Ball Flight Laws

Ball Flight Laws – 9 Shot Shapes

The ball flight laws are simply the type of shot shapes that are produced by the different combinations of club face and path at impact.

The use of high-speed cameras and launch monitors means we have a much deeper understanding of how the golf ball reacts at impact.

Having a better understanding of why the ball is doing what it is doing should give you the opportunity to work on the right aspects of your swing to make it better.

You will also have a wider variety of shots in your locker to use during a round of golf.

Old Ball Flight Laws

“swing path sends it and clubface bends it”

In the past, many PGA teaching professionals would tend to use this phrase to explain the ball flight of their students, even though they were aware it didn’t always seem to be correct.

As devices like Trackman became more common along with high-speed photography it was clear that this idea was flawed.

The direction that the clubface is pointing at impact is the biggest factor determining the starting direction of the ball. Roughly 80% is down to the position of the face.

The swing path accounts for the other 20%.

Whether the ball will curve and how much depends on the relative direction of the face to the path of the swing.

The new ball flight laws can be used to tell you what your swing was doing at impact.

David Leadbetter on the new ball flight laws

Clubface Is All Important

So you hopefully realize that controlling the clubface is the most important factor in determining where the ball will start and eventually end up.

If you want to hit the ball dead straight then you will have to strike the ball with a square club face angle while the path is square to the target.

The majority of professionals aren’t trying to hit the ball straight! They want to give themselves a bigger margin of error so most play with a stock shot shape of either fade or draw.

For example, if you decide to play with the fade shape then you can aim down the left to allow for your standard fade. If you the ball straight then you’ll probably just end up on the left side of the fairway or green. If you fade the ball too much then you’ll probably just finish up on the right-hand side of the fairway or green. On the other hand, if you’re trying to keep the ball dead straight you bring misses in both directions into play.

Most have developed their swings in such a way as to produce a particular shape of shot to eliminate one side of the golf course as much as they can.

How does the Swing Path affect your shot

Your swing path is the imaginary line that the clubhead takes through space. Depending on how you swing the club you can have one of three swing paths.

It will either be square, in-to-out or out-to-in. The swing path is always relative to the ball to target line.

This combination of three swing paths and three face angles means there are a total of nine flights in the new golf ball flight laws.

Square Face

If you have a clubface that is square to your swing path then there will be one of three outcomes.

  • A neutral or square path will produce a straight shot.
  • An out-to-in path will result in a shot that goes left target.
  • And in-to-out path will produce a shot that goes to the right of target.

Open Face

If you strike the ball with a clubface that is open to the path then you will get the following results.

  • A neutral or square path will produce a shot that starts right and curves further right.
  • An out-to-in path will result in a shot that starts left but curves to the right.
  • And in-to-out path will produce a shot that goes to the right of the target and then curves further right. 

Closed Face

If you hit the ball with a clubface that is closed to the path then you will get the following results.

  • A neutral or square path will produce a shot that starts left of the target and curves to the left.
  • An out-to-in path will result in a shot that starts well left but curves to the left.
  • And in-to-out path will produce a shot that goes toward or to the right of target and then curves to the left. 

The degree of difference between the clubface and the path of the golf swing will determine how much the ball curves in the air.

How Do You Create Side Spin?

Side spin is really the effect of the spin axis of the ball being tilted from the horizontal. The amount of spin and the angle of the spin axis will determine the amount the ball will curve left or right.

The angle between your swing path and clubface will determine the amount of “side spin” imparted on the ball.

The more open the face when you hit the ball the greater the amount of slice that will be created.

Striking from a different part of the clubface can also have an effect on the ball flight.

What is Gear Effect?

When you connect with the sweet spot then the club’s center of gravity of the club is lined up with the center of gravity of the ball. If you had a square path then that would result in a straight shot.

If you don’t hit the sweet spot then it will cause the clubface to rotate. The golf ball will also rotate. If you strike with the heel of the club then that will impart sliced spin on the ball. The office is true with a strike.

This is known as “gear effect”. If you strike towards the top or bottom of the club then a similar rotation also occurs.

Your longer and less lofted golf clubs will tend to exhibit gear effect much more than lofted irons.

How To Use The Ball Flight Laws

Understanding the ball flight laws means you know the relationship between your clubface and path at the point of impact. This should allow you to work out what is going wrong with your swing and make appropriate changes.

This should help you keep your driver on the straight and narrow more often but sometimes you might need to curve the ball deliberately.

For example, if you regularly see the ball start left of target before curving back to the right you know that your clubface is open to the target line at impact which causes it to start left. The face is also open to your path which is what causes the ball to slice.

More accomplished golfers can use this knowledge in order to influence the flight of the ball to move it around obstacles such as trees.

For example, if you wanted to draw the ball around a tree you would need to aim the clubface a little to the right of the tree and then make sure your path was from in-to-out. This would mean the face is closed relative to the path and therefore the ball should draw to the left.

Ball Flight Laws: Conclusion

Analyzing your ball flight should allow you to understand your launch conditions at least in terms of your clubface and swing path. While other factors such as the attack angle can affect where the ball goes it is the path and direction the face is pointed that are far and away the most important.

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