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Friday, December 17, 2010

How to Use the "New Ball Flight Laws"

Ok, enough with the theory behind the "new ball flight laws." I said that understanding them could save you several shots per round if you understood them. You're probably wondering how.
  • If you're stuck in the woods, knowing them can mean the difference between getting out or hitting that tree you're stuck behind.
  • They could keep you from going into the woods at all!
  • They could help you get around that big dogleg that you've been unable to conquer.
And all of these things could save you shots without any changes in your skill level. All you need to know is how the ball really behaves when you hit it! And you will, by the time you finish these next two posts.

First, let's get clear on how these new laws actually affect our shot shapes. Remember, Jonny originally asked me about these new laws because of this post about shot shapes. Here's one of the diagrams from that post:

Shot shapes for right-hander

(There's also a left-hander's diagram on the original post, but the only difference is the names of the shots. We're only talking shapes here, so this diagram should do fine.)

Here's the big difference between these new laws and the traditional teaching: The bigger the face angle is relative to the swing path, the more effect the face angle has on the starting direction of the ball flight. Wow! That's a mouthful, isn't it? Let's break that down into four smaller groups of shots, based on the diagram, then we'll see how this affects our shotmaking.
  1. The face angle is perpendicular to the swing path, or nearly so. In other words, we hit the ball pretty straight. That would be the paths numbered 2, 5, and 8. These shots are unchanged by the new laws. If you hit the ball straight, it goes straight. (Of course, 2 and 8 aren't likely to be shots you hit on purpose -- straight pulls and straight pushes -- so we won't talk about them anymore, but they still behave just like you've always expected them to.)
  2. The face angle is only a little off from perpendicular to the swing path. You're just trying to hit a little fade or draw. This would be paths 4 and 6. These two shots stay pretty much the same. They don't start going exactly straight, but it's close enough that you shouldn't have any trouble.
  3. The face angle is nowhere near perpendicular to the swing path. This is what you get when you try to hit a big curving shot. These are shots 1 and 9, the pull-hook and the push-slice. These babies are REALLY affected by the new laws, and they're the ones that typically get us in trouble.
  4. And there are two shots that can fit into any of the other three categories, depending on how much we curve them. These are shots 3 and 7, the push-draw/hook and the pull-fade/slice. If we only curve them a little -- the push-draw and pull-fade -- they almost act like shot 5, which I'll explain in a minute. But if we curve them a lot --  the push-hook and pull-slice -- the new laws really affect them and we need to be careful.
First let's talk about the ones that don't change much:
  • Shot 5 is just your standard straight shot. Easy enough, right? Just aim at the target and fire.
  • Shots 4 and 6 are where you line up either left or right of your target and point your club face square at the target. The ball will start ever-so-slightly more left or right that you think -- almost like a super-small pull-draw or push-fade -- but not enough to make a difference in your aim because you're just playing for a small curve. Aim as normal.
  • The "small curve versions" of shots 3 and 7 are actually affected the most among the shots you might say are desirable. Some of you like to play a little push-draw or pull-fade, which is perfectly acceptable -- many Tour players do the same with great results. Generally, you'll have the club face pointed squarely at the target for these "little curvers." You may remember from an earlier post that the face is responsible for 5/6 of the direction; in this case, it means that the ball will start out much closer to straight than you might expect.

    For example, suppose your swing path is a 12° pull. Since the face is responsible for 10° of that angle and it's aimed straight at the target, the ball will start out as only a 2° pull... and it will curve back toward the target! For a weekend golfer, this is great news. It means that you don't have to worry about a slight pull or push swing messing you up as long as you square up the club face. It'll let you relax and swing more freely. Just aim normally and don't be surprised when the ball seems to fly straighter than you expected.
This post is running long, so we'll wait until tomorrow to talk about the "big curvers," since those are the ones most affected by the new laws. We want to make sure we take the time to understand those shots, since they can save us the most shots!

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