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Impact Golf-Clubface Alignment

By William Kipp, Teaching Professional

Colorado Golf Schools at Estes Park


Does your golf ball seem to always curve off target toward the right or the left? In the first column I briefly introduced the four basic impact factors which make your golf ball behave as it does – clubface alignment, clubhead path, angle of approach, and clubhead speed. Today I will discuss the first of these impact factors, clubface alignment (the reason your ball curves) and how to better control it.


Clubface alignment is very likely the most important of the impact factors in that mistakes here often cause swing adjustments that lead to mistakes in clubhead path and angle of approach. The way you aim the club, align your body, and swing is often in reaction to the direction your ball has curved off target in the past due to incorrect clubface alignment.


Your clubface can only be aligned in one of three ways at impact – SQUARE, OPEN, or CLOSED. It is square if it faces in the same direction it is moving (the “path”). It is open if it faces to the right of its path (for right-handed players), and it is closed when it faces to the left of its path. When your clubface is square, your golf ball will have very little curve in its flight. An open clubface will curve your ball to the right, and a closed clubface will curve your ball to the left. The amount of curve on your shot depends on how much your clubface is open or closed in relation to the path of your club at impact, and also on the club you are using to hit the shot.


The curve on your golf shot is caused by sidespin. You will find that your shots curve off line more with a driver than with a more lofted club such as an iron. This is because a less lofted club like your driver contacts the middle of the ball, applying more sidespin than backspin if the clubface is misaligned, while highly lofted clubs like your nine iron make contact more toward the bottom of the ball, imparting more backspin than sidespin. This relationship between clubface loft and sidespin is the reason you may drive straighter with a three wood than a driver. For this reason, to get a true read, you should use the less lofted clubs to tell you if your clubface alignment is square to your swing path.


Your grip is a very important fundamental because the way you place your hands on the club has a direct effect on the clubface alignment at impact. Finding a grip that will consistently produce a square clubface at impact requires some experimentation, and often feels uncomfortable for a time when you change from the “comfortable”, but often incorrect, way you have been holding the club to swing. First, try a standard overlapping grip (little finger of the right hand overlapping and curving around the forefinger of your left hand). Try to see the knuckle of your left hand middle finger when the club is behind the ball and you are ready to swing. If your ball is curving to the right, turn both hands to your right on the grip until the ball flies straight. If your ball is curving to the left, turn both hands to the left. If your hands are small or if you have trouble hanging onto the club as you swing, you may want to try the interlocking grip (little finger of the right hand locked around the forefinger of the left hand).


The overlapping grip (or “Vardon” grip as it is called) is the most popular, but the interlocking grip has been used by many great players including Jack Nicklaus. The right grip for you will depend on which feels and performs the best. The knowledge and ability to change your grip as needed to produce a square clubface alignment at impact is probably the most important step toward improving your golf ball’s behavior!  


William Kipp has played on several regional professional golf tours, and was a collegiate player at Kansas University. He is an employee of the Estes Park Golf Courses, and is the Teaching Professional for Colorado Golf Schools at Estes Park is Recognized by the

PGA of America



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(Director of Golf)





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