There’s more information floating around about the golf swing than ever before, and it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. I know I certainly do, which is why it’s important to remind yourself of one unavoidable fact: The golf ball doesn’t care what your golf swing looks like. All it cares about is where the clubface is pointed at impact, and the path it takes to get there.
Your clubface direction determines more than anything else how, and where, your ball flies through the air. The clubface is king—it’s what golfers should remember above all, according to Michael Finney, Golf Digest No. 1-ranked teacher in Kentucky.
“We are in charge of every single thing that happens to this golf club,” Finney says in a recent instruction video, which you can check out right here. “Whatever the golf club is doing, we are responsible for it.”
Finney addresses a wide variety of interesting topics within his video, but one notion he hopes to dispel is the concept of the “pivot squaring the clubface.” More specifically, it’s the idea that you can turn so much through the ball that your hands become an afterthought.
“If we just said that the pivot was going to square the club, the clubface would never close enough. The pivot will square the clubface some, but we’ve got to add that little extra forearm twisting,” he says. “Some tour players may say they feel like their pivot squares the clubface, but they’ve hit so many golf balls they’ve forgotten how much work their hands are doing.”
Another misconception Finney wants golfers to understand is that the clubface always rotates from open-to-closed through impact. The speed it rotates varies, of course, but Finney says that on full swings there’s no such thing as the clubface not rotating—or moving in the opposite direction (from closed-to-open).
“In every swing ever measured, all of these clubfaces are twisting [closed]. Somewhere between 1,500 and 3,500 degrees per second,” he says. “That sounds like a lot, and it is. It’s somewhere between 10 and 20 degrees of twisting the last 12 inches of the club traveling into the golf ball.”
All of which is to say that while your body, of course, influences your ability to control the clubface, it’s your hands that will play the ultimate role in squaring the face. There are few ways you can start to train them.
1. Because your hands are so important in squaring the face, your grip plays a key role. Finney says to adapt your trail hand based on your comfort and what the ball is doing, but suggests a simple routine for your lead hand.
“I like to get the forearm and the wrist to be in a straight line,” he says, “and gripping the club so the clubface is pointing to the sky.”
2. With your grip on a better track, Finney says to keep close tabs on your ball position, which influences both the bottom of your swing and your clubface direction. Finney suggests setting up with a club or alignment stick perpendicular to the golf ball.
With the stick pointing at your golf ball, your short-to-mid irons should be anywhere from one-to-three inches inside your lead foot. Your stance will start narrow, but gradually grow wider as the club goes longer. And as you slowly improve the relationship between your hands and your clubface, you’ll find the rest of your swing improves with it.
“Ground reaction forces, on plane shoulders, on plane chest it all fades away if you don’t have control over that club face, and they start to improve when you do,” he says.