At first sight this may seem to be a strange paradox; after all, in order to hit the ball higher the obvious thing to do outside of changing the golf swing would be to increase the loft, not decrease it. This may be the accepted wisdom of “usual” golf advice, but is it necessarily correct?
Let me explain.
When set correctly in preparation to strike the golf ball, the leading edge of all irons sits off the ground; the extent to which it does depends on the club, with the leading edge of the more lofted clubs sitting more off the ground than those with less loft.
The amount by which the leading edge is off the ground is the sole angle of the golf club, commonly known as “bounce”, so the sand wedge, for example, will have more bounce than, say, a six iron. As a comparison, the former may have 12 degrees of bounce against 5 degrees with the latter.
Wedges – particularly sand wedges – tend to be a law unto themselves and are, therefore, outside the scope of this article which focuses on the rest of the irons.
There may be a number of reasons for failing to get the ball airborne – de-lofting the club at impact for example – but one of the main causes is hitting the ball “thin”.
Everyone has at some point in their golfing life thinned a shot so badly that it skids along the ground, sending an unpleasant wave of stinging vibration up the shaft and into the hands; but does anyone ever really consider what a thin shot is? It may seem obvious but I shall say it anyway, and that is that a thinned shot occurs when the golfer strikes the ball with the leading edge of the club.
Interestingly enough, many golfers that are prone to thinning their shots will instinctively de-loft the club to avoid the “leading-edge strike”, only to find that they still fail to get the desired ball-flight for reasons that are self-evident.
The “stinging” shot described above is, of course, an obvious example of hitting the ball thin, but what about the times when the vibration is not there, the golfer has not de-lofted the club but the flight of the ball is still lower than expected? This is still likely to be a consequence of “not getting all of the ball” which is what a marginally thinned shot is.
The ultimate aim is to strike the ball with the “sweet-spot” of the club because by doing so the golfer will achieve the optimum ball-flight, direction and distance assuming all other things – such as swing path, for example – are equal. The location of the sweet-spot may vary slightly from one set of irons to another but as a general rule is situated marginally towards the heel of the club and a little below halfway up the face; the sweet spot is never on the leading edge!
Taking all of the above into account, it may help to form a picture in our minds of the position of the leading edge of the club relative to the ball at the precise moment of impact of a slightly thinned shot. Having done so, mentally “freeze” the club in that position (with the leading edge just touching the bottom of the ball) and then, whilst it is there, bend the leading edge downwards so that it and the ball are no longer in contact. Having now moved the leading edge “out of the way”, re-start the golf club to complete the strike and you should “see” that it is now the club-face that hits the ball.
It follows, therefore, that for someone who is prone to thinning the ball and as a consequence fails to get it airborne, moving the leading edge “out of the way” by bending it downwards could help them to get the club face on the ball, thereby taking advantage of the available loft.
As with many things connected with golf club specification, however, the inter-relationship which exists between all aspects of the club means that moving the leading edge “out of the way” will impact on something else and in this case it is the loft. Bending the leading edge downwards – thereby reducing the distance between it and the ground (the sole angle or bounce) – will reduce the loft. Looking at it another way, reducing the loft of the club could help the “perpetual thinner” by getting the leading edge “out of the way” at the moment of impact. In any event, the effect on the loft is not great, given that a one degree reduction in bounce roughly equates to the same reduction in loft. Putting this into context, a seven iron, say, has a loft of around thirty-five degrees with about six degrees of bounce. Reducing the bounce by one degree (and I would not recommend much more – two degrees at a push, perhaps) will result in a new loft angle of thirty-four degrees.
In the right circumstances the trade-off is more than worth it because the better quality of strike can be such that the golfer’s game can improve beyond recognition without the need to change the golf swing.
Steve’s mission is to share the more “unusual” golf advice with his readers and has put together a complimentary report containing new and sometimes radical ideas and concepts that could take your game to a new level quickly and permanently. To access it instantly, please visit http://www.golfadvicedetective.com