In learning to interpret your ball flight, there are some basic truths which serve as the foundation for instruction and improvement. Having used TrackMan, the technology the best players in the world turn to for ball flight and club delivery analysis in every lesson for 3 years now, I’ve come to realize how powerful ball flight interpretation is to improvement.
In most cases, given center contact, the direction Face Angle is pointing at impact will determine whether the ball starts right or left.
- For a right handed player, a Face Angle which is open at impact will result in a ball starting right of target and a Face Angle which is closed at impact will result in a ball starting left or target.
What does this mean for interpreting your ball flight?
First, I recommend you make sure you have an alignment stick down and be very aware of what your target is in relation to the alignment stick. It is very difficult for the human eye to pick up the exact Launch Direction of the golf ball. When starting out, it might beneficial to put another alignment stick vertical in the ground on your direct target line to give a better visual understanding what the Launch Direction is.
As you hit balls, get a feel for where the ball is starting in relation to the alignment stick vertical in the ground. Don’t worry about how the ball is curving in the air, just focus on what side of the alignment stick the ball is starting on. I suggest keeping a log either in the notes section of your smartphone or on a notepad for where each shot starts in relation to the stick. You will most likely see a pattern develop.
How does the ball curve in the air?
The Club Path through impact is what creates the curvature of the golf ball.
- A Club Path moving left through impact will produce a shot traveling left to right.
- A Club Path moving right through impact will produce a shot traveling right to left.
- A Club Path traveling down the target line will produce a straight shot.
*This is assuming center contact and a Face Angle of zero at impact. Is true in most cases but not all.
We are now going to add a focal point to interpreting ball flight. Continuing to use your alignment sticks, hit some more shots. In the notes you’re taking, log which way the ball curves in the air adding to where the ball is starting in relation to the vertical alignment stick. Again, another pattern will most likely develop.
How much does the ball curve?
The difference between where the Face Angle is pointing at impact and direction of the Club Path is traveling through impact, determines the amount of curvature the golf ball will have in the air. The greater the difference, the more the ball curves.
- Starting with driver and working down through the bag to lob wedge, it is important to understand the shorter the club is, the greater the difference between face and path would need to be to curve the ball the same distance.
- A small difference between Face Angle and Club Path with driver will produce more curvature than that same difference with a lob wedge.
- A ball struck on the toe or heel will either increase or decrease the amount of curvature depending on the Club Path through impact and the orientation of the center of the face (if struck with a driver).
In golf, the correct information is power. There is no better place gather knowledge for improvement than within your own ball flight! Increase your awareness of the Launch Direction and direction of curvature and you’ll see improvements on the golf course.