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Impact Golf-Angle of Approach

By William Kipp, Teaching Professional

Colorado Golf Schools at Estes Park


Do you seem to hit your woods better than your irons? Irons better than your woods? Do you have those nasty-looking marks and scars on the top of your driver? I am often able to accurately diagnose a player’s impact tendencies simply by asking these questions. The answers I receive will tell me much about the third of the critical impact factors, angle of approach. This impact factor determines the quality of contact with, and trajectory of, your golf ball.


When you swing at a golf ball the ball not only is to your side, it is also resting on the ground. Thus it is well below your shoulders, and to make contact with it you must swing the club up, down, and then up again. The arc you create when you do this means that your clubhead will be level to the ground for only a brief instant at impact before it swings up on its arc during the follow through.


When your angle of approach is correct, your golf club is swinging relatively “level” to the turf at impact; if it is incorrect your club will either be swinging too much down (“steep”) or too much upward (“shallow”) at impact.


When the angle of approach is too steep, the trajectory of your shot is lower than normal (or perhaps the ball will not even get airborne) because the clubhead is swinging downward so much that the loft on your clubface is significantly reduced (and perhaps the clubhead will contact the ball above its equator). But a steep angle of approach can also cause higher than normal shots when your ball is teed-up because your clubface passes underneath the ball, contacting it much too high on the clubface and causing those marks and scars on the top of your clubhead.


You can often “get away” with a steep angle of approach with your more lofted clubs (middle and short irons), as they have enough loft built into the clubface to still produce height on your shot. But a steep angle of approach with your woods and less-lofted irons (3 or 4 irons) will cause a very low trajectory and a considerable loss of distance because the energy of the swinging club is applied downward toward the ground rather than directly into the back of your golf ball.


When your angle of approach is too shallow, contact with the ball occurs too late in the up-and-down swing arc (as your clubhead is on the rise), making solid contact difficult. Your club will often catch the turf before the ball and/or strike the ball toward its top, resulting in “fat” and “thin” hits and topped shots. It is difficult to get the ball airborne effectively with a shallow angle of approach unless the ball is teed-up. When your ball is teed-up for wood shots, however, a slightly shallow angle of approach is acceptable and perhaps even desirable. As a rule, players that have a sweeping, rather shallow angle of approach will have better impact with their drivers than their irons. Players that have a steeper angle will be better with their shorter irons than with their driver and fairway woods.


There is a little-known but very important relationship between your clubhead’s path and its angle of approach at impact! The path your club swings on through impact will, to a great extent, determine your angle of approach. An in-to-out swing path will tend to produce a shallow angle of approach, while an out-to-in path will often produce a steep angle at impact.


Your posture before and as you swing also has an effect on your swing arc and angle of approach. You should stand tall with your chin up and knees flexed “athletically”, then bend forward from your hips with your butt out, letting your arms hang freely from your shoulders. If you do not have enough bend at the hips your swing arc and angle of approach will often be too shallow, and if you have too much bend at the hips your arc and angle of approach will tend to be too steep.


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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