Clubface control is everything in golf. While swing path is important, it won’t matter much if you deliver a clubface that is either super open or closed at impact.
So, what have I learned? And what are the tips I’ve been given to better control the clubface at impact?
Clubface control in golf is a biproduct of four core swing mechanics: a good takeaway, neutral wrist position, proper rotation in the downswing, and forward shaft lean at impact. If you can do these things well, chances are you’ll have good control of your clubface.
Now, you’re probably thinking: ‘Jeez, that’s a lot to work on’. But in reality, it’s likely you’re doing most of these steps correctly already.
What this article will do is give you a few checkpoints to assess in your own swing to make sure you’re doing each movement properly, and also provide you with some drills that will help you groove the right ‘feels’ to improve clubface control.
How do I keep my clubface square through impact?
In order to deliver a square clubface through impact, you must strike the ball with the shaft of your club slightly leaned forward. To do this, your wrists and hands must be ahead of the ball at the moment of contact. Doing this will improve compression and prevent excessive opening or closing of the clubface, hence keeping it square.
One of the things I struggle with in my own swing is clubface control and no matter how much I videoed my own swing and analysed it, the breakthrough moment was when I finally got a professional teacher to assess it.
He immediately identified one of the main issues – a lack of forward shaft lean at impact.
In my eagerness to maximise distance and control accuracy, I would tend to pull hard on the handle from the top of my backswing with my hands and arms, and throw the clubhead at the ball.
What this created was a ‘scooping’ or ‘flipping’ action with my hands and wrists, the result being fat and thin strikes and a loss of clubhead speed, accompanied by either an excessively open or closed clubface – far from ideal when it comes to hitting consistent, straight shots.
Thankfully, he gave me two great drills to practice in order to get more shaft lean in my swing and create a stable clubface – but before we get to them later in this article, let’s talk about the fundamentals of clubface control.
How do you control clubface angles in golf?
The best way to control clubface angles in golf is through body rotation and wrist position at impact. The best players in the world are masters of clearing their hips which gives them plenty of space to deliver a square, stable clubface with minimal flipping of the wrists.
Now, you’re probably thinking: ‘what the hell does hip and body rotation have to do with keeping your clubface square?’. Well, the answer is: a lot.
If you’re someone who stalls your hips during the downswing and keeps them square and pointed at the ball at impact – instead of the optimal 40 degrees open, as I’ve explained in another article – then it’s likely to cause a flipping of the wrists, and standing-up of the club shaft.
Both of these flaws have a negative affect on clubface control because overactive wrists can make it difficult to master low-point consistently, while steepening of the shaft can create an open or closed clubface.
But in addition to hip and body rotation, there are some other checkpoints in your swing you should assess that can make squaring the clubface much easier. Let’s take a look at them below.
Start with a neutral grip
While some players play exceptionally good golf with both strong and weak grips, the ideal starting point – especially for beginners – is to try and grip the club as neutral as possible.
Well-known YouTube golf instructor Rick Shiels has a good video explaining how to grip the club, but in a nutshell the best way to do it is to grab the handle with both hands and make sure the two Vs formed by your thumbs and index fingers point towards your right shoulder (for a right-handed player).
Starting with a neutral grip will give you the best possible chance of delivering a square clubface at impact.
Perfect your takeaway
Another key element to keeping your clubface square is by making a correct takeaway in your backswing, as keeping the club on-plane on the way back gives you a far greater chance of ensuring it stays on-plane in the downswing.
Sure, there are exceptions to the rule – PGA Tour stars Matthew Wolff and Jim Furyk have highly unconventional takeaways, yet still have exceptional clubface control.
But for most average players, focusing on a neutral takeaway is vital as it means you won’t have to make compensations with your hands or wrists to square the clubface at impact to negate a sub-optimal club path.
You can read our guide to the perfect takeaway to learn more.
Which hand controls the clubface in golf?
For a right-handed player, the right hand has a huge influence on controlling the clubface in golf. The palm of your right hand essentially mimics your face angle – if your palm is open to your target line at impact, the clubface will be open. If your palm is closed to your target line at impact, the clubface will be closed.
I was always under the impression that it was the left hand and arm that controlled the golf club – and while this is largely true in regards to club path, when it comes clubface angle the right hand has a big role to play.
Golf instructor Mike Malaska explains this well in an informative YouTube video, where he demonstrates how the right hand can cause the face to roll shut, or fan open at impact.
Similarly, the right hand plays a big part in covering the golf ball effectively and getting the appropriate forward shaft lean for optimal compression (as I’ve explained in another article).
While you don’t want the right side of your body becoming too active in the golf swing, there is enough evidence to support the fact you should focus on how your right hand moves as it can have a big influence on controlling the clubface.
Why is my clubface wide open at impact?
If your clubface is wide open at impact, it has likely been caused by one of the following swing flaws: either a severely in-to-out or out-to-in club path; poor rotation caused by sliding of the hips or early extension, leading to a flipping of the hands; an early loss of lag angles; or not enough shaft lean as you strike the ball.
All of these faults – either in isolation, or in combination with one another – can lead to your clubface being wide open when you strike the ball.
We’ve written some detailed guides on how you can correct each of these flaws, which will help improve your clubface control. The links to each article is below:
- Rotation Basics: How To Stop Swaying In The Golf Swing
- Early Extension: What It Is And How To Fix It
- How To Perfect Your Takeaway And Get Your Swing On-Plane
But what I’ve found has helped me most when it comes to consistently delivering a square clubface, and gaining more control and consistency with my ball-striking, are the two drills I’m about to share with you.
Best drills to practice clubface control
In order to get my clubface under control – which is something I desperately needed to improve when I started developing a two-way miss off the tee – my local golf instructor gave me the following drills to work on.
Both of them are designed to improve forward shaft lean and compression which, in turn, will create a far stable clubface at impact and greatly improve compression, control and ball flight.
Half-swing punch shots
This is a great little drill to help you square the clubface at impact. All you need to do is:
- Place an alignment stick on the ground in front of you so that it’s pointed in the same direction you are facing
- Take your address position so that the alignment stick is an inch inside your trail foot
- Place the ball so that it is around an inch forward of the alignment stick (roughly in the middle of your stance)
- Make some gentle half swings with a 7-iron and focus on striking the ball first (with your hips open) without it clipping the alignment stick on the way through
What this will do is stop you flipping the clubface at the ball (causing fat or thin strikes) and will instead get the shaft leaning forward, plus your hips open, creating a lot better compression and a stable impact position.
Alignment stick under the arm
If you’re someone who has overactive wrists or is prone to ‘scooping’ at the ball by flipping the club with your hands (and as a result losing your lag too early in your swing), this is a great drill for you. All you need to do is:
- Place an alignment stick under your trail arm so that half the stick points in front of you
- Take a 7-iron and address the golf ball like you normally would
- Begin your backswing and take the club back until your lead arm makes contact with the alignment stick being held under your trail arm
- Making a gentle half swing, focus on keeping your lead arm in contact with the alignment stick for as long as possible during the downswing (right until the point of impact with the ball)
What this drill will do is encourage your hands to get into a more forward position at impact, increasing shaft lean and, as a result, improving clubface stability and compression.
For every five or six swings practicing this drill, remove the alignment stick and take a full swing while still focus on getting your hands farther forward at impact.
If done correctly, you’ll soon start to see the ball fly straighter, with a more penetrating flight.
If you want to get good at golf, you need to have control of the clubface.
The main things to focus on in order to consistently produce a square clubface at impact are: forward shaft lean, getting your hands farther forward at impact, proper body and hip rotation, and ensuring your right hand covers the ball as you make contact.
Working on the drills I’ve outlined above – along with the other key fundamentals mentioned in this article (such as grip and takeaway) – will get you controlling the clubface better in no time and stop those excessively wayward shots from destroying your rounds.