Let’s start with the single most basic element of making the ball go toward the target. Where does the clubface have to be at impact to make the ball go straight to the flag? The quick and easy response is square, but just as it looks like the sun rotates around the earth, it is an illusion.
The golf club is made of metal or another very hard surface. It is traveling, even for average players, near or more than 100 mph with a driver. The ball is made of a synthetic, rubber-like substance that is elastic. When they collide, the ball deforms on the face of the club and is carried along by the speeding clubhead for nearly an inch.
When the ball separates from the clubface, the clubface is nearly always in a different alignment with the target than it was at impact. So, for the ball to go straight at the target, the face must be square at separation. The golf swing is circular. Since the clubface normally opens as the club swings away from the ball and closes toward square as the clubhead approaches the ball, then the clubface must be open at impact for a straight shot. The ball rebounds off the clubface when the face is square. The ball flies straight at the target while the clubface closes as the golfer swings to the finish.
How open? About three degrees. All of this means that the clubhead will have to contact the inside of the back of the ball with the clubface slightly open.
There are two more points to consider:
- Because the clubhead starts the swing on or near the ground, it also goes up as it goes back.
- Additionally, because the golfer stands to the side of the ball, the clubhead also goes in toward the golfer as it moves away from address. This means that from the top of the swing back down to the swing’s lowest point (when the clubface would be square, normally), the clubhead is traveling downward and outward toward the inside back of the ball.
This all gives us the recipe for perfect contact with the ball and straight-away ball flight. The clubhead is moving downward, outward and forward toward impact, which occurs on the inside back of the ball with the face still open and the clubhead still moving downward and outward.
You hit the ball down and out, not toward the target. No matter the shot, you should look at this area of the ball, and hit down on it—every shot you ever hit—for the rest of your life.