Golf Ball Flight Laws to Master
Understanding the golf ball flight laws is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself. How the ball curves according to your club face angle and the swing path will determine how close to the target you’ll land.
In this post, we’re going to dive deep into all types of ball flights and break down how each of them happens. So, if you’re a new golfer trying to understand the intricate nature of the sport, it’s safe to say that you’re at the right place.
What is Golf Ball Flight Law?
When you hit a golf ball, it can go all different ways. Depending on your swing path and the club face angle at impact, your ball may fly straight to the target, straight to the right, straight to the left, curve from left to right, and curve from right to left.
How your swing speed and nature correspond with the different flights is the topic of our discussion today. In golf terms, it’s known as the golf ball flight laws. The amazing shots you see the pros hitting all the time are a result of their deep understanding of the laws.
Things that Matter for the Ball Flight
As a rookie player, you may think that the ball goes where it wants. But in reality, that’s not the case. You are in control of how the ball will fly from the tee or the fairway.
Let’s find out what are the things that matter the most in controlling the ball flight.
Club Face Angle
At the time of impact, how open or close your club face will determine the initial direction of the ball.
By an open club face, we mean the face is angled to the outside of the target for right-handed players. The club face will be angled to the right if it’s easier for you to understand this way.
And a closed club face is the opposite of an open face. It’s angled more toward the left.
Lastly, a square face means the club face is exactly parallel to the target.
You may be thinking that your club face should always be straight to hit the ball straight to the target, right? Well, that’s not the case. Just because your face is straight doesn’t mean your ball will fly straight.
That’s where the swing path comes into play.
Resource: How to Break 100, 90, 80 in Golf
The Swing Path
By swing path, we mean how you take your club to the top of the swing and how you bring it down as part of the downswing.
There are two basic types of swing paths in golf. It’s either right to left or out-to-in where you come over the top of the ball and hit it to the left.
The other one is left to right or in-to-out where you hit the ball on the inside so that the ball goes to the right.
The combination of your swing path and club angle results in the curvature you see on the ball.
When the swing path follows the club face angle, your ball flies straight to wherever the face is angled.
When you have your face open and strike the ball from even more in-to-out, that’s how you get a draw.
The opposite is true when you hit a fade. Your club face is closed and you hit from the outside, your ball flies to the left and then curves toward the target.
However, there is another variable that plays an important role in golf ball flight laws. That’s the angle of attack.
Angle of Attack
By the angle of attack, we mean how you come down with your club. You can either hit the ball down or hit the ball up.
As you approach the ball, your club is most likely to travel from outside to inside. That’s the natural movement of the human body.
So, when you hit down on the ball, you automatically hit on the inside and creates a path toward the right of the target. And when you hit the ball up, your club travels more toward the left and causes the ball to fly toward the left.
Determining the Target Line
Last but not the least, you need to understand the concept of a target line. It’s an imaginary line that goes straight from yourself to the target. Whether it’s the yellow flag or the hole, you need to see the line every time you’re about to take a shot.
To make the process easier for your practice, you can use an alignment stick. Put the alignment stick a few feet ahead of the ball and eyeball the target line. Once you get the hang of the angle, you can measure the target line without the alignment stick easily.
Basic Golf Ball Flights
In golf, there are 9 basic types of flight. These are all results of different combinations between the swing path, the club face angle, and the angle of attack.
Here are the 9 types of ball flight.
- Pull Hook
- Push Slice
Let’s find out what each of these means in terms of club face angle and swing path.
So, the first type of flight law we’re going to look at is the pull hook. It’s when your ball starts off left and keeps going left to end up in a tree or a rough.
If we break down the club face angle and the swing path, we’ll notice that the swing path is square to the target line. It means you’re bringing your club face down from the top of the swing, keeping it exactly in line with the target.
However, your club face is closed in this case. It means the club face is facing the right of the target. As you’re not compensating for the angle with your swing path, your ball will keep going left.
Next up, we have the hook. Your ball will still end up to the left of your target. But you’re keeping your club face square to the target in this case. But your swing path coming from inside to outside. Or in other words, open to the target.
When this happens, your ball will start to fly out straight thanks to the square club face. But as the swing path was open, it will curve to the left as it covers more distance. As a result, you land way left to your target.
Keeping the flying to left trend intact, we have the pull shot. This is also not a very good shot to strike. You’ll still land on the left of the target. But this time, there’ll be no curvature on the ball.
In this shot, your club face is closed to the target line which means it’s facing left. Your swing path is also facing left, aligning with your club face angle.
As a result, the ball will fly straight to the left. As your club face and swing path follow the same direction, there is no visible difference in the ball’s flight path.
Fade is considered one of the good shots for right-handed players. You initially start your flight to the left but later curve and land near the target.
To achieve a perfect fade, your swing path should be closed but your club face should be open to the swing path. Don’t get us wrong. The club face is still closed to the target line, but it’s open when aligned with the swing path.
The combination of swing path and face angle is very identical to a pull. The slight opening you introduce your club face will help you curve the ball toward the target.
If the wind at the course is not a big concern, this is the best shot any player can hit. It almost feels like all the stars are aligned to help you out.
Your swing path and club face angle will both be square to the target line. It means as you bring your club down, the face and path are both facing the target.
If the wind doesn’t cause your ball to shift in direction, you’ll land right on your target. However, that’s often not the case. Professional golf players always try to hit a draw or a fade at the course because there will always be wind resistance.
Speaking of draws, it’s another good shot to strike when you’re at the course. A draw means your ball flight will initially start to the right but later curve toward the target.
To get a draw with your shot, your swing path needs to be open to the target line. It means you need to hit the ball from inside to outside.
In terms of club face angle, it should be open. It should be open to the target line but closed to the swing path. When your club face is facing right to the target and left to the swing path, you’ll notice that the ball is shifting toward the left when in mid-air.
If the name didn’t give it away already, a push is the opposite of the pull. Your ball starts to the right and keeps going straight until it lands to the right of the target.
In this case, both your club face and swing path are open to the target line. And the relative angle between the path and the club face is zero. It’s similar to a straight, but the flight path is toward the right.
To keep your swing path to the right, you need to come from the inside. You need to keep the angle of attack shallow and hit down on the ball.
We’re entering the bad shot region again. A slice is when you start off to the target initially but keeps going to the right even more as it covers the distance. As a result, you may end in a water hazard as well as a bunker or a rough.
A slice happens when your swing path is closed to the target line but your club face is open. It means the club face is open to the swing path as well, but more than necessary. The extra angle between the two is responsible for the farther right ball flight.
Last but not the least, we have the push slice. If you haven’t guessed it already, this is the exact opposite of a pull hook. In this case, your ball starts off to the right and keeps going right until you go out of bounds or land in a hazard. Or, you may simply lose the ball altogether.
When your swing path is square to the target line and your club face is open, you will see a push slice. The change of angle between the swing path and the club face is the reason for the extreme curvature of the ball.
How to use the Information to Your Advantage?
So, now you know about the golf ball flight laws. But how can you use the information in your advantage?
From all of the shots on our list, which ones do you think are the best? We’d say the straight, the fade, and the draw. You can also consider the push and pull as straights as well. Did you find anything common between them?
Let us answer. Whenever the ball flies straight without any curves, it means your swing path was in line with the club face angle. If the club face angle is square and so is your swing patch, you’ll get a dead straight shot. When your club face is open and so is your swing path, you get a push. And when the same happens to the left, you end up with a pull.
To become a better player at golf, you need to process all of the information and incorporate different drills into your golf practice routine.
You need to see and analyze the characteristic of each of your shots and compare the results to what you’ve learned today. Then, you can make the necessary changes to your swing path and club face angle to get the desired results.
So, you’ve learned all there is about golf ball flight laws. You know the correlation between your swing path and your club face angle. You now know how the pros keep hitting those beautiful curved shots.
What are you waiting for? Get to your local driving range and start practicing the shots. You can even record yourself in the process to easily identify where you’ve been going wrong.