The ONLY THING The Golf Ball Cares About

The ONLY THING The Golf Ball Cares About

This is a tough article for me to write. Why? Because I know it is going to suffer “straw-man” attacks and will anger a lot of golfers and coaches.

But I’m writing it anyway.

I’m writing it because it needs to be said. I’m writing it because the idea isn’t given enough exposure/credit/thought/attention.

I’m writing it because amongst all the glitzy, glamorous, alluring ideas out there surrounding golf improvement, this one gets the least amount of attention. It gets shoved to the back of the room and silenced like a naughty child.

naughty-child

The world may revolve around you, but you shall sit in the corner and no one will talk about you.

But it matters. It matters a lot. It matters more than anything you will ever read or hear about. It’s the difference between you now and Tiger Woods during 2001-2002. It’s the difference between your paltry 170 yard drives and Joe Miller’s 470 yard screamers.

I think you get the point.

 

The Golf Ball Doesn’t Care

The golf ball is inanimate.

It doesn’t have eyes or ears. It is completely indifferent to anything but cold, hard physics.

physics

This diagram should help

What does this mean for you?

Well, you know that pretty backswing you are working on? The golf ball doesn’t care about it. It couldn’t care less if you were laid off, across the line, or making a Zorro sign at the top of your swing.

It doesn’t give a hoot how you grip it, where you place it in your stance or what your posture looks like.

It doesn’t care about your emotions. Are you nervous because of that group watching you on the first tee? Did you triple the first and now you are mad because you have already blown your round? Are you fired up after birdieing the last hole?

The ball doesn’t care about those things.

No, you didn’t hit a bad shot because you looked up, didn’t get through it (whatever the hell that means) or got “quick” from the top. The golf ball does not give the time of day to those factors.

Your kinematic sequencing, your ground pressure, your weight shift and the clubhead being below the hand path – while they are all nice things, the golf ball doesn’t respond to them.

How tall you are, how much you weigh, whether you are a male or female, how old you are or how strong you are – the golf ball is insouciant.

Did you spend all week preparing and practicing for this round, this shot? Have you put in years of training, or is this the first time you have ever picked up the club? These are all non-factors to the golf ball.

 

Be Careful

No, Adam hasn’t gone mad (although talking about oneself in the third person does infuriate Adam).

Don’t make the mistake of assuming I am saying those things don’t matter. That is the straw-man argument we talked about at the start.

But I’m not going to sit here and ease up on my argument in order to appease the mob of angry golfers who disagree.

an-angry-mob

Lynch me up – the ball doesn’t care.

The argument stands as true. This article has a point, and I want that point to shine through – the golf ball doesn’t care about you, your emotions, your backswing, your set up, your physical attributes or how much practice you have put in.

It simply doesn’t give a shit.

 

What Does It Care About?

Impact.

No – I’m not talking about whether your hips are open or closed, whether you have side tilt or not, or whether your weight is on your front or back foot.

It cares about the collision. We call this “the impact interval”.

For a brief moment in time (about 450 microseconds and 0.5-0.75 inches) the clubhead is connected to the ball. The ball squishes against the clubface before separating.

During that time, and that time only, the ball receives all the information it needs to determine where it is going to fly and on what trajectory (not accounting for wind).

pre-impact

Pre impact – ball doesn’t give a shit

impact

Impact – ball really gives a shit

post-impact

Post impact – ball no longer gives a shit about you, your follow through, your emotional attachment to the shot or whether your mother loved you enough.

This is it – everything to the ball. Everything else is just a dress-rehearsal; a vehicle for the big moment of truth.

Notice how, in the above pictures, the ball doesn’t know that it was Tiger Woods who was hitting it.

 

Upper and Lower Orders

The ball responds predominantly to just a few things – some more important than others.

Upper

The most important factors to the ball that YOU as a golfer control are;

  • Where was the face pointing (this is a 3D value which includes loft, lie angle and clubface direction)?
  • What was the path of the club (again, a 3D value which includes angle of attack and swing path)?
  • What was the difference between the 3D path and face (which not only creates the spin, but the spin axis (and thus curvature) of the ball)
  • Did the club hit the ball first, or the turf – and by how much?
  • Where did the ball strike on the face? This affects energy transference into the ball as well as gear effect
  • What speed was the clubhead going

We call these the main ball-flight laws.

ball flight

Mid

Some things which affect the shot less so, but still in an important way are

  • Friction – what materials (such as grass/sand) were trapped between the ball and the face?
  • Bounce – how did the sole of the club interact with the ground during the impact interval?

Lower

Less important factors (almost negligible) are

  • Rate of closure – how quickly was the clubhead closing during the impact interval
  • The acceleration of the club

 

What do I do With This?

I am insistent on this idea.

After every shot you hit, ask yourself – what happened during impact?

  • How did I strike the face?
  • How did I contact the ground?
  • Where was the clubface at impact?
  • Did I use the correct speed (vital for short game shots)?

The above questions are my “basic must-haves”. In addition to this, I also try to get players to identify;

  • What was the swing path relative to the face?
  • How did I present the loft of the club?

If you want to hit a 300 yard perfectly straight drive down the centre of the fairway, the answer to how to do this lies in impact. If you’re not doing this, there is something off at impact – as simple as that.

Any time you hit a shot with a directional or distance issue, you will find the answer to WHY in those questions – particularly the first 4.

Now go – go and do everything you can to improve that.

If you can’t link your ball flight to what happened at impact, you are just throwing free-throws blindfolded.

blind basketballer

 

Direct Improvement

Have you ever worked on your impact directly?

Most golfers haven’t. They work on everything relating to it (backswing, movement pattern) without actually working directly on IT.

Most golfers don’t even know how to work on IT directly.

What exercises have you done/can you do for it? Can you even visualize what you are supposed to be trying to achieve?

If Impact is the most important…. scrap that….. THE ONLY thing the ball responds to (besides wind), wouldn’t it make sense to put a lot of your effort into improving it? This is why I created a whole host of impact based drills and concept visualizations in The Strike Plan.

As strike affects

  • Clubface and path consistency – hitting the ground early can cause the clubhead to deflect randomly, causing inconsistent direction
  • Energy transference from clubhead into the ball, resulting in more consistent distances, longer distances and more greens in regulation (high correlation with handicap)
  • Direction via gear-effect

This plan is designed to lower your scores and improve your game as quickly as possible – while providing long lasting improvements in skill, technique and understanding. It does this by improving the impact interval directly through specific exercises.

Click the Image below to learn more about The Strike Plan.

Strike plan enter

The Practice Manual

If you want a really in-depth look at how to train for golf, as well as what to train and when to train it, you should pick up a copy of The Practice Manual – The Ultimate Guide for Golfers.

This book has been a best-seller in the USA, UK, Canada, France, Germany and Italy, and was featured on The Golf Channel by Martin Hall as being a must-have book.

It explores topics such as

  • Differential practice
  • Variability practice
  • Locus of attention and how it affects learning/performance
  • Course strategy for instant improvements
  • How to train for coordinational as well as technical improvement
  • How to transfer your new skills to the golf course.

If you want to find out more about the book, CLICK HERE or click the image below.

click here advert

23 Comments

  • Steve Ruis

    Thank you for saying “The ball squishes against the clubface before separating.” rather than the ball is “compressed.” (it is not). Also, people say glibly that the club head needs to accelerate through the hitting area when the presence of the golf ball impedes its progress and decelerates the clubhead significantly. The clubhead needs to be accelerating at the time of impact is what they should be saying.

    I have purchased The Practice Manual and will read it carefully. This is good information.

    • Dave Tutelman

      Steve Ruis writes, “The clubhead needs to be accelerating at the time of impact is what they should be saying.” The ball hardly cares at all whether the clubhead is accelerating at the time of impact. As Adam says, it makes negligible difference. See

      • admin

        Thank you Dave Tutelman. I strongly recommend people check out your website and credentials. Your comment is highly regarded.

        • Raymond CHASTEL

          The gentlemen who say the ball does not care whether the clubhead is accelerating through impact ignore the laws of mechanics ,and to start with the most basic one :”F=MxGamma :F= force /M= Mass/Gamma= Acceleration .The acceleration of the ball when it starts it’s flight is given by the force applied .The force is given by the the theory of collisions ,and the conservation of kinetic energy (Mx V2)and of the quantity of movement(MxV).All the parameters of the ball flight are easy to calculate .
          Now the impact is not as important as suggested by the authors ,the ball is just picked up by the clubhead which happens to pass there .You work on your swing ,you can’t work on your impact …

          • admin

            Hi Raymond – Golf physicist, Dave Tutelman, did a nice breakdown of the math (more than I could) in order to demonstrate the real-world application (or lack of) of what you state in your comment. You can read that article here – https://www.tutelman.com/golf/swing/accelerateThru.php#howmuchfarther .

            Regarding “you work on your swing, you can’t work on impact” – this is patently false. I have a whole module on how to work directly on impact in “Next Level Golf” (click the link to see more). I do it every day with pupils with great results. Most pupils respond with something like “I’ve been working on my swing forever, but you helped me change my result in minutes without even thinking about the movement”.

            Both influence each other, sure – but it’s ultimately what the club does through impact that creates the result – a point which I thought was clearly made in the article.

            Making a change to the swing mechanics will ONLY affect the result IF it changes something at impact – period. And the farther that change is made from impact, usually the smaller a chance it has of influencing the collision. Working directly on the club and ball impact (not sure why you don’t think this is possible – as I said, I do it every day with students to great effect), we can achieve a DIRECT change – while at the same time the movement patterns are changing (self organizing) in order to create the new impact.

            It’s quite simple really – a reverse engineering of the swing. The industry has done the “change swing to change impact” model forever – and many amateurs have been disappointed with the results. The “change impact in order to change the swing” model is, in my extensive experience” a much better, quicker and longer-lasting method which gets results. BOTH models can and should be used when instructing, but the latter model is far superior – at least in the results I see with pupils.

  • Ron Bowers

    Differential and variable practice for clubhead position awarenes at top of backswing:

    It is the received wisdom(I think) that the clubhead bottom edge of should be parallel to the target direction at the top. The face, depending on he loft of the club would then face upwards at a number of degrees depending on the loft of the club. Being aware of this position is obviously important.

    What if any differential or variable practice would you suggest to improve awareness of where the club face is at he top of the backswing?

  • Garry Stafford

    Great Article Adam
    Thanks

  • david breslow

    Of course the golf ball doesn’t care. It’s a neutral object subject to the laws of physics like everything else. All that matters is your club at “impact zone” (as you call it). Doesn’t care how you get there–just get there.

  • Dennis clark

    Agree, it has to be said, because it’s what causes the golf ball to do what it does, and THEN causes golfers to react to what it did. which is what poor kinematic sequence and biomechanics result from…I think we are in a time when impact is taking a back seat, so to speak, and that is unfortunate in our education of golfers. Because it is really all that matters. Good job Adam. I’ve written the same in GolfWRX several times

  • M.C.B.

    Why is The Practice Manual not available on Kindle or Audio book? And £20 seems too pricey.

    • admin

      Hi Mark. It is only available in hard-copy form. Also, less than $25 dollars for a book which is almost 400 pages and packed with information. When you put that into perspective of a $500 driver (that most golfers would continue to slice), I think you will it great value. 🙂

  • Jeff Smitherman

    Well said.

  • Helmut Wollmersdorfer

    Of course, only physics at impact count. That’s true for every stroke in golf, even for putts.

    But the human body also underlies the laws of physics. If the body produces force and acceleration in one direction, it also needs force and deceleration in the opposite direction. The short term movement part of the human brain is very good at activating antagonist muscles to keep the body in balance, i. e. avoid to fall down to the ground.

    How this is done can be very different. I know some players around HCP 10 with curious swings. E. g. some former ice hockey or field hockey players use the swing of their sport. Or (both father and son) beginning the takeaway with a wrist hinge. Even stepping forward with the legs before or after impact is possible. Some of the longhitting competitors do it.

    Theoretically the movement after impact does not count. Sure, it’s e. g. possible to loosen the grip and let the club fly away. Also a “chicken wingy” finish like Jordan Spieth or Jamie Sadlowsky is possible.

    Physics of golf allow a broad range of movements before and after impact. But in my opinion unsmooth movements like a zorro sign are hard to coordinate, i. e. active the right muscles in the right moment. Even the finish counts, because the movement brain seems to activate (sends the signal to) the muscles needed for decelaration before impact.

    • admin

      Hi Helmut. I recommend reading my second and third article in this series titled “the second most important thing in golf” and “mechanical consistency”. They address some of what you are describing. However, the point of this article stands – the physics of impact is all the ball cares about and responds to (apart from wind and ball bounce/roll upon landing). The difference between a good shot and a bad one will always reside in the impact interval.

  • Bill Branthwaite

    Only recently purchased the book and still in chapter 1, I am enjoying the commonsense contained – the equipment manufacturers might not. Excellent work, some of the laws mentioned here I first encountered in a 1960’s publication entitled “In Search of The Perfect Swing” Although your information is presented in a far more workable format. I am really going to enjoy applying it to my own game and those I coach.

  • RONNIE KERNOHAN

    .Ok, ok point taken. Have been playing golf for nigh on 50 years but I think my best days are gone. Best handicap was 10 but over the years it has crept up and is now 23. I have known for a few years now that my problem is inconsistency in the contact area. I also try to take short cuts and try this and that but it doesn’t work. Today I have made the momentous decision that the man to sort my game out is Adam Young. I have had your book about 2 years and not read any of it; I am a member of the strike plan and have hardly used it so from today these are the only golf instruction tools I am going to use. By the way I am 76 years old and maybe not as fit and strong as I used to be but I think there is still a good golf game in there somewhere. Hopefully with your help we can bring it out

  • Charles Peele

    Great article, I’m old and slow but can work on impact and expect better results. Thanks

  • andy williams

    well said Adam , too much bullshit out there now , andy

  • Tillo Huygen

    Was just yesterday made aware of Adam Youg and his vast knowledge and experience (and wisdom). I am an avid golfer, practising a lot, being very up and down in my striking of the [admittedly completely indifferent and innocuous] golf ball. HC since today 24.5. Sometimes exquisite, long fairway shots, sometimes far too fat, sometimes topped. The talent is there, but there are irregulars impediments. Thanks to Adam I am beginning to fathom the true depths of a basically good swing AND the real secret: perfect impact. Thanks a lot! The lowering of my HC today was a flower you helped blossom.

    • admin

      Thanks Tilo. My philosophy is different to the industry norm (at least in terms of how we achieve ideal performance). I draw from motor learning research, as well as my own experiences in coaching and watching others coach. Glad to see you are part of the movement and am glad it is already helping you.

  • Charles Dowen

    Although what you say is true about impact, it is the difficulty we all have getting to the impact that makes us try different swings and equipment to fix our problems.

    So instructors have us try to “get to a finishing position” rather than tell us what we are doing wrong in hopes that it will simplify our search on how to get there.

    To be honest, there is only a few things that have helped me (and only recently) and Ive been playing for about 40 years now.

    1. Start by trying to get to a great finishing position practicing flaring your hips to initiate the swing
    2. Keep your head focused on the ball
    3. Instead of your back shoulder moving forward, create a feeling of it moving downward. This will create a “pendulum swing” generating far more power than if you tried to muscle it.
    4. Get consistent and from here you can simply modify your stance to make the ball go higher, lower or fade or draw.

    I never really thought get I’d say this a bit it’s definitely getter by easier for me and I’ve only been in this mindset for a few weeks now.

  • Greg

    Put your book on Kindle.

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