Starting Line – Path or Face?

Starting Line – Path or Face?

Part of what we do at the PGACLP is educate our students on the mechanics of ball flight. One of the biggest misconceptions in golf is what controls the starting line of the golf ball – the club path or the club face?

It seems like every time the question is asked a different answer is presented from the student. The answers range from the path only, face only, to 50/50 and “I don’t know.”

When you leave a session at the PGACLP you need to know why your golf ball does what it does and a solution for long lasting improvement.

On mid iron shot (a 6 iron for example) the club face controls 75% of the launch direction/starting line on the shot. On a driver this number is approximately 85%.

What does this mean for you?

This means that when you hit a shot that starts a long way off the target line your club face is largely to blame. For example, if a right handed player hits a shot that starts well right of the target the club face is open at the moment of impact.

Let’s look at some data captured using the Trackman radar system at the PGACLP. The image shown is providing data on 3 things:

1. The club path, which can be travelling left, straight or right at impact.

2. The launch direction, the ball can launch left, straight or right at impact.

3. The face angle, the face can be closed, square or open at impact.


What caused the ball to start right and finish right?

Launch direction blockIn this example, the ball starts 1.8 degrees to the right of the target and finishes right of the target as shown in the illustration.

The club path angle is 0.1 degrees to the right or from the inside. Essentially this path is straight at the target at impact. The club face is 2.4 degrees open at impact.

The launch direction of 1.8 degrees is controlled by the face angle of 2.4 degrees open. Some quick mathematics shows 1.8/2.3 x100 = 78%. Very close to our 75% rule of thumb in this case.

In another example we are working with a very similar set of numbers. Now the ball is starting left. The club path is basically travelling at the target at impact. Now the face angle is closed by 2.3 degrees to the target line and the shot starts 1.8 degrees left of the target and finishes left.

Both of these shots illustrate the club face angle has a large influence over the starting line of the ball.

Starting line club face pull

Why is this important to know?

On the second illustration most people would say that “you came over the top of it!” In fact this is incorrect. The path was travelling 0.1 degrees from the inside or essentially straight at the target. It was only a mis-judgement in club face control that caused the shot to start and finish left. Swinging the club path out to the right without consideration for the club face could be disastrous. A minor adjustment to the release of the club face could be all that is required to send the ball on a straight ball flight.

Trackman is a featured piece of technology at the PGACLP. To gain a better of understanding of your own ball flight  book a Trackman session at the PGACLP by calling 03 8320 1902 or contact us here.


  • Steve McLaughlin Posted August 18, 2015 12:43 am

    I find it very hard to believe that, when swinging a club at 100kph, that golfers can make such minor adjustments as 1 or 2deg! Some even say they use ‘feel’ of the club at impact, but surely impact is only a fraction of a second? How on earth can claims be made to adjust club face during the swing? Surely it’s a matter of set up and alignment prior to making your regular swing? This is why I question the impact of trackman and other launch monitors. I’m all for improving my game, but not sure trackman sessions can help a rank amateur … a pro maybe, but not me!

    I say this because such sessions are expensive and for little benefit for me, it seems.

    kind regards


    • Nick – PGACLP Posted August 21, 2015 2:13 am

      Hi Steve,
      Thanks for the comment. You are correct in saying that golfers cannot adjust at the moment of impact. The golf swing happens so fast. Setup, alignment and the back swing seem to have a large influence on Trackman numbers. We definitely advocate starting at the root cause. The great thing about Trackman is that it provides immediate feedback so adjustments can be made on the next shot. It might range from a setup/alignment adjustment through to a specific movement in the swing. Then the golfer learns their own specific steps to deliver the club and improve their ball flight. Part of what makes PGA professionals so good is that they are acutely aware of the face throughout the swing and more often than not can make the necessary adjustments when their swing is off.

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