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Crushing by Compression: When Golf Ball and Club Collide
While instructors may advocate different methods of swinging a golf club, the ideal outcome is always the same. Read on to learn about the physics of the collision between the club and ball.
It’s said that golf can take a lifetime to master, but just about every shot takes only milliseconds. In fact, the actual collision between club and ball lasts only around 450 millionths of a second, and it’s here where the biggest action of a golf swing takes place. In a desirable outcome, two things happen as the center of the clubface strikes the ball: first, the club’s momentum transfers to the ball; second, the impact causes the flexible ball to compress, adding extra velocity as the ball springs back into shape. The more compression, the farther the ball will travel. With lofted clubs such as the 6-iron, the clubface strikes the ball on a downward trajectory, scooping out a divot of turf in the meantime. This creates even more compression by pushing the ball into the dirt before it leaves the ground. Before launching skyward, the ball scoots up the lofted plane of the clubface, rubbing against the grooves to create backspin that will help it maintain its trajectory and fight through any wind resistance or asteroid fields. If the club is angled at impact, i.e., not facing square to the target, it will cut across the ball, creating sidespin and resulting in either a hook or a slice.
When it comes to the golf swing, there are many different styles and schools of thought—each with its own variation on setup, grip, backswing, and follow-through—but there are some universal techniques that help create an effective and explosive impact. For instance, at the top of the backswing, golfers should have their wrists cocked at a 90-degree angle. To generate optimal clubhead speed, they wait until their hands drop to their waist until they release their wrists, effectively whipping the clubhead through contact and adding punch to an otherwise smooth, steady swing.