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Golf Ball Flight Laws (What You Need To Know & Common Misconceptions)

What makes your golf ball do what it does?

Is it your hand position, the fact that you slide your hips, or do you think you picked your head up (you probably didn’t)? Golfers have plenty of reasons or excuses that they believe cause their golf shots to do what they do.

However, there is one thing that determines the flight of your golf ball, and that is the clubface angle at impact. Now you may think this seems obvious, but it really only became obvious to us in the last few years.

Golf technology has changed; therefore, your understanding of the game and your swing has changed, and now you can hit straighter shots because of it.

I’ll show you how.

What are Golf Ball Flight Laws?

The golf ball flight laws are a list of directions and angles that we know the golf ball travels based on what happens at impact.

The old golf ball flight laws were largely based on the path of the club; the new ones are more about the clubface angle at impact.

Without golf ball flight laws, we would not understand the difference between a fade and a draw and why one golf shot can go straight, and the next can hook.

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What is the Importance of Ball Flight Laws?

Many amateur players believe things like the golf ball flight laws are for professionals. People that get paid to teach the game will know what to do with these things.

However, this is not the case.

Golf ball flight laws are for all players to understand. If you are tired of hitting a slice or a hook while out on the course, these laws could change the way you think.

I want to first discuss the old ball flight laws because there is some good information there, and then I’ll show you how the new ball flight laws came into effect.

clubface clubpath animation

Old Ball Flight Laws vs New Ball Flight Laws

To understand the differences between the old ball flight laws and the new ball flight laws, you must understand the path and the face.

The path is the direction the golf club is traveling in relation to the target line. The path will either be inside or outside of the target line. For ball flight, we are only worried about what the club path is as we are approaching the impact position.

Face is the angle of the clubface in relation to the path. A clubface can be square, closed, or open to the path. It’s important to remember that the face is always measured in relation to the path so that we have a point of reference.

square vs open vs closed clubface in golf

Old Ball Flight Laws

The old ball flight laws told us this:

  • The balls flight is based on the club’s path.
  • The face determines the curve of a golf ball.

With the old ball flight laws, golfers, and professionals understand the following ball flight laws to be true:

PushInside to OutsideSquare to Path
Push SliceInside to OutsideOpen to Path
Push HookInside to OutsideClosed to Path
StraightStraight to Target lineSquare to Path
PullOutside to InsideSquare to Path
Pull HookOutside to InsideClosed to Path
Pull SliceOutside to InsideOpen to Path
SliceStraight to Target LineOpen Face
HookStraight to Target LineClosed Face

Golf professionals and amateurs spent a ton of time working on path in order to ensure that they could hopefully return the club to impact with a relatively square face and benefit from a great shot. The path was certainly at the forefront of the thinking, with clubface as a secondary concern.

As we started analyzing launch monitor data and information, things changed. We started realizing that the face actually has a greater impact on the flight than the path itself.

New Golf Ball Flight Laws

Thanks to modern golf technology and things like TrackMan, Foresight, and HackMotion, we have learned so much about what happens at impact and how players can benefit from data to become better.

The most significant of these findings is this:

  • The clubface at impact determines the direction of the ball.
  • Swing path, in relation to the clubface, determines the curvature of the ball.

With this discovery, the ball flight laws had to be adjusted and changed. There was enough evidence that the old ball flight laws were not as accurate as they should be when it comes to the importance of clubface angle.

With the new ball flight laws, we can actually get a lot more information from launch monitors and similar technology that gives actional tips for improving your game.

ShotFace (To Target)PathFace (To Path)
StraightSquare to TargetStraightSquare
Straight SliceSquare to TargetOutside to InsideOpen
Straight HookSquare to TargetInside to OutsideClosed
Push SliceOpen to TargetStraightOpen
Push StraightOpen to TargetInside to Outside PathStraight
Push HookOpen to TargetInside to OutsideClosed
Pull SliceClosed to TargetOutside to InsideOpen
Pull StraightClosed to TargetOutside to InsideSquare
Pull HookClosed to TargetStraightClosed

Notice with the new golf ball flight laws, we look at the face’s direction to the target and the relationship of the face to the path.

The important takeaway here is that the face (both in relation to the target and the path) will decide where the ball will go. The path plays into curvature a bit, but again, the clubface angle is key.

What are the Different Types of Ball Flight?

There are different types of ball flight that take into account the way the ball leaves the clubface and then the way the ball curves.

For instance, you can hit a shot that starts left of your target and stays left, or you can hit a shot that starts left of the target and then turns further left. Here is the ball flight terminology you should know and what to expect if you are hitting any of these shots.

ball flight direction graph

Many golfers talk about just a slice or a hook, but there is more to ball flight than that.

The ball can start in one of three ways, a push, a pull, or a straight shot.

  • Push: the ball goes right of the target from the time it comes off the clubface.
  • Pull: the ball goes left of the target line immediately after impact.
  • Straight: the ideal initial ball flight, right down the center of the fairway.

Once you have those initial flights, you have to also consider curvature:

  • Fade: a golf ball that curves slightly right of the target, fall to the right.
  • Slice: a golf ball that takes a significant turn to the right.
  • Hook: a golf ball that turns hard left.
  • Draw: a golf ball that turns slightly left, falls to the left side.
  • Straight: a golf ball with no curve.

Finally, we then combine the initial shot direction with curvature, and then we can talk about your true ball flight and what you are experiencing out on the course.

We often talk about these combinations with slices and hooks, but you can easily substitute in a fade or a draw (just expect a little less curvature).

  • Push: the ball goes to the right of the target with no additional curvature.
  • Push Slice: the ball goes to the right of the target and then continues to turn further right.
  • Push Hook: the ball goes to the right of the target and then turns back to the left with a larger curve.
  • Straight: a straight shot comes off the face square and never turns.
  • Straight Slice: the ball goes straight when it starts and then takes a significant turn to the right.
  • Straight Hook: ball comes off the clubface straight and then hooks to the left.
  • Pull: starts left of the target and never curves.
  • Pull Hook: starts left of the target and then continues to turn further left.
  • Pull Slice: shot starts left of the target and then slices back to the right.
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What Factors Have an Impact on Ball Flight?

The new golf ball flight laws show us the importance of the clubface at impact, but still, there are other things that have an impact on ball flight. These include speed, launch angle, spin, and direction.

Ball Speed

There is a lot of talk out there about ball speed. After all, the more ball speed we can generate, the easier it is to get distance. Distance gets us closer to the hole and makes approach shots considerably easier.

Ball speed is the initial speed at which the ball is hit. It’s often confused with clubhead speed, but ball speed is different from clubhead speed.

The ball speed will determine how far a golf ball will travel through the air. The more ball speed you have, the further the ball should travel.

Launch Angle

Depending on your angle of attack, the golf ball will launch at a specific angle. The launch angle impacts trajectory. Years ago, we thought a lower trajectory would lead to a longer total distance, but we have since found that a high trajectory keeps the ball up in the air and travels considerably further.

The launch angle with shorter irons and wedges should be higher than it is with the longer irons and fairway woods.


Spin, especially side spin imparted on a ball, will have a tremendous impact on the ball’s flight. Where most golfers see the way spin impacts their shots is after the ball lands. When the ball lands and stops, it has a lot of backspin.

When it lands and then rolls forward, it has a lot of forward spin. Forward spin is great on a drive but not great with a wedge shot. Overall, spin rates also impact the trajectory and direction of your golf shots.

Spin rates are a major factor to look at and consider when deciding on which club to purchase.

Clubface Direction

The clubface directions are essentially the ball flight laws that we talked about. The direction of the clubface at impact is going to determine the initial direction of the ball.

In addition, the direction of this clubface in relation to the swing path will determine the way the ball curves.

Wrist Angles and Clubface Direction

While we are looking at clubface direction, it must be stated that the way golfers control their clubface has quite a bit to do with the angle of their wrists. If you are unaware of how golfers control their wrist angle in their swing, check out our complete guide on wrist angle in the golf swing.

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1. What do you want to improve in your full swing?

Factors that Impact the Ball After Impact

After we make impact with the golf ball, there are some other things that are also going to change the ball’s flight. These things include the weight of the ball, drag, and lift.


All golf balls have to fall within the USGA requirements; this includes a weight not to exceed 1.620 ounces. In addition, the golf ball’s diameter must be at least 1.680 inches. Golf ball testing is done to make sure a golf ball is fair to use and the traditions of the game are upheld.

A golf ball that weighs more or less will have the ball flight impacted considerably.


If you look at the dimple pattern on your golf ball, you will see that it’s different depending on the manufacturer. The dimple patterns impact the drag so that golfers will get higher speeds while the ball is in flight.

Drag tries to slow the ball down, and the better aerodynamics a golf ball has, the easier it is to get more distance.


The lift is how high up in the air the golf ball will travel; the launch angle of your golf shot typically determines this.

In addition, compression can also impact the lift, but your ball flight and total distance will ultimately be determined by all of these factors working together.

How to Use Ball Flight Laws to Improve Your Game?

Now that you understand more about the golf ball flight laws, let’s take a more detailed look at how you can use this information to actually help your game.

As always, it’s great to be an expert in all things golf, but we need to use this info to shoot lower scores.

golf ball flight laws explained

Example 1: Correcting a Pull

When we look at our new ball flight laws, we know that a pull is a shot that starts left of the target and then stays left of the target. I often felt like the pull was kind of an unfair shot because when you make contact with a pull, it often feels like you flushed it.

A pull shot is typically not hit intentionally, and hitting pulls around the golf course is frustrating.

We know that a pull happens because a golf ball is struck with a clubface that is closed to the target line. This means the clubface is pointed to the left of the target at impact.

With this issue, there is likely a problem on the downswing that causes the clubface to come over the top on the outside in path. In addition, your wrist angle and position at the top of the backswing likely cause the clubface to be a bit shut. Working on both of these things should fix the pull shot.

To fix the pull:

Look at your HackMotion data at the top of the swing and check to see if you are over extending your wrists at the top; the additional extension at the top makes it easy to swing over the top.

Example 2: The Dreaded Slice

Probably the most common miss in golf is the slice. In our chart with the new golf ball flight laws, we call this the straight slice. Although those two words don’t seem to fit in the same sentence, when you hit a slice, the ball does travel straight, to begin with.

The straight part of the ball flight doesn’t last for long as the slice spin takes over and starts turning the shot to the right. With a slice, the swing path is more closed than the clubface. Again, we see how important it is to learn to square the clubface.

To fix a slice, you must match your clubface to your swing path:

  • Use the HackMotion to record your impact position and see how much extension is in the lead wrist; you will want to decrease the amount of extension to square the face.
  • Lead arm rotation will help you close the clubface if you are not squaring it at impact.
  • When the clubhead starts turning over, you may see a pull to the left, which is a good sign, the pull has a clubface and a path that match
  • Once you can pull your golf ball, you can work on fixing the path, and the slice and the pull will be gone.

Example 3: A Straight Shot

I think there is always so much talk about how the golf ball turns and how it comes off the clubface, and sometimes, we don’t focus enough on what it takes to hit a ball straight.

Anytime you did not hit a golf ball straight, it is because you had an issue with the clubface at impact. The quicker you can figure out the issue and then make adjustments to square the face, the easier it is to hit a straight shot.

Straight shots have a clubface that is square to the target; they have a straight path and a face that is square to that path.

Seems simple, right?

Example 4: Straight Hook

A hook is another common shot that many golfers hit. Many say the hook is caused by tempo or coming from the inside. What we know about a hook is that your face will be square to the target, the path of the club is inside to out, but the clubface to the path is closed.

This is why when you hit a hook, you feel like you are swinging out to the right of the target, but the ball goes left.

The clubface is closed to that path. The more closed it is, the more the ball hooks.

Many great players swing with a slide inside to outside path, but you have to make sure the clubface is square to this path if you want to see a shot that is a bit more like a draw instead of a hook.

To fix a hook:

  • Use your HackMotion to analyze lead arm rotation through the golf ball; if you want to fix the hook but not lose distance, use the lead arm rotation to open the clubface without extension.
  • Some golfers that hook the ball are flipping the club shut at impact, with a flip being last minute and increasing extension. We often think it is an opening of the clubface when in reality, the flip will shut it.
  • If you are flipping at impact, analyze the lead wrist extension in the downswing and learn to square the clubface earlier like the professionals.
  • The more extreme your hook is, the more time you will have to spend adjusting club face angles to get it right.

Remember, with all of these ball flight laws, we often talk about extremes. This is an entire spectrum of shots you can hit, but knowing where you fall and where your misses tend to be will only help take your game to the next level.

correct golf swing sequence

Analyzing Your Own Ball Flight

Let’s ensure you know how to analyze your own ball flight and use the golf ball flight laws correctly. For starts, make sure that you understand that these ball flights work for both left and right-handed players.

However, a slice for a right-handed player goes straight and then turns to the right; for a left-handed player, the ball goes straight and then turns to the left.

Divot Checking

Obviously, you will watch your ball flight and learn from where it goes. However, you can also look at your divot pattern and see what you can learn about that.

Most divot patterns will give you an example of your club’s path; it’s a little harder to determine the clubface angle from the divot.

Alignment Sticks

It’s important to have alignment sticks set up when you are practicing your putting. The alignment sticks will give you an indication of what you are actually aiming at.

Sometimes golfers think they pulled a shot, but they are just aimed to the left of their target.

Launch Monitor

Launch monitors like Trackman can give you real-time data on the angle of your clubface and how it is positioned in relation to the path.

This advanced launch monitor data with path information is usually only offered on higher-end launch monitors. Cheaper portable launch monitors are used more for ball data.


The HackMotion wrist sensors can determine the exact wrist angles you need in order to square the clubface at impact.

One of the key pieces of data that HackMotion has given us is that professional golfers do a very good job of squaring their clubface to the path long before they get to impact.

You may be able to learn from HackMotion that your clubface is squaring up too late. Typically this has to do with too much extension in the wrist angles.

Correcting Ball Flight Issues Using HackMotion

By now, you have a strong understanding that clubface angle at impact is key.

Now, how can that be fixed?

Correcting your ball flight issues using HackMotion is easy because of the way that you can collect data. Most importantly, wrist extension on the backswing typically leads to an open clubface.

wrist position at the top of the backswing and hackmotion app

Golfers that add a lot of extension from the setup to the top of the backswing have a hard time with flexion and squaring up the club head. With the HackMotion real-time biofeedback, you can swing the club, always making sure that you are in the proper position throughout the swing.

In golf, we often get feedback too late. To be honest, even ball flight laws are information that we have to use after the fact.

The laws can be used to correct a mistake after it has already happened. It’s hard to find a golf training aid or tool that can correct your swing in real-time.

HackMotion also records data from previous sessions so you can determine if you are making progress.


Here are a few things to know about the golf ball flight laws, common misconceptions, some things you should know, and final thoughts regarding how these laws impact your game.

How do you read a golf ball flight?

When reading a golf ball flight, ensure that you have a proper idea of what straight is. Many golfers are not lining up their golf shots, and what they think is straight is actually left or right. Use alignment sticks, pick a target, and then use this diagram to read your ball flight.

What is the ideal ball flight?

Golfers that can hit a straight shot will find themselves to have an advantage on the golf course. However, if you can eventually learn to control ball flight and hit a fade or a draw when necessary, it’s a tremendous benefit to scoring.

How do you hit different ball flights?

The angle of the clubface mostly determines the ball flight of your golf shots at impact. In addition to the angle, you may also see an impact due to the club path.

You must change the clubface angle at impact if you want to hit different ball flights, as shown here.

What makes a golf ball fly straight?

A golf ball hit with a square clubface on a straight path will fly straight. When the clubface angle changes, you can hit a shot that goes straight left or straight right, but it won’t be straight in relation to the target line.

What controls the direction of your golf ball flight?

Golf ball flight is controlled by the wrist angles in your golf swing. Wrist angles at set up, in the backswing, and then on the downswing as they transition into the golf ball will all impact the ball’s flight and direction.

Final Thoughts

Golf ball flight laws are nothing that you need to harp over or by thinking about when you are on the golf course. In addition, this change from old ball flight to new ball flight laws just further proves that golfers should be focusing on the clubface angle at the ball.

Practice controlling your clubface using the HackMotion wrist sensor to see tremendous improvement in your game.

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