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Lesson Learned: Control the Flight to Hit it Tight

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on

Patrick Rodgers of the United States plays his second shot into the 17th hole during the third round of the Butterfield Bermuda Championship at Port Royal Golf Course on October 30, 2021 in Southampton, Bermuda. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

An impressive display of skill has come from the field’s ability to maintain accuracy in very challenging windy conditions this week at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship. 
What has been their secret to better ball striking than his competitors? A few minor fundamental shifts have allowed the players at the top of the leaderboard to flight the ball through the wind and get it closer to the target. Believe it or not, the ‘magic manipulations’ aren’t just for PGA Tour players. They will help you control your ball flight as well.
Golfers tend to complicate things. When it comes to maneuvering the ball around the course, little setup changes will make a world of difference. You don’t need special in-swing changes, just adjusting a couple of basic relationships will be enough. Here’s how it’s done.
Let’s imagine your golf swing. What would you change about your setup to lower the ball flight? Most would guess to move the ball back in their stance. That’s correct.
Get to the practice range and grab a 7-iron. After warming up, hit a couple regular shots. Notice the height of the shot. Now move the ball back in your stance. Don’t change anything else. Hit a couple more.
What happened to the ball flight? It went down, but it also went more away from you. For a right-handed golfer it goes more to the right, left-hander to the left. The reason the ball gets skewed from the target line is that by striking the ball further back in your stance you’re hitting the ball with a different part of the swing path. The club is approaching the ball sooner than usual. This pushes the ball flight out.
To accommodate for that slight alteration in direction, we must adjust our stance. In moving the ball back, you also have to open your stance. By making BOTH adjustments, you will effectively be able to lower your ball flight.
Keep hitting shots and watch what happens. Pay special attention to your carry distance. By lowering the ball flight, you will also reduce your carry, but increase the roll. Experiment and discover through your practice sessions before you take this new fun flighting method to the course.
Remember if you want to rip it through that wind:
  1. Move the ball back in your stance
  2. Open your alignment to adjust for the new ball position
Managing your ball flight can be quite fun. These adjustments will open new doors to your enjoyment of the game. Combine this knowledge with great balance and a focused follow-through and you’ll be amazed at how much any golfer can control their ball flight.

Keith Stewart is a 5-time award-winning PGA Professional with 25 years of experience in the golf industry. His network of players, coaches and insiders provide him with a unique perspective on the game. He's a writer on PGA.com and host of the ProShow on ESPN 920 AM Friday afternoons at 3:00pm EDT. Check out his PGA Coaching articles archived here or his conversations on air with this link to his website The ProShow.

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