Have you ever had that feeling of the club twisting in your hands as you hit the ball? Most commonly this is a result of poor swing mechanics however, striking the ball out of the toe or heel of the club can create the same feeling. The effect this has on the ball flight is something we call Gear Effect.
Compare that twisting feeling with a shot straight out the sweet spot. To hit that flush shot you must line up the centre of mass (COM) of both the clubhead and golf ball.
The centre of mass is the point of which the mass of the clubhead and ball is evenly distributed, more often than not it’s in the centre.
What happens when these two centre of masses are not aligned (e.g. you miss the sweet spot)? If you were to strike the ball out the toe of the club, the point of contact would twist around the centre of mass. For a right handed golfer this would result in the clubface opening up or aiming to the right. The opposite would occur for those shots hit out of the heel of the club. You would be surprised how much the clubface moves during these off centre strikes.
For us to fully understand this next bit cogs come in quite handy (hence the term GEAR Effect).This opening up or closing of the face at impact due to off centre strikes gives this feeling of the club twisting. In an effort to stop the club twisting players tend to grip the club tighter however, this can affect swing mechanics and make off centre strikes more likely. It’s a vicious downward spiral.
So we know the clubface moves during an off centre hit, but what happens to the ball?
The club and ball act like a pair of gears. A toed strike which causes the clubface to open up (rotate clockwise) will cause the ball to rotate anti-clockwise. This causes the ball to have more draw spin or less fade spin depending on strike conditions.
We can apply the opposite to those struck out of the heel. The clubface gear will rotate anti-clockwise and the golf ball gear will rotate clockwise.
Place some tape on your clubface and put some marker pen on the ball. Take a look where the ball makes contact with the club and monitor the shape of the ball flight and feel.
Gear effect is much more noticeable or more dominant when using your driver, woods or hybrid.
Understanding where you are striking the ball is stage one. You may or may not be able to correct your strike on your own however, its likely that there is an underlying issue in your swing mechanics which needs correcting.To accurately identify the correct fault and implement ways to improve please arrange a one to one video analysis session with me at a time that suits you.
Mark Nelson – PGA Professional