Golfnutter: Ball Striking – Part 3


It’s better than sex was the claim made in last week’s column. “Yeah right,” I hear you doubters mutter, but it’s true nonetheless.

I am of course referring to the moment the ball leaves your club and starts to arc up slightly right of target.  The sensation in your hands suggests your club merely stroked the cover of the ball rather than smash it to oblivion – even though you swung at full power.  Eyes confirm what soft hands promised as the ball’s arc takes it back to centre and on to the flag.  A full shot absolutely flushed, square to target…. Yep, it’s better than, for sure!

Last week’s feet-together drill focused on hitting balls from a practise tee whilst limiting our swing to a 9 o’clock – 3 o’clock arc.  Done correctly, many medium to high handicappers would have noticed this achieved greater distance with their 7-iron than normal – in spite of using what amounts to just a half-swing.

How to transform this newly-acquired swing-path to the full swing, and for all clubs – that is the big question.  It is a huge task and one with no short-cut.

The golf swing – a thing of beauty.The golf swing – a thing of beauty.

One reason it’s so difficult is the number of variables involved.  The feet-together drill promoted a flush square-to-square shot because of greater balance and rhythm, arms being aligned to a static spine, and a natural release caused by the wrists rotating through the hitting zone.  But there is far more going on than just these factors, so when the full swing is attempted even more variables come into play.

Ever wondered why your 8-irons and up go straight, but 6-irons and below slice?  It has to do with the loft of the club.  The more loft the greater the back-spin, whereas less loft increases the chance of side-spin.  A typical slicer’s out-to-in swing-path may impart minimal side-spin on a ball struck with a loft of 37 degrees (typical 8-iron) or more.  But when loft angle drops below 34 degrees (7-iron) most slicers start to struggle as side-spin takes over.  The club with least loft is of course the driver.

Hogan’s swing never broke the glass.Hogan’s swing never broke the glass.

Another reason the task is so challenging is due to the square-to-square golf swing being far from a natural movement.  Take the swings of baseball, cricket, hockey, tennis; generally speaking, they are the result of natural movement.  Not so in golf.  And what makes it more frustrating is unlike those other sports, the bloody thing is stationary – just sitting there waiting to be hit.  Yep, there’s nowhere to hide.

Which brings us back to advice offered in the first of these three articles on ball striking – read Ben Hogan’s book; Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf.  This will confirm correct grip and stance, without which no amount of swing development will work.

Another wise saying has to do with the adage there are no shortcuts to better ball-striking.  A full and effective swing change entails hours of hitting golf balls, solo as well as under the tutelage of a professional instructor; someone accredited to a professional golfer’s association.  And remember, one range-hour for each minute of instruction.  If you’re serious about swing-change, plan on a minimum of five lessons with each one being sufficiently far apart to allow for the one-hour-one-minute guideline.

Lastly, don’t plan on playing to your handicap anytime soon.  The first part of your game that disappears when undertaking a swing-change is your scoring.  Expect it and embrace it.  Judge your progress by ball-flight, not scores.

Recap: Ball Striking Part 1 dissected all nine ball-flights, ranging from pull-hooks right the way through the spectrum to the push-slice, and identified 85% of us as slicers.

Part 2 attempted to show medium to high-handicappers that they are capable of hitting longer square-to-square shots on target, through the feet-together drill.  It also introduced the notion of release.

Part 3 addresses the challenge of converting the feet-together drill to the full swing, with all clubs.  And here I cry wolf.  Your swing is as unique to you as is your body shape, fitness, suppleness and strength.  No advice therefore can ever replace the value of effective hands-on teaching.

Tell the pro at the outset what your aspirations are.  Make sure he/she knows they are not dealing with a one-tip quick-fix dreamer.  Rather, they are being asked to prepare a five-lesson plan of development aimed at maximising your potential – from slicer to striker!

Many who follow the suggestions outlined here may struggle to become genuine ball-strikers, such is the difficulty involved.  But I can promise you this, your game will improve and with it your enjoyment.  In any event, sex is over-rated.

Good luck,