Golf Tips: How to Alter Trajectory
Author: Pete Popovich | Photographer: Photography by Anne
A number of instances during a round of golf call for hitting the ball on a lower trajectory. Sometimes hitting it lower is out of necessity and others it is your only option. Shots out of the rough or into the wind are two that come to mind. Ask a dozen instructors how to hit such a shot, and you are bound to get a dozen answers. Swing theories are like religion, there are many of them, people are passionate about theirs and you can argue each forever.
However, it is difficult to argue physics. Physics play a vital role in the trajectory a ball flies, and trajectory is affected by a number of elements: the angle the club head comes into the ball, the amount of loft on the clubface at impact and the amount of spin imparted on the ball. To control the trajectory, you need to control all of these factors.
The arc of your swing has a bottom out point (tangent point) which is located to the target side of the middle of your stance, regardless of stance width. Widen your stance, and the arc becomes bigger; narrow your stance and the arc becomes smaller. Where you place the ball in relationship to the swing’s bottom out point plays a vital role in how it will react in the air, i.e. trajectory and spin.
The common way to hit a knockdown is to move the ball back in the stance, sometimes near the rear foot. While this allows you to hit it lower, it creates havoc for consistency. This happens for two reasons: 1) when the ball is too far back in your stance, it limits your body, hands and club head release while also disrupting the correct sequencing between all three.
If the ball is back too far, the club head’s path into the ball is excessively steep. This allows for a lot of de-lofting, which will bring the trajectory down, but it also imparts an inordinate amount of spin on the ball due to the excessive downward strike. Do this a few times then try to hit a “normal” shot, where the ball is to the target side of center, and you will find a major disruption in your timing. 2) Every sport that involves hitting an object (ball) with another object (club, bat, paddle) involves hitting the ball when it is to the target side of the center of your body. As you practice, you repetitively hit balls this way. Moving the ball to the right of center for one or two shots is contradictory to what your body has become accustomed, and the end result is a disruption in timing and a poor shot.
A simple way is to keep the ball position the same as any other shot with an iron. Take a less lofted club, grip down (which shortens the length) and narrow your stance slightly (which reduces the amount of weight transfer and energy applied). Both of these will shorten the distance the ball travels, even though you are hitting it with more club and less loft. You maintain the same timing in your swing as with a standard shot (the one you have practiced so much), and it does not disrupt other shots and swings. The ball has less spin and a lower trajectory, because you are hitting it with less loft. And the club is bottoming out at the same spot as any other shot, allowing you to maintain consistency.
This may seem like a simple fix for a complicated shot, but keeping it simple is often the easiest way to maintain consistency. Making it complex turns your game into a mess with high peaks and low valleys and keeps you continually having to take lessons.
Many sciences are involved in your golf game: physics, geometry, physiology, neurology and more. Each of them plays a vital role in your improvement, and it is important to know each but more important to know the nuances of each and how they all work together to allow you to improve. This is where we specialize. Not only do we know each of these sciences, we also know how they work together allowing you to get the most out of your game.
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