As senior golfers swing though impact on a standard full shot, the club could be moving at nearly 100 miles per hour.
At this speed, it's difficult to get accurate feedback on where the club face is striking the ball and where the club's sole is hitting the ground.
These two factors are vital as both could ultimately determine the ball flight.
The goal for any iron shot is to deliver the club at impact with its sole (bottom edge) parallel to the ground. If it is parallel, and the club face is square to the intended target, the ball will fly straight when struck from the centre of the club. However, if at impact the heel of the club strikes the ground first, the face will point left of the target and send the ball in that direction. Likewise, if the toe of the club hits the ground first at impact, the face will point right of the target sending shots in that direction (this has nothing to do with the club face twisting at impact which is a common myth!).
To get an accurate reading of where the club's sole is impacting the ground, use lie tape and an impact mat which can be sourced from a local PGA pro. If golfers hit the ground with the heel first, it usually indicates an excessive in-to-out swing path in relation to the ball-to-target line. If golfers hit the ground with the toe first it usually indicates an excessive out-to-in swing path in relation to the ball-to-target line.
Striking the ball with the centre of the club face will produce the most consistent and powerful ball flights. If players impact the ball with the club's toe, the resulting shot will most likely move from right-to-left in the air (for a right handed golfer). The opposite is true for strikes off the heel which will move left-to-right in the air. To test where the club face is striking the ball, use face tape or sprinkle practice balls with talcum powder. After hitting the ball, the powder will leave a mark indicating where the ball hit the face.
Striking the ball with the toe usually occurs when the arms lose their extension through impact pulling the club inside. Strikes from the heel normally occur when the club moves excessively from in-to-out or when a golfer 'comes over the top', swinging the club from out-to-in. To help solve both these problems use the following drill. Place two tee pegs in the ground just over a club head's width apart and practice hitting balls from between the pegs.
This drill will not only help you swing the club through on the correct path, improving where the club face strikes the ball, but will help bring the club sole through impact parallel to the ground.
Look at the Club Face and Sole for Clues to Swing Problems
When you suspect that something is out of place in your swing, you should be looking for any possible clue as to what the problem might be. Golfers are often like detectives – looking for clues high and low until the culprit is located. There are many possible areas of your swing where you could be getting off track, so it is important to keep an open mind as you work on your technique. In this article, we are going to talk specifically about two areas where you can look for swing problem clubs – the face of your clubs, and the sole of your clubs.
Using both the face and the sole of the club to check for swing problems is a great idea because these two locations can record valuable data at the moment of impact. Everything you do in the swing is designed to reach a great impact position, so it only makes sense to check on your performance at that moment. Once you have a good understanding of what is happening at the moment of impact, you will be better able to make decisions about the changes necessary within your technique. Golf is too difficult to just guess at the changes you need to make – use the face and the sole of the club to determine for certain what is working properly and what needs to be fixed.
Of course, just swinging your club through the ball as-is will not provide you with any impact data. You are going to have to setup for this kind of practice session, using some basic supplies which are available at basically every golf shop. In the next section, we will quickly break down the gear you are going to need, and how you will use it to learn about your technique. Once you know how to measure the quality of your swing with the club face and the sole, you will always have the ability to monitor your swing when things start to get out of whack.
It is important to remember that there is a time and place for working on your technique, and you need to avoid getting carried away with the technical side of the game. If all you ever do is analyze the finer points of the swing, you may forget to have the right amount of feel and touch within your technique. Golf is not a game played by robots – it is played by humans, and those humans need to manage their emotions and energy levels appropriately. So, while there is a lot to be learned by checking on your club face and the sole of the club, don't let yourself get too wrapped up in mechanics. Use this tip to check for problems during a practice session, address any problems you happen to find, and then move on.
All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Setting Up a Test
When you decide that you would like to use the sole and face of your club to test the quality of your swing, you will need to be prepared before your range session. None of the equipment you need is particularly expensive or hard to find, but you do have to plan ahead. With the right gear along for the trip to the tee line, you will be ready to learn some interesting things about your game.
First, let's talk about what you will need to check on the sole of the club. The idea here is to see where the sole is contacting the ground as you swing through the hitting area. Ideally, you would like to see that the sole is hitting the ground perfectly in the middle – halfway between the toe and the heel. Is that the case? The only way to know for sure is to set up a test. To test this part of your swing, you need 'lie tape' and an impact board. Lie tape is a product which is designed to fit on the sole of your irons, and it will discolor in the location where you struck the ground. The impact board, as the name would indicate, is a piece of plastic on which you will make the swing. When the lie tape comes into contact with the impact board, a mark will be made on the tape and you will be able to determine how flat your club was at impact.
Before you go out and buy these two pieces of practice gear, ask at your local driving range if they have any that you can borrow. They will almost certainly have an impact board hanging around, and they may be willing to give you some lie tape. Even if you have to purchase a roll of lie tape, you should only need to spend a few bucks overall. With the lie tape on the bottom of your irons and the impact board on hand, you will be ready to go. Later, we will get into the specifics of how you can complete the test.
You will be happy to know that testing your impact position on the face of the club is even easier. To do so, simply apply some 'impact tape' to the face of your irons and hit a few shots. The point where the ball impacted the face will be reflected on the tape, providing you with instant feedback. Again, you may be able to ask for some impact tape at your local range, or you can buy a roll (either in person or online). As an alternative, if you are having trouble tracking down impact tape, you could just sprinkle some talcum powder on your club face. The powder will be displaced by the ball at impact, leaving you with clear evidence of where on the face the ball was struck.
As you can see, testing your swing in this was does not take very much setup, nor does it take much in the way of a financial investment. Once you know how to check on your impact both on the sole and the face of the club, you can add this check to your usual practice routine. You certainly don't need to check on these points every time you practice, but monitoring any changes from time to time is a good idea. It is always best to catch changes to your swing before they get too far down the wrong road.
Learning from the Sole
In this section, we are going to take a closer look at how you can check on the impact position on the sole of your club, and what you can learn from that information. To perform this test, you should be using one of your middle irons. The seven iron is a popular choice, but you could go up or down a club from that point with no problem. Pick your favorite iron from that section of the bag and get started. Apply the lie tape to the bottom of the club, set up your impact board, and make a few swings. When your swings are completed, turn the club over and check the results.
Ideally, you would like to see that you have been striking the club perfectly in the middle of the sole swing after swing. This would mean a couple of things. First, it would be a good indication that your equipment is well-fitted to your needs. Players using ill-fitting gear will often struggle to line up their sole impact on the center of the club. Should you find dramatically errant results in this test, it is likely your equipment – rather than your swing – which is to blame. However, if you are only slightly missing the center of the sole at impact, it is likely you will be able to straighten out that result through some minor mechanical changes.
So how do you interpret the results once you have made a few swings? Consult the list below for help.
- Contact toward the toe. Should you find that the toe of the club is catching the ground as you swing through, the handle of the club is too high in the air at impact. That means the club face will be pointing to the right of the target, and you will usually miss in that direction. To make the necessary correction, try swinging the club on a flatter plane during the backswing. Taking a flatter plane on the way back should shallow out your path as a whole, and your hands should be in a better position when impact rolls around. When you make this change, be sure to complete a full shoulder turn on the way back in order to give the club time to get all the way into position. It might feel uncomfortable at first to swing this way, but you should quickly find that your impact position improves as a result.
- Contact toward the heel. As you would imagine, making contact toward the heel of the club is just the opposite of striking the ground toward the toe. When you hit the turf with the heel, your hands are low and the ball is likely to miss the target to the left. Also, players who strike the ground with the heel end of the sole usually struggle with fat shots as well. Try adding some elevation to your backswing to counteract this problem. Specifically, use your hands more actively in setting the club as you reach the top of the swing. If you are able to get the club higher into the air during your backswing, it should be relatively easy to keep the heel away from the ground on the way through.
As mentioned above, getting results which are dramatically off track during this test is a sign that you need to have your equipment examined. Should you find that you are nowhere near the center of the sole, ask at your local course about club fitting services. The fitting professional should be able to analyze your results, or they will put you through their own process. Once complete, they can either adjust your current set of irons to match your needs, or they can recommend that you purchase a new set which is constructed to your specifications.
To some golfers, checking on the impact position of the club with regard to the sole might seem like a minor point. However, this element of the swing should not be overlooked, as any error with the way you deliver the club to the ball is going to be reflected in your ball flight. Missing the center of the sole at impact by even a small amount can cause the shot to miss to the right or left of the target. Iron out this issue in your game and you can look forward to improved consistency out on the course.
Looking for the Sweet Spot
While you might not have previously known about the importance of putting the sole of the club flat on the ground at impact, you certainly did know that it is a big deal to hit the sweet spot. The sweet spot on a golf club is typically found right in the center of the face, which is why you are trying to hit the middle of the club with each swing you make. When you catch the sweet spot perfectly – which is no easy feat – you will be rewarded with a shot that flies a good distance while holding the target line nicely.
As mentioned above, you can check on your ability to hit the sweet spot by using impact tape. Set a piece of tape on your seven iron (or a similar club), and hit a few shots. Are these shots clustered around the center of the face? If so, you are already doing a great job of striking the ball cleanly. If not, there is something going wrong within your technique, and you need to address the issue right away.
The following points will help you learn from the ball striking issues which have been revealed by the impact tape.
- Contact toward the toe. Most of the time, if you are contacting the ball toward the toe of the club, you are coming out of your swing. In other words, you are pulling up with your head and shoulders before you have gotten all the way through impact. Unfortunately, this is a common mistake made by many amateur golfers. Don't fall into this trap. Stay down all the way through contact, turn your body toward the target while your eyes stay on the ball, and only move up into the finish once you are sure the ball is gone. If you do a good job of staying down in your swing, the ball should find its way from the toe in to the sweet spot of the club more and more frequently.
- Contact toward the heel. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you may find that you are hitting the ball off the heel more times than not. When that is the case, you could be dealing with a couple of different problems. For one thing, you may simply be standing too close at address. Without enough room to work, your swing will send the heel of the club into the ball while the sweet spot misses the mark. If you suspect this issue, back up an inch or so at a time and experiment until you find a comfortable place to stand. Aside from your positioning over the ball, another potential problem is coming over the top with your swing during the transition. This is the classic mistake made by most golfers who hit a slice. If you go over the top in the transition, you will run the risk of hitting the ball off the heel – and you might even hit a dreaded shank from time to time. Work on adding width to your backswing and then drop the club into the slot on the way down to steer clear of the heel.
It is hard to play good golf without hitting the sweet spot on a regular basis. No golfer hits the sweet spot on each and every swing, but you should work hard to maximize the number of times the ball comes off the middle of the club. By striking the sweet spot, you will add distance to your shots and you will be more likely to hit your target as well. Plus, as an added bonus, those hitting the sweet spot will be nowhere near the hosel, meaning shanks are simply not a possibility.
Finding the Sweet Spot with the Putter
So far, we have talked only about your full swing clubs. However, it is just as important to hit the ball on the center of the face with the putter as it is any of the other clubs in the bag. If you find the sweet spot on your putter, you will be able to control your speed nicely and you can hit your line over and over again.
Of course, using impact tape on your putter isn't really going to work. For one thing, you don't swing the putter hard enough to make a mark on the tape anyway. Also, the tape is designed for use on irons and drivers, so it is not the right shape for a putter face. Not to worry – you don't need impact tape to make sure you are doing a good job of catching your putts perfectly in the center of the face.
If you would like to test your ability to find the sweet spot with your putter, try the simple drill below.
- Head out to the practice putting green with your putter, a few golf balls, and two tees. Pick out a hole to use for this drill – the hole should only be a few feet aware from where you are standing. Ideally, the path between yourself and the hole will be mostly flat.
- Set up as if you were going to roll the first ball toward the hole. Place your putter head down behind the ball, and line up appropriately. However, before you actually stroke the putt, you are going to bend down to insert those two tees into the ground. One will be placed in the ground just off the toe of the putter, while the other will go in just off the heel. You will have effectively made a 'gate' for the putter to pass through as you make the stroke.
- With the gate established, hit the first putt. If you manage to strike the ball without touching either tee, you will know for certain that you have found the sweet spot. However, if the club drifts to the outside or inside of the proper path, you will catch one of the tees and the feedback will be immediate.
- Roll a few putts while working on keeping your head as still as possible. With a bit of practice, you should be able to consistently miss both tees while rolling the ball perfectly toward the cup.
Whether you are talking about your full swing clubs or just your putter, it is extremely important to strike the ball cleanly on the center of the face. Solid contact is one of the keys to the game of golf, so never underestimate the importance of this skill as you practice. Once you learn how to catch the ball perfectly on the middle of the club, dedicate yourself to refining your technique so you can become more and more consistent going forward. Now that you know how to use both impact tape and lie tape to check on your impact position, you should be a step closer toward establishing a golf swing you can trust. Good luck!