My Golf Instructor

Working the Ball
Shaping Your Shots For Success

Learn how to work the ball effectivelyLearn How to Shape your Shots

When you hang around good players, you learn quickly that the majority of them work or shape the ball on nearly every shot. Not all good players do this, but I've found that the vast majority do. It's easy to become target oriented rather than ball flight oriented. Less skilled players look at the flag and just try to hit the ball straight.

The irony is that straight shots are the most difficult to hit. Think about it. You are trying to hit a round ball with a flat club face, making it almost impossible not to impart some sort of spin on the ball. More skilled golfers on the other hand, look at what the situation calls for, visualize the flight of the ball curving towards the target and then have the guts to try to make it happen.

Creative Shot Making

Growing up in the 70's and 80's I was groomed in art of creativity by watching Seve Ballesteros pull off shots only those with a gifted imagination could ever attempt. On the flip side, there was Jack Nicklaus the great strategist and master of course management. It seemed like he was always shaping his ball around the golf course and hitting the most intelligent shot. Tiger Woods has been the modern day fusion of these two great men with a combination of creativity and course management. If you think about the majority of great golf shots that you have witnessed, few of them if any were dead straight. Sergio's famous shot at the 1999 PGA Championship from behind the tree was a low fade that ran up to the green. The shot Jack Nicklaus hit on 16th hole at Augusta in the 1986 Master's on his way to victory was a perfect draw which used the slope of the green allowing the ball to nestle right up to the pin. How about Bubba Watson on the 18th hole at Kapalua? Bubba hit driver off the deck (fairway) from a down hill lie, carving the ball with a slice down the fairway and onto the green. It was absolutely amazing, not to mention entertaining!

What is Your Natural Shot Shape?

One thing you want to do to be successful is find out what your natural curve is...a draw or a fade. I want to emphasize that this should be something you do not try to fight. It is your go to shot and the one that will come out under pressure whether you like it or not. If you have a preferred ball flight, say a draw, there is nothing wrong with learning to hit one. In fact you should. You should learn to hit any curvature on demand. If you naturally fade, but would rather draw, you can work towards cutting down on the fade and actually drawing a bit, but again, its the fade that's probably going to come out when the stakes are high. I have helped countless players develop a different shape to their shots, but I believe their innate tendency to work the ball one way is always lurking and ready to rear it's head, especially if they slack on practice.

With modern technology and player friendly equipment there is the misconception that newer clubs will make your misses go straight as well as make it difficult to work the ball. This is not true. First of all material, be it a forged or cast head, makes no difference in workability at all. It is true that clubs that are perimeter weighted and have larger sweet spots are more forgiving. It is also true that less torque of the shaft can help keep would be extremely errant shots at bay. The truth is that it is really the indian, not the arrow. To understand clearly that it is not the equipment controlling the curve of the ball you need to understand what takes place in your swing that imparts spin.

Here are the factors in your swing under your control that help shape shots:

  • Club face
  • Alignment
  • Grip
  • Arm rotation
  • Path
  • Ball position

9 Ball Flight Laws

The club face/path relationship is the most important one for you to learn. A club face just 2 degrees open to the target line will create a nice fade. A club face 4 degrees open will create a slice. The first thing a novice instructor learns when starting their journey of golf instruction is the 9 Ball Flight Laws. When you have a good understanding of the 9 possible ball flights and the path/club face combination that causes each one, you become enlightened as to why the ball starts and ends up where it does.

Here are the 9 possible ball flights:

  • Straight
  • Start straight curve left
  • Start straight curve right
  • Start left curve right
  • Start left curve left
  • Start left fly straight
  • Start right curve right
  • Start right curve left
  • Start right fly straight

Learn to Shape Your Shots

Believe it or not, you should be able to pull off all of these 9 ball fights when necessary. That means you need to understand how your grip, alignment, club face, path, ball position and arm rotation affect your shots.

Maria Palozola

Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.

Who is Maria Palozola?
- Top 50 LPGA Instructors in the World
- A Golf Digest Top 10 Teacher in Illinois
- A Golf Magazine Top Teacher in the Midwest
- More about Maria
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