The angle of attack in the golf swing is one of the most critical pieces to understand if you want to become a ball flight master. Which - if you're on this website - is exactly what you should be striving for. Mastering ball flight is what the golf swing is all about. Hitting pure golf shots that fly exactly the way you want them to. Whether it's straight and true or the little butter fade to a tucked pin, RST is all about OWNING your swing.
As you continue down the path to RST golf swing enlightenment ;-) you'll want to start paying close attention to your angle of attack, or AoA. Most amateurs are WAY too steep on their iron shots due to - you guessed it - too much right side dominance. Once you take the right side off the club completely, it becomes very difficult to approach the ball on too steep of an AoA unless you push with the left thumb. Take the left thumb off and all of a sudden you start taking crisp dollar bill divots.
The average AoA for a tour pro is around 4 degrees down. That's a very shallow angle of attack and about 1/3 as steep as the typical amateur we've measured using our launch monitor. This shallow approach to the ball allows the pro to hit the ball slightly lower on the face to create a more penetrating launch angle but still provide ample spin to hold the green. It also helps prevent grass getting between the clubface and the ball which makes it much easier to control distance and spin.
So, if you see yourself digging trenches, now is the time to focus on the core body movements of the RST 5 Step System and work through the left arm movements slowly so you can master your AoA and become a ball flight master!
All right let's talk a little bit about the angle of attack and that is essentially what we're talking about here is that the angle that the club is approaching the ground to hit the ball at the time that it actually strikes the ball. Now many golfers don't really understand the importance or relevance of angle of attack but it really ties into everything. It ties into your swing playing, your path, your body movements, your angle, your force of movements but at the end of the day it's how the ball flies is going to dictate what kind of golfer you are and how you hit the ball. One of the most important pieces of that equation is the angle of attack.
What happens for most golfers, because everybody tends to be too right side dominant, what the right side does is it has angles in it, right. You've got an angle here, you've got an angle in your wrist, you've got an angle in your shoulder so this allows for a lot of vertical movement in the swing. You can create kind of a chopping motion with the right arm pretty easily versus the left arm which has got an angle in your wrist but your elbow isn't doing anything, it should be staying perfectly straight. The shoulder shouldn't be yanking down, it's falling down as you're pulling it down with your weight shift and your hip rotation. The right arm, it tends to get a little overactive and tends to start doing this kind of motion and that's what creates an over the top move that also changes the angle of attack.
The angle of attack is going to create a huge difference in how the ball is going to literally fly in the air, because if you start coming down really steep with a lot of right side movement, the tendency is going to be for you to hit the ball really high on the face because it's hard to control exactly where the ball hits the club on the face when it's working down so steeply versus coming in very very shallow. When you tend to hit the ball high on the face you tend to get a lot of flyers, you tend to get grass between the club face and the ball, the ball tends to take a little bit of spin off of it because you're using the vertical gear effect which is going to reduce back spin. On your eight iron you may not necessarily want when you want to stop it close by the pin and not have it run off the back of the green.
Ideally what you want is a very shallow angle of attack with your irons. On average the tour pros are only about four degrees down with every iron in the bag. Now obviously, you go to a wedge it goes up to about five, you go down to a three iron it goes down to about three. On average a four degree negative angle of attack is pretty ideal. Now what is the average amateur? Well this varies quite a bit but what we see using the flight scope data, it's about 10 or 12 degrees down. A lot of this comes from the idea of, oh I want a lot of forward shaft lean and I want to really use my right side for power so you start getting the club working down really really steep in an effort to de-loft the club but you don't want to de-loft the club that much. There's got to be a balance between the two. There's no point in a taking an eight iron and turning it into a four iron. You're not going to be able to release the club enough ... At this point the club still has another foot that it could release but you're taking all that speed out because you're not allowing the golf club to release.
You want the club to get closer to vertical, have some shaft lean, just enough to de-loft the golf club but as you're coming through the ball more shallow it allows you to get much cleaner contact and that's the key to iron play is making sure hit the ball not only in the center of the face but you reduce how much grass and dirt and stuff like that gets in between the club face and the ball when you hit it. The last thing is as you're coming through and you hit the ball a little bit lower on the face it tends to lead to a little bit more of a penetrating trajectory and create a little bit more backspin on the iron shot which helps them hold green.
I'm going to do a couple of examples here and I want you to take a look kind of at the divots that I'm going to create based on doing a couple different things just with my body, I'm not going to do anything else, I'm just going to change my force of movement. First swing we're going to look at the angle of attack here, it's going to be just a normal eight iron shot. You'll see the grass barely skimmed it. My bass was here, my divot started up here and it ended up about six inches in front of the ball so my angle of attack there is going to be quite shallow. Now if I change just my force of movement. I'm going to start coming at it from the top with my right side. Watch what the divot does. Now that ball flew perfectly straight, proper trajectory, good spin, right at et cetera. We don't have any complaints with that shot.
Now I'm going to use my right side to try and move the club down. I came over the top a little bit, hit a little bit of a pull cut, got a little open and now you see this nice big trench that I dug that's working to the left. All I did was change where I started the swing down from. Instead of going to the top and focusing on shifting my weight and letting the iron fall back down I took my right side and heaved at it, created a nice big chopping motion hit a nice little pull cut, which is the least desirable shot for most golfers. The key here is your force of movement has got to be right. Just the exact same stuff that I talk about in the RST 5 step system, body rotation, weight shift, letting the arms fall. Taking the right side out of the equation, if you're tired of slicing you have to pay attention to taking this right side out and letting the hands completely come off the club. We'll automatically shallow out the angle of attack, if you let your right hand come early, I'll do an example here. I'll just let my right hand completely come off, now I hit a nice straight shot. A little bit steeper than I wanted, I pushed with my left thumb a little bit, but you the idea.
If you let this hand come off the club can now shallow out because it doesn't have anything to force it to go steeper. Really when you're working on changing your swing plan and your path and your angle of attack the key is not focusing on the golf club. The key is moving from the right places, using your rotation and your weight shift to help you shift and shallow out the swing plan on the way down is key. The steepening moves are almost all going to come from too much right side involvement. When you're swinging really steep and across the ball and taking these big trenches and worried about chunking the ball all the top, take your right hand off, follow the release videos. Especially the VJ release video and all of a sudden you'll watch you take nice shallow crisp dollar bill divots.
-Dr. Jeffrey Broker, Assoc. Prof. in Biomechanics at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Former Senior Biomechanist for U.S. Olympics Committee
-Hub Orr - Happy PREMIUM MEMBER of RotarySwing.com
-Sam Jarman, PGA Golf Instructor in the UK