Play Better Golf.
A discussion on working the ball is in some ways similar to talking about feel in a golf club. It is hard to get a solid consensus of players to agree exactly what feel is or exactly what working the ball means. More golfers will try to explain working the ball than they will talk about what feel is.
Working the ball is a reality.
Working the ball basically boils down to purposely hitting the ball right or left with a curve on it (draw or fade, hook or slice) or hitting it higher or lower than one normally does. This seems like a simple concept to understand and it is, however the problem that constantly surfaces is which type of iron works the ball the best. By type, I am referring to a number of things such as cast vs. forged, cavity vs. blade, center of gravity in the heel and higher up the face or center of gravity in the center of the face and low.
Golf is unique in many ways, but one of its mysteries (and sometimes marketing opportunities) is the myth associated with it. It seems that myth is perpetuated by the unknowing and proven facts are ignored in some instances. For instance, I recently read in a top golfing magazine that when the lie angle of irons is incorrect for the individual golfer that they may hit the ball to the right or left. This is correct, however the explanation given was that on too flat a lie angle the ball would be hit to the right because the toe will dig into the ground and the face will open. This is not true. Conversely, the article went on to say that when the lie angle is too upright, the ball would tend to be hit to the left because the heel of the club will dig into the ground and the face will close. This is an incorrect statement and is still carried forward today even though books and countless articles have explained it correctly as a tilting of the face plane.
Even the television announcers get it wrong a few times a year on their golf telecasts. Working the ball is no different. Many players believe that the soft forged clubs and especially the muscle back variety work the ball much better than say a cast cavity back club. This is basically not true but as we all know, golf is a very mental game and to the true believer, there is no changing of the mind set.
Here are the facts. Working the ball is a reality. Usually better players can curve the ball and make it go higher or lower at will. Go to a PGA golf tournament and watch the pros. They can do almost anything with the ball. They curve the ball left to right or right to left by simply manipulating the face angle and the path of the clubhead as it comes into impact. This imparts a sidespin effect to the ball. Sometimes they do it with their stance alignment, club face alignment, hand position on the grip (strong or weak), or by some other means. It doesn’t matter how they get it done, they are still basically only changing the face angle and the path of the clubhead as it comes into impact with the ball. The final element to this working the ball stuff is the initial direction the player starts the ball on.
Example, the player starts the ball right of the target and the ball curves (draws or hooks) back to the target. In this instance the face angle of the club is closed to the path of the club. Slightly closed to the path (2°) and the ball draws. More closed to the path (4°) and the ball hooks. Even more closed to the path (6°or more) and the ball hooks significantly.
There are only 3 conditions of face angle and path at impact.
These 3 conditions create 9 ball flight possibilities:
Regarding the nine ball flight possibilities:
Throughout the years I have had the good fortune of working with many touring professionals. This is usually the result of getting comments on a new iron or metal wood design prototype before going to production. Just because the iron head is a forged blade or a cast cavity back makes no difference in the various shaped shots that a player hits. I have witnessed this countless times.
Regarding hitting the ball higher or lower, this can also be accomplished a number of ways. The player can alter their swing plane, change the angle of attack of the club coming into the ball, change the ball position itself relative to the players’ stance or modify the wrist release point. Golf teachers will also have other ways to do this.
There is a characteristic in the iron head design itself that is a slight factor in affecting workability and this is a good thing. As the club is swung back on the takeaway and down into the impact zone, the golfers wrists are rotating the head to a certain degree. This rotation is referred to within the golf industry as pronation and supination of the wrists and is the natural effect that human golfers go through in swinging a golf club. At some point in the takeaway, the golfer rotates the club face open (clockwise for a right hand golfer) and on the downswing the golfer rotates the face closed (counterclockwise for a right handed golfer), or hopefully back to the square face position before or at impact. If the center of gravity of the clubhead, in the horizontal direction, is moved farther away from the centerline of the shaft (increased “C” dimension) vs. a club with a lesser “C” dimension, then the head is more stable and requires slightly more effort to open and close the face. This is a game improvement feature that helps all golfers, even the touring professionals. Keep in mind that this does not have major significance in the players ability to rotate the clubhead and a player, if need be, can adjust quite easily to working the ball exactly the same as before using any type clubhead design. The average golfer benefits in better directional control because of the increased clubhead stability which is a result of the larger “C” dimension. The bottom line is that the club is easier to hit.
The perceived differences in working the ball are in many cases caused by a different feel . Feel differences can be caused by different head designs (mass and dimensional properties), different materials and clubs with different specifications (loft, lie, weight, offset, etc) than what the player is used to hitting. The shaft material, flex, other bending characteristics, grip material, grip size, ball impact sound, ball construction type or some other variable may also be slightly different. The player really needs to experience one variable change at a time and this is nearly impossible to do because of the myriad of variables in a golf club.
I think one of the biggest paradoxes on the PGA tour is the fact that all players are using state of the art, modern designed metal drivers which are currently the ultimate in the game improvement category and some of these same players (fewer each year) are hitting 30 year old technology in their muscle back irons under the guise of being able to work the ball better. There is no question in my mind that any of these players would hit the ball better and probably score better with more playable modern designs if they could get over the mental aspect of doing so. I have proven this with touring pros a number of times.
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