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Understanding the Ball Flight Laws will help you diagnose why a shot was bad -- or good.
Understanding the Ball Flight Laws will help you diagnose why a shot was bad -- or good. (Jason Scott Deegan/TravelGolf)

Golfers need to learn Ball Flight Laws for maximum swing self-correction

Steve Whidden, PGABy Steve Whidden, PGA,

I often hear, "I know what I did wrong on that one" after a poor shot from a student; but yet when I ask that same person after hitting a great shot "what did you do correct on that one?" almost always the reply is, "I have no idea."

What that really tells me is that the student is relying on logic to diagnose what they believed happened instead of really knowing the cause.

I will typically ask a student after a poor shot on the range, "If you hit that on the course that ball would be in the water. If you were to re-tee and hit another what would you do differently?" And again, the answer is usually not correct.

That is why you must know why the ball does what it does in flight, that way you at least know what really caused the errant shot and perhaps can make the correct fix. You must understand the simple Ball Flight Laws.

Ball Flight Laws

There are nine different directions a ball can go: left -- straight left, left with a left curve, and left with a right curve; straight -- dead straight, straight with a left curve, and straight with a right curve; and right -- straight right, right with a left curve, and right with a right curve.

Understand a simple rule: For the most part, the club face orientation at impact will create the starting direction, while the path of the swing in relation to the face will dictate the curve of the ball. Typically, the more you swing to the left, the ball will curve to the right. The more you swing to the right, the ball will curve to the left. This holds most true with the less-lofted clubs.

So, if a ball is hit (for a right-handed golfer) to the left of the target and then slices to the right, the face of the club was not open (right) to the target, since the ball started to the left of the target. So in actuality, in relation to the target, the club face was closed. The swing path had to have been way to the left since the ball curved right and the face was open to that path.

So this swing may have looked like this: Swing path 10 degrees LEFT; club face 5 degrees RIGHT/OPEN to the path. Yet I will hear 99 percent of the time from the student "The face was wide open!"

Understand what the golf club does to make the ball do what it is doing instead of thinking a lot about swing mechanics.

My diagnosis for the player above would be: Let's try to swing the club to the right of the target more, and close the face while doing it. That takes away the stress of "what body part has to do what" and allows you to concentrate more on what the club is doing.

If you are hitting straight, and it pulls to the left or dead pushes to the right, this would typically tell you that the path of the swing is normal since there was no curve, and the face was either closed or open at impact.

My students that understand Ball Flight Laws correct their issues much quicker than the ones that don't.

PGA Master Professional Steve Whidden is the owner of The Steve Whidden Golf Academy and director of instruction at Rosedale Golf and C.C. in Bradenton, Fla. He has been named a top 50 instructor by Golf Range Magazine (2014, 2013, 2012), a Top Instructor in America by Edwin Watts (2013), the North Florida PGA Section's Teacher of the Year (2013), the Southwest Florida Teacher of the Year (2014, 2013, 2010), and the Horton Smith Award winner (2013). He is also a featured instructor on Golf Channel's "Swing Fix" program.

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