Have you ever heard of ball flight laws when it comes to playing golf?
My guess is probably not. They aren’t the most common topic to discuss over food and drinks on the 19th hole.
But if you don’t understand or at least have some comprehension of ball flight laws you might be practicing all wrong. Golf’s hard enough as it is, if you think you’re missing for one reason but instead it’s something totally different you could get frustrated and discouraged about the game.
Here’s everything you need to know about the old ball flight laws and the new ball flight laws to make sure you are playing your best golf.
Why Do Ball Flight Laws Matter?
Ball flight laws determine why you hit every shot the way you do. They can help you understand why you are pulling, pushing, slicing, hitting a power fade or drawing the golf ball. If you don’t know about ball flight laws it is difficult to make the necessary changes to help improve your game. Without this knowledge, you will have a hard time learning how to become a shotmaker. As you’ll see in the video below, instructors used to reverse engineer their teaching methods based on the student’s ball flight.
For example, in the past, instructors would see a student hitting a pull slice. They would determine this was because the clubface is open and the swing path is outside to inside. This would make the ball start left of the target and slice back right. Then, they would work on fixing the students path and squaring the clubface at impact.
There used to be a clear explanation of this in the old ball flight laws. But now, with launch monitors readily available, there is a second set of laws in play as well. Here is an overview of both to help you better understand why your golf ball is reacting the way that it is during the round.
Old Ball Flight Laws (9 shots)
You might be thinking, what are the old ball flight laws?
According to the “old” ball flight laws you can only hit the golf ball with three distinct clubhead patterns. Depending on which of the three patterns determines which line the golf ball would start on. The three patterns are:
- Inside to outside
- Square to square
- Outside to inside
The swing path was only half of the equation according to the old ball flight laws. The other half of the shot is determined by the clubface at impact. The club could either be closed, square, and open. A closed clubface would curve the ball left, a square face would produce a straight shot, and an open face would produce a shot that curves to the right.
The old ball flight laws essentially predicted that the ball would start in the direction of swing path and curve depending on the clubface.
Here are some examples of the old ball flight laws:
- Outside to inside swing path with an open face: The ball will start left and depending on the amount the club is open, cut or slice back to the right. This is the most common swing path and clubface for amatuer players.
- Square swing path with a closed clubface:The ball starts down the target line and draw to the left. If you’re using a wedge this won’t make much of an impact but with a driver could mean a 10-15 yard draw.
- Inside to outside path with a square clubface:The ball would start to the right and stay on that line resulting in a straight push.
Here is a quick video to show the nine different options according to the old ball flight laws:
- Push- clubface is square and path is inside to outside
- Push slice - clubface is open and path it inside to outside
- Push hook- clubface is closed and path is inside to outside
- Straight- clubface is square and path is straight down the line
- Pull- clubface is square and path is inside to outside
- Pull hook - clubface is square and path outside to inside
- Pull slice - clubface is open and path is outside to inside
- Slice- clubface is open and path is square
- Hook- clubface is closed and path is square
As technology has advanced in recent years it’s been proven that this is an incorrect way to determine the shape of the golf shot.
New Ball Flight Laws
As you’ve read, it was long thought the path of the club dictates a golf shot’s initial direction, and direction of the clubface dictates the shot’s curvature. But, the exact opposite has been proven true thanks to new technology like Trackman.
Top instructor David Leadbetter breaks down how instructors have previously had to use some “guesswork” and accidentally got it all wrong in this short video:
Now, nearly 75 to 95% of the shot’s initial direction is dictated by the clubface, not the swing path. The path actually dictates the curvature, not the clubface.
With the invention of Trackman and Flightscope, you can now understand what actually happens during the impact interval. This has made golf instruction much simpler and effective in making the necessary changes.
How to Use the New Ball Flight Laws
While this may seem like a lot of technical golf jargon, remember that you don’t need to try and implement one of these methods into your swing. This is meant to show you that your ball flight may not be always as it seems.
If you are taking instruction or your club has access to a trackman try to work with a golf professional to learn more. Sometimes, you might be trying to work on your swing path much more than you need. Instead, slightly adjusting the clubface could make a huge impact on hitting more quality shots for your game.
If you don’t have access to any of these buy a magnetic lie tool on eBay or your local golf shop. This tool attaches magnetically to your face and helps visually show you where your clubface is pointing in relation to the target. Remember, according to the new golf ball flight laws your clubface is the overwhelming factor of what line your ball starts on.
Golf isn’t meant to be easy but understanding small things like golf ball flight laws can simplify the process of improving your game. The next time you’re out practicing remember to focus much more on your clubface at impact rather than your swing path.
Now that you know how to use the ball flight laws, learn how to work the ball on different trajectories and you will be one step closer to getting your tour card!