Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Physics of The Golf Swing

The game of golf revolves around a combination of numerous physics concepts. The effects of physics on the game, which can easily be overlooked, can be found not only during the swing and impact, but they also take effect prior to the swing, while the ball is in flight and after the ball has landed. The physics concepts that will be discussed include, Newton's Laws, acceleration, force, velocity, time, gravity, and angles.

Many things effect the way the ball and its flight including...

~ Lie

~ Weather conditions
* Wind
* Temperature
* Altitude

~ Gravity

~ Angle at which force is applied

~ Newton's Laws

~ Applied Force

Lie - Grass behind the ball will cause, less solid contact between the ball and club, producing less force on the ball. Thus, a ball hit from the fairway may go a couple of yards further than a ball hit from the rough due to the resistance of the grass in the rough. A shot hit from a downhill slope will produce a lower trajectory and a shot hit from an uphill slope will produce a higher projectory.

Weather - The weather plays a large roll in how the golf ball will fly.

~ Wind- The wind plays a large role in both how far the ball will travel and how straight the ball will travel.

Downwind - A shot hit with wind coming from behind will fly farther, have less spin producing more roll and a straighter flight. The shot will go further and straighter and have less spin, the faster the wind is blowing.

Crosswind - A shot hit with wind coming from a side will have a tendency to fly the direction that the wind is blowing. For example, a shot hit with a wind coming from left to right will fly more to the right. The ball will fly the further right, the faster the wind is blowing.

Into the wind - A shot hit when into the wind will not travel as far, will have more spin producing less roll and a less straight flight. The shot will go shorter and will have a tendency to be more off line due to the more spin created by the wind and will not roll as far when it lands. The faster the wind speed, the more all of these effects will be effected.

~ Temperature - The temperature has an effect on distance.

Warm - A shot hit during a warm temperature will go further than a shot hit during a cold temperature. Keeping the force at which the ball and all other factors equal, the ball will go further because the high temperature will cause it to compress more. The more the ball compress's, the further it will go.

Cold - A shot hit during a cold temperature will go shorter than a shot hit during a warm temperature. Keeping all factors equal, the cold temperature will cause the ball to compress less and thus the ball will travel a shorter distance.

~ Altitude - The altitude has an effect on distance. Keeping all factors equal, a ball hit at a higher altitude will go further than a ball hit at a lower altiture. This is due to the less resistance in the atomsphere. The air at higher altitude's is thinner than the air at lower altitude. A golf ball will travel a longer distance at a high altitude because there is less air resistance causing the ball to go further.

Gravity - The effects of gravity on the golf swing, is much like the effects of gravity in everyday life, its effect is often overlooked. Here are a list of numerous ways that gravity effects the game of golf.

~ Without gravity, when the ball is put on the tee it would float, because of gravity (and Newton's First Law, which will be discussed later) the ball stays on the tee.

~ During a player's backswing, they are constantly fighting the effects of gravity. As they lift the club to the top of their backswing they are fighting the -9.8 m/s/s acceleration of gravity which is causing the player to feel as if a force is pulling down on the club as they are trying to lift it up.

~ Tiger Woods, in a golf digest about a year and a half ago, said that one of the things he was trying to feel in his swing was that once the club reached the top of his backswing he wanted to feel as if he let the club and his arms "fall" to begin the downswing. The falling sensation that he said he wanted to feel was due to gravity. He wanted to apply no additional force to the club, only the force of gravity.

~ During the downswing, once the player begins applying force to the club to create acceleration, gravity is also helping the player out. Not only is the players force on the club causing it to accelerate but the 9.8m/s/s acceleration force of gravity is also helping. Since the player's force they are applying is so much greater than the force of gravity, the force of gravity is often overlooked.

~ After the ball is struck the player begins to slow down the velocity of the club. Helping them slow the club down as the club is coming up to the top of their forward swing is the force of gravity. As the club is coming up, gravity is applying of force, causing a sensation for the player as if gravity was pulling down on the club.

~ I have an idea for an info-mercial. It would go something like this "Do YOU want to hit the ball as far as the pros? Well you could, yes anyone could, if there was no gravity!" Ok it is kind of corny but it is true. Gravity is the force the causes the ball to come back to the ground. Without gravity, anybody could hit the ball 300 yards, just as the pros do.

~ Without gravity, Tiger Woods and other pro's would be unable to even hit the ball in the hole. On the putting green, as the ball is putted towards the hole, gravity is the force that causes the ball to fall into the hole.

~ On the putting green, the ball roles and stays on the ground because of gravity. Almost all putters have 5 or 6 degrees of loft. A ball hit with 5 or 6 degrees of loft would fly into the air without gravity. Because of gravity, the ball quickly returns to the surface after being struck.

Angle at which force is applied - This concept can be used to explain why golfer's carry around 14 clubs, and not just one or two. Two balls hit by two clubs with the same mass and same force will vary only due to the angle at which they are hit. A club with 45 degrees of loft will go shorter and will roll less than a ball hit by a club with 25 degrees of loft.

Newton's Laws - What discussion of physics would be complete without mentioning Newton's Laws? Sir Issac Newton's three basic laws all have some effect on the golf swing.

~ 1st Law - The law of inertia. Every object continues in a state of rest, or of motion, in a straight line at constant spped, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces exerted upon it.. Newton's first law serves as an explanation for why the golf ball stays at rest until the player strikes the ball. The only way the ball may move other than due to a strike from the club, is a great amount of wind while the ball is on the putting green. Other than that rare example, the ball will remain at rest until the club hits it. This is a direct example of Newton's First Law.

~ 2nd Law - Acceleration = Net Force/Mass, while force is measured in Newton's and Mass is measured in kg. Now that we have accepted that fact that there is gravity, this is the explanation for why Tiger Woods and other pros hit the ball further than most average players. The pros cause the ball to be hit with more force, using a constant mass, the more force that is applied to the ball, the more acceleration that is created and the further the ball will go. Applied force explained below.

~ 3rd Law - Whenever one object exerts a force on a second object, the second object exerts an equal and opposite force on the first object. For the purpose of explanation, let the first object be the golf club and let the second object be the golf ball. Newton's 3rd law states that the force between the club and the ball during contact are equal. As the club hits the ball, it applies force to the ball causing it to go into motion. The ball also applies a force back to the club. This force is less noticable because the mass and acceleration of the club is so much more than that of the golf ball.

Applied Force - There are several equations that factor in the applied force to how far the ball will go.

~ F=MA

~ A= Change in Velocity / Change in Time

With a constance mass, the more acceleration applied during the golf swing, will cause more force applied to the ball during impact causing the ball, when hit at the same angle by the club and launched at the same angle, to travel a longer distance.

When a triple beam balance was used to mreasure the mass of a golf ball, the result was 0.04569 kg and the standard acceleration of a golf club by a professional player is about 100 mph or 44.73 m/s. This speed of the club produces a speed of the golf ball which on average is about 170 mph or 76.08 m/s. The moment of impact lasts for 5 milliseconds which is .005 seconds.

Thus, the equation for the force applied to the golf ball would look like this,

Acceleration = (76.1 m/s) / (.005 seconds)

Acceleration = 15,220 m/s^2

Force = (.04569 kg) x ( 15,220 m/s^2)

Force = 695.4 Newtons

This equation can be used force any swing speed.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gravity Golf

Gravity Golf is a training method developed by David C. Lee that aims to teach a person to swing a golf club in a physics-friendly manner that provides maximum ball speed and distance with the minimum of effort. It was first explained in his 1996 book of the same name.


The term "gravity" is used by Lee to encompass several elements of his method, for example:
The "first release": players are encouraged to use their back and shoulders to throw the club back and up at the start of the swing. Once the club passes the golfer's back leg, the arms should relax and float to the top without any effort or tension in the golfer's upper body.
Likewise, gravity is relied upon to start the downswing by causing the arms to drop without any effort from the golfer.
The "counterfall": during the swing, gravity pulls the golfer off-vertical - leaning away from the ball - before hip rotation starts. This counteracts the force of the arms and club swinging at high speed in front of the player, which would otherwise pull him or her off-balance.

Training method

The gravity swing is taught using drills such as swinging with one's feet crossed, or with one hand. The drills are intended to train the body to swing the club in a more fluid manner, allowing the player to rely on muscle memory in order to swing in a natural and relaxed way. This "method" is extremely hard to understand and is not recommended for the average golfer. The cost for a 2 to 3 day training session is well over $1800 which is also out of the average golfers range. I have seen the technique work first hand, but it was by people who had practiced it for years and were in the golf business. The average golfer just does not have the time to work on or even understand the "counter-fall". I noticed more decent golfers coming away more confused and frustrated when all they were looking for was a cure to a few minor issues in their swing. My advice to the average golfer is to have your swing recorded and review it carefully, then work on correcting one flaw at a time. If you are working more on your driver, record your swing, go to the range and make your corrections with the 150 marker as your target. Once the swing feels good and you have your timing and arm action worked out, go ahead and increase the power of your swing by 20%. Concentrate on the feel, timing, and arms release. If you start hooking or slicing again, go back to targeting the 150 marker to regain the confidence before increase swing speed / power. The bottom line is if you can create a swing with your driver that is comfortable, in time, and with good wrist and arm release, the ball will just jump off the club and if you can do it with the big stick, you will be able to do it with an 8 iron. Save the $1800 and the frustration. This technique is for players with lots of time and money.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gravity Swing

This is taken from David Lee's first video, on the evolution of swing mechanics. Here he is demonstrating and explaining the gravity swing type of swing, which is the purest and most effortless of swing types. Players such as Fred Couples and Jack Nicklaus are good examples. He also explains three other major swing types in this video, the shoulder rake, (Palmer), centrifugal flip and a combination swing.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Improving Your Golf Swing Using Gravity

Have you ever gone to the driving range and see golfers swing so hard that they are completely physically spent after each swing? You know, the ones that are dripping with sweat after hitting 10 balls and grunt after every swing as if they are trying to break through a concrete wall?
Now, have you ever watched golf on TV? Have you ever paused for a moment at the range and watched someone who is hitting the ball with consistency? I'd be willing to bet they are not grunting, sweating, or trying to prove to themselves and everyone watching that they are swinging harder than everyone else!

I used to be that golfer, and in some circumstances I still am. But, as I learned more about golf, watched more golf on TV, and just spoke to more people who were involved in the game, I learned that trying to swing as hard as you can just does not work. The basic principal is that the more tense your muscles are, the slower your swing becomes. Talk to any hitting coach in baseball and they will tell you the same thing. People inherrently think they need to use every ounce of muscle in their body through their entire swing to hit the ball far. The truth is that doing so will hinder your swing as you will be fighting the tenseness of your muscles to speed up your swing, which ultimately creates your power.

Watch golfers on TV and forget about how they grip their club or the mechanical aspects of their swing. Rather, watch how smoothly pro golfers swing. One word sums it up; effortless.

The reason pro golfers are able to smash the ball is that they swing loosely, not tensely. Every muscle in their arms and body is at ease until the very last instant (more or less) right as the clubface is about to make impact with the ball. THEN they tense up their muscles and "snap" the clubface through the ball.

It took me a long time to realize this, and I'm still working on "loosening" up my swing. I didn't really "get it" until I was at the range one time and was watching a guy bring his club back and stopping at the top of his backswing. To my surprise he was smashing the ball! So I tried it. I stopped at the top of my backswing and instead of tensing up my muscles to start my downswing I simply let the club "drop". Basically gravity started my downswing, and all I had to do was exert force right before the clubface made contact with the ball.

Easier said than done obviously but you MUST try it! Take your backswing, and let gravity do the work to start your downsing. Grip the club loosely and just let it start to fall. The longer you can wait until the moment you tense up, the better your results will be. This is definitely something to try at the range rather than the course. Once you start to get the hang of it you'll realize you don't need to be so tense, there is no need for grunting, and you won't be sweating buckets. Your swing will become smooth, comfortable, and effortless.


Friday, December 3, 2010

How the Stack and Tilt Golf Swing Works

In June 2007, Golf Digest readers pushed back their visors and scratched their heads as they read about a new golf swing growing popular on the PGA Tour. The swing seemed to run counter to the sport's conventional wisdom, particularly with respect to weight shift and lateral movement. Not only that, it looked downright odd, as if you stood a chance of falling over while attempting it. Nevertheless, pros were flocking to it and reporting significant improvements in their games. It was called the stack and tilt swing, and it was developed by well-known PGA Tour instructors Michael Bennett and Andy Plummer.

Stack and tilt is a swing designed to maximize how straight and how far the ball flies. Some swings -- for example, the putt -- will be straighter. And others may drive farther. But stack and tilt is meant to be the best combination of both. It keeps you on the fairway while helping you to gain enough distance to keep your score low.

Interest in stack and tilt rivaled that of any instructional article Golf Digest had yet published, and the magazine reported receiving hundreds of questions and comments [source: Finch]. Many people said they had markedly stepped up their games with the new swing, while others were "simply intrigued by its complete assault on traditional instruction" [source: Plummer]. Critics weighed in as well, claiming that the new swing was little more than an update of the old "reverse pivot" and argued that the stack and tilt was too tricky for most weekend golfers [source: Logan].

In this article, we'll look at how stack and tilt works and how it differs from the traditional golf stance and swing.