Ball Flight Laws

When I ask a player what they would like to get out of our lessons, the number one answer is consistency.  Understanding the ball flight laws of every golf shot will help you improve your consistency by helping you understand why your ball flew the way it did on every shot.  I describe the ball flight laws often to help players become aware of what their club was doing through impact.  This awareness leads to a better understanding of what the club needs to do during a golf swing.  It also helps a player manipulate the club better to hit specialty shots.  

How would you like to hit a shot like Bubba Watson's 40 yard hook out of the trees at the Master's? Understanding the ball flight laws will help you become a better, more  and more consistent shot maker.

Proper Alignment

First of all, you have to make sure you have great alignment.  It is critical that you setup so that your club face is pointing at your target.  If you think you are on target when in fact you are not then you will have issues understanding the ball flight laws and applying them when trying to learn the cause of your flight paths.  So please practice getting the club and your body aligned to the target correctly.

Ball Flight Laws: Club Face vs. Club Path

There are two main aspects to determining how a ball will get from point A to point B.

  1. The Club Face determines the initial starting direction of the golf ball.
  2. The Club Path, relative to the Club Face will determine the amount of curvature (hook or slice spin).

Club Face = Initial Direction

The direction that your club face is pointing at the moment of impact is essentially the direction your ball is going to start.  Therefore, if your club is aimed at the target, then your club at impact can be either square, open or closed relative to you target.

Square Face at Impact

When you strike the ball with a square/straight face at impact your ball will start straight towards your intended target.

Open Face at Impact

When you strike your ball with an open face, as a right handed player, your ball will start straight to the right of your intended target.  The more open the club face the more the right the ball will start.

Closed Face at Impact

When you strike the ball with a closed face, as a right handed player, your ball will start to the left of your intended target.  The more closed the club face the more the ball will start to the left.

Club Path = Hook or Slice Spin

It is not quite as simple as stating that club path equals side spin.  The ball flight laws are a combination of club face and club path.  The hook or slice spin is determined by the club path relative to the angle of the club face.  So, no matter what your club face angle is at impact, you can have three scenarios relative to that face angle.  You can have a path that is straight in line with the face direction, or one that moves inside-out or outside-in the face direction.

An inside-out path is one where the club head is closer to your body than you target line right before impact and is farther away from your body than your target line just after impact.

An outside-in path is one where the club head is farther away from your body than your target line before impact and closer to your body than the target line after impact.

Square/Straight Path

A square path relative to the direction of the club face at impact means that the ball will continue to fly in its initial direction dictated by the club face.

Inside-Out Path

An inside-out club head path relative to the club face at impact will impart hook/draw spin on the golf ball.  For right handed players, this will cause the ball to curve from right to left.

Outside-In Path

An outside-in club head path relative to the club face at impact will impart slice/fade spin on the golf ball.  For right handed players, this will cause the ball to curve from left to right.

Ball Flight Laws: 9 Possible Results

It is true, regardless how hard it is to imagine, that there are only 9 different possible results for every golf shot hit into the air.  I know that it is hard to believe based on some of the results we have all had trying to hit a great golf shot!

Please see the examples below of the 9 possible ball flights.

Ball Flight Laws Set#1 - Square Club Face x 3 Club Paths

  • square face with square path = straight shot (RH and LH players)
  • square face with inside-out path = draw - start straight and curve left (RH players)
  • square face with outside-out path = fade - start straight and curve right (RH players)

Ball Flight Laws Set #2 - Open Club Face x 3 Club Paths

  • open face with square path = push - start right and stay on that line (RH players)
  • open face and inside-out path = push draw - start right and curve left (RH players)
  • open face and outside-in path = push fade - start right and curve right (RH players)

Ball Flight Laws Set #3 - Closed Club Face x 3 Club Paths

  • closed face and square path = pull - start left and stay on that line (RH players)
  • closed face and inside-out path = pull draw - start left and curve left (RH players)
  • closed face and outside-in path = pull fade - start left and curve right (RH players)

How about a ball flight laws quiz?

Here a few examples for you to try and figure out what the club head was doing through impact.  These examples are for both right handed and left handed players.  The answers will be side specific.

  1. Ball starts straight at your target and flys straight to your target.
  2. Ball starts left of your target and curves to the left.
  3. Ball starts left of target and does not curve.
  4. Ball starts right of target and curves to the left.
  5. Ball starts left of target and curves to the right

Answers:

  1. RH and LH - square club face and square club path.
  2. RH - closed club face and inside-out path relative to club face angle. LH - open club face and outside-in path relative to club face angle.
  3. RH - closed club face and square club path relative to club face angle. LH - open club face and square club path relative to club face angle.
  4. RH - open club face and inside-out path relative to club face angle. LH - closed club face and outside-in club path relative to club face angle.
  5. RH - closed club face and outside-in club path relative to club face angle.  LH - open club face and inside-out club path relative to club face angle.

Trackman Research

The Trackman company is one of the premier golf ball launch monitor manufacturers in the world.  Many professional players and coaches use their systems to analyze their ball flight statistics.  Many of the top club manufacturers use their products for custom club fitting.  Trackman has done extensive research in the area of ball flight laws.  I am sure to no ones surprise the formula for calculating how much club face vs club path, along with other elements, affects ball flight is a little more complicated than my two bullets up above. If you would like to learn more regarding Trackman's research, please click here

I hope you have found this lesson to be helpful.  Understanding these principles helps a player better understand what their club is doing during the golf swing.  It also helps players know what their club must do in order to hit shots with shape.  Every player can benefit from this knowledge.  

Good luck with your practicing and playing.  May you reach you golf goals sooner with the help of www.free-golf-lessons.com.

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