Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dr. Gary Wiren & The Ball Flight Laws

On January 24th of this year, Dr. Gary Wiren made a speech at the PGA Teaching Summit in conjunction with Trackman discussing the ball flight laws. During that speech, Dr. Wiren claimed that he was falsely accused of having the ball flight laws incorrect in his 1991 PGA Teaching manual.

Most of the speech revolved around Wiren going on the offensive against Stack and Tilt instructors Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer for their interview with Charlie Rose where they proclaim the PGA Teaching manual got the laws of ball flight wrong.

In the speech, Wiren references statements in his PGA Teaching Manual that state the following:

‘The direction in which the ball starts will always be a result of a combination of swing path direction and clubface position.’

‘It is sometimes incorrectly stated that the ball starts on the swing path line. This is only true when the face is at right angles to that line.’

Dr. Wiren did state that he has been asking for the PGA Teaching Manual to be updated for some time now, to no avail and that he felt that he had the ball flight laws correct, but they were accurate. Dr. Wiren claims that when he had heard that his manual was ‘wrong’, he was shocked to find out that the claim was his ball flight laws section was wrong because they were ‘laws’, so how could they be wrong? That’s a bit short sighted in thinking because the ‘law’ at one point in time was that the Earth was flat and that ‘law’ wound up being proven wrong. Well, unless you ask Sherri Shepherd.

With that, I decided to do some investigation of the ball flight laws in the PGA Teaching manual myself. Here’s what I found.

1. Dr. Wiren did in fact state the things above in the 1991 PGA Teaching Manual.

2. One of the errors I found though was that ‘the higher the clubhead velocity, the greater is that particular vector force moving the ball’s initial direction closer to the swing path line. This Trackman chart (provided by John Graham www.johngrahamgolf.com) tells a different story (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

3. The main gripe that I heard was that the diagram in the ball flight laws was confusing. I found some legitimacy to this point as particularly when they discuss an ‘outside-to-in’ path and a closed clubface, they say it will automatically result in a pull hook. But it never says whether or not the clubface is closed to the path or closed to the target. I can have a clubface closed to the target, but still open to an outside-to-in path and hit a pull-cut.

Then there was this Brian Manzella YouTube video discussing this subject.

The best way I can compare this to is it’s like a math student who is presented with a math problem to solve that takes quite a few steps and the student has to ‘show their work.’ The student then gets a couple of steps of the equation correct, but then gets up and leaves and claims that because they got those couple of steps correct, then they know the answer.

To Dr. Wiren’s credit, he does say that the initial direction will *always* be in between the face and the path and will favor more towards the face. So while the diagram is a bit confusing, the fact that he used that the word ‘always’ in reference to the ball leaving somewhere in between the face and the path and leaning towards the face, he’s got an excellent point.

I won’t say that he got the ball flight laws correct per say, but I will say that he didn’t get them incorrect. And unless there’s something I’m missing, I would not find Dr. Wiren at fault for the PGA getting the ball flight laws incorrect.

The only problem that I had with Dr. Wiren’s PGA Teaching Summit speech is that I felt like he was implying that the PGA had the ball flight laws correct since 1991. Perhaps I’m reading into that incorrectly. However, here’s proof from certain, well established and popular PGA instructors who got the ball flight laws wrong and still have them wrong.

And I could go on YouTube and find countless PGA members with incorrect ball flight laws. In fact, a forum member showed a few months ago of him doing a Google search on the ball flight laws and the first page, every single one of the links had the incorrect ball flight laws.

So why did the PGA get the ball flight laws wrong?

For starters, like I stated (and Dr. Wiren stated), his work on the ball flight laws was incomplete. Personally, this is a shining example of why I believe that more instructors should not be afraid to give detailed instruction. When you give the alternative (incomplete instruction), golfers get confused and start drawing their own erroneous conclusions.

However, if all of this gets PGA instructors to accept the correct laws of ball flight, I’m all for it because in the end, golf will be better off for it.


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