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Basics of Ball Flight
Learning Causes and Effects Can Help You Adjust Your Game
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From Perry Andrisen, PGA Professional

You're playing golf with friends, but you're struggling with your swing. You get discouraged and the rest of the group feels obligated to help. Usually one person in the group tells you to try something. And sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. If it works, you're off and running. If the advice doesn't work, you might slip into the abyss of swing thoughts, and your problems might get worse.

Struggling golfers are often willing to try anything and everything. But after dozens and dozens of tips and pieces of advice from fellow golfers, the situation often just becomes more frustrating.

One way you can put a stop to that downward spiral of frustration is to learn the basics of ball flight. That way, you don't have to depend on others when your ball starts doing funny things. And learning the basics of ball flight is very easy - it takes just a minute or two to grasp the simplest, most common explanations for why the ball does what it does. (And if you're one of those golfers who enjoys giving advice - but you don't understand ball flight - please stop. You're just adding to the confusion.)

With this basic understanding of ball flight cause-and-effect, you can be your own coach.

Below are two graphics. In each, the dotted lines represent various ball flights. The colored rectangles represent swing path (for example, and outside-to-inside swing path is represented by red-to-yellow). Note that the ball flights represent those of a right-handed golfer who is properly aligned.

The Basics of Ball Flight
Hook (pink line): Cause - closed clubface at impact. Effect - ball curves to the left.
Slice (orange line): Cause - open clubface at impact. Effect - ball curves to the right.
Pull (yellow line): Cause - red-to-yellow swing path. Effect - ball starts left of target and flies straight.
Push (blue line): Cause - green-to-blue swing path. Effect - ball starts right of target and flies straight.

A draw and a fade (not depicted on graphics) are nice descriptions of a slight hook and slight slice.

None of the ball flights described above will get the ball to the target, unless your alignment is off. But a combination of two of these ball flights can get the ball to the target. Let me explain:

Pull-Slice (yellow-orange line)
Cause - red-to-yellow swing path with an open clubface. Effect - ball starts left of target and curves right.

Some characteristics of a pull-slicer:
• Usually toe-deep divots that point to the left. Toe-deep means the toe of the club digs into the ground more than the heel.
• Battle scars on the top and toe of the driver from hitting the ball straight up.
• Tee marks on the bottom of the driver that are at an angle.
• Contact on the toe of the club.
• Ball flight is high with a loss of distance.
• Fights a slice.
• Best feeling shot is a pull to the left.
• Tension, tension, tension.

Push-Hook (blue-pink line)
Cause - green-to-blue swing path with a closed clubface. Effect - ball starts right of target and curves left.

Some characteristics of a push-hooker:
• Usually heel - deep divots that point to the right.
• Divots are usually very shallow or non-existent.
• Usually a good player, but one who fights a hook.

Note: Clubface position has a bigger influence on direction than the path of the swing. You could be making a pull-slice swing but because the clubface is very open the ball might not fly to the left before it starts slicing.

A pull-slicer should try to swing like a push-hooker, and vice-versa. There are a million swing thoughts to correct ball flight, but before you can figure out what's going to help correct a particular ball flight, you must know why the ball is flying that way to begin with.

And these are the basics, the most common issues with ball flight.

About the Author
Perry Andrisen is a PGA Teaching Professional at The Bridges Golf Club in San Ramon, Calif. He has previously worked at Indian Wells and Hazeltine National. Perry has coached players from the PGA Tour, Nationwide, Hooters, Teardrop, Spanos, Pepsi, Dakotas, and Golden State golf tours. Among his PGA Tour clients is his former college teammate Aaron Barber.

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