One of the many measurements Trackman takes for each golf shot is the direction the club face points at impact, known as face angle. The face angle at impact has the most influence on the initial start direction of the golf shot. As the loft of the club drops, or gets closer to zero, the more influence the face has in the intial start direction. With the 60 degree wedge, the face is responsible for roughly 50% of the start direction, and with the putter, closer to 100%.
What does all of this mean? With the help of a little bit of Trigonometry we can show how far right or left of your target the ball is starting based on the distance of your shot. Using a right triangle, here’s the formula, the Tangent of 1 degree = the side opposite the angle (1 degree) divided by the adjacent side or the yardage. I’m sure many of you remember this image.
Tangent of 1 degree is .0174, our distance is 150 yards so the equation is .0174 = x (opposite) / 150 yards(adjacent). Multiply 150 into .0174 and x = 2.61 yards left or right of target. So if Trackman tells you the face angle at impact is 5 degrees right of target at impact 5 x 2.61 or 13 yards left or right of the target. At 300 yards, double or 26 yards left or right.
Thanks for the math lesson you might say, but how in the heck does that help me on the golf course? I’d encourage you to experiment with where the face is pointed in your swing. Try closing the face or opening the face before you take your grip, presetting the face closed or open, and just see what happens.
I love the exploration side of this, no preconceived notion of what should happen, an experiment to give you more awareness of what is actually happening. If you’re missing shots consistently one way or the other, you’re going to have to make a change to find a solution.
Your hands have the most influence on the club face through the swing and doing a little exploring, gripping the club open or closed or rotaing or holding off the face through impact can give you valuable feedback. Run a little experiment and see what happens, you’ll have fun and learn more about why the ball starts in the direction it does.