What Controls Direction

What Controls Direction

How far we hit the ball and in what direction are very simply and obviously what this game is all about. However behind this simplicity can be a whole lot of complicated physiological & psychological reasoning to any individual’s golf game. Why one person slices a ball can be a very different swing process to another golfer even though they are going to end up with same ball flight characteristics. For example one of these golfers may aim too much to right (closed) and be compensating for this position in the downswing, whereas the other golfer may have a very week grip and be aiming to the left (open) at address. What will be common with these two golfers is the factors at impact that influence the balls direction.

Of course there are things that will have an effect on the ball like strong winds, or how much loft we have on the club that may be taken into consideration when we are talking about our guidance system, but in this article there are three elements that we as golfers need to understand how they will influence the balls direction. They are:-

  • Where we strike the ball on the face of the club at impact.
  • The direction our clubface is pointing in at impact.
  • The swinging direction or path of the clubhead in relation to the target line through the impact zone.

Centeredness of strike

Without getting too much into this it is simply to do with where the centre of gravity is on a clubhead and how it effects the ball when we hit it from the toe or heel end of the club (it is called the gear effect). Basically for a right handed golfer if we hit the ball from the toe end of a club it will impart a spin on the ball that will make it curl to the left and the other way if we hit it from the heel. This is going to be a lot more influential with our metals than it will be with our irons because of the difference in design and therefore the position of the centre of gravity. For example If you tend to get week shots to the left especially with your driver but it also is something you notice with fairway metals and utility clubs check to see you if you are hitting the ball from the toe side of the face.

direction no 1

Clubface Direction

The direction the clubface is pointing at impact will largely (but not totally) influence the balls initial direction. One of the confusing terms that we hear in relation to this is when the clubface is referred to as being open or closed. This can and mostly will be thought of in relation the target line but in terms of understanding directing a ball this term is also relative to the swing path as well. Put simply, for us to hit a draw shot that finishes at our target the clubface will be open to the target line at impact but closed in relation to the swing path through this impact area. Generally the most common mistake is to assume that if a ball finishes left of the target we must have hit the ball with the clubface closed to the target line at impact.



Swing Path/Direction

This is the direction the clubhead travels in relation to the target line just prior and after the impact point. (This term has no relevance to the backswing at all).

Direction no 2

It is worth pointing out that any paths are not wrong or right but for you to get the desired shape of shot in relation to direction you must match up face and path accordingly and be reasonably centred in the strike.


A good way to remember how the face direction and path influence the ball think:


“The face sends it and the path bends it”

Paul Thompson has been the Fellow PGA Professional at Powerscourt Golf Club in Wicklow since 1995. In addition to providing coaching on-site he also is a coach with The Golfing Union of Ireland. Appointments with Paul can be booked via Powerscourt Golf Club Reception: Tel (01) 204 6033 or the Golf Shop Tel (01) 204 6031. Read more about lessons from Paul Thompson by visiting the Powerscourt Golf Club Website.

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