Monday, May 2, 2011

Swing Guru - Curve Ball

Question: I'm a fairly avid golfer, and get decent ball flight and control with my iron shots. Something that I'd like to focus on this season is fading/drawing the ball and putting backspin on approach shots. Any tips or techniques that might help me practice in these areas?

 Curving the ball and backspin all involve putting spin on the ball.  Sidespin makes the ball curve and backspin makes the ball stop.  The number one factor in spin rate (or RPMs) is clubhead speed.  The faster you swing the club, to more spin will be imparted on the ball.  To put more backspin on the ball, you have to hit the ball with a downward strike.  This compresses the ball more, and allows it to stay on the clubace for a split second longer which lets the grooves impart more spin.  So focus on transferring your weight fully toward your target (to the left for a right handed player) on the downswing.  This moves your center of gravity toward your target and makes it easier to hit down on the ball.  Also, your divots will tell you where your weight is.  If your divot is ahead of the ball, then you've accelerated the club down and through impact.  If your divot is behind the ball, or you hit it fat--you're weight is not getting transferred to your left side.  If you're not taking a divot, then you're not hitting down on the ball, and therefore little backspin is put on the ball.  Equipment is also a factor in backspin.  Sharp grooves and soft-covered golf balls will spin more than worn grooves and hard golf balls.   

To hit draw or fade, you have to understand how the clubhead path and clubface affect spin.  If your face is open, the ball will slice and if the face is closed, the ball with hook.  That makes sense.  But if you're swinging from outside-in, or inside-out that can also affect your ball flight.  For example, an outside-in path with an open face will case the ball to start to the right of the target and then slice toward it.  So you have to modify both your clubface and path to alter the ball flight.  Most top players alter their clubface by altering their release or ball position.  You can hit a slice by delaying the release of the wrists or by moving the ball back in your stance, and vice versa for a hook.  So my best advice is to practice adjusting both your clubface and path to find what works best for you. 

But on another note, if you watch professional golf on TV, you can get the impression that the Tour players are constantly working the ball one way or the other.  Hit a 10 yard fade one swing and then a 5 yard draw the next.  This is simply not the case.  While Tour players have the ability to shape their shots in both directions, the vast majority have one shot pattern that they hit for the majority of their shots, and they play their game accordingly.  So I would caution you to avoid trying to hit mutliple shots and instead develop one consistent, reliable shot shape that you can repeat. 

Question: I never know how high to tee up the ball with my driver. Is there any general rule of thumb to go by?

Tee height is somewhat a matter of personal preference, but as a general rule you want to tee the ball high enough that about half the ball is over the crown of the club at address.  With the modern club technology, the center of gravity of the club is low and away from the face.  And you want to hit the ball above the center of gravity--doing so will impart less spin on the ball which results in straighter flight.

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