The ability to self-diagnose is invaluable in golf. By being able to assess your ball flight patterns, you can potentially identify why you hit the ball the way you do. While golf is a three-dimensional game, understanding the two-dimensional ball flight laws provides a good general understanding of why the flies the way it does. Assuming the reader is a right handed golfer,
1) Identify where the ball starts in relation to your target. Where the club face is pointed at impact will, for the most part, determine where the ball starts. If the ball starts on your target line, the face was square at impact. If the ball starts left of your target, the face was closed at impact. If the ball starts to the right, the face was open at impact.
2) Identify where the ball curves in relation to your start-line. The club face and club path relationship determines the ball's curvature. If the ball flies straight, then your club face and club path matched up at impact. If it curves to the left, then your path was inside-out in relation to your club face angle at impact. If it curves to the right, then your path was outside-in in relation to your club face angle at impact.
3) Where you contact the golf ball on the face can have an effect on several of these aspects as well. Whether your contact is higher or lower on the club face will affect the amount of spin you generate (high on the face = lower spin, lower on the face = higher spin). Whether your contact is closer to the toe or the heel, especially with the driver and fairway woods, will affect the curvature of the ball due to gear effect (closer to the toe = ball will tend to curve to the left, closer to the heel = ball will tend to curve to the right). I recommend applying footspray to the clubface to help identify impact location.
Ever confused about how high your hands should be at the top of the golf swing? Always confused about whether you're a "one plane" or "two plane" golfer? Guess no more. In order to find where you should naturally be, all you need to know is your wingspan and your height (yes, without shoes on).
If you're a 'square', meaning your wingspan and height are the same length, then your lead arm will bisect your trail shoulder from the down the line view. For every inch your wingspan is shorter or longer than your height, your left arm will be under or above the shoulder, respectively.
For example, if you're 6'2 and your wingspan is 6'5, then your backswing will end with your lead arm roughly 3 inches above your trail shoulder.
Hope this clears up any confusion!
The next time you're faced with the decision to either club up or down, consider the following.
Yardage gaps from one club to the next typically occur in increments of 10 yards. Therefore, if the yardage to your target has you stuck in between clubs, there's generally around 5 yards you need to either add or subtract from your club of choice. Rather than choosing the shorter club and swinging out of your shoes, pick the longer club and use Distance Reduction Variables (DRVs) in your setup to easily subtract yardage.
There are three main DRVs:
Example: You've got 165 to the pin and you're in between clubs. You would select your 170 club, grip down an inch, narrow your stance an inch and swing away!
Thanks for reading, and I hope this helps your game!
You may hear your local PGA Pro say the words "Parallel Left" when talking about setting up a practice alignment station. While it is correct in theory, virtually everyone takes it too far. At a typical alignment station, the range ball sits no more than a few feet to the right or left of the alignment stick. Therefore, the alignment stick itself should point no more than a few FEET to the right or left of the target. Since humans in general are incapable of such precision, and because nearly everyone is OK with their shots ending up within one or two feet to either side of their target, the prudent thing to do is to simply try to point your alignment stick directly at the target itself. Hope this helps!