Golf ball trajectory is a function of clubface loft. Looking at the clubface relative to the shaft you can see how the angle becomes steeper moving from the 1 iron to the wedge. The steeper the angle of the blade, the higher would be the trajectory of the golf ball and the shorter the distance covered.
Not everybody hitting the same club is going to repeat the same trajectory and distance, because we all have differences in our setup, swing speed, and a variety of other factors.
Some golfers find they are consistently flighting the ball very high, which may be a disadvantage in windy conditions. It may also cost you some distance, but be an advantage playing over hazards and getting the ball to settle on the green.
Maybe you find that your shots are too low, and you are struggling to get some air under the ball. This could leave you short because of lack of carry but would be an advantage in bad weather conditions as you stay below the trees.
Most amateur golfs accept that the flight or trajectory is what it is for any given club. However, it is important to understand the mechanics that influence the trajectory and learn the techniques to control the ball flight as conditions may demand.
How to Control Golf Ball Trajectory
Why is this important?
Your enjoyment of the game will suffer, and your handicap will not improve if you continue to consistently hit the ball too high or too low.
There are situations where you will need to be able to lift the ball high to clear the trees on a dogleg, or you find a bunker or water between yourself and the green.
Should you find yourself off the fairway under the trees or the weather turns bad and the wind is pushing gales, you need to know how to keep the ball down low.
Do you need to stop the ball quickly on the green, or are you looking to pitch and run the ball up to the pin?
These shots require a different technique that can easily be added to your arsenal with a bit of understanding and practice.
How to control golf ball trajectory
As already mentioned, the trajectory is determined by the loft of the clubface but more correctly, the loft at the point of impact. By moving the hands forward at impact, you could effectively turn a 5 iron into a 2 iron and play a much lower shot.
Conversely, opening the clubface will increase the loft and cause the ball to follow a much higher trajectory like Adam Scott.
The low trajectory shot:
The position of the ball in your stance is another contributing factor. To keep the ball lower place the ball slightly further back in your stance as you keep your hands in front of the ball at impact.
Be careful not to go too far back in your stance as this might cause you to strike down on the ball causing it to bounce up with a lot of backspin, defeating the object.
Take an extra club and swing slower, for slower read smoother, not too slow, or the ball will go nowhere.
With the extra club, you also dial back the spin rate on the ball as a higher spin rate would cause the ball to have a higher trajectory.
The lower spin rate helps to keep the ball low with a penetrating trajectory and a better rollout.
To set up for the lower trajectory shot, begin with the stance, ensure you are wide enough to have a stable base. The stable base will enable you to finish lower, as you won’t be taking a full swing.
Next, you want to choke up on the grip for a more compact swing. The more compact swing will also help the ball to punch through the wind.
Remember to keep your weight on the front foot and to drop the left shoulder slightly. Lastly, try to think of swinging smoothly as opposed to hitting hard. Your backswing is halfway, and the follow-through must not be high but about shoulder height.
The drill for a low trajectory shot:
- Place the ball slightly back in your stance.
- Stabilize your base.
- Keep your hands forward.
- Choke back on the grip.
- Shorten backswing and follow through.
- Swing smoothly.
- Tee the ball lower if playing off a tee.
- Soften grip to neutral.
The higher trajectory shot:
To achieve a higher trajectory, you need to apply the exact opposite of what you did for the lower trajectory.
Apart from the “flop” shot, a higher trajectory will most often be useful on approach shots to the green where you want to stop the ball quickly. If you encounter hazards such as trees, bunkers, and water in front of the green.
To set up for the higher trajectory, place the ball slightly forward in your stance and stabilize your stance.
You want to swing hard and down on the ball, so you need to be solid on your feet.
Hitting down on the ball will get it airborne quickly with lots of backspin. You will need maximum length for this shot so don’t choke back on the grip.
Ensure that you adjust your weight forward onto your left leg and drop the right shoulder down slightly. If your weight stays back or on your right foot, this could result in hanging back and sculling the shot. When hitting woods, avoid the forward press on the ball as you do with irons and wedges by tilting the shaft angle backward.
With your irons, you want to take a divot, this will show you that you pressed forward and hit down on the ball properly, the result will be the high trajectory that you were aiming for.
Lastly, don’t hold back on the follow-through, you are hitting hard and want to finish high.
Drills for the high trajectory shot:
- Place the ball slightly forward in your stance.
- Anchor your feet.
- Hands slightly behind the ball.
- Do not choke down on the grip, look for length.
- Weight forward on left leg.
- Swing hard and take a divot.
- Tee the ball up higher if using a tee.
- Follow through all the way.
If you are a golfer who normally plays with a high trajectory, your chances of adapting to play the lower shot are good. The low trajectory player often finds it more difficult to learn to hit the ball higher.
The higher trajectory is also more useful on courses with hard greens protected by difficult bunkers or pin positions.
What is important is to understand that there are times or situations when you are going to need to play the ball with a low penetrating trajectory. At other times you may need a high trajectory, especially around the greens or approach shots.
Just as we learn to hit a draw or a fade, we need to add the high and low trajectory shot to our arsenal. First, we need to understand the mechanics, then we need to get out on the range and practice the drills until we have mastered the technique.
Never experiment with new shots on the golf course, during a round, until you have tried it on the range.