In the last issue of Coastal Breeze News, my column Skill Development Part I gave readers an overview of why developing skills should be the main focus of a golfer’s plan to improve. Working on skills, and discovering certain techniques that help accomplish each skill, are the overall goals. Many skills were listed in my previous column, and now I will be breaking each skill down one column at a time. This series of columns will attempt to provide an understanding of each skill, and provide practical application to improve the skill.
Solid contact is the first skill we will discuss, and the most important skill for many golfers. It’s simple, if a golfer can consistently make better contact he/she will be a happy golfer.
“Gear effect” is the main reason solid contact is so important. Gear effect is the term used to explain how and why hitting the golf ball off-center changes the ball flight. When the ball contacts the face somewhere other than the center of gravity (CG), it causes the face to change its orientation and affects the spin of the golf ball.
Gear effect when hitting a driver plays a bigger role than when hitting irons. The CG varies from club to club, but also from manufacturer to manufacturer. For this reason we will not use center of the club face when talking about solid contact. As a side note, this is a huge reason to get custom fit for golf clubs, especially the driver. The main reason we need to know gear effect is that it can cause a ball that was going to be in play to turn into one that is not in play.
As important as solid contact is to every golfer, for all the reasons mentioned above, it is usually not the skill to focus on when trying to improve, even if the golfer is not hitting it solid. In some improvement performance processes solid contact can be improved while working on other skills, especially for a less experienced golfer. The golfer that needs to focus on the skill of solid contact the most is the golfer who has developed a contact point pattern that is not in the correct part of the club face. Usually this pattern is towards the heel or the toe of the club with the irons, and the driver pattern can vary because it is played off a golf tee. The pattern is consistent, but consistently not ideal.
For the remainder of this column we will focus on the golfer who has a pattern that is consistently off the desired contact point, such as the pattern seen in Photo 1. This golfer found the same point on the toe of the club face eight out of 10 times, but he also found variables at impact to hit the golf ball straight. The golfer’s club face is closed, left in this example because he is right-handed, but contactis on the toe of the club face, so the ball starts right off where the club face is pointed at impact (Gear Effect). Continually making these two variables negate each other is difficult, especially when under pressure, or while handling other variables such as uneven lies, hitting out of the rough, etc. Hitting 30 seven-irons in a row on the range that seem pretty good is not a big problem for this golfer.
The first step of the process is to set up to the golf ball. Place a golf tee, pool noodle, or something that will not hurt you if you hit the object, just outside the toe of the club. Then hit 10-20-30 golf balls, while trying to discover what helps not hitting the object. During the process monitor contact point with Dr. Scholl’s foot spray, dry erase marker, or face tape applied to the face of the club. (In my case, the Foresight Launch Monitor monitors contact, as seen in Photo 1.)
Questions need to be asked during this process, or the golfer needs to ask himself these questions if he is not assisted by a coach. The most important question is, if the golfer is missing the object and improving contact, how is the golfer accomplishing the task of not hitting the object just outside the toe of the club? If the golfer does not figure out how the goal is being accomplished when the pool noodle is taken away, he/she will get the same results as before. The goal is to add an external object or focus to create a new internal feeling that helps the golfer hit the
golf ball solidly.
Another example is to apply the dry erase marker, foot spray or face tape on the club face, and then make a horizontal and vertical line to make four equal quadrants on the club face, as seen in Photo 2. Now try to make contact in one of the quadrants. The next shot try to contact another quadrant, until contacting all four quadrants has been accomplished. This is a wonderful skill development drill.
My goal as an instructor is not to change the Photo 1 golfer’s whole approach. The golfer in this example is pretty successful with this pattern, I could really mess him up if I tried to change his entire approach.
The practical examples above are based on figuring out techniques that work for the individual, instead of a generic technical solution being determined by the coach or the golfer. The best learning is done through self-discovery, not “how to”
If you have a contact point pattern that is not conducive to good, consistent golf, follow these applications, and let me know how the process worked for you.
Todd Elliott is the Head Golf Professional at Hideaway Beach Club on Marco Island, Florida. Todd is a PGA and CMAA member. Todd is Titleist Performance Institute Level 3 Golf Certified. To contact Todd email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @elliottgolfpro.