ANGLE OF ATTACK
Of the five aspects to the ball flight laws, angle of attack often receives short shrift from most teaching professionals. The other four aspects – clubhead path, clubface angle, clubhead speed, squareness of strike – receive much attention from both players and teachers alike. However, all five are important in determining the quality of the shot, and that includes the angle of attack the clubhead takes into the ball.
The longer the club, the shallower the angle of descent will be. Of course, this means the shorter the club, the steeper the angle of
descent will be. With a driver and the ball teed up, the ideal angle of approach is actually a slight ascent of the clubhead into the ball.
To achieve these desired results, proper ball position and stance width are key. The golfer should never feel he has to manipulate his swing; instead, ball position and stance done correctly should do the trick. For most players, driver ball position opposite the forward heel will result in a slight ascending of the clubhead through impact. For balls hit off the ground, ball position forward of center, slightly behind the forward heel, is ideal for most players.
For players who have a more difficult time turning their weight into their forward foot on the downswing, the ball position should be placed a little farther back in the stance. The ball position should never be placed in the back half of the stance for normal shots, unless the player has a physical problem that prevents him from playing the ball more forward.
There are two schools of thought concerning ball position for balls played off the ground. One school says to play the ball in a constant position in relation to the forward heel while widening the back foot away from the front foot for longer clubs, and narrowing the back foot towards the front foot for shorter clubs. The second school says to not only widen and narrow the stance according to club length, but to play the ball farther back from the front heel for shorter clubs.
According to studies done by ModelGolf, tour players actually do move the ball in relation to the front foot from the 2-iron to the 9-iron, but the movement is so small that, for all practical purposes, the ball position in relation to the front foot remains almost constant. Therefore, we at the USGTF prefer to advocate the first school of thought.
Not only is this simpler for the average student to understand, but the widening and narrowing of the stance also takes care of the angle of attack for the different clubs! As the club gets longer, the circumference of the swing gets bigger and the angle of attack becomes shallower automatically. To ensure the ball is struck solidly, the body’s center must be placed farther behind the ball. Simply widening the back foot away from the front foot accomplishes this already, so why make it more complicated by moving the ball more forward, too?
Of course, as the club gets shorter the circumference of the swing gets smaller, so the angle of approach steepens naturally. If we kept the same wide stance with a 9-iron that we had with a 2-iron, the club would bottom out before hitting the ball. Thus, a narrower stance is required for the 9-iron. There is no reason to move the ball farther back in relation to the front foot, as the narrowing of the stance already assures us a chance of making square contact.
If the angle of attack is too shallow for the given club, it is quite easy to hit the ball fat or to top it, since the tendency will be to bottom out early. If the ball is hit squarely, it will fly lower with less spin than it should.
If the angle of attack is too steep, again it will be easier to hit the ball fat or to top it, since the margin for error for clean contact is greatly reduced. If the ball is hit squarely, it will fly higher with more spin than it should. This is quite common with average golfers hitting their drivers.
Examine your students‚ ball flight for these tendencies. If you see low shots with little spin or high shots with lots of spin, the problem is most likely this “forgotten” aspect of ball flight.