Control Your Clubface

This has to one of the greatest mysteries in learning and playing golf. Everything in the downswing happens so fast that by the time we realise what is going on the ball has already gone. How then do we control where the ball is going to go?

Indeed if you consider that the amount of time you have from the top of the swing to impact is less than the reaction time of a burn from a red hot poker this is a tricky operation, if not impossible. And so goes much of the world's golf instruction. Rejoice though, there is hope! Not only hope but solutions that us mere mortals can actually achieve and all those great players out there just do and take for granted.

The hope is simplicity itself. It is called pre-programming your actions. Yes, we can plan what we are about to do. Rehearse it and then do it. Already I hear howls of protest from those who believe it cannot be done. Yet I have an 8 year old that can do this at the drop of a hat. So now I have set the challenge to those of you who do not wish to be outdone by an 8 year old. I guess you will read on.

Previously, in our Pitching: From outside 40m article, we saw a sequence of shots that I have also included here as Figures 1, 2 and 3, which show the three possible types of finishing alignments of a clubface post impact. When I am teaching juniors and I demonstrate two motions with two clubface options they will pick which motion will send the ball higher with great accuracy. They do this by looking at the clubface and which one is pointing up, with Figure 3 showing less loft than the finish in Figure 1.

More advanced adult players will pick the motions as "I use that one in the bunker and the other looks more like a long fairway finish at that point of the swing". The Angled Hinge shown in Figure 2 is a half way house. Now if you can acknowledge that the clubface differs in a bunker from on the fairway you are already half way to grasping this clubface control issue.

So how do we get the clubface into the right position when in motion? I stress in motion as I have often seen students coming through the ball and then getting the face into position way after the ball has gone, which is not that helpful unless using still photography to capture the pose. The key is what your left wrist and forearm are getting up too.

Let us take the swing down into a smaller section about two feet back and two feet forward through the ball. This way we can consider the concept at a speed that we can all actually see and look at the clubhead and face. First up, you control the club shaft and head direction to down and out via the right arm. That gives you the plane control and the drive down and out to low point. The left arm hopefully remains the same length via the slight tug of extensor action, see our Keeping your Left Arm Straight article, so that Freddy can be in a well structured state when arriving back at the ball. The left wrist remains in its nice flat state throughout the swing to prevent clubhead throw away into impact. The motion we are interested in is how the left wrist/forearm rotates whilst staying on plane.

Think of your left hand as your steering wheel. It holds the top end of the grip and with it lays the control of the clubface. Where the back of your hand is pointing as the ball leaves the clubface is the direction in which it will go. This is due to simple physics; the ball comes off perpendicular to the clubface first and foremost so if we know where our clubface is aiming we start to wrestle some control over the ball flight.

I illustrate the backward and forward motions using a wedge in Figures 4, 5 and 6 so the altitude of the clubface is obvious. You can see that the face shows lots of loft to the ball for a nice high trajectory ball flight. It is actually a bit of a glancing blow as the ball spends little time on the face in comparison to the action described as the Horizontal Hinge.

While making this action you will notice the left wrist making a clockwise motion. This shot actually involves a wrist manipulation. With a driver, the resultant shot would be a high right slice. A few of you may recognise that shot! For short game use, this is a great action for high soft landing efforts, but the longer the shot the more right side it will go.

So, the next action is the one we require off the tee box. Figure 7 shows, in the backswing, the face of the driver making a clockwise turn as opposed to the face looking at the ball. On the downswing the left wrist is now allowed to make its closing anticlockwise motion into impact as shown in Figure 8. The ball stays on the face for longer and will gain the closing motion to create a much better chance of a draw and the clubface in Figure 9 shows the continued anticlockwise closing action.

Some people have asked me why we call them Horizontal and Vertical Hinges. The most simple way to get the image is to see the club as having a stick drilled though the face of the head, sticking out front. A Vertical Hinge as show in Figure 6 would have the stick pointing vertical to the ground. A Horizontal Hinge would have the stick horizontal to the ground in the finished position.

Learning how to make these simple motions is how we learn to control the clubface through pre-programming our intended shot.

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