How Understanding the 9 Golf Ball Flights, Will Improve Your Game.
Understanding how the Golf Ball Flight is created, will give you a solid foundation to begin to shape your shots. And if you think that it’s too advanced for you because you’re a high handicapper, then think again.
In this article, I will cover the Golf Ball Flight laws and show you that with a clear and concerted approach to your practice, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to work on being a player rather than just a golfer.
Some of the most common questions that I hear on the driving range, are; “Why am I always hitting it like that?” “Why can’t I hit it straight?” “Why is it going over there?”
These, and many other questions, are usually shouted in frustration, and almost always include some form of expletive!
I used to be the same, and to some extent, I still ask those questions, but now I know the answers, and that means I can make adjustments.
So let me help you.
So picture this. You’re on the tee box and you’re faced with a 180 yard Par 3. You have bunkers left and right at the front edge, and trees either side of the green. You can ‘cut’ it in from the left, or ‘Draw’ the ball in from the right. But, if you miss in any direction, you’re in the bunkers or worse, in the trees. What do you do to create the golf shot you want? Well let’s have a look.
What causes the different Golf Ball Flights?
To keep this simple, let’s start at the very beginning. We’ll leave the heavy physics of dynamic lofts and various lie angles for another article.
Your Golf Ball flight is determined by the relationship between 3 things. These are;
- Target Line
- Club Face
- Swing Path
So let’s look at these three conditions in isolation.
An imaginary line that extends from where you are aiming, through to the centre of the golf ball. Concentrating on the target line assumes that your body line is parallel to the target line at the address position.
Target Line. Learn to be a Golf Sniper
Imagine being a sniper and you have to hit the bullseye. You have a powerful rifle with a telescopic sight attached. Hitting the bullseye requires that the telescopic sights and the rifle’s barrel, are perfectly aligned to one another. If the sights are pointing slightly left of the barrel, then no matter how straight the bullet goes, it will never hit the bullseye.
In the golf swing, your body line is the telescopic sights, whilst your swing is the rifle’s barrel. Your success is judged by how well you get the two aligned.
During some rounds, I have seen a fellow player setup at address, with their body either open or closed to the target line. Because the target line has no effect on the swing path, they have unknowingly aimed away from their intended point. Yet it comes as a complete surprise when they miss the green, or more commonly, the fairway.
The relationship between the body line and the target line, is one of the main constants within your golf swing. Which is why you should pay particular attention to this part of your golf, by setting up a golf practice station. Click the link here to read my article on how to set up a great golf practice station.
Club Face Angle
85% of the ball’s initial direction (start line), regardless of swing path, is determined by where the clubface is pointing at the moment it strikes the ball.
Before technology such as Trackman, Foresight and SkyTrack came along. It was widely understood that the ball flight and the direction upon which the golf ball started, was due to the path of the club and not the angle of the club face. That was totally incorrect!
Now we can analyse the moment of impact in more detail, we find 80% of the golf balls’ starting direction, is actually determined by the club face rather than the swing path of the club. So we should really understand what position our club face is in at impact.
The club face can be in three positions.
In the following examples, I will demonstrate club face positions in relationship to the swing path only.
The difficulty with understanding the club face and how it affects the golf ball flight, is knowing what it’s in relation to. Is it the target line or the clubs swing path? Both have different effects on the ball and ultimately the combination of the following 3 relationships determine the ball flight.
- Swing Path to Target Line
- Club Face to Target Line
- Club Face to Swing Path
This is why golf is hard! So let’s break it down further to make it a little simpler. If we say that the swing path is constant and square to the target line, then the following is true.
Initial direction of golf ball flight:
Shot starts left = Clubface is left of target
Shot starts at target = Clubface is straight to target
Shot starts right = Clubface is right of target
Curvature of golf ball flight:
Shot curves left = Clubface is left of swing path
Shot flies straight = Clubface is perpendicular to swing path
Shot curves right = Clubface is right of swing path
Clubface + Swing Path
The shape of the golf ball flight is determined by the angle of the clubface, in relation to the swing path the club is taking at the moment the ball is struck.
Your swing path is the arc that the club head scribes around you as you swing it. In reality, the swing path is three dimensional with the clubhead moving left and right, forwards and backwards, and finally upwards and downwards. Complicated I know.
Yet for our purposes, we will view it from above, in a two dimensional, horizontal plane. When viewed from above, there are only 3 possible Golf Swing Paths, and which one you have during any Golf Swing, depends on the direction the club is travelling into the ball.
The three golf swing paths
Each of the above swing paths do not dictate the entire ‘Golf Ball Flight Trajectory’. The swing path does dictate the curvature of the ball to a very large degree, yet it is the relationship of the club face, to the swing path, that gives you the shape of the Golf Ball Flight.
So let’s dig into this.
The 9 Basic Golf Ball Flights
The image above shows all the Golf Ball Flight Trajectory of the 9 ball flights. It is organised by start direction (Clubface) top to bottom, and shot curve (Swing Path), left to right.
By watching your golf ball. Where it starts and how it curves through the air. You will be able to get an understanding of what you’re doing. And then begin to practice better and more effectively to become a better player.
To look in further detail, the 9 golf ball flights are as follows;
1. Pull Hook Golf Ball Flight
2. The Hook Golf Ball Flight
3. The Pull Golf Ball Flight
4. The Fade Golf Ball Flight
5. The Straight Golf Ball Flight
6. The Draw Golf Ball Flight
7. The Push Golf Ball Flight
8. The Slice Golf Ball Flight
9. The Push Slice Golf Ball Flight
Conclusions with Regards Draws Fades and Straight Shots
So looking at the nine standard shots detailed above, what can we take away and use next time we are on the range? After all, there is no use in reading this if you can’t get something from the info is there?
All straight golf shots, regardless of if they were pushed or pulled, have one thing in common. The club face is always square to the swing path.
So if you have a tendency to push straight then you are swinging In to Out. Or vice verse, if you have a tendency to produce golf shots that are pulled straight. Then your swing path is Out to In.
It is worth noting that the most difficult shot to achieve, is the straight one. This is because, in order to achieve this, all 3 factors have to be perfectly aligned. That’s to say the face has to be square to the target line and perpendicular to the swing path, whilst the swing path has to be square to the target line also. By far the easier flights to achieve are the Draw and the Fade.
In all draw golf shots, regardless of if they are pushed or pulled. The club face is always closed to the swing path.
So if you have a tendency to produce a Push Draw, which is a nice golf shot to have. You will be swinging in to Out. Alternatively, as above, if you produce a pull draw. Your swing path is out to In.
Fade Shot (Referred to as the Slice in some cases)
In all fade golf shots, regardless of if they are pushed or pulled. The club face is always open to the swing path.
So, as with the shots detailed above. If you have a tendency to push fade, you will be swinging in to Out. And if you tend to produce pull fades, you are swinging from Out to In.
Do you want to get better at playing golf?
Regardless of how many articles you read, videos you watch or lessons you have, unless you decide to make a change, your golf abilities will simply remain where they are. If you’re happy with that, then great! Golf can be enjoyed at any level and I certainly play with friends who are happy no matter how they perform on the course. And no matter how long they wait for me to find my ball in the rough.
However, if you’re like me and believe that you can achieve more, then there are some changes to consider making. Now you’re armed with a lot more knowledge and understanding about your golf ball flights, it’s time to get serious about those changes you need to make. And for that I recommend the following steps.
- Pay attention to the weak areas in your game from tee to green. What is your most common miss? For me, I have recently had a tendency to Pull Hook my mid to long irons. Therefore I have been working on this portion of my game at the range. Using the information within this article, I have produced great results.
- Put together a practice plan to work on these weak areas and build in a ‘go to’ shot that you can rely on when things start to go south. For me, when the wheels are falling off, I tend to go to a ‘Pull Fade’ shot shape off the tee. It isn’t ideal but I am confident that I can pull it off 90% of the time, and that’s what you need.
- Always use a Golf Practice Station when on the range. It will eliminate any errors with ball position and body line management, giving you the best chance to grind away at specific elements. It really does work.
- Make your practice varied and fun. Go play an imaginary course whilst on the range. Or better still, use a range that has TopTracer installed. This will keep your brain active and engaged and help you learn the moves you’re working on.
- Finally, have a specific goal to work towards. Don’t be wishy washy with your intentions. Be specific and be happy to place a date on when you want to gain tangible results.
I love golf and I love to improve myself in any way possible. Hopefully you have enjoyed this article and if so, please share this and browse the website, where I am sure you will find some more useful and engaging articles.