Geometry Of Ball Flight

Each time I interview and work with a new student I ask them what their goals are. Invariably, each person will say that they want a consistent swing. Most often my response is that they already have a consistent swing; some are consistently better while others are consistently worse. What they are really pursuing is a predictable ball flight. No matter what shape or style your swing takes, the golf ball only goes where the club tells it to. Each ball flight is a predictable result of the combination of three factors: swing path, face angle, and angle of attack.

One of the things that I try to get my students to understand is the effect on ball flight of each of these factors. The ability to recognize the cause and effect of each factor allows you to more quickly diagnose in-swing errors and apply the proper fix. The addition of the Flightscope Launch Monitor to my instruction has been a tremendous tool in bridging the gap between concept and application.


So how do path, face angle and angle of attack affect ball flight? Path (the direction that the clubhead is moving through impact) dictates the spin of the ball. An out-to-in path creates slice spin and an in-to-out path creates hook spin. Face angle dictates the starting direction of the ball and can be measured in relationship to the path or the target. The angle of attack has a larger influence on the initial launch of the ball, but also plays a significant role in that it magnifies the effect of a closed or open face. Let’s take a look at a couple of Flightscope screenshots to see how these add up.

In this first shot notice the slice pattern for this right handed player. The path is moving left, or out-to-in, giving us a negative path number (-8*). The face, however, is also closed or pointed left (-3.6*), which has caused the ball to start left of the target line. It is not an open face that caused the slice! The face was only slightly open to the path, but closed to the target line, thus causing it to pull.

This second shot is a draw pattern for a right handed player. Notice how the path has shifted to the right, or in-to-out, giving us a positive path number (2.2*). The face has also changed to a positive number (2.3*), indicating that it is open. Can you really hit a draw with an open face? Yes! The face is slightly closed to the path, but open to the target line, causing it to push to the right.

If your ball flight is not behaving like you want it to, pay attention to the starting direction and how it curves. Apply these ball flight laws and make the necessary adjustments to your path, face angle, or both.

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