Ball flight laws (part 1)

In today's article, I want to look at the ball flight laws. Once you get an understanding of these (it's impossible to coach someone properly without this knowledge), you will get a much better grasp of what causes not only your bad shots but also your good shots.

1In previous articles, I've mentioned how important it is to have a centred strike (see the black non-permanent pen mark on the clubface in photo 1, the red mark is a toe strike and the green mark is a heel strike) for both distance and direction control. In this article we are going to add to this and look at the influence of face direction and clubhead path.


So let's start with a couple of definitions and try and explain some jargon as we go along:

Face Direction is where the clubface is pointing at the moment of impact. In the photos below I have used a yellow alignment stick on the floor to indicate the ball to target line (this is an imaginary line extending from the ball to the target and beyond and also extending backwards infinitely. It is a great reference point and as I often explain to my pupils it's probably the only relevant line in golf. If you use the ball to target line to help you aim and align you will never be thrown off by poorly positioned tee markers, teeing grounds facing in the wrong direction etc). Photo 2 shows a square club face at impact (ie. at 90 degrees to the ball to target line). Photo 3 shows a closed clubface at impact (ie. pointing left of the ball to target line for a right handed golfer) and photo 4 shows an open clubface (ie. pointing right of the ball to target line).

2 2 4

Clubhead path is the direction the clubface moves through impact. The green curve represents the path and the yellow alignment stick again represents the ball to target line. Photo 5 shows an in to square to in path. Photo 6 shows an in to out clubhead path ("in" is the golfer's side of the ball to target line and "out" is the opposite side of the ball to target line). Photo 7 shows an out to in clubhead path.

5 6 7

When you combine the face direction and path you get nine different possibilities, each of which produces a different ball flight as per the table below:

Face DirectionClubhead PathBall Flight
ClosedIn to square to inHook
SquareIn to square to inStraight
OpenIn to square to inSlice
ClosedIn to outPush hook
SquareIn to outPush
OpenIn to outPush slice
ClosedOut to inPull hook
SquareOut to inPull
OpenOut to inPull slice


Photo 8 is a highly sophisticated drawing of what each of the ball flights actually looks like.


It's important to note that the face has significantly more of an influence on the ball's starting direction than the path, the ratio is approximately 75% - 25%. That is why it is possible for a right-handed golfer to have a divot pointing left of the target (path) but have the ball start right of the target (due to the open clubface). For instance, if the path is 4 degrees left of the ball to target line but the clubface is 12 degrees open to the path then the ball will start nine degrees right of the path; or in other words 5 degrees right of the ball to target line. It will then slice further right. See photo 9 for a graphic of this.

I appreciate this can get complicated pretty quickly but getting to grips with these concepts will help you understand your shots and ultimately your swing far more which can only make you a better golfer.

Next time we will look at how you can use this information during a practice session to get some really useful feedback.



Weekly Tips

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Get a grip
Tennis players hold the racquet differently to hit different shots so why shouldn't you as a golfer?

The ball flight laws (part 1)
Once you get an understanding of these you will get a much better grasp of what causes not only your bad shots, but also your good shots.

Improve your distance control when putting
A great way to lower your scores is to improve your distance putting, helping to eliminate those card-wrecking three-putts.

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Who is most likely to break their Major duck in 2019?

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