How To Control The Flight Of Your Golf Ball

Great golf is all about hitting your golf ball accurately towards your target. What determines your accuracy – your ball flight. In this article, we’ll look at how you can better control your ball flight using a simple practice game.

Once you have a sounds golf swing the ability to adapt and control your swing path and club face will really elevate your potential as a player and allow you to be far more consistent on the golf course. This drill below will help you master club head control and allow you to start hitting fades, draws, low and high shots.

9 grid challenge setup

Head to the range and grab 40 golf balls. Select a target that is a nice distance for your 8, 7, 6 or 5-iron. Ideally, there is a raised green around your target or some features you can use to mark out a green-sized area around your target.

Next, place an alignment stick on the ground so you have a reference point of straight alignment.

the 9 grid ball flight challenge

Your goal is to send the golf ball through each window in the grid and get the ball to finish on the golf green. Start with the shots you find easiest, for me this is the right-hand side of the grid and straight shots. Once you have completed a window you can cross it off and move onto the next window.

ball flight control

The aim is to see if you can complete this game (all 9 windows) with the 40 golf balls you have. Below are some top tips for helping you better understand how to control your ball flight.

Controlling your ball flight: fades vs draws

If you strike your shots consistently near the centre of the club face, you will quickly learn that the main factor controlling shot shape is your club face angle relative to your swing path.

Many golfers focus on creating an in-to-out swing path when hitting a draw. Although an in-to-out swing path is needed to start the ball right of where you are aiming, the major factor causing a golf ball to move right to left in the air is an impact position where the club face is closed to your swing path (see image below).

Ball curvature: fades vs draws

Below are two images of impact. The top image shows the club face closed to the swing path at impact. Regardless of the direction of the swing path, this impact position will result in the ball curving right to left through the air (a draw).

fade vs draw impact positions

The bottom image shows an impact position where the club face is open to the swing path. Regardless of the direction of the swing path this will result in the ball drifting left to right through the air (a fade).

To alter the curvature of your golf shots focus less on swing path and far more on your club face angle through impact. Below are some factors in your swing you can tweak to help create a more open or closed club face at impact.

How to hit fades and draws?

There are many tweaks you can make to open / close your club face and hit a fade or a draw. In golf coaching we call these swing changes ‘swing principles‘ or ‘preferences’. Each player will develop their preferred way to alter their club face angle to hit fades and draws. You can:

  • Open / close your club face before taking your grip
  • Strengthen / weaken your golf grip
  • Alter your left (and right) wrist flexion throughout your golf swing
  • Release the club more or less as you come into the golf ball

There is no harm in experimenting with each of these principles to find out which ones best suit you. Try to find strategies that you can consistently repeat – these are likely the best solutions for playing consistently on the golf course.

My other top tip would be to achieve the ideal club face angle (open or closed) before impact. Great players set the club face to open/closed/square before impact and rotate through impact with minimal changes to their wrists and hands. Check out this swing drill from Tommy Fleetwood to learn more about this concept.

How to hit high and low shots

There are two important factors for controlling the launch trajectory of your iron shots. The loft on the golf club at impact, known as the dynamic loft (red arrows below) and the angle your club head is travelling towards or away from the ground, known as your angle of attack (blue arrows).

ball flight laws for high mid and low golf shots
The image above shows ideal impact positions to create low, mid and high launching iron shots. Check out the shaft lean for each shot. The dynamic loft has far more influence on launch height than your angle of attack. Hence why the golf ball launches between the red and blue arrows, but much closer to the dynamic loft.

To launch your irons low you are looking to decrease the loft on your club head at impact and/or strike down on your iron shots. The opposite is true when trying to hit high launching iron shots – try to increase the loft on your club face at impact and shallow your angle of attack.

You have a few options to help you achieve this. You can:

  • Move the ball forward or back in your stance
  • Place more weight on your front / back foot at setup
  • Aim to have more or less weight on your front / back foot at impact
  • Adapt your release

Again, you can experiment with these swing principles, but the images above should give you a clear mental picture of what you are trying to achieve with the club head at impact for low / normal / high flighted iron shots.

How to use this drill

If you’re thinking – this sounds great but I’m not good enough to start shaping shots yet then you are missing the point. Controlling what the club face does as you hit the golf ball is a fundamental skill that will make you a better player.

You don’t have to hit fades and draws at will on the golf course. Instead, use this challenge to improve those stubborn habits that are holding you back as a golfer.

If you struggle to consistently strike your iron shots head to the range and try to hit 10 low, straight shots through the bottom centre window. You probably won’t succeed at first, but you’ll be amazing how many iron shots you strike better than you ever have done before.

If you struggle with a fade, dedicate 15 balls during practice to trying to complete the right side of this grid. You’ll be amazed how quickly you’ll learn to hit straighter golf shots without over-thinking your golf swing.

The same is true if you hook your iron shots. Take 15 balls and see if you can complete the left hand side of the grid.

Summary

This simple game will keep practice fun, interesting and will make you a better golfer. It is a great way to improve your long game without getting too technical and allows you to develop simple feelings to take onto the course to hit more accurate golf shots.

Have fun giving it a go.

If you’re keen to get practising and want a tool to help you keep track of your practice scores you can grab a copy of the Golf Insider Performance Diary.

Also if you would like an article like this one emailed to you every Monday, come join the Golf Insider weekly post.

Happy golfing – Will @ Golf Insider UK

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A PGA golf professional, with a PhD in Biomedical Science and MSc in Sports Biomechanics & Psychology. I currently spend my time lecturing part-time at Leeds Beckett University and working with elite athletes. In my spare time I build Golf Insider UK.

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