviously the ball starts out where the clubface is pointing and if your clubface is open too much, you can have a square path to the target and still hit a big slice. So at its basic level, in this situation the golfer needs to figure out how to stop getting the clubface so wide open at impact.

The other main point I want to make in this post of the key concepts series is that after much research, better ballstrikers almost exclusively control their clubface better and more consistently.

If you read enough Trackman reports you will find that what tends to seperate good ballstrikers from great ones are consistency in attack angle (usually equates to better low point control) and consistency in clubface control. A good ballstriker may have a 1-2* variation in clubface angle whereas a great ballstriker may have less than a 0.5* variation. Usually the better players are pretty consistent with club path. If they swing with an inside-to-out path on one shot, they are likely to do that on almost every shot. But with the clubface good golfers can go from a closed face to an open face quite often. But the great ballstrikers have a much lesser variance than that.

Some key checkpoints for clubface control are at P4 and P6.

As you can see here, Moe Norman's clubface is on the same angle as his left forearm. That is a square clubface. If the clubface was pointing more towards the sky than the forearm, that would be a closed clubface. If the toe of the club was pointing more straight down, that would be an open clubface.

Here at P6, the toe of the club is pointing up in the air which denotes a square clubface. If the face was pointing more to towards the ground, the clubface would be closed. If the face was pointing more towards the sky, the clubface would be open.

While there are many parts to the golf swing and each of them have their importance, it's my opinion that a quality golf instructor always pays attention to what the golfer is doing with the clubface in their swing and if that's out of whack, they correct that first.



Anonymous said...

Reposting question here as it seems like the "right" place:

Do you understand the physics of the D-Plane? Here's what confuses me: I doesn't make any sense that the "angle of attack" -- which I take to mean the angle with which the face approaches the ball relative to the z-axis (gravity vector) could affect the left-right spin.
Two ways I think about it:

1) Imagine a right handed golfer approaching the ball from 0 degrees (i.e. neither "coming across it", nor "pushing out at it") with a negative angle of attack. Then imagine the same thing from a left handed golfer. From the ball's point of view, these are the same. But the D-plane discussion seems to be saying that in one case the ball would spin one direction (i.e. a right handed draw) and in the other case the other direction (i.e. opposite, a left handed draw)

2) Or in different terms, how can the ball tell which way to spin for a descending (or ascending) club?

Rich H. said...

Fantastic question.

Got to remember that the clubs are constucted in the exact opposite. Lets say a negative horizontal swing plane (aka club path) means that the club path is going left of the target. Doesn't care if you're right handed or left handed, just means the clubhead is headed on a path left of the target. Conversely, a + number means the path is to the right of the target.

So, if a right handed golfer has a horizontal swing plane of -5*, which is left of the target, that means that they have an outside-to-in path.

However, if a left handed golfer had an HSP of -5*, and remember, we are saying that a - number means left of the target, that left handed golfer would actually be swinging inside-to-out.

So it's really the design of the golf club that I think is tripping you up. The toe of a right handed golf club is in the same location as the heel of a left handed club and vice versa.

Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rich,

I think my question is actually about the "vertical" swing plane-- i.e. I was under the impression from previous posts that swinging "up" on the ball led to slice spin and swinging "down" led to draw. My way of seeing (1) and (2) were in relation to that point. Does the question still make sense?

I'm pretty comfortable with swinging out causing a push/draw and visa-versa-- it's the vertical aspect that I can't follow.

Rich H. said...

Vertical swing plane and attack angle are 2 different things. Attack angle. From the face on view, does the club make a downward, descending angle at the ball or an upward ascending angle at the ball. Do you hit down or do you hit up?

Vertical swing plane is the inclined plane the golfer swings on in the downswing. A golfer swinging on the elbow plane on the downswing or the shoulder plane is a vertical swing plane.

Anyway, a downward attack angle and an upward attack angle *help* cause different spins because of what is called 'force vectors.'

If I hit down on the ball, the shaft leans forward. So, grab a club and just lean the clubshaft forward.

Now, take a look at the clubface with that forward leaning shaft. You will see that the clubface is angled more to the right. Not only does the face angle move to the right, but if you were to swing the club, the force of the club would go to the right as well. That movement of the force to the right causes more of a hook spin. So to counter that *if* you want to hit it dead straight, you need to swing the club let.

OTOH, if you swing up the shaft tends to lean backwards. So when you lean the shaft backwards, the clubface will angle to the left as well as the force. Thus you're more likely to get a slice spin with that force vector going left, *unless* you counter it by swinging to the right.

John Graham said...

I think I understand the question a little differently. I understand the question as how does the ball know the difference between a downward angle of attack from a righty or from a lefty.

The ball does not know the difference between angle of attack from a righty or a lefty but the piece you may be missing is, as Rich stated, the vertical swing plane.

For example, let's assume the vertical swing plane is 90 degrees(imagine a ferris wheel) directly vertical up and down. In this case, and this case only, the angle of attack from a righty or left would create no difference in encouraging draw spin in either case.

Now lets assume a 45 degree vertical swing plane(half way between a ferris wheel and merry-go-round). If I looked down the target line from behind the golfer, the 45 degree vertical swing plane for a righty will be on the left side of the target line and the 45 degree vertical swing plane for a lefty will be on the right side of the target.

Now, let's assume that the clubface comes in square to the target. Let's also assume that the righty and lefty both have 4 degrees negative(downward) angle of attack. Hopefully, you can see now that when the righty hits the ball, relative to the ball, the club is moving forward, downward and outward(rightward) after impact until it reaches its low point. Clubface square, path right = draw.

Hopefully, you can also see now that when the lefty hits the ball, relative to the ball, the club is moving forward, downward and outward(leftward) after impact until it reaches its low point. Clubface square, path left = draw.

To sum up. For Right Handers, Downward (negative) angles of attack always cause the impact club path to be to the right of the horizontal swing plane thus encouraging a possible path, face relationship where the path is right of the face. Draw encouraging. Definitely doesn't cause draws.

For Left Handers, Downward (negative) angles of attack always cause the impact club path to be to the left of the horizontal swing plane thus encouraging a possible path, face relationship where the path is left of the face. Draw encouraging. Definitely doesn't cause draws.

You can also just reverse the above for upward angles of attack which is why they may be classified as fade encouraging.

Jim said...

Rich, thanks for the great blog. I have been working with Ted Fort for about six months. He has me taking the club back to about shoulder height and then driving the club into the ball. It has been a struggle to be content with the shorter swing, but the consistency of ball contact etc is much better. I guess my swing would be similar to what I see Gary Edwin promoting. I think you have a great looking swing with a lot of rhythm. My swing thought is to take it back to what feels about hip high, but is really shoulder high, start down slowly and then power down and through the ball. With all your focus on swing mechanics and methods in your blog what is your swing thought or thoughts? Brian Manzella seems to be very negative on a swing that isn't pivot driven. I don't feel my current swing has much of a pivot, but I have not lost distance. Ted keeps telling me that he would like to get more of his students swinging like I am now. What do you think about a swing that appears short and doesn't have much hip turn?

Rich H. said...

I'm not too nutty on hip turn. Too much on the backswing can cause a ton of problems, including loss of power. Too much on the downswing can cause OTT issues. There's nothing wrong with a shorter backswing, although there's nothing wrong with a well executed longer swing. As far as pivot driven swings, your swing will still be pivot driven, but Ted is probably trying to get your hands better 'educated' because you probably had the pivot, you just lacked 'educated hands' and that's what he's trying to give you.