Just the Facts

As discussed in my previous article Know What before Know How, Knowledge is the foundation of my teaching philosophy.  Knowledge about what makes a ball fly and what the club has to do to accomplish this task are beginning concepts.

Once the ball is airborne, it will either fly straight, to the right or to the left.  Now, you are probably aware of what causes these variations in flight, but it bears reviewing because, as you will read later, clubface awareness will help you create the shots you want when you want them.

The three pictures below tell the story about varying ball flights.

Square Clubface   Open ClubfaceClosed Clubface

Ball Flight Laws tell us the following (for right-handed golfers):

  • Square Clubface to the Swing Path = Ball Flies Straight in direction of Path
  • Open Clubface to the Swing Path = Ball Flies Right of Path
  • Closed Clubface to the Swing Path = Ball Flies Left of Path

Simple, right?  The basic concepts to create ball flight and control its direction are clear.  Strike the ball below the equator and it will fly; control the clubface orientation at impact and you will control its direction.  Now that’s some knowledge you can use!

It’s a fact that the golf ball reacts to only one thing at the moment of impact and that is the clubface.  It follows that if you focus your attention on the clubface during impact you will have the best chance of controlling where your ball goes.  And along the way, attention on the clubface during impact will become the foundation for the swing you build.

Follow my logic thread below and I believe it will help you embark on playing the best golf of your life!

It all starts with an image of what you want the ball to do to get to the target.  Generally, the Club Mechanics create Swing Mechanicsterm for this image is Ball Flight, even though the chosen shot may be one that rolls the whole way, as in putting.  Once you’ve selected the Ball Flight, you then choose the club that will best accomplish it.  Now you simply determine what that club must do through  ball impact to create the shot you selected.  What the club does is termed Club Mechanics.

For example, say you want to curve the ball from right to left (a draw for a right-hander) so you can go around a hazard instead of over it; based on the yardage you determine a 7 iron is the club for the shot.  Your knowledge of Ball Flight dictates the clubface must descend through impact (to strike the ball below its equator) with the clubface closed to its swing path (so the ball will curve left or draw).   This will make it clear that your swing path must be right of the hazard you want to go around so the ball will have room to curve toward the target, avoiding the hazard. These specifics regarding clubface orientation and direction are the Club Mechanics for hitting that draw.

Now that you are clear on the Club Mechanics needed for your shot, you can begin to sense the movement needed to deliver the club accordingly, this we term Swing Mechanics.  Let me be clear, Swing Mechanics are a function of the Ball Flight you have chosen and are determined by the Club Mechanics needed during ball impact to create that intended flight.  Intended golf shots determine attentive golf swings.

Shot Imagery is the heart of the golf swingThe goal for every golf shot is to reach a target.  To do this you must apply the clubface to the ball in a way that creates the ball flight you intend.  Attention on applying the clubface to the ball creates the swing and not vise-versa.  Your golf swing is dynamic and whole; there is not one physical piece or part that makes it all work to create the desired outcome of proper club mechanics that produce the ball flight intended – all the ‘parts’ work together to deliver the clubface to the ball.  Your body is like a machine with many moving parts that must work in harmonious order; it all needs a good manager so that everything works together and at the right time.

I pose to you that your brain is that manager, more specifically; your brain is a ‘task manager’.  Just think about how you get through daily life. You “shower”, “shave”, “dress”, “drive”, “eat”, “drink”, “walk”, “talk”, “stand”, “sit”, “hammer”, “rake”, “open”, “close”, etc…all of these are tasks.  All you need is the intent to do the task and your brain manages your body to get the task done…Brilliant!  So why would you treat a golf shot any differently?

For golf shots, the task is applying the clubface to the ball and the task is clarified first with “ball to target” imagery.  This ‘task orientation’ is the glue that combines all the swing ‘parts’ into one fluid motion that produces desired results.  What you are doing with the clubface to the ball is the primary task; the swing you produce will be an effect, not a cause.  Misunderstanding this process is why sometimes golfers ask “what did I do right?” when they hit a great shot.

Simple Task of Square Clubface In these instances, their task was usually very simple, like “just hit it”, “ball then divot” or “keep the face square” and this “task” orientation orchestrates the body’s swing mechanics to deliver the goods.  Sometimes golfers aren’t even that conscious of the task, they just have a fleeting glimpse or image of what they want to happen with the ball and automatically execute the shot without getting in their way consciously. That’s why they don’t know how they did it; they Simple Task of Connect the Dotsdid the whole thing of “ball to target” and how is of little concern to the task oriented mind.

With intent only on the strike, spawned from the image of “ball to target”, great shots happen.  And those shots are usually great because that’s all the ball reacts to – the strike!

So here is your formula for success:

Ball Flight leads to Club Mechanics that create Swing Mechanics 

Note: I often hear golfers say “I get it, but all I want is a swing that will hit the ball straight”.  This comment usually stems from a false concept that if they “do the right swing” they will “hit the right shot”.  My intent with this article is that you understand once and for all that you are in control of every shot you hit because you are in control of where you focus your attention.  The reality is “if you hit the right shot then you will have done the right swing”…that’s right… Ball Flight leads to Club Mechanics that create Swing Mechanics.

You can begin to apply these concepts during a practice session by simply playing with the clubface through impact.  Focus on delivering a square clubface through impact for a few shots, then focus on delivering an open clubface for a few shots then a closed clubface for a few shots.  See what happens when you put your attention on what you are doing with the clubface through impact, I believe you will sense different swing mechanics for each variation.  This little exercise may reveal that you can hit any shot you want when your attention is focused on a clear intent for What the clubface is doing through impact and not on How to swing, hoping for an acceptable result.

I invite you to give it a go and let me know what your experience reveals!

Know What before Know How

Throughout my personal journey in golf, which is now in its 49th year, it has become clear that knowledge is the foundation upon which any success I have experienced is built.  Looking back, I find that knowledge has structure and it is that structure that keeps learning clear, precise and meaningful.  Whether you are just beginning to play this game or have been an avid golfer for years, I pose that you base your game on a structure of knowledge rather than the all too common “tip of the day”.

After many years of being immersed in style based instruction, I began to recognize that golfers bring with them to the practice range, golf course and lesson tee preconceived concepts that are fundamental to their skill development and progress, or lack thereof.  More often than not, a golfer’s concepts are acquired from a random and disjointed model, very unlike most subject matters we learn in life.  Take driving a car for example.  Chances are good it started with some concept for what the steering wheel, gas pedal, brake and shift lever were for and how they worked.  There were probably test drives in empty parking lots, then in light traffic situations and eventually more complex circumstances.  Before long you were off driving to a predetermined destination while thinking about what to get for dinner that night without one thought of how to drive and you somehow got to your destination safely without incident.  What transpired was that you built a structure of knowledge about driving a car that was clear and precise, built from little to big, and this made it simple, over time, to perform the very complex task of driving with the greatest of ease.

But when learning the subject matter of golf, concepts are typically formed without the structure of little to big, slow to fast or simple to complex.  Typically golfers begin learning HOW to swing.  Things like “keep your left arm straight”, “keep your head down”, “shift your weight” and “finish on balance” become ingrained concepts for what they must do in order to hit a ball.  If the results are undesirable, more information is added like “cock your wrists”, “keep your knees flexed”, “don’t sway” and soon the golfer’s mind is swimming in a virtual soup of commands that is supposed to produce a golf shot that flies straight and true.  Sometimes one of these “tips of the day” works and the golfer is deceived into believing more tips are a good thing and when shots go astray they add another and another until they are right back in the soup!

Since concepts are the basis for knowledge in any functional system, I feel it primary that golfers clearly understand two concepts prior to embarking on or continuing forward in their pursuit of golf.  These concepts are simple and start at the beginning, a very good place to start.

Concept #1What makes a Golf Ball Fly
A golf ball is round and can roll or fly, depending on where it is hit by the clubface.  Hit it below the equator and it flies, hit it on or above the equator and it rolls.

Concept #2What the Golf Club does to create Ball Flight
The clubhead has a flat surface called a “face”.  If the top of the face is tilted away from the target, this is called “loft”.  If the bottom of the club swings to the bottom of the ball such that the ball is struck on the flat surface, loft insures the ball is struck below its equator – so it flies.

Loft is the angle of the clubface plane as measured from vertical.

Below are high speed photos of impact with a Driver, middle iron and more lofted short iron.  You can clearly see that the ball is contacted below the equator and the ball is compressed (flattened at the point of impact).  This results in launch and spin (flight) characteristics unique to the club used.
These two simple concepts form a foundation of knowledge that sets one on the correct path to developing sound fundamentals that can lead to consistent ball striking and an enjoyable day on the golf course.  Knowing WHAT makes a ball fly and WHAT the club has to do to produce that flight provides a foundation for clarity of intention and attention when striking a golf ball; in turn, providing the best chance to reach desirable outcomes.


Knowing WHAT is not however knowing HOW.  Know HOW is the stuff of learning through doing.  Knowing HOW to hit a 250 yard drive or a 175 yard five-iron straight toward a target stems first from knowing WHAT the club has to do to the ball to create the desired flight.  From here, one can set about developing a way or plan to get the job done.

It is here that it becomes clear why knowledge is a primary component to my teaching philosophy. It has been the norm in golf instruction that information regarding HOW was given priority.  Just look at any golf magazine or Golf Channel Academy or search Google for golf instruction and the content is overwhelming on HOW to swing a golf club.  It has been my experience that most golfers know more about how to swing and what they do wrong than ever before and yet they remain confused about what to change to turn a nagging slice into a beautiful draw.  And, they continuously return to the source of their confusion for guidance; more magazines, more academies, more content, more information.

I pose a simple solution, get your concepts straight on WHAT you are doing with a golf club to a golf ball, know WHAT the club must do to give you a desired result, then get on with doing that…and you will see a change for the better.  HOW you swing will become a function of WHAT you intend to do with the club to hit the ball where you want it to go.

Know WHAT before you Know HOW!

Golf Course Bliss…

Meet Chuck Hogan

Chuck Hogan is considered one of the foremost authorities in the golf instruction industry. Chuck has written/produced several books, videos and audio tape programs and developed award winning packages like Nice Shot! and the Player’s Course. Additionally Chuck serves as a frequent contributor to GOLF, Golf Week, Golf Tips, Golf for Women and Senior Golfer.

Thought of by his peers as the “teacher’s teacher”, he has created the LPGA’s revolutionary teaching handbook and program, and works as a consultant for the PGAs of America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as collegiate champions like UCLA, Arizona State University, and Stanford University.

Chuck is also in demand away from the golf course. His sports clients have included Olympians, and professional basketball, baseball and tennis stars. Chuck has developed unique programs for organizations such as Blanchard Training and Development, Peter Jacobsen Enterprises, and others around the business world. Chuck Hogan continues to surpass the standards of golf instruction by continually redefining his own standards. Experience something entirely different: “Golf Instruction that works!”

Mental vs. Physical
by Chuck Hogan

It is a huge mistake, error and misleading belief that you have a “mental” game separate from your “physical” game. In a very real sense, it is non-sense. As long as you think that mental is somehow separate from physical, your game is doomed. And, it is not your game that suffers. It is you that suffers. Literally, golfers have the game set up in such a way that they suffer from “working” at golf. By definition, the serious golfer does not “play” golf at all. What a sad and limiting statement about a potentially great GAME.

The separation of mental from physical started for you way back in the forth grade or so. Your “education” taught you a couple of disastrous beliefs. One, it taught you that the words are the experience instead of the representation of the experience. In fact, the map is NOT the territory. You cannot walk, drive or fly to your destination on a map. The map simply represents your eventual experience of travel. The words “fear, confidence, happiness, confusion, mental” and all others are NOT your experience. They are a word representing your experience. So, if I tell you that I was “nervous” over a three-footer, you might be able to vaguely capture my experience. Or, you might even be able to know my experience quite intimately if you have had a very similar experience. Still, the word is not the exact experience. It is a representation, depiction, symbol of MY experience. You have YOUR own precise experience and a corresponding representative and descriptive word(s). Our descriptive word “pressure” may be shared by you and I if we have the similar experience of a racing heartbeat, sweaty palms, weak knees, incoherent imagery and all the nuances of the experience. Tiger Woods, on the other hand, may use the word “pressure” but have no shared experience. His “pressure” may simple serve to amplify and sharpen his attention and interest in the task at hand. The point is that the word is NOT the experience. The word is a word. The experience is altogether a much richer experience represented in your brain and simultaneously felt in you body.

Hang in here with me, this will become very meaningful for your game. So if you are on the receiving end of a “golf lesson”, is the “teacher” talking to your arm, legs, hand, head, shoulders, putter or physical component? Or is the communication to and for your brain? In other words, is this a physical lesson or a mental lesson? And, is your brain a “mental brain” or a “physical brain?” What would your “physical body” do if your “mental (or is it physical?) brain was disconnected from your body? And, if your “mental” brain were to grasp the “teachers” instructions in an incoherent, fuzzy, imprecise, muted or confused manner, how would your body respond? And, how would you and the instructor know for sure that the instructions were effective to your “mental” parts? If you are executing the shot just “right” with your physical body does that mean that the “mental” instructions were clear and precise? Well, of course it does. So, was it a great mental lesson or physical lesson?

Do you appreciate how goofy it is to split the human being (you) into these mental and physical boxes? As if you could have one without or differing from the other. As if you could have a body doing anything separate from your brain. As if your brain was not a physical brain. As if your physical body could do anything not generated from your “mental” brain. So, when it is said that Chuck Hogan (or whoever) is the “mental” guy; it is a lie! It is also a lie that the “physical” instructor is somehow not communicating from his mental position to the “student’s” mental position. Once that you appreciate that you are one golfer, not a mental AND a physical golfer; you have a chance to get what you want. To get to that level of understanding and appreciation, there is one more piece of understanding that you will need to process. Words are not thinking! So, if you are talking aloud or talking to “yourself” internally, the words are still not thinking!!! The words are a description of your thinking! Golfers, worldwide; get into the “zone” and play great golf. In the zone, they play how they dream of playing. They play to their potential. They play “over their head” and “out of their mind”. Worldwide, golfers explain it as “not thinking, just doing”.

What they really mean, upon further questioning, is that they are not talking. The words in there brain stop or modify in such a way that their conscious mind (verbal mind) “gets out of the way”. They play out of their conscious, controlling, commanding, verbal mind. Of course this is a rare experience when the conscious mind has been educated and rewarded for always being in control. The educational system does not reward you for a great imagination. The schooling system rewards you for articulation and regurgitation of the spoken and written word.

So, you get the idea that talking (internally or externally) is “thinking”. For the golfer, ignorance really is “bliss” on the golf course. Ignoring (root of ignorance) the conscious mind and playing from your image-making mind is bliss, the zone and the place from where all winners win. Tiger is simply in his imagery mind more than he is in his verbal mind. He was trained that way and you can do so as well.

Playing Consistent Golf

Consistency – that is the number one request I hear from my students.  It can be said that good thinking leads to good golf.  Below is an example of good thinking you can use to gain it; after all, consistent thinking will lead to a consistent Golf game.

Step 1:  Pre-shot

Prior to playing your shot and standing so the ball is directly between you and the target, determine the following:

  • Assess the LIE as this will help determine a practical target to choose.
  • Where – Where do you want the ball to go (Target)
  • What flight and/or roll – How do you want it to get there (Imagine ball roll or flight and roll)
  • What club – Decide which club will do that best for the situation (Experiment)
  • What impact orientation for situation and lie – Determine how the clubface must impact the ball to create the shot (Club Mechanics)
  • How to Move – Move the club accordingly (Attempt in practice swing to get a “Go” signal for moving the club appropriate for the shot. Sense motion to get intended club mechanics – trust your senses)
    • Careful here, ALWAYS ALLOW yourself to do anything necessary to accomplish club movement – NO RULES for how to move! This is your own Golf swing and it may not look or feel like anyone else.  Be the creative individual you are!
    • The key intent is to get the job done with the club to the ball to get the ball to the target, not to make a perfect swing.
    • Emotional Forecast – Imagine and sense emotionally how you will feel after you perfectly execute the shot.

Step 2:  Play the shot

  1. Aim the clubface
  2. Align your body, get comfortable
  3. GO!  Do what you “sensed”.  Now is the time to GO!  Trust what you sensed as you sensed it for good reasons and there is nothing left to do but find out if it works!  If you don’t like something, step away from the ball and back to your pre-shot position to re-evaluate, then Play the shot beginning with Aim the clubface.

Feel Confidence, Trust, Ready, Embrace the moment, smile…… ENJOY!

Step 3:  Post Shot

  • Evaluate result (What happened to the ball) CELEBRATE SUCCESS! Be neutral if result does not “match” to what you wanted
  • Adjust (if necessary) to improve club mechanics

Repeat the above sequence of Pre-shot, Play the Shot and Post Shot from now on for every shot you play and you will be consistent!