The past two editions of Golf Teaching Pro have featured articles on whether golf instruction is getting too complicated. The consensus by the authors was a “yes,” but that doesn’t mean that we should shut out all new learning and technology in favor of sticking only with what we first learned. As golf teaching professionals, we have an obligation to keep up with the latest trends and methodologies so that we’re not left behind. The trick, of course, is to impart this information in a way that our students understand. Many of them just want to hit the ball better and aren’t interested in the latest theories or arguments on the minutiae of every little bit of the golf swing.
With the advent of high-tech gadgets and increased knowledge, different terms have come onto the teaching scene. While they may not be new, there may be a new understanding of how they work or what they are.
TrackMan® and FlightScope®. These are Doppler-radar based launch monitors that mea-sure every relevant aspect of ball flight. They have “launched” (pun intended) a whole new slew of terms in recent years. Among them:
Launch angle. This is the angle the ball takes off compared to the horizontal ground, measured in degrees. For drivers, anywhere from 10°for higher swing speeds to upwards of 16° for lower swing speeds are what club fitters and teachers are looking for.
Spin axis. A ball that has backspin around a perfectly horizontal axis will have no curvature. The amount that the actual axis varies from horizontal is called “spin axis” and is measured in degrees. If the axis tilts to the left of horizontal (as seen behind the target line), the ball will have draw spin for a right-hander, and if it tilts to the right of horizontal, the ball will have fade spin.
Example of spin axis of a draw (right-hander)
Zero out. This is launch monitor parlance for having a club head path at impact that is towards the intended target with a square clubface.
Positive/negative angle of approach. In the old days we would say ascending (positive) or descending (negative), but since launch monitors use positive or negative numbers, the terminology is going in the numerical direction.
Smash factor. This is the ratio of ball speed to club head speed. With the driver, most clubfitters believe that a smash factor of at least 1.45 is necessary to call a driver a good fit for that particular person.
RPMs. This is the number of revolutions per minute of the ball’s backspin. For drivers, RPMs that vary from 2,200 to 2,800, depending on ball speed and launch angle, are desirable. With the increased technology in drivers available to manufacturers, they are able to do more to make this happen. It has been said that the holy grail for driver launch is 17° of launch angle with 1,700RPMs of spin. Time will tell if a driver can be made to make this feasible.
Teaching and coaching. New terms, and older terms that are now more commonly in use, have made their way onto the stage.
Covering the ball. This term is not new but has been used extensively in recent years. It means not tilting the chest backwards coming into impact and letting it rotate so that the player does not swing too far inside-to-outside. This is mainly a good player’s feel as it is one to help a player from hooking the ball.
Save the shot. Again, mainly a good player’s fault. This results from a swing path that is in-side-to-outside during impact, resulting in a push unless the player “saves” the shot by precise timing of the release of the hands.
Fall line. This term has been made popular by Johnny Miller on television. It refers to the putting green. A ball rolling on the fall line towards the hole will go dead straight. Determining if the ball lies to the left or right of the fall line is helpful in figuring which way the putt will break, and seems to be the preferred greens-reading method for many tour players today, rather than just looking at the slope of the green between the ball and the hole.
Center of mass vs. swing pressure. Some teachers employ foot pressure plates, which measure how much each foot is pressing into the ground at any given time. This is different than the center of mass, a completely different subject. It is possible to have most of the pressure on the rear foot, for example, at the top of the backswing while having the center of mass more forward. One of the trends in teaching today is to have the center of mass stay relatively stationary throughout the swing (at least through impact).
Use the bounce. This has been known for years with bunkers shots, but now it is becoming more common for pitch shots. More wrist action through impact and/or a shallower angle of attack make this happen. Many teachers feel this lessens the chance of a mishit, especially hitting fat shots.
Golf terms continually evolve, and it is certain that terms that will be used in the years to come have not even be invented today. Although the game continues to change, it holds deep to its traditional roots, and this combination means the game will appeal to people of all types for the indefinite future.