The vast majority of golfers could help themselves by simply gaining a greater understanding of what causes the golf ball to do what; that is, when the collision of golf ball/golf club occurs, what is going on? While this knowledge will not always correct the problem, it would at least be a starting point for where to look. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the facts - the physics of golf club/golf ball impact.

The golf ball is on the face of the golf club for an infinitesimally short time. In fact, so short none of us will actually ever see it - we simply feel it! How long, you say? Try .0004 seconds, four milliseconds, 400 microseconds…you get the idea - not very long! But…during that extremely brief time, the golf ball is programmed for its flight! So, what determines the flight of the golf ball? A golf ball can only do nine things when it leaves the club face:

  • Start straight, start right or start left of intended target.

  • Stay straight, curve left or curve right of target.

  • Fly low, medium or high.

That’s it! Somewhere in those nine possibilities is every golf shot that has ever been hit. I know it seems like it does a million things, but it does not go beyond that list. Physics dictates it so. Here is a brief list of what to look for when it happens with clubface impact.

  • Initial flight is the result of the clubface at impact.

  • The curve on the shot is the result of the clubface IN RELATION TO the swing path, not the target(and contact point as you will see below). 

The clubface can be square, open or closed. The golf ball can be struck in the center, on the toe or on the heel. 

  • If the golf ball is struck in the center, the face remains as it was at address. 

  • If the golf ball is struck on the heel, the clubface closes.

  • If the ball is struck on the toe, the clubface opens.

  • If the ball is struck high on the face, the clubface presents more loft, and less spin.

  • If the ball is struck low on the face, the clubface is de-lofted with more spin.

Now the tricky part…GEAR EFFECT. Gear effect explains how hitting OFF CENTER affects the clubface and resulting spin. When the club’s center of gravity is further from the golf ball’s center of gravity, the more gear effect takes place. HUH? Translation: if you hit your driver toward the heel of the club, the club face closes BUT the ball spins right. A hit toward the toe, the club face opens but the ball spinsleft (again for right-handers). NOTE: Driver only; there is a little gear effect on the irons but much, much less (remember the center of gravity rule). 

So that is what happens with the clubface on impact. Next time, we’ll discuss swing path and its role in the resulting shot!


Dennis Clark is a PGA MASTER PROFESSIONAL and seven-time PGA award winner, including Teacher of the Year and Golf Professional of the Year. Dennis is available for private instruction at Eagle Lakes Golf Club. He can be reached at 239-777-6043 or




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