Create a “go-to” shot by identifying your predominant shot shape.
By Brad Skupaka
The best players in the world understand the shape of their shots in great detail, which is a key foundation to hitting the fairway when it counts.
This means they know exactly how much the ball tends to curve, trajectories with each club and how to use this knowledge on the course. On tight fairways like at Harbour Town last week, we often see players stick with their most predominant ball flight to ensure they keep the ball in play, instead of trying a shot that they know they can hit, but not as consistently.
Chances are you don’t practice as much as a tour pro or have the same level of consistency with the shape of your shots, but a few simple steps to identify your predominant shape can go a long way for anyone.
Practice Makes Perfect
The first step is to be open to what your predominant shape actually is, as opposed to what you think it may be. This means that while you’re striving hard to hit the push draw consistently and think this is your predominant shape, it may still be the old pull fade. Unveiling the reality of what’s really happening can mean all the difference between hitting your next shot from the fairway, or hitting another from the tee.
With this in mind, it’s time to hit the range for research …
The Shot Shape Drill to identify predominant shape:
1. Hit a total of 50 balls. Ten shots each, with the following clubs in varying order:
- Hybrid, driving iron or long iron
2. Aim toward a specific target line. With each club, pick a target line and observe the ball’s starting point, shot shape and trajectory. Your goal is to START each shot on the designated target line, assigning value to ball flight in a chart.
For example, your chart may look like this with the driver:
|Shot No.||Starting Point||Amount of Curve||Trajectory|
|1||At target||10 yards left||Mid|
|2||5 yards right||15 yards left||Low|
|3||At target||7 yards left||Mid|
|4||15 yards right||10 yards right||High|
|5||At target||10 yards left||Mid|
|6||5 yards right||5 yards left||Mid|
|7||10 yards right||5 yards left||High|
|8||7 yards right||15 yards left||Low|
|9||5 yards right||10 yards right||Mid|
|10||At target||10 yards left||Mid|
3. Assess the data. No need to bust out the calculator, just a quick look can provide insight. We can see here shots tend to start at or just right of the aiming point, draw about 10 yards and have a middle-of-the-road trajectory.
4. Use the data to your advantage on the course. We could conclude with this example that you should generally aim about 10 yards right of your target, knowing the ball will move right to left, with the occasional high-right miss. This may reinforce what you already knew, or is perhaps something entirely new. Regardless, this knowledge is useful for many reasons:
- It eliminates guess-work, providing greater confidence and accuracy of where to aim.
- It may unveil a variance of shape and trajectories between clubs. Perhaps with the driver, 3-wood, 5-iron and 7-iron your tendency is to hit a high fade, but with the hybrid it’s a low hook. This can provide insight on how to use this to your advantage when the shot calls for it, and even uncover inconsistencies with your equipment.
- It allows you to develop a true go-to shot when the pressure is on. Perhaps you officially proved just how little offline you hit your 3-wood compared to any other club off the tee. Or that your low, hooking hybrid is the perfect club when trouble is on the right, instead of hitting driver like you normally do. The idea is to take this knowledge and let your tendencies work for you, not against you, adjusting your strategy as needed on the course.
5. Maximize the landing area to your ball flight. Now that you’ve identified your predominant shot shape, use it to your advantage on the tee. It’s generally best to tee up on the same side of the box your ball will curve toward, aiming down the opposite side of the fairway. This means that if your ball tends to curve 10 yards to the left, you’re effectively creating a larger landing area for the curving shot to land in by opening up toward its bending nature, instead of away from it.
By understanding your common shot shape and how to use that shape to your advantage, you’ll be hitting more fairways in no time.