Moving forward with the concept of game improvement, I believe it is important to consider what really matters when trying to play better golf. For me it is simple: If you can control the distance the ball travels in the air as well as the start direction and curve of the golf ball, a player can make good decisions and play very good golf.
In thinking about what actually matters, distance control and direction, there are some things to focus on and ways you can test yourself. In most players I see the swing speed does not vary a lot from shot to shot. If a player swings their 7 iron around 80 miles an hour, it is rare for it to jump to 86 or more with a change in intention. Since speed doesn’t chance drastically, contact is what impacts distance control the most from shot to shot. The inconsistency in strike is what leads to most variations in distance. To test yourself on this the easiest thing to use is face tape or foot powder spray. Hit 10 balls with the face marked and look at the impact pattern for the 10 shots. There are two things to look at, consistency of contact and location of contact on the face. The goal would be a tight pattern around the sweet spot of the club. Impact biases can lead to both distance and directional control issues. If contact is an issue, then you have found a great place to start your practice. If you're stuggling with the impact test the drill to the left is a great drill to start with. Draw an impact line with a perpendicular line in the sand. This represents impact and target line. Make a full swing and see where you impact the sand. Sand provides great feedback for both the direction the club is traveling and where the arc is bottoming out.
Because contact is so important to the result of the shot, that is where we start. If contact is acceptable the next step is controlling start direction. To control where the ball starts, we must control the clubface at impact. The face of the club at impact is the primary influencer of start direction. The best test for this is an aliment stick gate test. Place two alignment sticks 2 feet apart and 8-10 feet in front of you. The test is to see how many balls you can start in between the gate with a full swing. If there is a pattern of misses, left or right, then you can start to see where the face is at impact and work towards squaring the face to start the ball on your intended target line. Again, for this drill use 10 balls and see how many go through. While this is test, it is also a great way to practice. If the two foot gate becomes too easy, you can continually narrow the width of the gate.
These are two of the primary tests I will use with a new student when evaluating them and determining what to work on. These tests are done best with both a 7 iron and a driver. It can be very interesting to see the differing results when you change clubs. By taking the tests you can also set a baseline and monitor improvement. Knowing what to focus on can lead to better practice and better golf. I hope you find these tests helpful and a way to start your improvement plans for the season. As always, if you have any questions feel free to email or call me anytime. Next week I will touch on some practice drills that correlate to these tests and continue to focus on how we can improve going forward.