How to Aim
By Tim Mahoney
A perfectly struck shot with an imperfect aim results in an
imperfect result. An imperfect shot with
a perfect aim could result in a perfect shot.
The art of aiming I believe is the single most difficult aspect in the
game, due to the fact that the golfer is inside and above the ball line. I have been in the instruction arena for over
30 years and have tried every aiming tip with my students, and have come up
with the conclusion that all good aimers have 2 common traits: a consistent
ball flight and they always aim the clubface first and body second.
Golf swing and pre swing compatibility will develop a
consistent ball flight. For an example:
strong grip, centered ball position, body supports golf club and a reverse K
posture these alignments will produce a controlled draw. Conversely, a weaker grip, forward ball
position, X posture and an arm control will produce a controlled fade. Uncontrolled ball flights make a consistent
aim impossible. Hooks followed by a
slice develop an atmosphere where it is impossible to aim. Develop a consistent ball flight and then
develop your game plan for aiming.
Clubface Followed by
The only contact with the ball is the clubface. Consistent aimers align the club first
followed by the torso. Step 1 of a
consistent aimer is positioning the clubface behind the ball with the completed
grip. During this alignment the golfer
must align the leading edge at right angle to the target line. After successfully aligning the clubface the
golfer must position the body parallel to the intended starting line. The golf ball and club head would be on the
outside rail of a railroad track with the body on the inside rail. The body will be parallel left. A line across the eyes, shoulders, forearms,
hips, knees and feet must be aligned parallel left. Inconsistent aimers consistently check there
feet, when the feet are only 1 piece of the aiming puzzle. Aiming is guaranteed if you aim the leading
edge at your intended target line and then aim your body parts parallel
left. Your golf club will approach the
impact area on a line across your shoulders; as a result it is an imperative
that the golfers position their trunk parallel left.
Develop a consistent ball fight with a compatible set of
pre-swing and in swing fundamentals and as you aim, position the club with your
body aligned parallel left. Consistent
aiming is the effect of a consistent ball-flight not the cause.
Consistency is the number one goal of all players from Jordan
Spieth to Jack Nicklaus. Distance,
Direction and Trajectory make up the elements of the ball-flight. Golfers need all three elements for
consistent ball striking. I believe that
the sequence of learning is: trajectory,
distance and direction. The three
components are interrelated and we cannot have one with out the other.
Trajectory is controlled by:
Selection- the club is designed to provide loft. Allow the manufacturer to get the ball
of Approach- the correct angle of approach provides solid impact and the proper
consistency starts here. Grip, posture,
ball-position, aim, mind-set and tension level are the fundamentals of the
plane- a vertical swing shape will produce high shots and a flat swing shape
will produce lower shots.
speed- without swing speed the golfer has a difficult time producing loft. Golfers with a limited swing speed will
produce the same trajectory for all clubs.
Distance is controlled by:
Selection- longer clubs longer shots.
of motion- increased range of motion will assist in distance.
of contact- hitting the ball in the center of the racket. Path and plane are significant
influences. Vertical plane produces toe
hits and a flat plane produces heel hits.
speed at impact. Body rotation, arm
speed and wrist movement are the biggest influences. Overall swing speed is a goal not club head
Direction is controlled by:
parallel lines of the eyes, shoulders, forearms, hips, knees and heels.
alignment at impact. Clubface at right
angle to your swing path at impact.
path at impact. A swing path that is
from the inside to along the target line to the inside.
Every golf lesson and group activity I participate in every
golfer is in search of consistency. Ball
flight has three elements: trajectory, distance and direction. You master all three in order to gain
Fairway bunker shots are regarded as some of the more
difficult in the game. Adding distance,
a high lip and a difficult lie and the task is almost impossible. There are several myths when it comes to
fairway bunker shots, and I hope to dispel some of those this week. Golfers, must keep in mind, when facing a bad
lie (bad lie is defined as when there is question about the lie), the first
objective is to advance the ball to a good lie.
Second objective, never attempt a miracle shot after a poor one. Finally, never attempt a shot that you have
not practiced. Keeping these objectives
in mind, fairway bunker shots will become an easier task.
When faced with a fairway bunker shot, preparation is the
most important element. Keys for the
choice- take enough loft to clear the lip.
Golfers should never hear “ball-thump.”
As a reference 1 more club should be utilized. High lofted fairway woods are an excellent
club of choice, assuming limited loft is need.
the golf ball back in your stance. Your
impact objective is a steeper angle of approach, striking the ball first and
sand after. The rearward ball position
will assist in steepening the angle.
down on the club. Shorten the club about
an inch. The shortened club will reduce
the chance of striking the sand prior the ball.
your feet into the sand about an inch.
The lowering of your feet will reduce the amount of lower body motion
during the swing. Excessive amount of
lower body slide will result in an incorrect bottom of the swing.
your body weight towards the target. As
you lean your weight allow the grip end to move towards the target. The weight and the hand adjustment will move
your swing bottom towards the target, resulting in a steeper angle of approach.
The adjustments in your set-up will steeper the angle
resulting in ball/sand contact.
Checkpoints during the motion:
a balanced swing. Holding your finish
until the ball comes to a rest guarantees success. Inability to hold the finish is an indication
of an out of balance motion.
the upper body to wind against the lower body on the backswing. The lower body must resist and hold. The coil generated is a power source. If the lower body does not hold, the swing
bottom will occur behind the ball, resulting in sand and ball contact.
swing posture throughout the motion.
Turn the upper body on the backswing and clear the lower body on the
forward side. Golfers must maintain
their measurement and posture throughout the motion. A conscious attempt to lift the ball will
result in a shallow angle.
Golf is a unique game, due to the fact; they never face the
same shot twice. Consistency is the
result of developing a repeating swing motion. Pre swing adjustments are
utilized when faced with different lies.
Golfers should 1 swing with different set-ups. Perfect your swing, make a few simple address
adjustments and the fairway bunker shot will be a simple one.
Controlling Trajectory in the Short Game
In executing short game shots, inside 50 yards (pitches and
chips), a player’s ability to control the ball’s flight trajectory can be just
as important as controlling the ball’s direction and overall distance. A golfer has options to create consistent
ball flight trajectory and as a result consistent shot patterns swing after
Option One – Ball Choice:
A golfer’s choice of golf ball will have an affect on a golf
ball’s flight characteristics. It is the
dimples on a golf ball that are responsible for its flight
characteristics. Their design (size,
shape and pattern) will help dictate the ball’s trajectory. The size and depth of the dimples affect
performance. Shallow dimples generate
more spin on a golf ball than deep dimples, which increases loft and causes the
ball to rise and stay in the air longer and roll less, which is advantageous
when playing to elevated greens. Deep
dimples generate less spin on a golf ball than shallow dimples, which decrease
loft and causes the ball to stay on a lower trajectory, with less air time and
greater roll, which is advantageous when playing to low elevated greens.
Option Two – Ball Position:
A correct ball position helps you contact the ball crisply and
achieve the proper trajectory on the shot.
Ball position affects the path and the angle of approach the club takes
into the ball which ensures a consistent loft angle of the club at impact. With the ball positioned too far forward,
your shoulders align left of the target, thus creating a swing path that is too
steep and out-to-in. If you locate the
ball too far back toward your right foot, your shoulders are closed, which
creates a swing path that is too shallow and in-to-out. You will be able to produce consistent ball
flight trajectories only if the ball is positioned correctly in your
stance. For chip shots, position the
ball about two inches back of center.
You want to strike the ball with a descending angle of approach creating
a low trajectory, running shot. For all
wedges and pitch swings from normal lies position the ball in the exact center
of your stance.
Option Three – Swing Technique:
To create a low trajectory chip or pitch shot, set your
hands slightly ahead of the ball. A
forward hand position will naturally de-loft the clubface, helping to start the
ball on a low trajectory. Also,
concentrate on making a rhythmic swing with a slightly slower tempo on the
forward swing. A slower tempo will
produce less spin, helping to keep the ball on a low trajectory. Stay level with your hips as you swing
through impact. Feel as though the
handle of the club leads the clubhead through the hitting area to prevent adding
loft to the clubface at impact. A low
trajectory shot means a low finish. The
lower you want to hit it, the lower you want to finish, not only with the hands
and arms, but with the clubhead as well.
While it is okay to play the ball back in you stance to produce a lower
trajectory, it is not advantageous to play the ball forward in your stance as a
means of getting a higher trajectory.
Playing the ball forward in you stance moves it ahead of the bottom of
your natural swing arc. To hit a higher
shot, the first choice should always be to take a more lofted club and make
your standard swing. The second choice
is to open the clubface, aim your swing line to the left of the target and keep
the ball exactly in the center of your stance.
Keeping the ball in the middle of your stance ensures crisp contact.
Option Four – Club Selection:
The easiest way to vary shot trajectory from a normal lie is
to choose a higher degree lofted club or choose a lower degree lofted
club. If you need a higher soft landing
shot, choose a lob (60 degrees), sand (56 degrees), gap (52 degrees), or a pitching
wedge (48 degrees). If you need a lower
running shot, choose a 9 iron (39 degrees), 8 iron (34 degrees), 7 iron (30
degrees), or 6 iron (26 degrees). It is
easier than creating a different swing or changing your mechanics. Clubs are designed with the clubface having
different lofts. It is loft that makes a
golf ball take flight on an ascending trajectory, not an upward direction of
swing. The club actually hits the ball in
a horizontal or slightly downward angle.
Choose the option that works best for your game. Your golf ball selection will be based on the
design of the golf course that you’ll be playing. Under normal lie conditions, you’ll want to
maintain a consistent ball position for crisp club to ball contact. Vary the length of your swing technique to
produce low or high trajectories. And
choose your club wisely. Practice with
different lofted clubs and observe the ball flight trajectory patterns. Take your observations to the golf course.
Sand play is often regarded as the easiest shot in golf, due
to the fact, that the club never comes in contact with the ball during a
greenside bunker shot. As a result of
over 30 years in the golf instruction business, I have found that the greenside
bunker shot maybe the most difficult.
There are several myths when it comes to this shot: first of all, “you must hit 2” behind the
ball, actually with the skidding effect of the bounce the clubs enters the sand
approx. 3-4 inches behind the ball.
Attempting to strike 2 inches behind may result in club ball
contact. Second myth, due to the
clubface open at address one must aim to the left. The golf ball is positioned
forward in the stance (off of left heel)
and no club ball contact the golf ball travels in the direction of the swing
path not the clubface. Keeping this in
mind there is no need to aim left. Third
myth, you must swing more upright.
Ninety percent of all golfers slice the ball due to an upright swing;
swing more upright simply produces a weak glancing hit that will travel a short
distance to the right. And the final
myth, you must look and aim behind the ball.
All shots in golf you make every attempt to strike the ball first, now
we are told to strike the sand first. If
you make 2 adjustments in your set-up: ball positioned off of the left heel and
lower your body in the sand you will automatically strike the sand first. Look at the ball and attempt to hit it.
Consistent sand play is the effect of:
the clubface according to the lie. Good
lie open the face, bad lies close the face.
As you adjust the club you must use the entire club. You never grip down on a greenside bunker
the golf ball off the left heel. This
position will allow the club to enter the sand behind the ball.
your body in the sand by digging in.
This adjustment will allow the club to get beneath the ball.
and swing towards the target. The golf
ball travels along the swing path not the clubface alignment.
3 times the amount of swing. The amount
of sand ways 3 times the weight of the ball.
Keeping this in mind you must make enough swing.
Trust the club and your full swing for the green side bunker
shot. Keep in mind that consistency is
the effect of perfecting one swing shape and make pre-swing adjustments for
270 Yards with the Driver
Golf has developed into a power game. Longer holes, thicker roughs, elevated greens
and tighter fairways have attributed to this change in concept. In the golf swing there is only 3 power
sources available: wrist cock, arm swing
and body turn. Club head speed and power
is the effect of the blending of these power and speed sources. Golfers must use all 3 power sources when
attempting to maximize distance and speed.
Allowing the wrist to cock and unclock freely during both
sides of the golf swing will increase speed and distance. As the club swings back allow the wrist to
cock thus forming a right angle from the left arm and club. Holding the club lightly will allow this
action to take place.
The body needs to turn freely on both sides of the
swing. The backswing the shoulders turn
90 degrees as the hips turn 45 degrees.
On the forward side of the swing the lower body needs to initiate due to
the coil established in the backswing.
The knees should touch with the right hip finishing closer to the target
as the left. A great drill to assist
with the back swing pivot is to place a club on the shoulders at address and
turn the shaft into the top of the swing.
Allow the upper body to turn against the resisting lower body.
Complementing the wrist cock and body turn is the swinging
motion of the arms as the right arm bends 90 degrees. The arms must swing freely on both sides of
the swing as the right arm bends. The arm swing is the effect of the correct posture
and relaxation at address and during the motion.
A drill to assist you with generating these power sources,
is what I call the wind up exercise.
Place a club across your chest.
From the starting position, wind your upper body against the lower body. Allow the shaft to rotate freely at right
angle to your spine. Hold for 5 seconds
at the top and repeat. As you do this
exercise, maintain your posture and keep your abs engaged.
The completed power backswing has full wristcock, arm swing
and body pivot. Allowing your wrist to
cock, arms to swing and body to turn will give you the opportunity to create Rory
McIlroy’s power and speed.
Ninety degrees of wristcock, shoulder turn and right arm
bend will generate 270 yards of distance.
Allow the arms to swing, wrist to cock and arms to swing and you will
hit it like Rory!
“Find your distance potential”
One of the keys to playing golf in this era is to hit the
ball long. As golf courses continue to be designed longer and more
difficult, hitting the ball with power allows players the best chance to
score. Although Tiger Woods has possibly the greatest short game in the
history of the game, it is also a huge advantage the he has been consistently
ranked among the longest hitters during his career. How can you hit it
Quite simply, there are two keys to hitting it long:
solid contact and speed. Hitting the ball in the center of the face with
maximum speed will allow you to hit it as far as you can. This combined
with the latest in club and ball technology can help you find your true
The first thing you should determine is if you hit the ball
solidly with your current swing. The easiest test is to use face tape
that can be found at most golf shops. Place a piece of tape on your club
and hit a shot. The ball will make a mark on the tape which will show you
your contact point. Hopefully you will find you are consistently finding
the center of the clubface. Make sure you test both woods and irons as
you want solid contact with all clubs.
If you find that your contact is not as solid as you would
like, look at two things to improve your swing. Make sure your posture at
set up and throughout your swing is in an athletic position that you maintain
during your swing. Good posture will help you swing the club around your
body consistently “on plane” which leads to center hits.
Once you are satisfied with your contact point, the next key
to distance is trying to increase your swing speed. In the golf swing
there are three power sources that will help you swing the club faster.
The combination of proper wrist action, an arm swing that puts the club in
position throughout the swing and a powerful body pivot that supports the
swinging action of the club will allow the club to swing consistently and
Finally, if you feel you are making solid contact and are
using your power sources, make sure your equipment
fits your swing. Clubs and balls that are fitted specifically for your
swing will probably give you an extra few yards as well.
Learning to hit the ball longer is a very fun part of the
improvement process. Examine your current swing and determine your needs.
With a little practice, hopefully you will find a few more yards.
Remember if you do hit the ball farther, you will have
shorter approach shots to the hole. It is important to work hard on short
game distance control so you can take advantage of your distance and hit it
closer. This should take pressure off your putting game and allow you to
improve your scoring average.