Hitting the golf ball “straight” is a concept that no golfer should be chasing. A true straight shot, one where the golf ball rotates backwards with no vertical tilt is virtually impossible to create (it requires a club face and club path that perfect align, among other things). It also creates the possibility of curving a shot in either direction – hardly predictable and no help to your scoring efforts. Even if you watch the Shot Tracer on the PGA or LPGA Tour you will see that the golf ball is almost always curving on full shots.
The basic face/path relationship (in this article we’ll not consider the up or down angle of attack that adds a third dimension for the sake of simplicity) creates the tilt of the golf ball that we see, resulting in curved shots. It is easier to have a curve that moves one way all the time (towards the target, ideally) for more consistency. How you create that curve is between you and your coach; that is a topic we can tackle in a different article, but in most cases we want to use a ball flight with a fairly tight curve to maximize distance and accuracy.
That said, to get a better feel for working on curved shots we should explore the limits of our capabilities.
What do I mean by that? Well, one drill I have my students do (and I do myself) is to hit extreme shots. Knowing that the club face is primarily responsible for starting direction of the golf ball and that a difference in the path to the face creates curvature, they try to play with that relationship to create massively curved shots. They choose starting lines a long way from the end target and experiment to get shots that curve back to the target. They do this for both left to right and right to left shots. As they learn to control large curves they can gradually tighten them up, eventually getting to a ball flight that they might use on an everyday basis.
By playing with their shots, rather than trying to hit “straight” shots, they become more aware of contact and club face and path control that will help them when they play, even under pressure.
So, the message is this: Be playful when you practice. Don’t just stand on the range trying to hit golf shots that go straight. Vary the shot shapes (on purpose, I might add) and you’ll get more in touch with your skills and gain the confidence to hit any type of shot when you need it.
Scott MacLeod is the Associate Publisher/Editorial Director at Flagstick Golf Magazine/Flagstick.com and a PGA of Canada Class A Professional.