Anyone who reads my articles understands that I believe in the body-swing connection. To constantly keep improving over time, a golfer must strive to improve the body and the golf swing. My experience of doing physical evaluations of students has made it clear to me that the club path is heavily affected by how the body functions. The club path is the path the club head travels to make impact to the golf ball relative to the target.
With that being said, the club face angle at impact is king. The club face is especially important for a player with high club head speed because being fractions off at impact means the ball will be offline and out of play. The club face angle has an effect on the club path because golfers have an instinct to hit the ball towards the target. A right-handed golfer who swings over the top, or out to in club path, which causes a slice, will instinctively have the club face aimed left of the target at impact. If the golf ball is going to be moving to the right after it takes off, a golfer has to get the ball started to the left to keep the golf ball in play. I think most people have a misconception that the club face is open to the target at impact when they hit a slice. The club path has the greatest impact on the ball slicing to the right not the club face.
Give a beginning golfer a good/fundamental golf grip that keeps the face square, and the club path will likely be on plane. An instructor I follow, Andrew Rice, tested what closing and opening the club face at address would do to a golf swing. In the test, Rice closed the clubface so that it aimed at his body. The idea then was to attempt to hit the ball at the target. A closed club face will promote an in-to-out club path. He also tested an extremely open club face with the club face aimed away from his body. The open club face promotes an out-to-in club path. The test confirms that a golfer with an improper club face angle affects the path of the golf swing.
It is important that a golfer be aware of the club face in the golf swing. The best way to gather an understanding of the club face is to practice hitting the golf ball in different directions without changing the swing or path of the club head into the golf ball.
A great drill is to put two alignment rods, or clubs, one in front and one behind the golf ball on the target line. (as seen in the picture) Alignments rods can be purchased at any golf retail store for about $20, or survey sticks can be purchased at the local hardwarestore for $.99 each. Poor alignment makes club face awareness very difficult because a golfer will instinctively will make a swing to keep the golf ball playable. Then put a stick in the ground 5-10 yards in front of the golfer on the target line (as shown in the picture).
I want the student to hit the golf ball to the right, left and at the stick in the ground. Sounds simple, right? Not that easy when a golfer is used to starting the golf ball in a certain direction. A golfer who slices the ball has a very hard time getting the golf ball to start to the right, golfer’s instinct. A golfer who hit a slice knows if the ball starts right it will continue to go farther to the right and out of play.
If the student understands that the club face at impact will determine the direction the golf ball takes off in, it is okay to struggle accomplishing the task. I will only start coaching if the student starts to drastically change their swing. In this club face awareness drill, the swing will change slightly to accomplish each starting direction, but there should not be a drastic change in the club path or swing. The adjustment should mostly be in the club face angle at impact. When trying the drill, take half swings to have a better feeling of the club face. After accomplishing the three starting directions with half swings, start doing the drill with full swings.
To play better golf, golfers need to have a club face that works with their club path. For example, if a golfer swings in-to-out, making the ball curve right to left for a right-handed golfer, the club face will need to be right of the target at impact. If the golfer is going to be turning left, the golf ball must start to the right for a playable ball flight.
Try to start the golf ball in different directions to get an understanding of your club face at impact. There will be one of the three directions — right, left, or straight — that will be difficult. Keep doing the drill until you can accomplish all three with ease. After a golfer can accomplish all three, it will be easier to control the club face at impact on the golf course.
Go see your local PGA Professional to help you understand club face awareness in your golf swing.
Todd Elliott is the PGA Head Golf Professional for Hideaway Beach. Todd is TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Certified as a golf professional. This gives him the ability to give golf specific physical screening to detect any physical limitation that might affect the golf swing. Todd is an active Student Mentor at FGCU; a volunteer with the First Tee program and was presented the 2010 and 2011 PGA’s President Council Awards on “Growing the Game.”