Why You Shouldn’t Try to Hit the Golf Ball Straight

Here’s the dictionary definition of straight: “Extending or proceeding in one single direction, without bends, curves, irregularities, or deviations.”

Excluding the wedges, how often do you hit a full shot that fits that description? Practically never, right? But you probably harbor this thought all the time: ‘I sure would like to hit the ball straighter.

The problem is, your goal is all but unattainable. Ben Hogan himself said so. Instead, what you want to improve is your accuracy. It may seem like a semantic difference, but the distinction is important. By attempting to make the ball fly in a straight line, you decrease your margin of error and invite frustration. Accuracy is about where the ball finishes, not how it gets there.

Forget about ball flight and focus on the target. Let’s say that’s the middle of the fairway. There are three basic shots that will achieve the goal: 1) A straight one; 2) One that starts left of center and curves to the right; and 3) One that starts right of center and curves left. Chances are, either 2 or 3 is your natural shot shape.

Golf is hard enough without trying to hit the ball dead straight. Doing so requires both a swing and a clubface that are precisely aligned with the target at impact, which is not only difficult to pull off, it’s entirely unnecessary. Often, it’s even counterproductive.

For example, say you’ve got a 6-iron shot to a flag placed behind a bunker on the right side of the green; there’s an opening left of the trap through which you can run the ball onto the green. To get it close with a straight shot, you’d have to aim right at the pin, hope to carry the bunker and stop the ball quickly. On the other hand, a left-to-right shot played away from the bunker reduces risk; it will curve and bounce toward the flag.

Bottom line: Stop trying to hit the ball straight. Use your natural shot shape, be it a fade or draw, by aiming wide of targets and letting the ball turn toward them. It’s both easier and more effective.