STAN UTLEY and DAVE PELZ: Hit Up Or Down?

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The development of the Trackman machine has changed our understanding of golf ball flight patterns over the last decade. The Trackman machine demonstrated that widely held beliefs pertaining to flight patterns are inaccurate. The machine is able to measure clubhead/ball speed, track the stroke path of the clubhead through the impact zone, and detect the orientation of the clubface at impact. With these advancements in technology, golfers are able to improve their desired ball flight pattern by making appropriate changes to their clubhead path and clubface orientation at impact. With the new understanding of ball flight law, let’s consider how these changes affect the way golfers hit down vs. hitting up pre/post impact.

Utley and Pelz

As with most anything related to golf, there are differing opinions. For example, Stan Utley believes in hitting up a little, whereas, Dave Pelz suggests hitting down. It really comes down to whether you are a Tour player or just an average golfer who enjoys playing well. Shots struck off the ground need to be hit with a descending strike and shots struck off an elevated tee are better when hit with an upward strike.

Trackman stats for the PGA Tour show that most of the time, Tour players hit down on their driver (1.3 degrees). Why? Tour players have the ability to create very high club speed, allowing them to trade some distance for accuracy. By hitting down on the ball, they can flight the golf ball with more control – a much-needed skill due to the difficult courses they play. However, the average golfer needs to be efficient and get the most distance out of the driver by hitting up on the ball. Long drive champions all know that hitting up on the ball give them extra yardage, which is why they tee it up so high. Consider these two examples:

Golfer A swings at 90mph and hits 5 degrees down on the ball (-5 attack angle). Their average well-struck tee ball goes 234 yards. Now, golfer B swings at 90mph and hits 5 degrees up on the ball (+5 attack angle). Their average well-struck tee shot travels 256 yards – a gain of 22 yards while swinging the same speed. Why?

The Trackman machine has not only exposed what’s really going on when your iron or driver makes contact with the ball. It has led to a game-changing discovery: You need not one but two different swings to play your very best – one for shots hit off the ground or close proximity to it and a swing for the upward, efficient hit of a driver off a high tee.

When hitting down with any club, (although it is different on the degrees +/-) the ball goes out, away from the baseline. When hitting up, after passing the low-point, the club/putter is travelling in vs. out, although the difference is minute. Therefore, when we put the ball back, away from the optimum flat level hit with the putter, we’ll push it right vs. when we put the ball forward, we’ll hit up and pull left, if we were set up to hit our low point beneath our COG being the sternum. Now, when putting, the arc of the putt will have very short low point/flat spot.

Therefore, if there are two different swings, it would make sense that there should be two different set up positions. Here are the important differences:

Shots off the Ground:

  • Your weight should be anywhere from a 50/50 split to favoring the front foot slightly
  • Your head should be centered between the heels
  • There should be very little spine tilt away from the target and as a result the shoulders will be fairly level

Shots off a High Tee

  • Your feet should be fairly far apart and there should actually be a little more weight on the back foot than the front foot
  • The ball should be positioned inside the left heel and teed high
  • Your spine should be tilting away from the target a little as you prepare to “swing uphill”

Golf Ball Alignment

Once you have a better understanding of ball flight patterns, you still need to make sure you are aligned properly. Setup accounts for 80 percent of the golf swing. It is very difficult for the human eye to pick up the exact launch direction of the ball. That is why we recommend using the LinksWalker patented alignment guide. It is the only training aid that is legal to use during the course of play. The guide, which is printed directly on the ball, encourages proper alignment and increases accuracy. With consistent use, you’ll learn to avoid “swing changes” resulting from poor aiming techniques. LinksWalker golf balls have also been found to reduce the number of slices and hooks. With a new understanding of ball flight patterns and a guaranteed method of alignment, the sky is the limit for your golf game.