Question – What makes a golf ball fly? Or, in other words, what causes the lift on a golf ball?
For many, they think picking the ball off the ground or lifting the ball causes the ball to fly. This is actually the opposite of what happens at impact or “the moment of truth” that causes the ball to fly. In actuality, the golf club hits down into the golf ball and into the ground, this hitting down effect creates spin on the golf ball and this spin creates lift (with all clubs except the driver). Technical terms – (all the pilots out there will know this) – it is called the Bernouli Effect.
Now, that we know how lift is created on the ball, the hitting down toward the golf ball into the ground, let’s talk about how to create this “lift” – or in technical terms – compression into the ball into the ground.
Compression is created when the club makes an impact with the ball and the leading hand/side is solid/ or has not broken down prior to impact. This is the exact same position you would be in when you hit a good chip (firm leading wrist). If you cannot hit a solid chip – there is basically no way you can produce solid impact in the full swing – the chipping position at impact is the same as the full swing impact position.
Next, let’s talk about “practicing with a purpose” to create compression at impact.
- Start with a short chip. After you hit the chip – make sure the lead wrist HAS NOT broken down at impact. When you hold the finish position after the chip – the lead wrist should be straight and the butt end of the club should run up the lead forearm.
- Increase the length of the chip and check the same positions. Point of note – be very careful NOT to “fluff” up the lie of the ball when you are chipping. A common error made by a lot of students is they will make sure every lie is “perfect”. These perfect lies (a lot of grass below the ball) will promote “flipping” or breaking down of the lead wrist. Setting the ball in worn areas or lies with minimal grass will promote hitting down on the ball – the correct type of chipping/hitting stroke.
- Work on the leverage bag – hit the bag with ½ to ¾ swings and check the lead side. The lead side (wrist and arm) should stay firm at impact. If it is not firm (has broken down prior to impact) – push your arms forward until you reach this position. Hold this position for a period of time in order for your “subconscious” to memorize the correct feeling of impact.
- Hit ¼ to ½ punch shots (pretend you are hitting under a tree or into a strong wind). Here’s the “kicker” – hit these shots off of tight lies… not fluffy grass lies. These tight lies will give you the same sensation as chipping off of tight lies – you will instinctively hit down on the ball. After you hit the punch shot – check your lead side – again – the lead wrist should be firm and lead arm relatively straight.
- Point of caution – in all of our teachings, we see a common trait of those who want to pick the shot rather than compress – they like to tee the ball up when they are practicing with their irons. Teeing the ball up (with irons) is a good learning tool for beginners and those with minimal forearm strength, but if you are truly wanting to learn how to hit solid shots, avoid teeing up irons shots when practicing.
The more compression you create into the ball – the more spin you will create and the further you will hit the shot. In fact, when we visited Callaway’s Fitting Center in Carlsbad, CA, their fitting equipment calculated the compression coefficient rate at impact of each golf shot. This rate was a ratio of swing angle (downward) vs. club head speed. For example, if you had a swing speed of 90 mph and an angle of 10* down, the compression rate would register at -6.0. Optimal was -4 to -8. If you “picked” the ball at impact (did not hit down) the machine registered a + value.
For most of us (over 30 years of age), we are within 5 miles per hour of the maximum swing speed we could ever hope to create. But, that does not mean we can’t hit the ball further with our irons and fairway woods. If we work on compressing the ball into the ground, rather than sweeping/picking the ball – this can create optimal spin and lift on the ball, creating a significantly longer shot.
In conclusion – when working on your swing, also focus on the “moment of truth” or impact position. Start small with short chips and work forward making sure your hands are always leading the club head at impact and hitting down into the ball which ultimately creates lift and distance in the shot.