In this article, I will explain some concepts relating to the golf swing arc which can help you to understand how certain changes may affect your ball flight. This is just a small part of a much bigger picture, but a basic grasp of it can help you diagnose issues and create the ball flight you desire.
Although this has been covered in my article on Low point, it is worth going through briefly here, with some additions.
The golf swing is circular (I know the swing is not a perfect circle, but for purposes of this article, the definition suffices) in nature, as shown in this image of Tiger Woods;
This circular movement of the clubhead is tilted on an angle, or a plane around our body – so when viewed from down the line with a video camera, it looks like this;
You could almost visualize this as a tilted hula hoop with Tiger Woods standing in the middle of it.
If we were to take a close up look of the golf swing arc around the hitting area, it might look something like this;
Before low point
The black line represents the lowest point of the golf swing. From this angle, if the golf ball was hit in the earlier (yellow) part of the swing arc (relative to the same swing)
- Angle of attack would be more downwards (steeper, or swinging down more)
- Dynamic loft would be reduced (loft of the club at impact)
- Bounce would be reduced
The farther you go up the golf swing arc in the direction of the yellow, the more exaggerated these effects can be (during this part of the swing).
So, the tendency to have reduced loft and a steeper AOA may result in lower ball flights relatively. That’s why placing the ball back in our stance helps us flight the ball lower. Also, the reduced bounce and steeper AOA would give the club a tendency to dig into the turf more (worsened by the fact that the low point would have to be deeper and more in front of the ball to create a functional ground contact).
After low point
The reverse of the above is true – a ball struck later (purple) in the golf swing arc will;
- Have a positive angle of attack (club swinging upwards more)
- Have more dynamic loft (relatively)
- Have more bounce
The later in the golf swing arc we hit the ball, the more exaggerated the effects are.
It is very rare that we actually hit the ball after the low point of the golf swing arc. This is because, with every ball which rests on the ground, it is usually more effective to have the low point in front of the ball. The main uses for hitting the ball after low point is in putting, and perhaps in driving, where more carry and total distance can be achieved by hitting with a positive angle of attack.
Swing path along the golf swing arc
Many people have heard of swing path – it is the direction the club is swinging during contact with the ball. It could either be swinging to the right (commonly known as in to out) or swinging more to the left (commonly known as out to in). You can find out more about ball flight laws and how to identify what you are doing in “The Practice Manual – The Ultimate Guide for Golfers”.
However, not many people know that the swing path changes depending upon where you hit the ball in the golf swing arc. To explain this more, take a look at the below image of the swing arc, as viewed from a golfer perspective (right handed).
In the above picture, we see the clubhead travelling down the golf swing arc (yellow) until it reaches the black line (low point). At the lowest point of the swing, the
- angle of attack is neutral – neither hitting up nor down
- swing path and swing direction are the same
During this yellow part of the arc, (before low point), the club is;
- traveling more to the right of the target than at low point
- will have a more rightward face angle than at low point
- also, as the clubhead tends to be closing relative to the arc, the face to path relationship will tend to be more open (Kudos to Dr Mike Duffey, Dr Sasho Mackenzie and Dr Phil Cheetham for confirming this)
The reverse is true, with a ball being hit later in the swing arc (purple) tending to have a more positive angle of attack, be travelling more left than at low point, have a more closed face angle and a more closed face to path relationship (all relative to the same swing of course).
This information is important to understand as a player, but especially as an instructor, as a change to low point position is going to have a knock on effect to several other variables.
Changes are not made in isolation
Say we have a typical example of a player who has their low point quite level with the ball, as seen below
This player will be able to strike a golf ball, but will require better swing arc height control (any drops in swing arc will result in a dramatically different ground contact location). They will tend to hit the ball lower on the club face and struggle out of rough – they will perform best only when the lie is perfect/teed up.
Say we decided to move the low point forwards. This can be done in many ways, each with its own combination of knock on effects. For this example, we will move the swing arc forwards laterally – that is to say without any changes to the swing direction. An example of this would be if you were to shift your weight (dynamically) more towards the target.
We see here that the swing arc has shifted forwards from the old swing arc (transparent) to the new version (more opaque). If we were to make this change, we would also need to have a corresponding drop in arc height, or it wouldn’t function. The low point position and swing arc height must be matching variables. Also, due to the ball being hit in an earlier part of the swing arc, there would be a tendency (depending upon how similar the motions before/after were) to
- have reduced dynamic loft
- have reduced bounce on the club
- have a steeper angle of attack
- make a deeper divot (relatively)
Also, viewed from the eyes of a golfer, we would see the following;
With the same swing direction but shifted forwards so that the low point is now in front of the ball, and deeper to accommodate that shift, we tend to see
- a club path (notice the direction the yellow line is traveling during the middle of the golf ball) which is more to the right of the swing direction
- as the club is hit earlier in the arc, we tend to see a club face which is more open than at low point
- also, due to the fact (in a normal golf swing) the club face is closing to the path, we tend to see a more open/less closed face to path relationship than at low point.
All of the above means that the player will tend to dig in a bit more to the ground, hit the ball lower and hit the ball more to the right. Note – all of this is relative to doing the same swing but hitting later on the golf swing arc.
All of the above might sound incredibly complex, but as a teacher I use this information to allow me to make a simple change to your golf swing which will have as many positive knock on effects to your game as possible.
For example, if a player I taught had a low point which is too far in front of the ball, is making huge divots, is push slicing, striking high on the club face and hitting more towards the heel of the club, I might be able to kill all of those birds with one stone (if I deem appropriate) by simply saying
Feel like you brush the grass here, and more in this direction
From that advice, a player will start to make automatic changes to swing direction and low point depth, which will have further effects on
- low point position
- contact point with the ground
- contact height on the face
- face direction relative to the target
- face to path relationships
- strike location on the face
The opposite is true also – knowing this information allows me to know what not to do with a player (or at least in which order to make changes).
For that reason, it is important to get quality coaching from your local teaching pro. They are able to take all of this information, synthesize it and relay it to you in as simple form as possible.
I discuss a lot of concepts relating to the swing arc, as well as how to change yours in order to improve strike quality in The Strike Plan.
This video series goes through everything you need to know, as well as helpful exercises and techniques to speed up your results. You can find out more about the program by clicking the image below.
If you want to learn more about impact laws, as well as incredibly in-depth ways to improve your own game using the latest in the science of motor learning, click below to read more about “The Practice Manual – The Ultimate Guide for Golfers” . The book has been a number one bestseller on both sides of the atlantic in amazon’s golf category. It is available also in most European as well as US and Canadian amazon sites.
- Hitting the ball in different parts of the swing arc will have varying effects on
- angle of attack
- dynamic loft
- clubface orientation
- face to path relationships
- Changing the low point position requires a change in swing arc height/depth
- Changing low point position therefore also affects
- strike quality
- strike consistency
- Consult with your instructor to find the best way to use this information to help you and your game