We spend a great deal of time at the United States Golf Academy talking about different theories and methods of swinging a golf club. No one loves these discussions more than I, yet in the back of my mind I always wonder how productive they are?
The key to playing the game is learning to predict direction and distance. This is achieved by consistency of technique, not from the search for a “best” technique.
Direction is determined by the position of the face at impact, the direction the club is moving and where you strike the ball on the face. Where the ball strikes the face and how it influences ball flight, is called gear effect. Balls struck on the heel or close to the shaft will curve left to right for a right handed golfer. If the ball is struck on the toe it will spin right to left, opposite for left handed golfers.
Distance is controlled by how fast the club is moving at impact and where the ball strikes the club head. One fact often overlooked is that we can’t make up the distance lost on a bad strike by trying to swing the club faster.
If you analyze your game from this point of view there is one variable that influences both direction and distance. Where did you strike the ball on the clubface? Even though modern golf equipment is much more forgiving than the past, the net gain is evened out because today’s golf courses are much longer and more demanding. Regardless of equipment nothing has really changed in the past 150 years. So how do we hit the ball in the middle of the club?
First, you need to find where it is. This is pretty easy. Hold any golf club on the shaft between your thumb and index finger. Now take a tee or a pencil and tap the face. The club will swing back and forth and you will feel the club try and twist if you are off center. As you move around the face of the club you will find the spot where the shaft does not twist between your finger and thumb. That is center of percussion on the golf club or more commonly known as the sweet spot. This is the spot we want to use to strike the ball. I often suggest that you mark that spot with a dry erase marker.
The next time you play, mark that spot on every club in your bag and make your only goal for each shot to rub that mark off the club with the back of the golf ball. Eliminate all swing thoughts for the entire round other than trying to hit the ball on the mark. You will probably be pleasantly surprised by the results.