Golf Ball Flight Laws: Use Them To Help Your Game

You cannot shoot your best scores unless you understand the golf ball flight laws and how they apply to your specific shots. If you’ve ever wondered why you always hit fades or slices, these laws will answer all your questions and explain the nine types of ball flight all golfers need to know.

In this article, I’ll discuss the differences between the old and new golf ball flight laws in simple terms so you can quickly understand why changes were made and how they impact the game to improve your golf swing.

This is not just for advanced golfers. I teach this to students as early as possible because it alleviates a lot of frustration with the game if students understand why they are hitting the shots they hit.

Also, this article’s references are written for right-handed golfers. Sorry, lefties, but you must reverse all suggestions to apply this to your game.

What are Golf Ball Flight Laws?

the-slice

Golf ball flight laws explain how the club face and the club path interact to determine a golf ball’s trajectory and direction. These laws help golfers understand why the ball travels in a specific path and how to adjust to achieve the desired shot.

The direction a ball will initially travel is determined by the club face’s position at impact. So, if the club face is slightly open (facing to the right) at impact, the ball will start its flight to the right. This is because the club face primarily influences the ball’s starting direction.

However, the amount of curvature, or spin, on a ball’s flight is mainly determined by the club face’s angle about the club path. This means that if the club face is square to the target line, but the club path is outside-to-in (or crossing the target line from the outside), the ball will have a right-to-left spin on it.

Rule of thumb: For a given club face angle and path, the ball will always land to the right of the target when the club face is open and to the left when the club face is closed.

To summarize, the club face’s position at impact determines the ball’s starting direction, the relationship between the club face and club path determines the amount of spin, and the ball’s curvature to the right or left of the target.

Understanding and applying these laws allows you to adjust your swing to achieve a desired ball flight and improve your overall game.

Factors That Impact Ball Flight

amn hitting driver on golf course

Understanding these two basic factors will give you a foundation for learning the more complex ball flight laws, which will help you improve your ball striking.

1. Angle of the Club Face

The direction that the face is pointing is what we refer to as the clubface angle. A clubface angle represents only three different directions. These directions are compared to either the club path or target line, but more on this later. Here are the three different angles a club face can represent.

  • Square Face—Perfectly perpendicular to the target line or club path
  • Closed Face—Pointing towards you or left of the target line and/or club path
  • Open Face—Pointing away from you or right of the target line/club path

2. Clubhead Path

Your clubhead takes a particular route in the downswing on its way to connecting with the golf ball; the nature of this route is the club path. Your clubhead can take three different paths before striking the ball, all about the target line.

  • Straight—Your club will be directly on the target line just before impact.
  • In-to-Out—Your club will approach impact from inside the target line and cross to the outside after impact.
  • Out-to-In—Your club will approach impact from outside the target line and cross to the inside afterward.

Different Types of Ball Flight

how to fade a ball

The two factors above (and their combinations) are what determines your ball flight and how your ball will travel to its final destination.

For easy reference, I’ve broken it down into nine different shots. How your club face interacts with your club path and target line explains whatever shot you produce. No matter how your ball curves, it will fall on the spectrum of one of these nine shots.

  1. Straight Shot—Club face is square with the target line as well as the club path
  2. Fade—Club face is square to the target line but open about an out-to-in swing path
  3. Draw—Club face is square to the target line but closed about an in-to-out swing path
  4. Push—Club face is open to the target line but square about an in-to-out swing path
  5. Push Slice—Club face is open to the target line and open to a neutral swing path
  6. Push Hook—Club face is closed to an in-to-out swing path but open relative to the target line
  7. Pull—Club face is closed to the target line but square about an out-to-in swing path
  8. Pull Slice—Club face is open to the club path but closed to the target line
  9. Pull Hook—Club face is closed to the target line and closed to a neutral swing path

You’re probably thinking there are tons of other shots you can hit.

For example, what happens when you adjust #9 slightly by still having a closed club face to the target line and a closed club face to an out-to-in swing? This would produce a “duck hook”. It’s something so terrible that it’s not a shot we would ever intentionally.

The above nine shots are needed to shoot good scores and attack any course worldwide.

Old Ball Flight Laws vs New Ball Flight Laws

The game has evolved over the centuries, as has the equipment and techniques we use to play it. One significant change in the world of golf came with the introduction of the new golf ball flight laws in 2019, which replaced the old laws that had been in place for many years.

These laws stated that the combined effects of lift, drag, and side spin could explain a golf ball’s flight. At the time, this theory was considered revolutionary and widely accepted by the golfing community.

However, as technology advances and golfers become more skilled, it becomes apparent that the old laws are no longer accurate. With new materials and design techniques, golf balls could travel further and straighter than ever. This led to inconsistencies in the old flight laws, and it became apparent that a new approach was needed.

The new golf ball flight laws aim to provide a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of golf ball flight by considering all the factors that influence it.

  • In the old flight laws, it was thought that the curve of your ball was solely dependent on the relation between your swing path and club face. Now we know that to be more accurate, we must monitor the relationship between the swing path, club face, and target line.
  • The new golf ball flight laws have brought about significant changes to the way we understand and play the game of golf. With a more comprehensive understanding, we can all self-diagnose and improve our scores by making the necessary adjustments.

Tips To Use Ball Flight Laws To Improve Your Game

Understanding this is all good but not worth much if you can’t apply it to your game. Use these drills to identify your current shot shape and why you create it. Only then can you develop a practice routine to change your ball flight and know why you are doing so?

  • Monitor Divots—The direction of your divots will tell you your club path as clearly as day. If your divot points right of the target, you are swinging in to out. If your divots are left of target then you swing out-to-in.
  • Focus on One Swing Path—If it’s natural for you to swing out-to-in, don’t try to become an in-to-out player. Use your natural tendencies and initial direction to develop consistency and master all the ball flights that an out-to-in swing can create.
  • Use Technology—Launch monitors are readily available at most practice facilities. Arrange a time with a golf instruction professional who can record your range session and help you decipher all the parameters a Trackman or equivalent produces.
  • Alignment Sticks—A little rudimentary than launch monitors, alignment sticks will help you keep track of your target line and club path. Lay one stick on the outside of your ball, pointing directly at your target, and lay the other down at your feet to represent your hip and shoulder alignment. Your club path will follow your body line 99% of the time.
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Clint is PGA-certified and was a Head Teaching Professional at one of Toronto's busiest golf academies. He was also featured on Canada's National Golf TV program, "Score Golf Canada," twice. He graduated with a degree in Golf Management from the College of the Desert in California and studied under Callaway's co-founder, Tony Manzoni.

He has a handicap index of 6.2 and spends the winters near Oaxaca, Mexico, where he plays twice a month at the Club de Golf Vista Hermosa. He's written over 100 articles at GolfSpan since 2021. You can connect with Clint at LinkedIn, FB, his website, or Clintcpga@gmail.com.

  • Best score: 68
  • Favorite club: Odyssey White Hot Two-Ball Center-Shafted Putter
  • Favorite ball: Titleist Pro V1x
  • Favorite food at the turn: Hot dog

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