The ball flight laws  belong to the basic knowledge every dedicated golfer should know inside out. If you know and understand the ball flight laws of golf you always have an idea what to work on when facing mishits. Just because you know how your club produced a specific reaction at impact. In general the ball just reacts to the club. The clubface can be closed, open or square at impact while swinging in-to-out, out-to-in or in-to-square-to-in. The following illustration shows this in detail. Whenever you are dealing with a specific ball flight pattern you can decode what could have happened during the swing. Of course this isn’t absolutely fail safe but you always get an idea what might have caused your ball flight.

golf swing paths

clubface positions at impact and swing paths

In general the ball can start in three directions to the right side of your alignment (push), to the left side of your alignment (pull) and parallel to your alignment. After the starting distance the ball can turn to the left (hook), to the right (slice) or keep flying straight due too its spin. This leads to nine ball flight patterns.

Term Starting Direction Turn
straight shot straight none
pull left none
push right none
hook straight left
pull-hook left left
push-hook right left
slice straight right
pull-slice left right
push-slice right right

You are probably looking for two more shots you hear a lot in practice. A  slight push-hook that is landing at the target is called a draw and a slight pull-slice landing at the target is called a fade. So a draw is basically a hook and a fade is a slice if you just look at how the ball is turning.

In general for all shots the clubface position at impact is the dominant factor. That means that the ball isn’t necessarily starting in the direction the club was swung but is reacting more to the open, square or closed clubface. Let’s take a look at each possible shot in detail.

Straight Shot

The club usually travelled straight at the target at impact with a square clubface aligned to the target. If a club with a lot of loft was used (like a short iron) and swung with slow speed a swing path from out-to-in with an open clubface is also possible.

Pull and Push

If the club was swung out-to-in with the clubface being square to the swing path a pulled shot is the result. When the clubface is square to the swing path the ball usually travels straight into the direction the club was swung. If the club was swung in-to-out with a clubface square to the swing path a push is the result.

Hook

A hook is the result of a closed clubface and a swing path travelling from in-to-out. Usually a hook is better than a slice because it generates more distance. But it all depends on the hole you are playing etc.

Pull-Hook

With a pull-hook you can’t really tell the swing path by seeing the ball flight alone. The clubface was closed, that’s sure. You can’t really tell if the swing path was from out to in for a pull-hook because the ball can already start to the left with a really close clubface alone.

Push-Hook and Draw

If the ball flight was a push-hook or a draw the club travelled from in-to-out and the clubface was closed in relation to the swing path.

Slice

A Slice is the result of a swing path that travels out-to-in and an open clubface.

Push-Slice

With the push-slice it’s also difficult to conclude the swing path from the ball flight. The clubface was definitely open in relation to swing path and target line. Yet the ball can start to the right due too an open clubface alone.

Pull-Slice and Fade

The pull-slice and the fade are results of a swing path from out-to-in and an open  clubface in relation to the swing path. It’s similar to a slice but not as drastic.

The Divot

You can also conclude the swing path somewhat from the direction the divot is pointing to. A perfect divot resulting from an iron shot should start just behind where the ball lay (ball was hit before the ground). It should point a little to the left (the club moved inside right after the impact) and have a consistent depth (the clubhead moved parallel to the ground during impact).