The Impact Laws of Golf (What to Know)
What does the word impact mean in golf? It’s the act of hitting something, right? Precisely. In golf, impact is the point of contact of the clubface to the golf ball. And how the clubface impacts the ball will determine the outcome of the shot. Clubface angle, swing path angle, steepness of the club coming into the ball, and other factors.
The impact laws dictate how your golf club interacts with the golf ball and the result of it. Not every one of your impacts will produce the same results. Various other factors are contributing to it.
In this post, we’re going to explore the various impact laws golf clubs have. At the end of this post, you’ll have a precise idea about how your movements with the golf club can change the dynamic of your shots.
What is Golf Impact Law?
In golf, the most important moment is when you hit the ball with your club. All of the anticipations, all of the preparations, and training that you go through are all for that specific moment.
So, it’s clear why you should be aware of what is happening when you finally strike the ball. That’s what the impact laws of golf are.
The impact laws dictate how your club head, club face, shaft, your swing, etc. will impact your shot and in which direction your ball will fly out to.
For example, here is how the club path, face angle, and angle of attack work together to create a draw golf shot.
Things that Matter at Impact
A clear understanding of the elements at impact will help you dial in the right settings for your shot. So, in this section of our golf impact laws guide, we’ll explore the most important elements of a shot.
The Club Face Angle
This is a very small part of the overall equation but a tremendously important one. How your club face is angled in reference to the target will ultimately dictate in which direction your ball will fly out.
There are three types of club face angle you can achieve with any club. They are known as open, square, and closed.
We’re going to explore each of these angles from the perspective of a right-handed player. If you’re a left-handed player, you need to think of them from the opposite direction.
- Open Face: By open face, it means that your club face is angled toward the right. It creates a positive angle with the target line. So, when you hit the ball at this position, the ball will fly out to the right initially.
- Square Face: This is what most golfers try to achieve. A square face means it’s parallel with the target. It’s facing directly at the target with angles whatsoever. When you hit the ball with a square face, you can expect it to fly out straight as well.
- Closed Face: It’s the opposite of the open face. Instead of pointing to the right, a closed club face points to the left. When you impact the ball with a closed face, the ball starts off to the left.
Angle of Attack
The angle of attack is very highly regarded among professional players. Because it’s the single most important aspect of your shot based on which club you’re using.
The angle of attack means at what angle you’re approaching the ball. There are two major types of attack angles you can get with a golf shot.
- Downward Angle: This is when you hit the ball down. It’s mostly performed with irons and wedges because they have a higher loft. When you come down steep on the ball from the top, you create a backspin on the ball. It’s the backspin the allows the ball to lift up in the air thanks to the dimples on it. It’s very similar to how aviation aerodynamics work.
- Upward Angle: It’s when you try to hit the ball up in the air deliberately. It’s only true for long clubs like driving irons or fairway woods. Upward impacts are useful when your goal is to minimize the backspin to achieve as much distance as possible.
There is, however, another angle of attack and that’s the neutral angle. It’s wise to avoid this angle for any of the shots because the neutral angle often results in inconsistent shots.
The Face Contact
Where you contact the ball on your club face is another big area for exploration. Every club face has a designated sweet spot that players try to hit.
For amateur players, targeting the sweet spot is often hard. They tend to hit the ball with all different areas of the face.
The sweet spot is generally right where the center of gravity is. It ensures that the energy is disbursed evenly on the ball.
On the other hand, when you hit the ball with extreme edges of the club i.e. the heels or the toes, you’ll see the ball shooting in all different directions. Dialing in the right face contact is extremely important if you want yourself to establish yourself as a successful player.
Club Head Speed
This is something every golf player dreams to master. There is a misconception that you need to hit the ball as hard as you can to reach near the target. While it’s true for longer clubs like drivers, irons, and fairway woods, it’s not the case every time.
The club head speed should match the type of your shot. If you’re hitting from the fairway, you need to have a precise idea of what the club speed should be.
If you swing the club too slow, you may not reach the green at all. Similarly, if you hit the ball too hard, you’ll go way over the green and probably land in a bunker or a water hazard.
The rule of thumb is, the lower the club loft, the higher the speed should be. That’s why you’ll see players hitting the drivers well over 100 mph to get distances up to 200 yards.
The Swing Path
Speaking of the swing, we have the swing path. It works very closely with the club face angle. You may have your square face as intended, but if your swing path is coming too much over the top, you’ll be ultimately hitting the ball on the left.
The swing path is also very important if not the most important factor for ball curvature. You may have seen the magnificent shots by PGA tour players where the ball starts way to the right but curves toward the target like it were meant to happen. It has everything to do with the swing path.
Generally, the angle between the swing path and the club head dictates how your ball will curve. When the angle is zero, the ball will fly straight. Change the angle in any direction and you’ll start to notice the curves.
We’ve discussed in detail about different swing paths and the impacts on a separate post about ball flight laws. We highly recommend that you check it out for a clearer understanding.
If you’re not sure what a loft is, it’s the angle between your club face and your shaft. Usually, shorter clubs have the most loft.
For example, a pitching wedge may have the highest loft of all. You’ll notice a sharp angle created between the club face and the shaft. When it comes to longer clubs like a 4-iron or a driver, you’ll see that the angle is minimal.
Loft creates the flight of the ball. It means the more loft a club has, the higher it will send the ball. And the less distance it will cover.
You may have seen players blowing dirt and debris in the air when they are approaching the ball. It’s known as ground contact in golf. It may seem counterintuitive to the idea of hitting the ball and sending it flying but ground contact is important.
All different golf clubs have different sole designs to interact with the ground. How you hit the ground with your irons can clearly define whether you’re a high handicapper or a low handicapper.
If you notice the gameplay of professional players closely, you’ll see that all of them hit the ground after they’ve made contact with the ball. And for amateurs, they hit the ground first, also known as fat shots.
To understand the concept a little more, think of your entire swing path as a circle. On the bottom arc of the swing, the lowest point should be a few inches in front of the ball position for irons and wedges. For longer clubs like drivers, the point of contact should be at the lowest point.
Golf Impact Laws for Different Clubs
Now that you what are the things that matter the most for golf impact, we can move to explore how different clubs have different impact laws. At the end of this section, we’ll also look at a specific shot type that reacts differently to other laws.
Impact with Drivers
Drivers are the clubs players use for the first shot. It has the least loft among all the clubs. And it’s often the most expensive club in the bag as well.
The unique composition of the club makes it quite forgiving for new players. You can get compensated more for offset shots thanks to the larger sweet spot.
For driver impacts, you should be focusing on the upward angle. The club face should be square at impact because your target to get as much distance as possible. The reason we recommend going for an upward attack angle is that you can leverage more of your force by limiting the spin on the ball.
The key to getting them both correct is to start with a square face at the address position and setting the ball right inside the front foot. It will cause the club face to return to square at impact as well as create the upward swing thanks to the shift in lateral movement of the ball.
Another common mistake we’ve seen is that players try to line up the face with the ground. Instead, you need to rest the club freely on the ground without tweaking the face angle from top to bottom whatsoever.
Impact with Fairway Woods
Fairway woods are usually the second longest club in your bag. A shot with a fairway wood is often thought to be the hardest shot a player can take.
It’s because fairway woods are generally quite complex in terms of composition and there is very little room for you to make any mistake. A slight disruption to the club face angle can land you on a rough or a bunker rather than the green.
As opposed to the angle of attack with drivers, you need to hit the ball down with a fairway wood. The angle will be very shallow, of course, but it will have a downward motion. Fairway woods have slightly more loft than drivers and that’s why it’s necessary to create the backspin.
Moreover, the composition of the wood will not allow you to hit the ball up. Even if you try to, you’ll hit the ground way before the ball and it will result in a fat shot.
In terms of club face angle, you need to be square as always. And the club head should be resting on the ground freely as well.
Impact with Irons and Wedges
Irons and wedges typically have the most loft so you need to dial in the true downward swing. Both irons and wedges are designed to cover much less distance when compared to fairway woods or drivers.
So, you need to hit the ball at a downward angle to create a backspin and send the ball flying high. One of the biggest mistakes the rookie players make with irons is that they hit the ground first. You may get away doing it with drivers, but there’s no way you can get away with hitting the ground first with an iron or a wedge.
The contact with the ground will throw up a lot of grass, dirt, and debris between the club face and the ball. It will limit the amount of backspin you can generate which will ultimately hamper the purpose of the shot.
The only time you’ll want to hit the ground first is when you’re in the greenside bunker.
The impact from the Greenside Bunker
If you don’t know what a bunker is, it’s the sand patches near the green. It’s quite common for new players to end up in a bunker instead of the green.
When your goal is to get the ball out of the bunker, you need to use a sand wedge which is specifically designed for sand shots. As sand is very soft, you won’t be able to create the backspin on the ball to get it out by hitting it first.
So, you need to impact the sand first in a gliding motion and then hit the ball. You’ll be hitting the ball down as you would do with irons and wedges.
For the first few times, it may feel very unnatural and counterintuitive. But you’ll get the hang of it as you practice.
The Biggest Mistakes You Can Make with Your Impact
We’ve pretty much covered all the major areas of discussion regarding the golf impact laws. What we haven’t covered are the mistakes people make. Even some seasoned veterans are prone to make these mistakes.
So, we recommend that you go through each of the points and see if you’re one of the guilty players.
Getting Under the Iron Shots
This mistake is associated with the angle of attack. Looking at the steep loft of the irons, players think that they need to shove it under the ball to get it in the air. But physics doesn’t work in that way, even if your perception is somewhat right.
Instead, you need to hit down on the ball as we’ve taught you in our guide.
Close Club Face at the Bunker
It’s a very common mistake made by both rookie and expert players. They think that closing the clubface will allow them to lift the ball in the air easily. But in reality, that’s not what happens.
Rather, you need to open your club face when you’re trying to get the ball out of the bunker. The open angle will allow your club face to slide under the ball more intuitively and give it the lift it needs.
Wrong Club Face Angle at the Address
Remember, your club face will often return to the exact same position as your address if your swing is right. Many players either open or close their club faces address because it feels more natural. But that’s how you end up with crooked shots.
If your goal is to hit straight shots, your club face should be square at address. If you’re trying to hit a draw or a face, then you can change and experiment with the angle of the club face.
Some Drills to Master the Impact
Understanding the golf impact laws is a great start for any player. But what matters the most is you need to master the movements and positions we’ve talked about. You can only expect to do it when you practice the moves in the form of drills.
Here are some drills specifically designed with golf impact laws in mind.
Tee in the Ground
This is one of our favorite drills when it comes to correcting the right contact point with the ground. If you’re trying to get rid of fat shots from your skill itinerary, we highly recommend that you practice it.
You can either use a golf tee or simply a coin to place on the ground. The idea here is that you’ll push the tee all the way inside in the ground so that you only see the head.
- Push the tee to the ground or place a coin.
- Place your golf ball a few inches behind the tee.
- Now, focus on the head of the tee instead of the ball when you’re swinging your club. Your goal is to hit the tee or the coin after you’ve contacted the ball.
The Loudest Noise Drill
Listening to the sounds at impact can tell you a lot about the quality of your shot. When you hear the loudest noise, it means you’ve hit the sweet spot properly.
- Get to your driving range and get a bucket of balls.
- Don’t forget to bring a few irons and your driver with you.
- Take a few swings and try to listen to the sounds you make.
The Greenside Bunker Drill
From what you’ve read about the bunker shots, you should know by now that it’s a tricky shot to master. So, you need to get the practice into your routine.
- Go to a greenside bunker at your local golf course.
- Draw a line about 2-3 inches behind the ball. That’s your point of contact with the ground.
- Keep practicing until you’ve mastered lifting the ball with an open club face.
The Sweet Spot Drill
You’re going to need either impact tape or impact spray for this one. Your goal is to monitor the consistency of your shots. In most cases, your club face angle, angle of attack, and swing path may be right, but you may be hitting the ball all over the club face.
The impact spray will show exactly where you’re hitting the ball.
- Get to your driving range with a few of your irons and the driver.
- Spray to cover the entire club face.
- Hit a few shots and monitor where you’re hitting.
- Make necessary changes to your swing or your club face angle until you hit the sweet spot every time.
Golf impact laws are one of the fundamental things every player should know. And it’s very important that you understand them by heart as well.
In this guide, we’ve tried to incorporate as much information as possible to allow you to become a better player at impact.