In this article we’ll explain the ideal golf impact, how to create it and how it will improve your game. We’ll cover the five impact factors that explain every golf shot you can possibly hit first, and we’ll then move onto some tour stats, before we finish with 4 key steps to improve your impact position and lower your scores.
Table of Contents
- 1 Golf impact zone
- 2 5 impact factors
- 3 Tour impact position
- 4 How to build a great impact position
- 5 Golf impact position – summary
Golf impact zone
The first key concept is to think of impact as a zone (around 15 cm/6 inches either side of the golf ball) rather than a specific point. You are looking to optimise how your club head travels through this entire zone and continues into your follow through.
This approach is far more useful than trying to master a nano-second contact point when the golf ball and club head meet. Having a great impact zone gives room for error and reminds the golfer to keep generating force through impact, rather than stopping at impact.
5 impact factors
As complicated as the golf swing can seem, there are only five factors that explain all the golf shots a player can hit – from a booming 330-yard McIlroy drive, to a semi-shanked chip shot. Below are the 5 factors you need to master in order to become a great golfer.
Interestingly, any swing change you make has the sole purpose of trying to alter one, or more, of these impact factors, so it is quite important to understand them.
Centeredness of strike
The first impact factor relates to where your golf ball contacts the club head. This is the first and most important impact factor to master, as without a centred strike, not much else matters.
Heel and toe strikes reduce the energy transfer into the golf ball, resulting in less distance. They also cause the club face to twist upon impact and impart side spin (hook spin off the toe, slice spin off the heel) onto your golf shots. This considerably affects the start direction of the ball, curvature and your accuracy. A less common consideration for golfers is how high up impact occurs on the club face. Thins and tops are easy to spot, but few golfers are aware how far away from the centre of the club face they often are with their iron and wood shots.
To test out your centeredness of strike you can grab some fancy impact tape, like the image above. Try hitting 5-10 shots with one club with the same impact tape on and assess your consistency. If your strike is inconsistent, check your golf stance and posture, if all is good, work on your balance throughout your golf swing to reduce off-centre strikes.
P.s. if you don’t have any impact tape, place a pea-sized dot on your golf ball with permanent marker and orientate the mark towards the club face.
Angle of attack & low point
The next key impact factor is your angle of attack – is your club head moving downward through impact; levelling out, or rising upwards as it strikes the golf ball. In an ideal world you will strike down on all your iron shots and have a level or slightly upward angle of attack with your driver.
Your angle of attack for each club is mainly pre-set at set-up by your ball position. The further back in your stance (left image) the more descending strike you will create – further forward in your stance (right image), the angle of attack will shallow, then become upward. The two key in-swing factors that affect your angle of attack are:
- Where your weight or centre of mass is positioned at impact – the more weight on your front foot, the steeper your angle of attack.
- Your release of the golf club into impact. The more extended your left wrist is and the more flexed your right wrist is (think scooping the ball up) the more shallow your angle of attack will become.
It can be helpful to visualise angle of attack as a low point in your golf swing relative to the golf ball. For iron shots, your low point should be a divot after the golf ball. Whereas, for drives the low point should be before you reach impact, with your club head travelling upward as it reaches the golf ball.
Swing path and club face angle
Next we have two key impact factors, swing path and club face angle. There are a few layers to these two impact factors, some common misconceptions and some key take away points, so I feel swing path and club face angle are best discussed together. Your swing path refers to the direction your club head travels through impact. Your club face angle refers to the angle of your club face (open or closed to your swing path) during impact.
If you strike your golf shots close to the centre of the club face then these two factors will determine ~100% of your shot direction. Below is a simplified chart showing the 9 common ball flights that are produced based on the combination of swing paths and club face angles at impact.
Generally speaking, we are aiming for the club to swing through on a neutral path towards to your target, with the club face square to your target (right side of the image above). Variations to this cause the start direction to change and side spin to be added to the golf ball, causing the ball to curve in the air. From many years coaching I’ve found there are some common misconceptions with swing path and club face that hinder golfers making good progress. Here are the key points to note:
- The start direction of the golf ball is dictated 80-90% by your club face angle at impact, and only 10-20% by your swing path.
- An out-to-in swing path does not cause a slice, it is a club face that is open to the swing path that imparts side-spin on your golf shots and causes them to slice. Fix this and your shots will travel in a straight line.
- To hit purposeful draws and fades you don’t need to change your swing path, you can just manipulate the club face relative to your swing path when you grip the golf club or during your golf swing.
The key take away here is that getting your club face pointing towards your target through your impact zone is far more important than perfecting your swing path. Both are ideally under control, but your wildly inaccurate shots will be a product of a non-square club face.
If you feel you need to work on improving your club face angle, then check your golf grip and read these guides on how to fix a hook and how to fix a slice. For advanced players, check out this guide to swing drills from Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood.
Club head velocity
The last impact factor is club head velocity. If everything else stays the same, then an increased club head speed at impact will lead to a higher ball speed and longer shots. It is important to remember that it is only the club head speed at impact that counts. The start of the downswing is about creating a dynamic position ready to release the club into impact at a high velocity.
Tour impact position
Now that the basics are covered, what does an elite impact position look like? Below we have the impact numbers of Brooks Koepka with a 6-iron.
There are a few interesting points to take away for your own game. Firstly, great players often don’t have perfectly square swing paths and club face angles, instead they create a relationship between the swing path and club face that consistently gets the ball to their target. For Brooks this is a slightly out-to-in swing path, with a club face that is slightly open to his swing path.
Secondly, you’ll note Brooks really does crunch down on his iron shots (-9.0 degrees attack angle), with the ball launching far lower than a 6-iron loft. Mr Koepka is an extreme case, but all tour players will show a similar trend with all iron shots.
Lastly, if you want to carry a 6-iron 200+ yards you’ll need a club head speed of 99.1mph. I wouldn’t try to emulate this feature in your own golf game, instead aim for a great smash factor to maximise your ball speed and distance (1.50 with driver and slowly reducing to 1.20ish as the loft on your clubs increases).
How to build a great impact position
The first step to creating a great impact position is to understand what you are trying to achieve. I know it’s a little dull but hopefully this article has focused you towards achieving:
- A centred strike.
- A downward angle of attack for irons and an upward angle for drives.
- A square-ish club face and swing path, with an emphasis on keeping your club face square to the path through your impact zone.
If you don’t consider yourself a technical player, just focusing on point 3 above during practice and play will help your golf considerably. You should find a great local golf coach to help you build your golf swing, as I can’t see what you are doing, but, to help, I’ve compiled the check list below of technical tips and ways to practice.
To achieve the three points above, you should first check your fundamentals. Consistently achieving a great impact position is near impossible without a sound golf stance, posture and proper golf grip.
Body dynamics for a great impact
How your body moves and is positioned at impact is a whole topic in itself. If you want more technical information on how to improve your angle of attack and strike, then read this article on why do I fat, thin and top iron shots if you are above a 20-handicap, or this article on how to strike shots like a tour player if you are a teen handicap or below.
Improving swing path and club face through impact
Your swing path and club face at impact are mostly determined by where your club head and body are positioned during your downswing. For some technical advice on how to improve your club face and swing path check out this article explaining the downswing and take note of the position great players tend to achieve as the club returns to parallel during the downswing (see below for a visual).
Start small – from chip, pitch to full-swing
The next tip is seriously useful, whatever your current standard. Once you know the factors you need to work on within your impact zone (more of a downward strike, less of an open club face), take a 9-iron and see if you can alter your impact position for a 30-yard chip.
Use the feeling of the strike and the ball flight to assess how well you have done. Once you have some control over your ball flight and strike, slowly build up to a pitch shot, 3/4 swing and a full swing trying to control your impact zone.
This is a great drill, and far more useful than hopelessly flailing at 100 golf balls on the range.
Golf impact position – summary
As golf coaches we often try to alter golfers’ swings with the ultimate aim of improving how their club travels through impact. However, by better understanding your own impact position and actively trying to improve features of this, you can make great progress as a golfer, and have far more control over your golf shots.
I hope this guide has been useful. If you would like a free article like this one emailed to you every Monday, come join the Golf Insider weekly post.
Happy golfing – Will @ Golf Insider
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