In the past decade, golf instruction has evolved, mostly due to the TrackMan Radar System. TrackMan analyzes the entire ball flight and the club head from waist high to waist high. Trackman measures 26 different data points and parameters based on these analysis. Technology has had an impact on many businesses, but Trackman has been revolutionary for golf instruction because it has helped disprove previous ball flight theories.
Theodore P. Jorgensen wrote “The Physics of Golf” in 1994. This book changed my teaching beliefs and has helped me become a successful teacher. There is no guessing for me during a lesson. Based on a student’s ball flight, I know the club face direction at impact and the club head path.
D-Plane is a new golf instruction theory that originated from “The Physics of Golf.” TrackMan uses the D-Plane theory to produce data. TrackMan and D-Plane teach us two important facts that a golfer needs to know. First, D-Plane teaches that the face direction at impact determines the golf ball starting direction, and club path into the ball determines how the golf ball will turn after the initial launch. If the club face is aimed right at impact, the golf ball will start to the right. If the club path comes over the top or comes from the outside, the golf ball will turn right for a right-handed golfer, also known as a slice.
A great example is Bubba Watson’s wedge shot that hooked 60 yards around the trees during the first playoff hole at the Masters. If you observe a picture that shows Bubba’s impact position the club face is slightly open. For those who think a hook is because the face is closed at impact, this examples shows that theory is incorrect. The announcers on TV many times are not up to date with ball flight laws and communicate incorrect facts.
Secondly, the D-Plane ball flight theory only works if the golf ball is contacted in the center of the golf club. Off-center hits make the club face move at impact, and the golf ball turn after the initial launch. This is known as Gear Effect. For a right-handed golfer, if the toe of the club face contacts the golf ball, the club head will turn to the right, and the golf ball will turn left. The exact opposite will happen if the golf ball strikes the heel of the club head, as seen in the picture. How can this ground breaking information help us play better golf?
Never do anything in the golf swing that compromises solid contact. A golf instructor cannot evaluate your ball flight correctly unless the golf ball is struck solidly. Ninety percent of my lessons are focused on getting the student to hit the golf ball in the center of the club face. When solid contact is achieved consistently, I can fix a student’s ball flight.
To achieve solid contact, try practicing with face tape on the golf club, or mark the club face with a dry erase marker to determine where on the club face you are contacting the golf ball. If you are consistently contacting the toe or heel of the club, go to Walmart and buy a beach noodle. If you are hitting the golf ball in the toe, put the noodle inside the golf ball when practicing. The noodle goes just inside the club head at address. If you make the same swing that resulted in a toe hit, the beach noodle will go flying. The noodle is a good teaching aid because it will not hurt if you hit it. This will help fix the problem without thinking too much. The only thought will be: Do not hit the noodle.
The most important step when trying to hit the golf ball solid is getting custom fit for golf clubs. When fitting golf clubs for length, I am only focused on club-to-ground contact. I am not worried about how tall you are or how long your arms are. If you are hitting the ground behind the golf ball with a standard length golf club, I will have you try a club that is ½ inch short of standard shaft. This will usually raise the club face contact from the ground to the golf ball. The contact may be low on the face, but I have taken the ground out of play. No one has ever hit a golf shot when hitting the ground first.
The next step is fixing the improper swing technique caused by the improperly fitted clubs. Fitting is all about impact and ball flight. Golfers who have extra-long clubs have no chance to make solid contact consistently. The golfer inevitably has to stand up in the posture on the downswing to miss the ground. How consistent can you be when moving your body and arms vertically when making a downswing? Having a driver or irons that are extra-long help hit the ball farther one out of 10 swings. However, the average distance will be dramatically farther with a club golf club that is fit properly.
This is the same reason why swinging hard does not help golfers hit the golf ball farther. Solid contact is the key to hitting the golf ball farther, hitting the golf ball consistent distances with each club, and hitting the golf ball straight. Making solid contact equals lower scores. I would not recommend the recreational golfer study Trackman and D-Plane, but I do suggest taking golf lessons from a PGA Professional who studies them both.
Go see your local PGA Professional to see how you can achieve solid contact consistently.
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.”