To hit the golf ball straight requires a square club face at impact. You address the ball with the club face square to your target, swing back, and then return the club face to that square position again on the downswing.
If your shots aren't flying in the direction of your target and you know you're lined up correctly then obviously there is a problem. Let's see if we can cure it with a few concepts and drills.
For starters, it is important in your set up to get a good sense of where you are. Feel where your hands are at and remember they need to be returned to that position at impact. A good training aid to use to get this sensation is an impact bag, which is a square shaped bean bag that you hit into with your swing. If your club face is open or closed when you contact the bag, it will automatically correct your club face back to the square position. Doing this a few times should help you get a grip on what impact should look and feel like.
I personally like to imagine a plane, or imaginary wall, that I hit into during impact. I also think of a swinging door where the door opens on the backswing, returns to closed at impact, and on the follow through opens in the other direction.
Without a good grip, it will be very difficult to return the club to its square address position. People tend to naturally want to grip the club in a more neutral position but it is often taught to rotate the hands to a more strong postion to help close the face at impact. This helps in squaring the club face through impact which is a very common problem to have. If you have a tendency to slice the ball then this small change with your grip can make a big difference.
Another thing to experiment with is focusing on making sure the back of the left wrist faces the target at impact. Some people like to imagine the label on the back of their left hand glove facing the target, others imagine a wrist watch. The important concept to remember is that, for a right handed golfer, the back of your left hand should be facing a line parallel to your target at address and should return to this position for impact.
If you're at a driving range, it can be a good idea to place a club along the ground to check your alignment. A lot of golfers are surprised to find they aren't always aimed where they thought they were. If you have trouble aiming correctly, then have a look at Thomas Golf's custom clubs. They have patented alignment technology that an independent research study has shown to improve alignment and shot accuracy.
If you have a specific tendency that you'd like to correct, type that term into the Golfinfoguide.com search engine and you will find some more information relevant to your game.
Better Golf Shots with a Square Club Face
Controlling the position of the club face is one of your most-important jobs as a golfer. If you can successfully place the club face in a square position at impact time after time, you will be able to hit solid shots throughout the round. However, if you are struggling to get the club face in the right spot at the bottom of your swing, it will be difficult to even keep the ball in play. While there are a number of different moving parts to be concerned with during the swing, the club face should always remain your focus - because it is actually the only piece of the puzzle which makes contact with the ball. It won't matter how pretty the rest of your swing is if you can't control the club face, because the results will always fall short of your expectations.
When a golf teacher talks about the club face being 'square', what they really mean is that the face is square to your swing path when you make contact with the ball. Before every shot, you should be picking a target line as well as a swing path that you want to use in order to send the ball on its way. It is important to note that your swing path and your target line are not usually the same thing. Since it is nearly impossible to hit a perfectly straight golf shot, it would be a mistake to think that you can just swing down the line and have the ball float perfectly up to your target. Instead, you will likely need to allow for some curve to the right or left depending on your own personal shot patterns.
If you are a right handed golfer who tends to play a draw, you are going to normally swing out to the right of the target line slightly in order to allow for the ball to curve back to the target. In the same way, a player who favors a fade will swing across the target line to the left in order to let the ball fade back to the right as it flies through the air. It doesn't really matter which way you like to curve the ball, but it is important that you know which way the ball will curve before picking your target and making a swing.
Since the swing happens so quickly, with the club head moving at speeds of 100 miles per hour or more in some cases, you are never going to be able to get the club face square on every single shot. Even the best players in the world hit plenty of poor shots within any given round, so don't place your expectations too high. However, you should still give each swing your best effort with the hopes of squaring it up and hitting a great shot. With practice, you should be able to get more and more consistent with the position of your club face at impact, meaning your ball flights will become more and more consistent as well.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please be sure to reverse the directions as necessary.
Consider a Strong Grip
The grip you use to hold onto the club and the position of your club face at impact are closely related. While there are a variety of different styles of grips that you can use successfully, it is important that you match the style of your grip to the swing you are trying to make. If you are using the wrong grip for your swing, it will be nearly impossible to square the face on a consistent basis. Your grip should provide you with comfort, confidence, stability, and control all the way throughout your golf swing.
For most amateur golfers, using a 'strong' grip is going to be the best option. What is a strong grip? When you look down at your hands while standing over the ball at address, how many knuckles do you see on the back of your left hand? If you can see at least three, you will know you are using a strong grip. Some players can see all four knuckles, but even seeing three means you have your left hand in a strong position. If you can only see two or even one knuckle, your hand is creating either a neutral or weak grip. It is certainly possible to play good golf with a weak grip, but you will give yourself the best chance at controlling the club face if you turn to your left hand to the right in order to form a strong grip prior to starting your swing.
With a strong grip, there will be very little movement of the club face throughout the swing – and that is a good thing. Weaker grips encourage hand movement, especially in the downswing, which means that the club face could be turning in a variety of directions before it finally contacts the ball. If it is consistency and reliability that you are after, a strong grip is likely to give you the performance you desire. For the most part, the club face will be in the same position swing after swing, meaning you can focus on executing other parts of your technique correctly.
Another benefit of switching to a strong grip is that many players find it easier to pitch and chip the ball successfully while using a strong left hand. Again, it is certainly possible to hit good short shots with a weak grip, but the stronger grip will enable you to deliver the club to the back of the ball more consistently. As you practice hitting short shots with a strong grip, you should notice that the club feels more stable through the hit, allowing you to play these shots aggressively – and possibly with more backspin than you were able to create previously.
If you currently use a weak grip and you decide to make a change, it is important to understand that you may be in for a challenging and time-consuming process. Changing your grip from weak to strong is going to completely change the way the club feels in your hands, meaning that you will almost have to re-learn the game from the ground up. While that might sound daunting, it could be your best path toward a future of quality shots and low scores. Controlling the club face is simply easier to do with a strong grip, so investing some time in this process now could lead to great rewards down the line.
The Golf Swing is More than Hands and Arms
One of the big mistakes that is made by the average golfer is failing to understand the role of the rest of their body in the golf swing. Many players think they need to simply swing their hands and arms back and through, while the rest of the body just goes along for the ride. In reality, a proper swing is almost the exact opposite of that approach. Good golf swings rely mostly on the movement of the body to propel the club, while the hands and arms are used mostly to guide the club along the right path.
If you have ever watched professional golf on TV, you have no doubt noticed how relaxed the pros look while swinging the club. They can make such a smooth and easy motion because they are using their bodies in the right way. Without good body movement, it is necessary to rush the hands and arms through the swing in order to develop speed – which will inevitably lead to the club face getting out of position. If you can teach yourself to swing the club with your whole body and not just your hands and arms, you will be on track for a rapid improvement in your overall game.
To improve the way you use your body in the golf swing, consider the three simple tips below –
- Left shoulder gets everything started. Once you have settled in to your stance and taken one last look at the hole, get your swing started by moving your left shoulder away from the target. The best way to think about this move is to try moving your left shoulder under your chin while keeping the rest of your stance as static as possible. Using the left shoulder to start the action is a great way to make sure you are getting a full shoulder turn in your back swing. Many golfers never get a full turn because they simply swing the club back with their hands and arms. Not only with this kind of backswing put the club face out of position, it will also lead to weak contact at the bottom of the swing. You need a good shoulder turn to create speed, and it all starts with a decisive rotation of your left shoulder from address.
- Stay engaged with your lower body. It is relatively easy to get into a good stance prior to starting your swing, with your knees flexed and your back straight. However, many golfers lose that stance early in the backswing, wasting the time and effort that went into learning a good address position. Specifically, it is common for players to stand up out of their stance before the backswing is complete, straightening out the legs as they lean out over the ball. Obviously, you want to do everything you can to avoid this mistake. As your backswing nears the top, focus on holding the flex in your knees so that your lower body will be ready to explode into the downswing. It is the lower body that is the main source of power for the downswing, but it can only supply that power when the knees are flexed properly at the top.
- Let the hips take you home. Now that you have properly flexed knees at the top of the backswing, all that is left to do is drive your hips toward the target in the downswing to generate as much speed as possible. Just as your left shoulder was responsible for starting the backswing, your left hip is responsible for starting the downswing. Rotate that left hip to the left as soon as you reach the top of your swing to start everything in motion toward the target. Your hips should clear through the swing first, followed by your torso, your arms, and eventually your hands and the golf club. If you allow your swing to build up in the proper order, the end result will be a powerful whip at the bottom which sends the ball rocketing into the sky.
So what does all of this have to do with the position of your club face? Everything. If you are creating power by using the bigger parts of your body, your hands and arms will be free to simply control the position of the club face throughout the swing. When it is left up to the hands and arms to create speed, they won't be able to also control the face of the club as necessary to hit straight shots. Spend some of your practice time learning how to power your swing with the big muscles in your body and you will find that your control over the club face quickly improves.
Timing is Everything
It is easy to get caught up in the mechanical aspects of making a good golf swing. In order to strike the ball solidly with a square face, you have to get a lot of things right along the way. However, even if you have the mechanics down pat, you can still hit poor shots due to bad timing. Only when you are able to bring together good timing with all of the necessary mechanical pieces will you be able to consistently produce quality golf.
The tricky thing about timing is that it is fairly easy to time your swing correctly on the range. When you are just hitting balls down the range without anything on the line, you probably won't have much trouble getting into a good rhythm. Hitting one shot after the next with no pressure, you will eventually find a groove and your ball flight will look pretty impressive. Unfortunately, the game is far more difficult on the course, and timing tends to go south once you hit the first tee. There are two specific reasons why it is so hard to time your swing on the course as well as you do on the range –
- Number of repetitions. On the driving range, you will likely stand up and hit several shots in a row with the same club in your hands. That never happens on the golf course. For instance, you might tee the ball up five times in a row to hit your driver, with great looking results coming on the 4th and 5th shots. After seeing those last two balls fly down the range, you will probably feel pretty good about your driver swing. However, you probably aren't going to see those results replicated on the course. Why? Because you will never get a chance to swing your driver five consecutive times within the span of a couple minutes. After hitting a driver, you have to go play the rest of the hole, only to pull your drive out again 20 minutes later on the next tee. It will likely take you nearly two hours to have a chance to hit your driver five or six times on the course, meaning you never get the same rhythm that you find on the range.
- Pressure. Most golfers don't worry too much about where the ball goes when they are hitting shots on the range. Sure, you would like to see it fly straight until it lands, but if you hit a bad shot you will simply line up another ball and try again. On the course, it's not that simple. A poor swing on the course means you will maybe have to go looking in the woods for your ball, or you might even have to pull another ball out of your bag because the first one is lost. The pressure that comes along with having consequences for your swings can do bad things to your timing. Good timing comes from swinging the club free and easy, and there is nothing free and easy about feeling nervous while standing over the ball.
In order to solve these two problems and produce well-timed swings even when you are on the course, you will need to change your practice habits. Instead of standing up and hitting a bunch of drivers in a row, hit one driver and then reach for a different club. Replicate the actual process of playing a round of golf while you are on the range. Obviously you don't need to spread your practice session out over four hours to completely replicate a round, but you should at least be switching back and forth between clubs frequently to mimic the experience that you will have on the course.
Also, in terms of practicing under pressure, it is important that you value each shot you hit on the range. Pick a target, go through your full pre-shot routine, and execute the swing to the best of your ability. Don't simply 'reload' when you hit a bad one – instead, step back and think about what went wrong, and what you could do differently next time. By taking your driving range shots just as seriously as your on-course shots, you will be better prepared to handle the pressure while still executing your swing.
Get Square on the Short Game
Everything written above applies to the short game, only on a smaller scale, with one exception. In the short game, the target line is going to be the same as your swing path, because you aren't trying to curve the ball one direction or the other in the air. Your short game shots should be flying straight, as they won't be in the air long enough to take a turn. Therefore, when you pick out your target on a chip or a pitch, get yourself square to that line and simply try to send the ball directly on to your target.
As mentioned above, using a strong grip will help you keep the club face square while chipping and pitching. In addition to that strong grip, you should also focus on maintaining a firm and flat left wrist at impact when hitting short shots. Your left wrist is basically a reflection of the position of your club face, so keeping the left wrist flat and pointing toward the target at impact will help you keep the club face on track. It is easy to let that left wrist get soft in an effort to scoop the ball into the air, but don't fall into that trap. If necessary, practice hitting a few short chip shots with just your left hand so you can feel the importance of controlling your left wrist. A stable left wrist will provide you with a great feeling of stability through the ball, making your short game far more consistent.
Playing golf with a square club face is the only way you are ever going to reach a point of consistency with your shot making and with your scores. Players who struggle to keep the face square may produce good shots from time to time, but those shots will be the exception rather than the rule. The content above should help you make progress toward keeping the club face square in your swing, as long as you are willing to put in the necessary practice time to make a few changes. Any kind of improvement in golf takes time and effort, but your game could be forever improved if you are willing to work hard while learning how to manage the position of your club face properly.