3 Keys to Improve your Ball Striking
Ball Striking, Coaching, Podcast

3 Keys to Improve your Ball Striking

I don’t know about you, but it sure is nice to have golf back on television.  We’re three weeks in now and it finally feels like the start of golf season.

One thing I continually marvel at, and I know many of you do as well, is just how darn solid the best players in the world strike their full shots.  Whether it’s a 320-yard drive, or a crisp wedge that stops on a dime, it’s a rare occasion Tour Pros miss the center of the face.

It’s in that spirit that we’ve embarked on a new series; all about ball striking. 

If you’re a regular listener or reader of our content, you know the name Tony Ruggiero.  He’s a coach to a stable of Tour Pros and knows what it takes to become a better ball striker.  Pull up a seat and have a listen.

What Makes a Good Ball Striker?

When I posed this question to Tony, he said the two hallmarks of good ball strikers are contact and control. 

When it comes to contact, “good ball strikers hit it in the center of the face.”  Simple as that.

The other aspect that’s often overlooked by amateurs, however, is control.  The best ball strikers might hit it “a little right, or a little left, but their distance is almost always exactly…” spot on. 

Training for Solid Contact

A lot of teachers use foot spray on the clubface, but that’s never been Tony’s style.  Instead, he likes the “quad and foresight” approach.  Especially in the age of launch monitors, “it’s easier to explain misses.” 

Working the Ball Both Ways

In Tony’s eyes, all great ball strikers “can adjust when they have to curve it in a certain direction.”  With that being said, most players have a shape they prefer, “a shot that’s repeatable.” 

Understanding Consistency

All golfers want to become more consistent.  To Tony, that word is fleeting because “consistency doesn’t necessarily mean good.”  To that end, consistency has to be met with the understanding that “golf’s really hard… there are a lot of ups and downs.” 

The key is to get people to develop “a more repeatable shot pattern.”  In order to do this, they have to “understand what’s causing their bad shots… This is the real key.”  For golfers that struggle with ball striking, it almost always stems from not having this fundamental understanding. 

The Importance of Dispersion Patterns

One of the aspects that Tour Players have dialed in, and most amateurs overlook, is dispersion patterns.  This principle boils down to understanding how far right or left you can miss a shot.  “If you do that, you can play golf and aim.”

As teachers, the goal is to help players understand their dispersion patterns and narrow them down. 

Launch Monitors: What Metrics Matter?

The role that technology plays in golf instruction today is profound.  Launch monitors give us so much data, it can be dizzying to understand it all, let alone put it to practical use.

For Tony, the most important measurements involve path and face.  Most players that struggle with ball striking have big differences between path and face. 

Fixing Path

Tony says, when working with students, “you have a minute or two to… decide this is where we’re going to start… I like to keep it simple and let them coach themselves a little… I use rope for the target line… and put a stick between them and the target… A great drill is to (use this setup) to learn to start it right and hit it left… Start it left and hit it right.”

Practice Tips

Tony is big on exaggerating when it comes to practice.  As an example, if someone wants to learn to hit draws, “I’ll have them hit snap hooks… If you practice that way, I think people can coach themselves… without being overloaded with a bunch of information.” 

The Importance of Finding the Cause

Everyone wants to get better and become a proficient ball striker.  All too often, they’re searching for a quick fix or tip, the proverbial magic pill. 

What both teachers and students have to understand, is that you first have to find the cause before you can fix the problem.  That’s the biggest way that technology has revolutionized how we learn the game.  Through the use of launch monitors, Track Man, quad data, and swing catalyst to name a few, teachers are able to look at all the data, and formulate a game plan for the student to improve. 

Testing Distance

On any given week, Tour Pros are using launch monitors to test distance.  They want to know how far the ball is going at a particular venue; conditions are always changing. 

It’s important for amateurs to do the same thing.  Why?  Because they see a lot of disparity in their distances.  If this is the case, working on contact is a must.

Effective Yardage Testing

Even though it might seem a little contrary, Tony says it’s important to limit the number of balls you hit when yardage testing.  The main reason is fatigue.  “I don’t think that you’re getting very accurate data after you’ve hit three bags of balls, because you’re fatigued, and you never do that on a golf course.” 

Final Thoughts

We can’t thank Tony enough for joining us today on the GSL Podcast.  As always, he’s a wealth of knowledge and having the chance to spend some time with him is invaluable.

This is only Part One of our series about how you can become a better ball striker.  Our hope is that you can take some of the information here, understand it, and apply to your own game.

As always, thanks for tuning in to this version of the GSL Podcast.  If you have thoughts or questions, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below. 

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Founder and chief curator of the Golf Science Lab. Documenting what's going on in the world of research and beyond that can help you play your best golf on the golf course (when it counts). Join the movement of researched based coaching over trusting beliefs and what worked for one person a few decades ago. Follow on Twitter