What Happens at Impact

Practice golf

Impact is often referred to as the “Moment of truth.” Regardless of what occurs throughout the backswing and downswing the goal is to square the club face at impact while the club travels toward the target. The result is a straight shot. The following club positions are ideal at impact.

Shaft Lean

Shaft lean is the measurement of how far the hands are forward or backward at impact. An ideal impact position creates a forward shaft lean at impact while the hands are slightly in front of the club head. Forward shaft lean is necessary for the correct downward angle of attack and ball compression.

Club positions

Forward shaft lean strikes down through the ball causing the ball to lift in the air. Backward shaft lean is an indicator of several potential swing faults such as hanging back and scooping. When the shaft is backward at impact the result is often thin or topped golf shots. Shorter clubs will generally produce slightly more lean than longer clubs.

A fundamental impact position is the head behind the ball, flat left arm and wrist while the shaft leans forward at impact.

Attack Angle

Attack angle describes the direction the club head strikes the ball. The attack angle indicates an upward, downward or neutral angle of attack. The normal downward angle of attack allows the club head to strike the ball followed by the turf. The loft of each club produces a shot that travels up in the air. Longer clubs such as woods and drivers produce a minimal downward angle of attack. The ball should be positioned in a manner that the club bottoms out through the ball.  A poor angle of attack occurs when the club head travels up on the golf ball with an iron. Professional players generally produce a -1 to 3 degree angle of attack with a driver and -2 to -4 with an iron. Notice how professional players swing down and through the ball, something many amateurs must learn to do. A steep angle of attack produces a divot.

Face Angle

Face angle is the direction the club face is pointed at impact. Face angle is generally referred to as an open or closed club face. The face angle is crucial to the starting direction of the ball. The ball launches similar to the face angle at impact. An open club face produces a fade or slice while a closed club face leads to a draw or hook. When the club face is square the ball will travel straight in relation to the club path.

Club Path

Club path is the direction the club head is moving at impact. The club head travels down the target line for a straight shot. The path helps determine the golf balls starting direction. Players that prefer a draw must produce an in-to-out path while a fade requires and out-to-in club path.

Shaft Angle

The shaft angle is an indication of how steep or flat the shaft is at impact. The shaft angle is measured from the ground to the shaft of the club. The general rule of thumb is to get the shaft angle at impact as close to the shaft angle at address. Most players create a slightly steeper shaft angle at impact.

Club positions

Note this professional golfer’s address shaft angle and impact shaft angle are nearly identical, demonstrating how the game’s elite find consistency and success. This was Anthony Kim during his prime. We hope to see more of Anthony at some point and hope he makes it back to this kind of form.

– Matt Keller, PGA
Matt Keller is a PGA Golf Professional with over 15 years of experience. Matt is a graduate of the Penn State PGM Program. Throughout his career he has worked at courses in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida and Delaware. Matt has conducted thousands of golf lessons to players of all ages and ability levels. Currently, he is a PGA Professional at Cripple Creek Golf and Country Club located near Bethany Beach, DE.