In any discussion of golf strategy or method the word straight gets tossed around without thought. I am always a little nervous when we speak of straight, because if I am completely accurate there aren’t many straight lines in the game of golf.
We swing a club in a circular manner, to strike a round ball, that flies and rolls on a curved path, to a hole that is round. The landscape where we play the game has curves and bumps and is a mass of uneven lines. These are the facts, but when we discuss playing the game we do so more often in terms of straight lines and I can’t help but think that we would be better as players if we would think in terms of curved lines rather than straight.
Perception is a huge part of playing golf. What is the best way to get from point A to point B? If I use a straight reference in a curved environment I might confuse myself rather than have a clear perception of where I would like the ball to go.
The golf club, when swung properly swings in a circle around your spine. So if I chose a straight line to reference the target I have to figure out how the circle matches the straight line reference. First we need to know that the ball goes primarily where the face is pointed at impact. Next we need to understand that the direction the club is moving creates the spin. The spin makes the ball curve. So a ball that travels with a minimum amount of curve occurs when the face is perpendicular to the path it is traveling and when the circular motion of the path matches the direction we wish the ball to leave the club. Take a look at the following drawing.
This is a model of an average swing with the ball placed at the apex of the circle and the bottom of the arc. So if the face of the club was perpendicular to the yellow and black lines at the moment of impact we would see a shot that would fly without much curve from side to side and in the general direction of the target.
This model is great, but there is a problem. Not all the clubs in our bag are built to be struck at the bottom of the arc. Some clubs like our driver work better when we strike the ball as the club is coming up which is past the bottom of the arc or left in our diagram. So we need to adjust the circle to match the straight. Maybe something like this:
Our wedges work better when they are used hitting on the downward side of the arc or right of the ball position diagramed. So the adjustment might look like this:
So with these three diagrams you can see that since the straight line to the target never changes we have to learn to control the circle that is our swing to control the direction the ball flies. Mastering the circle to improve your ball striking takes some work and study to understand but it is the key to playing better golf.