In almost all golf guides on the internet, the terms ‘club face angle’ and ‘swing path’ come up more than once. These are two of the fundamental components of the sport. The better a player can understand and apply the rules of club face angle and swing, the lower he/she is going to score.
In this guide today, we’re going in-depth regarding the club face angle and how it affects the ball flight. Basically, we’re going to look at the physics of a golf swing without making this guide too complicated.
The best way to master anything is to learn it from scratch. If we just talk about how you should swing the club to get maximum distance or hit a fade/draw, the education won’t be complete. Rather, we’re going to start from the basics.
Golf Impact Law
In layman’s terms, impact law dictates how the ball will fly toward the target based on your impact. The exact state of your club face at impact will ultimately determine the ball flight. Impact laws are not any single component or action that you can master with practice. Rather, a lot of things build up to the impact laws.
Namely, your address position, stance, club face angle at address, angle of attack, launch angle, wind speed for the day, ball position, wrist action, club head speed, and many other factors will play a role in the impact law.
The Club Face Angle
The club face angle is one of our primary concerns for this guide. In one of our later sections, we’re going to explore 9 types of golf shots based on the impact laws. All 9 shots will have varying club face angles.
In general, there are three types of club face angle. They’re known as square club face, open club face, and closed club face.
- Square Club Face: This is the most commonly used club face angle. When players just get into the sport, this is the safest angle to go with. A square club face means the face pointing right at the target. It doesn’t change whether you’re a right-handed player or a left-handed player. Club face angle is measured at address.
- Open Club Face: In golf, an open club face refers to the club face facing away from the target. So, if you’re a right-handed player, the club face should be pointing to the right of the target. And if you’re left-handed, the club face should be facing toward the left of the target. Basically, pointing the club face away from the target in relation to your body is open face.
- Closed club Face: Lastly, the closed club face angle. It’s the opposite of the open face. If you’re a right-handed player, you’ll point the club face slightly toward the left of the target. And if you’re a left-handed player, point to the right of the target.
Shallow vs Steep Golf Swing
If you’re a frequent visitor of our website, you must’ve read about shallow golf swings. The counterpart of a shallow golf swing is the steep golf swing.
Basically, a shallow swing means keeping the club close to your body during the downswing to flatten out the club face as much as possible. A shallow angle is the advised style of swing for all players under all circumstances.
However, it’s one of the hardest skills to master. If you analyze a bunch of average players’ swing styles by recording them, you’ll notice that the majority of them have a steep swing style. When you come down steep, you cause an over-the-top shot which is deemed as a bad shot in golf.
As for golf swing path and impact laws, the style of swing comes into play quite drastically. No matter how well your address, backswing or follow through is, if you come down over the top, you won’t get the full potential of the flight.
Angle of Attack
Angle of attack is another commonly discussed topic among players. It’s the upward or downward movement of the club head through impact in relation to the ground. As long as the attack angle is correct, you can expect maximum carry for all of your shots.
The attack of angle is measured when the shot is compressed all the ways. It’s referring to the compression of the ball’s core due to impact. It’s the compression that finally propels the ball forward.
Angle of attack is measured in either positive or negative value. It’s a complex equation to solve. Instructors use launch monitors to diagnose issues with this angle and then provide necessary assistance to fix the problem.
Ideally, the angle of attack should be in the negative for maximum carry. Having a negative angle means you’re hitting the ball before the lowest point of your swing arc. Conversely, when the impact is after the divot of the swing, the attack angle is a positive value.
This angle is directly related to how much distance you’re going to get with your shots. For drivers, a positive angle is usually advised while irons benefit better from negative angles.
The launch angle in golf is the angle of the ball’s initial flight in relation to the ground. According to physics, the ideal launch angle is 45 degrees. It’s derived from the equation of trajectory. To cover the maximum distance, any object needs to start its flight at 45 degrees.
In golf, however, the launch angle is very much different than what’s dictated by physics. The launch angle and the loft on your club are very closely intertwined. The only club in your golf bag with 45 degrees of loft is the pitching wedge. So, you should get the most distance with it, right?
But we all know that’s never going to happen. But why?
It has everything to do with how the golf ball is designed. You’ve noticed the tiny dimples of the ball, right? When a ball is struck and it’s airborne, the resistance of the wind causes the ball to spin. This spin then results in lift which helps the ball to stay in the air.
No matter what the loft on your club is, you’re going to see some spin on the ball. The more the loft, the more the backspin. Now, you can’t go over the top with the spin because then it’ll start to have a negative impact on your shots.
After years of experiment, experts have come up with the perfect launch angle for different clubs. For drivers, it’s 12 degrees. That seems like a huge gap from the ideal 45 degrees, right? The gap is compensated by your attack of angle, club face angle, ball position, and backspin.
Essentially, you get a 45-degree trajectory with a 12-degree loft or a 21-degree hybrid. Understanding launch angle is very important to determine your swing path. Because your swing path has the ability to change the actual launch angle at impact.
The Sweet Spot
No matter what club you’re using, your target is always to hit the sweet spot. It’s the designated area on a club face where the ball is supposed to hit. The more you practice with a particular club, the more you can master hitting the exact same spot over and over again.
Hitting the sweet spot gets progressively harder as you move up the clubs. The drivers have the largest sweet spot while a putter usually has the smallest. All of the laws of physics, the impact laws, or the ball flight laws will only work if you can manage to hit the sweet spot.
If you hit the ball with the crown of the club, the ball is going to shoot directly away from the target. If you’re a right-handed player, the ball will fly very low to the right. The opposite will happen if you’re left-handed.
If you hit the ball with the top edge of your club face, the ball will shoot directly toward the sky and cover little to no distance. This is also known as popping the driver.
The bottom line is, if you want the impact laws to work in your favor, you need to hit the sweet spot every time. We have plenty of drills on our website to improve your likelihood of hitting it. Please check them out.
We’ve talked about loft in the past. We’ve mentioned the term in this guide as well. The loft is the vertical angle of your club face in relation to your shaft. The more loft a club has, the more backspin it’ll have. And backspin helps to get the ball in the air faster and at a steeper angle, but it’s not good for covering distance.
For long shots, players use delofted clubs. And for the short game such as the pitch shot or the chip shot, they use a highly lofted club. If you want to truly master the 9 types of golf shots a player can play, you must know and understand the concept of loft by heart.
The Swing Path
Last but not the least, you must have a deep understanding of the swing path. In general, a swing path mean the path your club travels starting from the backswing to all the way to the follow through. The better your swing path in accordance with the other elements such as the club face angle, club selection, angle of attack, etc., the better results you can expect.
In general, there are two types of the swing path. One is called an in-to-out path and the other one is, you guessed it, out-to-in. It’s also related to whether you have a shallow swing type or a steep one.
Players who come down steep usually have the out-to-in swing path. It’s not always a bad thing. There are certain shots where an out-to-in swing comes into play. When you hit the ball in this manner, the ball initially starts to the left of the target. Based on what your club face angle at impact is, the ball may or may not return to the target line.
On the contrary, an in-to-out swing path is when you hit the ball from the inside of your body to the outside. If you’re a right-handed player, an in-to-out swing will shoot the ball to the right during initial impact.
How to Hit All 9 Types of Shots in Golf Based on Swing Path and Club Face Angle
By now, we’ve established the fact that the ball flight depends on how your club face angle and swing path are at impact. In this section, we’re going to explore the 9 types of shots we’ve been talking about since the beginning of this guide and see how the elements of a swing come into play.
But before that, you need to establish a target line. This is your baseline direction to the target and all of the remaining elements will be referenced with this line. A target line is simply the direct patch between you and the target (the flag or the hole). When you go address, you need to imagine a line from you directly to the flag and set up your shot accordingly.
Here are the nine types of golf shots, explained.
The Straight Shot
We could’ve gone three ways in this section of our guide. We could’ve gone from left to right, right to left, or expanded from the middle. We’ve resorted to the last option. If it isn’t making sense to you right now, keep reading.
The first shot we’re going to look at is the straight shot. It means the ball will start straight and keep flying toward the target without any curvature. To hit this shot, your club face should be open and the swing path should be in to out.
Remember the target line you imagined during set up? That’s the line you have to square yourself up with. Tee up the ball if it’s a tee box shot, rest the club face on the ground neutrally facing right at the target, put more weight in your front foot, and swing from in-to-out by keeping the club shallow.
Is the phrase ‘expanding from the middle’ starting to make sense? We’ve looked at the shot that went through the middle, straight at the target. Now, we’re going to look at a shot that starts to the left and curves toward the target during the flight.
It’s considered as a good shot among players because you can use the backspin to get a little more carry with your shots. To achieve it, your club face needs to be closed through impact in reference to the target line but square with the swing path.
It means you need to use an out-to-in swing path for this one. When the club face angle is measured in relation to the swing path, it’ll be square. It’s the closed angle with the target line that’ll generate enough backspin to curve the ball back into its place.
A draw is pretty much the opposite of a fade. It’s considered an even better shot for right-handed players. A draw and a fade follow the same principle on paper. You open or close the club face and tweak your swing path just enough to give the ball enough spin to curve.
In reality, right-handed players perform well in a draw because the ball flies to the dominant side of the body. It’s hard to explain through text, to be honest. In most cases, a player gets a little more distance with a draw than a fade.
To hit a draw, your club face should be open to the target and your swing path should be in-to-out or open to the target line. Both open angles on the club face and the swing path will send the ball off to the right in the beginning only to curve it back to the target line mid-air.
Getting back on the left of the target line, we have the pull shot. It’s not the best shot for a player but it’s not the end of the world as well. In a pull shot, the ball starts off a little left to the target but doesn’t curve back.
The ball doesn’t curve because the swing path and the club head are square. The only times you’re going to get curvature on your ball flight is when there’s an angle difference between your swing path and your club head.
Basically, the club face is closed very slightly to the target. The swing path is slightly out-to-in which means you’re also swinging to the left. Both of them result in a shot where the ball lands a little left to target. Players don’t plan on hitting a pull unless there’s a bunker or rough where your target is.
We’ve moved back to the right of the target. A push is the opposite of a pull. You start off on the right of the target and keep going in the same direction for the entire ball flight. The deviation of the ball is ever so slight that it’s not considered among the bad shots.
To hit this shot, your club face should be mildly open while you swing from in-to-out. If you manage to keep your swing path and club face angle square, you’ll get a push. Remember, both the swing path and the club face should be open in relation to the target line.
Jumping to the left of the target again, we have the pull hook. By now, we’re entering the realm of bad shots. In a hook, you end up quite to the left of the target. A hook is often an uncontrolled shot because it happens when you try to keep the club face square to the target line but your swing path is from in-to-out.
If you hit a hook, it’ll initially feel like that ball is going toward the target thanks to the square club face angle. However, as your swing path was open, the ball will start to curve to the left. In the end, you’ll end up quite far to the left of your target.
You’ve got the whole ‘expanding from the middle’ thing nailed down, right? We basically started with the straight shot and we’ve expanded the ball flight on both sides of the target. This time, we have a slice where the ball lands toward the right of the target.
It’s more or less the opposite of the hook. Your club face will be square to the target but your swing path would be closed. It means it’s an out-to-in shot. Due to the square club face, the ball will start straight but will eventually curve to the right of the target.
The Pull Hook
One of the two most dreaded shots in the history of golf. A pull hook is when the ball starts out to the left only to curve more to the left! The worst thing about this shot is that it’s completely out of control.
When a pull hook occurs, the likely cause is the improper angle difference between the club face and the swing path. In a pull hook, the swing path is square to target. It means you don’t come in-to-out or out-to-in. Rather, you come down directly from top to bottom.
However, the club face gets closed through impact. As a result, the ball will start flying to the left. If the swing path was also closed, the ball would’ve kept going. But as the swing path was square, the ball will curve further to the left.
The Push Slice
Opposite of the pull hook. This is where the ball starts to the right of the target and curves even more to the right as it flies. It happens when your club face is open at impact but your swing path is square.
Similar to the pull hook, the open club face will shoot the ball to the right and the angle difference between the swing path and the club face will create the backspin needed to curve more to the right.