For straighter shots, control the direction of the club face as the club strikes the ball.
The main factor in determining the direction of the golf ball is the position of the club face as the club head makes contact with the golf ball. At the impact point, the club face can point in three different directions: 'Open', 'closed' or 'square'. For right handed golfers the following applies, please reverse for left handed golfers. 'Open' refers to a club face that points to the right of target, 'closed' refers to a club face that points to the left of target and 'square' refers to a club face that points directly at the target. Assuming that the club head is travelling through the ball directly online towards the target, the following will occur. When the ball is contacted with an 'open' club face the ball will curve to the right of the target. When the ball is contacted with a 'closed' club face the ball will curve to the left of the target. When the ball is contacted with a 'square' club face the ball will not curve and travel in a straight line to the target.
The main part of the body that controls the club face during the golf swing are the hands. The hands in the golf swing control the rotation of the club face through the golf ball. They should 'roll' over one another through the impact zone with the sensation of the forearms crossing over in that area. This action is not dissimilar from a top spin tennis shot where the bottom hand (right for right hander's and left for left hander's) rolls over the top of the ball and the forearms almost touch each other after impact.
A good exercise to roll the hands through the ball is to split the hands on the grip of the golf club. Hold the club so that the top hand is in normal position at the very top of the grip. The bottom hand splits from the top hand to hold right at the bottom of the grip, next to the shaft. This should leave a gap of three to four inches between the hands.
Take some practice swings, and feel the sensation of the bottom hand turning the club hard over the top hand. The forearms should visibly cross over as having the hands split in this way exaggerates this action. After four to five swings, put the hands back into your normal position again and take some practice swings feeling the same motion.
While taking these final practice swings, get a sensation of where the club face is at impact by feeling the bottom hand (right hand for right handed golfers and left for left handed golfers) through the ball. If the grip on the golf club is correct, the palm of the bottom hand should be positioned so that it is in line with the club face. Therefore, if we control that palm, we control the club face. As the hands and forearms turn over through the ball, feel the position of the palm of the bottom hand as the club travels through the impact area. To time the club face correctly, the bottom palm should be pointing slightly upwards before impact, straight at the target at impact and pointing at the ground following impact.
This is good rotation and will 'square' the club face through the ball producing straighter, more accurate shots.
How to Get the Club Face Square at Impact
There are plenty of important parts that need to come together successfully in order for you to hit a good golf shot, and a square club face at impact is one of those key ingredients. Without getting the club face square to your target line, the ball will not start out on the right path, and it will mostly likely wind up a good distance away from your target. Since the club head can be moving through the hitting area at well over 100 miles per hour in some cases, getting the face square can be quite a challenge. In order to repeat a square position swing after swing, you need to master a number of different swing mechanics. A square club face at impact isn't something that happens by accident – rather, it is something that happens when you put the necessary time and effort into improving your golf swing.
Controlling the club face is a skill that many golfers never fully develop, and because of that, they are never able to consistently control the golf ball throughout a round. Sure, you might hit a few good shots from time to time, but those good shots will have as much to do with luck as anything else. If you are really going to be in control of your game, you need to understand how the movements of your body affect the position of the club face. The good news is that once you improve your ability to square up the club face at impact, a whole new world will open up to you on the golf course. Suddenly, you will have better control of your ball flights, and you may even be able to hit shot shapes that were previously impossible for you to create. Developing your club face control skills is a process that can be challenging and time consuming, but the benefits are certainly worth the sacrifice.
As you go about the process of working on your club face position, remember that you don't want to lose your aggressiveness through the shot. It is easy to become so obsessed with the position of the club face that you forget to turn the club loose through the hitting area. The idea isn't to swing slowly through the ball in order to keep the face square – instead, the idea is that you will position your body correctly during the swing so that you can let it rip at the bottom without worrying about the club face becoming open or closed. A great golf swing is one that allows the player to swing hard while still squaring the club face at impact. It isn't easy to reach that point in your game, but if you get there, you will be able to play the best golf of your life.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please be sure to reverse the directions as necessary.
Understanding the Meaning of Square
There is a lot of misinformation in the golf world, and failing to understand exactly what you are trying to do is a big problem when it comes to executing the golf swing. You can't do something correctly if you don't know what you are trying to do in the first place. While you might know that you are supposed to get the 'club face square at impact', do you really know what that means? If not, you need to receive a quick education in golf mechanics before you go any further.
In golf, as in many other applications, the word square means to form a 90 degree angle with the other object in question. Unfortunately in golf, many of those 'objects' are imaginary lines, so you can't actually see them when you are trying to hit your shots. For the purposes of getting the club face square, the reference point is actually the target line. This is the point that many people miss. Your club face is square at impact when the position of the face forms a 90 degree angle with the target line. A square face at impact will lead to a shot that starts out on the target line, while a face that is pointed to the right or left of that line will leave you off target. If the face is pointed to the right of the target, it is considered to be 'open', while the face pointing left means the club is in a 'closed' position.
So, in order to get your club face square to the target line at impact, you have to have a target line picked out in the first place. This is where your pre-shot routine is so important. Instead of just wandering up to the ball and making a swing, you need to take a step back and pick out a specific target for the shot. You may decide to aim right at the hole, or you might aim a little right or left to allow your draw or fade to bring the shot back close to the eventual target. Remember, you are swinging along the target line, not the line between your ball and the hole – there is a difference.
Another important element in this discussion is your address position. You need to setup properly to the ball so that the club face starts out in a square position before the swing begins. If you have the face open or closed before you even start to swing, there is very little chance you will find a square position at impact. Take great care to build a comfortable, athletic stance that allows you to aim the club directly down the target line. With proper aim taken before the swing starts, you will have one of the major hurdles out of the way.
The only way to really know if you have achieved a square position at impact is to observe the results of your shot – the swing happens to fast to actually see the angle of the club face when it contacts the ball. If your ball takes off on or near the target line that you had selected for your shot, you will know that you have done a good job of controlling the club face during the swing. If not, you will know there was some sort of problem along the way. Carefully monitor your performance in regard to hitting your target line throughout every round so you can make adjustments to your swing technique as needed.
Starting Small to Find Square
The golf club tears through the hitting area at impressive speeds – far too fast to monitor with the naked eye. For that reason, learning how to control the club face and find a square position can be quite the challenge. If you simply stand out on the practice range swinging your driver over and over again trying to learn how to square up the club face at impact, you are likely going to be disappointed in the results. Instead, you should start small by working on chip and pitch shots until you gain the necessary feel to work up to bigger swings. This method might be a little more time consuming, but it stands a much better chance at being successful.
Head to the short game practice area at your local course and find a spot where you can hit some short pitch shots (in the range of 20 yards or so). The spot you choose should be a flat lie with fairway-length grass, and there should be plenty of green in front of you to work with. In other words, you should find the easiest pitch shot you can locate so that all of your attention can be focused on the process of squaring the club face at impact.
Once you have selected your spot, work through the following drill –
- Set a few balls down at your pitching spot, and select a hole on the practice green to use as your aiming point. In this case, you don't want to aim to either side of the hole you have picked out – take dead aim right at the flag. Before taking your stance, stand behind the ball and pick out an intermediate target that you can use to aid your alignment. An intermediate target is something on the ground – a brown piece of grass, a clump of dirt, etc. – that is resting on your target line just a few inches in front of the ball. Once you find that intermediate target, step up to the ball and prepare to take your stance.
- The first part of taking your stance is placing the club head down behind the ball and aiming it at your target. Since you have picked out an intermediate target already, use that point to guide your alignment. Once you align your club face with that intermediate target, you will know that you are properly lined up with the hole. After the club face is settled into place, set your feet and the rest of your stance accordingly.
- Now that it is time to hit a shot, pay careful attention to the position of your left wrist at address, as this is a position you will want to return to at impact. If you can get your left wrist position at impact to match its position at address, you will have a great chance to square up the club face when contact is made with the ball. Your left hand holds most of the control over the club during the swing, so you can use your left wrist as a helpful guide to monitor the position of your club face. Get the wrist positioning right and you will likely be perfectly aligned at impact – and even if you aren't, you will be awfully close.
- Hit a few pitch shots and watch the flight of each one as it heads toward the target. Since there isn't enough distance between you and the hole for the ball to draw or fade, you can simply take note of where the ball lands and use that point as an indication of your success in hitting your target line. If the ball lands on the line between you and the hole, you can be sure you did a great job with the club face. If, however, it is off to one side or another, you will have to go back through your technique to determine what went wrong and where.
- As you continue to hit pitch shots, make minor adjustments to your swing technique until you are able to consistently land the ball on your target line. It may even take several practice sessions until you are able to sharpen this skill, but don't move on to working on your full swing until you are able to pitch the ball consistently with a square face.
Starting with small, short swings is a great way to simplify the golf swing. Everything happens slower when you are hitting a pitch shot, so you can make adjustments easier and get better feedback as well. Dedicate yourself to learning how to control the face of your clubs when pitching the ball first and the challenge of doing so with a full swing will be greatly reduced.
Turning Up the Speed
With the short game work completed, you can now move on to hitting full shots while working on your club face control. Fortunately, the process is pretty much the same as the routine outlined above. Head to the driving range and pick out a target to use for a series of shots hit with your full swing. For this purpose, hitting balls with something around a seven iron will be a good choice. After picking your target and selecting your club, hit a few shots (again using an intermediate target to guide your alignment). With these shots, you will need to watch the starting line of the ball flight carefully as there will be plenty of time for the ball to curve in the air before it lands.
As you begin to hit full shots, you will quickly notice that it is nowhere near as easy to hit your target line as when you were pitching the ball. This should come as no surprise – you were hitting the ball around 20 yards in the air, and now you are probably hitting it 150 yards or more. The increased speed between those two distances means that your timing has to be that much better in order to find a square position at impact. If you are having trouble squaring the club up at just the right time, consider using the tips below –
- Quiet your hands. Players who use their hands actively during the golf swing will have a harder time reaching a square position on a consistent basis. Your hand action will never be as consistent as the rotation of your shoulders or hips, so try to take your hands out of the equation – especially early in the swing. If you can key your backswing with a great shoulder turn and then allow your lower body to drive the downswing, you will have a better chance of getting the club square. It is tempting to use your hands actively in the swing because it feels like that action will help you gain power, but the opposite is true – trust your body rotation to move the club and you will gain both power and accuracy.
- Finish your backswing. If you are leaving the club face open at impact on a regular basis, you may be cutting your backswing off before it has finished. Make sure you are giving yourself plenty of time to finish the backswing, because that rotation is necessary to get the club into a good position. When the backswing is cut short, the club face will start down in an open position, and it will likely stay that way on through impact. Focus on your rhythm and remember that there is no need to rush from the top – the ball isn't going to run away before you hit it.
- Pull with the left hand in the downswing. Should you find yourself pulling the ball to the left due to a closed club face, your right hand may be getting too involved in the early stages of the downswing. As you transition from backswing to downswing, focus on the sensation of pulling down with the back of your left hand. While you are pulling down, keep your right hand 'quiet' and just allow it to come along for the ride. If you can successfully limit the role of your right hand early in the downswing, you should be able to get rid of the closed club face problem.
Don't be in a rush to work all the way up to your driver without first gaining control over your shorter clubs. Each time you reach for a longer club, you add speed to the swing, and you add difficulty to the task of hitting a quality shot. Make sure you are consistently hitting your target line with the shorter clubs before you get up to the long irons and woods. Throughout the process, use the tips above to make any corrections that are required, and you should start finding that elusive square position more often than ever before.
Don't Forget About Putting
Hitting your putts with a square club face is a requirement if you wish to roll the ball into the hole on a regular basis. Since the putter 'swing' is the slowest of all, you might think that getting the face square would be rather easy – but that isn't always the case. It is easy to get close to square with the putter, but close often isn't good enough. If you want to make your putts instead of rolling them just over the edge, you need to get your putter face into a perfect position at impact.
The best way to ensure your putter face is square at impact is to take your hands out of the stroke entirely. Your goal should be to make stroke that uses your shoulders to rock the putter head back and through with no input from your hands or wrists. When you do this properly, you will not only keep the putter face square, but you will also gain control over the speed of your putts. Simply put, putting is easier when you move the putter with your shoulders instead of your hands.
As you are working on that shoulder-driven putting stroke, remember that the rest of your body needs to remain still while the putter is in motion. Specifically, make sure your lower body is holding its position nicely. Your legs should remain in place, with a slight flex in your knees to keep all of your big muscles engaged. Should you allow your legs to move from side to side during the stroke, you will have trouble getting the putter back to a square position, even if you do take your hands out of the equation. Along with a steady lower body, your head should also be holding its position throughout the stroke. Keep your eyes down on the ball and your head steady until well after the ball has been struck.
Although putting can be very difficult, it is quite simple when you get down to the basics – control the stroke with your shoulders, and keep your head and your lower body stable throughout the stroke. If you can hit on those basic points, you should be able to deliver a square club face to the back of the ball time after time.
Golf becomes a lot easier when you are playing with a square club face at impact. Of course, finding that square position is easier said than done, so you will need to invest plenty of practice time along the way to develop your skills in this area of the game. Use the content above to guide your improvement, and remember to start small with simple pitch shots before working up to full swings. Stick with the process even if there are struggles along the way and you will be rewarded in the end with powerful shots that fly directly at your target.