When swinging a golf club around the body, there are a number of different checkpoints players can use to see if their club face is in the correct position.
A common mistake some golfers make is to believe they must keep the club face pointed at the ball for as long as possible during the back swing. This is not the case as a technically sound back swing moves away from the ball on an inside and upward plane. Keeping the club face pointed at the ball throughout this path would in fact close it in relation to the target.
To ensure you have a square club face position throughout the swing, use a mirror or video camera to check these five positions. If using a mirror or video camera, make sure it is located on your right side (for a right handed golfer) three meters back and facing down the target line.
Position 1 – Half Way Back
As the club moves away from the ball it swings upwards and should reach a point where the left arm and club shaft are parallel to the ground with the club head in front of the hands when viewed from down the line. At this point, the bottom edge of the club when viewed from behind should be parallel to the spine angle.
As the wrists hinge upward and the club shaft points upward towards the sky, the club face should begin to set in the correct position. The club face is square when the bottom edge is parallel to the back of the left wrist and left arm (assuming the left wrist has not bowed).
When the club reaches the top of the back swing, the shaft should be parallel or near parallel to the ground. At this point, the club face should again be parallel to the back of the left wrist and left arm.
Position 4 – Half way down
At the half way down point of the down swing, the club face should now mirror the same point during the takeaway. The club shaft is parallel to the ground, the club head in front of the hands when viewed from down the line and the bottom edge of the club is parallel to the spine angle.
This will be the hardest thing to see in a mirror or video camera but should be self-evident if correct. At impact, the club face should be pointing straight down the target line, sending the ball away straight and true.
After impact, the club face should rotate fully mirroring the positions of the back swing. If the swing sequence is correct, the follow through should be free and flowing. Follow these checkpoints and you are sure to hit straighter shots.
What Square Clubface Checkpoints Throughout the Swing
If you know anything at all about the golf swing and the technique that goes into creating a good swing, you already are familiar with the issue of 'square'. In the golf swing, 'square' refers to something that is perpendicular to its target. Specifically, this word is used in reference to the clubface. When the clubface is square, it is perpendicular to the target that has been selected for the shot. At impact, a square clubface would be perfectly perpendicular to the target line for the shot, and the ball would fly (generally) in the correct direction (there are other factors involved, of course). So, given the importance of having your clubface as square as possible throughout the swing, you should focus on techniques that are going to help you move your swing in this direction.
In this article, we are going to deal with the concept of square as it relates to a variety of positions during your swing. Obviously, the most important point in the swing comes at impact, when you need to make sure the clubface is square if you are going to strike a solid shot. However, you can use a number of checkpoints leading up to impact to make sure you are on the right track. If you can get your clubface into a square position throughout the swing – which you will confirm by monitoring the checkpoints included below – you will stand a great chance to hit a quality shot. On the other hand, if your clubface is struggling to find square throughout the swing, there will be almost no chance for you to 'save' the swing at he last moment.
The ability to monitor and correct your own swing is something that has the ability to take you to the 'next level' on the golf course. Sure, you can work with an instructor to improve your swing – and that is a good idea – but that teacher isn't going to follow you around day after day to make sure you are sticking with your improved technique. In the end, golf is a solo game and you are going to have to know how to monitor yourself properly if you are going to play well round after round. It isn't always the best golfer that comes out on the top of the leaderboard – many times, it is simply the golfer who can fix his or her mistakes quickly that will shoot the lowest score.
Many amateur golfers think the golf swing is too complicated to actually understand, so they settle for just changing their technique based on feel as they go around the course. This is a misguided notion, and it leads to the outcome of countless players never really getting any better. Instead of settling for the status quo, challenge yourself to learn a little bit about the golf swing so you can correct your own mistakes on the fly. Have you ever been in the middle of a round when your game just seems to go off the tracks for no reason? Most likely, something technical in your swing has gone wrong when this occurs. By educating yourself on the basics of the swing – such as the positioning of the clubface – you may be able to make the changes you need quickly in order to save your score. You are never going to play at your best every round, but you can take steps to improve on your bad days so that your average round quickly becomes better than ever before.
All of the instruction 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.
Address is Critical
Most people start thinking about the golf swing by paying attention to the moving parts, but taking that approach would mean getting ahead of yourself right from the start. Before you even concern yourself with the moving portion of the swing, you need to confirm that you are in a good position at address. An accurate and stable stance is an incredibly important part of the golf equation, but it is still overlooked or taken for granted by most amateurs. If you are willing to put a bit of time and effort into your address position, you just might be surprised to find how much you can improve.
Getting the clubface into a square position at address isn't particularly difficult, but it might not actually be as easy as it seems at first. In order to position the clubface square to your target line, you have to have identified a target line in the first place – something that many golfers never do. You need to understand that a straight line between your ball and the hole isn't necessarily your target line. There are a few variables at play here which can affect how you eventually choose a target line for each shot. Those are as follows –
- The expected trajectory of the shot. This is the big one. If you are planning on hitting a draw, it wouldn't make much sense to aim directly at the hole, would it? Of course not. If you aim directly at the hole and then proceed to hit a draw, you are certainly going to miss to the left of the target. So, in order to give yourself a chance to actually place the ball near the target, you will need to aim out to the right (in this example). Therefore, the target line that you use for the shot is going to be well to the right of the target, rather that pointing straight at it.
- The design of the course. Many golfers never quite grasp the concept that the hole itself doesn't need to be your target for every shot. While it would be great to hit your ball right up next to the cup time after time, that simply isn't going to happen. Golf is a hard game, and you are going to miss your target more often than you are going to hit it. So, with that in mind, you will need to think strategically when picking your target line for a given shot. For example, if the hole is cut near to a water hazard, you will likely want to aim away from the water (and the hole) in order to give yourself some margin for error. By using the center of the green as your target instead of the hole itself, you will be able to get away with a shot that flies slightly off line without finding your ball in the bottom of a pond.
- The conditions. You always need to factor in the conditions when picking out a target line for any shot. Is the wind going to affect your ball as it flies toward the target, or are you playing on a mostly calm day? Is the turf dry and firm, or is it wet and soft? You need to think about any of the course and weather conditions that could affect your shot before you go ahead and finalize your aim. Professional golfers do a great job of weighing the conditions of the course before hitting a shot, and you should be doing the same.
So, only after you have properly considered all of the factors above should you finally settle on the exact target line for your shot. Then, once you have that line picked out, you are going to use it to set your clubface square at address. If you use a line from your ball directly toward the hole as reference for the clubface, you will have aimed incorrectly in most cases. Be sure your clubface is properly square to the chosen target line as you stand over the ball and you can then proceed through the rest of your swing with confidence.
The Classic Halfway Back Checkpoint
One of the traditional checkpoints for the golf swing when it comes to the position of the face (and a number of other fundamentals) is the halfway back position. Right off the bat, we should point out the fact that the name of this checkpoint is a little bit misleading. It isn't technically the halfway point in the backswing – rather, it is just the point where the club is parallel to the ground on the way back. So, if you are evaluating your swing on video, you will want to pause your video when the club reaches a point that is parallel to the ground after the takeaway has been completed. Many golf teachers use this point as a observational checkpoint simply because it is so easy to pick out.
When the club does hit this 'halfway back' point, you want to see the clubface in a position that roughly matches up with the angle of your spine. So, since your spine is going to be naturally tilted slightly down toward the ground from your hips, you should see the clubface in a similar position. Unfortunately, many golfers are unable to hit this checkpoint successfully, and the rest of their golf swing suffers as a result.
Commonly, amateur golfers will end up in an open position at this point, meaning the toe of the club is pointed up toward the sky. If you use your hands too actively in the takeaway and the early stages of the backswing, it is very likely that the club will be wide open when it is halfway back. This is a classic amateur golfer mistake, and it can lead to a number of problems. Most often, it will lead to a slice, as the clubface will still be wide open when it makes contact with the ball at the bottom of the swing. To avoid the slice, you are going to need to make some form of adjustment between this checkpoint and the bottom of the swing, but that is tough to do. Most of the time, no correction will be made and the shot will be a failure.
If you do find that you are making the mistake of opening up the clubface early in your backswing, work on using your shoulders to control the takeaway rather than letting your hands do the work. Specifically, focus on keeping your right hand as quiet as possible in the first few moments of the backswing. When your right hand stays out of the way and simply goes along for the ride, you will be in a much better position at this first checkpoint (and on through the rest of the swing, as well). It will be difficult to make this change at first, as you are probably quite used to using your hands in the takeaway. However, if you stick with it and put in plenty of work on the practice range, you can clear this hurdle and your ball striking will quickly begin to improve.
At the Top
While the halfway back position is certainly a popular one for golf teachers to use in their instruction, there is no other point in the swing as popular as the top of the backswing for analysis. When you see swing videos paused for review, it is almost always at the top of the swing when the backswing is turning into the downswing. By pausing a swing recording at this crucial point, you can learn a number of important facts about the kind of swing that is being made. While one still picture isn't going to tell you everything you need to know about the swing in question, it will do a good job of letting you evaluate the basic fundamentals being used.
When the club gets to the top of the swing, there is a brief moment where it actually stands still, and this is the moment that you want to use for your analysis. If, at this point, the clubface is parallel with your left arm, you can feel good that you have the face square to the target line. Most good golfers, with a few exceptions, are able to find this position time after time. Review your swing on video and check specifically for this point. If you see that the clubface and your left arm to in fact match up nicely, you can move on knowing that you have the face where you need it in order to strike accurate shots.
However, there is a good chance that you might not be quite in the right position at the top when you do this check. If that is the case, you need to know how to 'read' what is going on with your clubface in order to make the right fix. Use the points below to evaluate your swing on correctly on this point.
- Toe of the club pointing toward the ground. If the toe is pointing down toward the ground, you are in an open position and the shot you are going to hit is very likely to miss to the right. Many amateur golfers find themselves in this position at the top, as it is a continuation of what was seen at the halfway back stop. Most golfers with an open clubface at halfway back will still be open when they reach the top, as it is very difficult to correct your clubface position during the process of the swing. No matter when you are opening the face, the end result is going to be the same – a shot that is either pushed or sliced to the right, depending on your swing path.
- Clubface pointing up toward the sky. When the clubface is closed at the top of the swing, it will point up toward the sky. Naturally, this is the opposite of the previous point, and it is likely to result in a shot that misses to the left of the target (unless you use a very aggressive lower body action through the shot). This is an uncommon position for an amateur golfer to find, but it usually happens when there is almost no hand or wrist action in the backswing. If you are failing to set the club going back, or if you have a poor grip which is inhibiting your set, you might find yourself landing in a closed position. To correct this problem, go back and check on the fundamentals of your grip and make sure you are allowing the club to naturally set as it works its way up toward the top of the swing.
There is only a fraction of a second between the top of the backswing and impact. If you are in a poor position at the top, you aren't going to hit a good shot – its just that simple. Work on improving the position of your clubface at the top in order to make it easier on yourself to land in a square position back and impact. You don't have to play from a perfectly square position at the top in order to be a good golfer, but you do want to be close. There are very few players who hit good shots from a dramatically open or closed position at the top, and those are the people who have incredible hand-eye coordination.
The Moment of Truth
In golf, there is only one moment of truth – impact itself. When you hit the ball, everything that you have done up until that point in the swing comes together for better or worse. If you have made a good swing, the ball will head in the general direction of the target. On the other hand, if there are serious errors in your swing, you will be fortunate to even keep your ball on the course at all. Fortunately, the results of your shots can tell you a lot about how well you have done in terms of getting the clubface square. By knowing what to look for on this point, you can determine exactly what you need to work on going forward.
With regard to keeping the face of the club square, it's pretty simple – if the ball started on your target line, you were in a good position with the face of the club. Generally speaking, it is the face angle at impact that will determine the direction your ball flies off the club, and it is your swing path that controls trajectory in the air. In other words, if you hit a shot that starts on line but quickly hooks to the left, you can know that your clubface was in a solid position and your path needs to be improved. On the other hand, if your shot starts off line to begin with, something has gone wrong with your face angle as you are not close to square.
It should be clear by this point in the article, but just to be sure, the direction that you miss is going to tell you exactly what has happened with your face angle – a shot that misses right was played with an open face at impact, while a shot that misses left is the result of a closed face. Working backwards, you should be able to figure out where you went wrong by simply noting the direction of your shots. Learning from your mistakes is an important skill in golf, and that is certainly true in this case. If you can correct your face angle by noting where you missed your shots, you should be able to avoid repeating those mistakes in the future.
Checking on your clubface angle at a number of points during the swing is a good idea for any serious golfer. You always want to know as much as possible about your swing when you are in the process of trying to get better, and face angle is an important component that is overlooked by too many players. Learn how to check on your face angle using the content above and you will be on the path toward a better game.