Simplifying Face and Path

John Stahlschmidt
PGA Director of Instruction
JW Marriott Camelback Golf Club
Scottsdale, AZ

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Are you controlling the ball or is the ball controlling you? This is a philosophical question I want you to ponder over for a minute. Golf is a game in which we propel a ball towards a specific target and when not controlling the ball there is little chance of success. The ball only knows what the clubface tells it. This is why it is important to understand the effects the club face and the club path have on ball flight.  

Club Face – The face of the club determines where the ball will start in relation to the target. There are only three directions the face can point during impact – right, straight or left. What direction does your ball start? If not starting straight, it is time to adjust your face. This can be done by simply aiming the face a different direction at address, adjusting your grip or by manually rolling the face more at impact to avoid a right shot or less to avoid a left shot.

Club Path – The path is defined as the direction the club head is moving in relation to the target as the clubface collides with the ball. The path to a large degree determines how the ball curves. Again, there are three directions the club path can go… out to in, in to out, or straight. If your path is out to in or to the left, your ball will have a tendency to curve to the right and if your path is in to out or to the right, your ball will have a tendency to curve to the left. If your path is straight your ball will have minimum curve.

Analyze your ball flight and determine the start direction and curve. If your ball is not behaving an adjustment needs to be made. Practice and experiment with the above ball flight laws and you will be in control.   

John Stahlschmidt, PGA is the Director of Instruction at the JW Marriott Camelback Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona. To comment or to schedule a lesson, email John at