What is strike location?
Strike location is quite simply where you make contact with the ball on the clubface. This is an often overlooked skill and something that most amateurs do not pay enough attention to when practicing.
I am sure that we all understand the importance of striking the ball from the centre of the clubface but most of you will not know how it can influence the ball or where in fact you are even striking it from.
Whats its Influence on the ball
Strike can influence the golf ball in a number of ways: ball speed, launch angle, starting direction, trajectory, spin, curvature and distance.
For example, if you struggle with distance control with your irons I would make a bet that your impact location is inconsistent and it is affecting your launch angle, spin and ball speed. There is also a good chance that if you hit a mixture of straight drives and drives that suddenly curve in a different direction then you have some strike issues. This is due to something called 'Gear Effect' which I will talk about in a moment.
I have seen countless amateurs that have very solid fundamentals and technique but hit it awful just because they are not aware of strike. They go off in search of new swing mechanics and techniques in a quest to improve their consistency when infact if they had focused solely on the strike location they would have saved themselves a lot of hassle!
what is gear effect?
Gear effect is the term used to describe how a non-centred impact influences the golf ball. When the golf ball strikes somewhere other than the centre, the club starts to twist around it's centre of gravity (CoG) and changes the clubface orientation and spin of the golf ball.
For example, when a ball is struck from the toe of a driver (RH golfer) the clubface will twist open (right) but the ball will actually curve to the left. See the diagram below for an example of toe vs heel strike.
Gear effect will be more influential when the CoG is further away from the clubface i.e. driver or wood. There isn't that much influence with an iron although with some big, game improvement irons then will be some gear effect.
Of course there are numerous reasons why you may be hitting the ball off centre and how this is influencing you in particular, but the important thing is that we bring your attention to how important your awareness of strike is and how you can start getting feedback during practice.
Next time you head to the range, take some strike tape or foot spray with you and apply it to the clubface. Each time you hit a shot and before looking at the face, I want you to call where you think it has come from. This is a fantastic way to build your awareness of strike location and to also see if you have any patterns. Don't be afraid to also add an element of randomness to your practice - that's right, I want you to have a go at striking the ball from different places on the club on purpose. Do this well and finding the middle of the club is a piece of cake! Hit it out the toe, heel, high toe, high heel and then back to centre. Give it a go and send me your results.