What Happens When You Hit the Ball?

As a PGA Golf Professional, my goal is to continue learning more effective ways to teach the golf swing.  Recently, I have spent time researching the physics of the golf swing.  While most people will think this is about as exciting as reading the USGA Rules of Golf, it helps me become a more effective teacher and coach of the golf swing.  I thought I would share some of the interesting points of what happens when you hit the golf ball.  Remember, these are not theories.  The following are scientific facts that started with a hypothesis and proven through experiments.


What actually happens when you hit a golf ball straight?  The clubface swings through the ball and towards the target.  The clubface is square through the contact of the golf ball.  The clubface is traveling fast through impact with the golf ball for increased distance.  The ball is struck in the middle of the clubface.  It seems simple, hit the ball hard, straight and square on the clubface.

During the downswing with the proper technique, a golfer can produce up to four horse-power.  A superior fitness level is required to produce this much power.  In addition to the arms and hands producing power, the big muscles, legs and trunk are all required to produce extreme power in the swing.

During a drive, the club face is only contacting the ball for half a thousandth of a second (half a millisecond).  In fact, the reaction of impact travels fast, but not instantaneously.  A golfer will only feel it a short time after impact.  It takes about two-thirds of a millisecond for the shock of impact to travel up the shaft from the clubface to the hands.  The ball is already in flight and about half an inch clear of the clubface.  It takes another ten milliseconds for the message to reach the golfers’ brain where the player can feel the reaction.  The golf ball is now a foot or more clear of the clubhead.

A pull or push is a straight shot that travels in the wrong direction.  The shot travels in the wrong direction because the clubface is being swung in that direction, rather than straight at the target.  For every 1° the swing is off line, the pull or push will travel 3 ½ yards from the intended line at 200 yards from the tee.  To miss a shot in the rough, approximately 20 yards from the intended target, the pull or push must be off almost 6°. 

Hooks and slices are curved shots, at impact, caused by the clubface aiming in a different direction than the club is being swung.  They go more than twice as much in the wrong direction as a push or pull.  At 200 yards, the ball will travel 7 yards in the wrong direction for every 1° the clubface is off at impact.  Therefore, to miss the fairway at 20 yards from the target, there needs to be an error of only 3° at impact.  These errors are magnified the farther you hit the ball. 


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