How's the Angle of Your Face?
by Jeff Jackson, Tour Golf Products

Do all of your drives end up in the fairway? Do they go long and straight? Are you the envy of your playing partners when you step on the tee? If you are lucky enough to have these things happen, the face angle of your driver is probably correct for you. But, on the other side of the coin, if you often make what you think are good swings and the ball heads toward the left or right trees, maybe you should have a look at the face angle of your driver. Nothing is more of a blow to your confidence than to make your best swing and watch the ball disappear into the heather, never to be seen again. A change in face angle might just be the ticket to improved play when you head to the tee. Face angle is a key element in ball direction when hitting a driver or a fairway wood.

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In layman's terms, face angle is the direction that your driver points at address in relation to the target. A square face angle points toward the target, while an open face points to the right and a closed face angle points left. (All examples are for right handed players.) Depending upon how you swing, this face angle may or may not be the same at impact.

Let's say that you have a driver with a face that points squarely at the target and you make an on-plane swing. The ball will head straight toward the target. No problem, right? OK, but if you are like most players who consistently make an outside-in swing and open the club face, a slice results. The square-faced driver offers no help with ball direction for this common type of swing. Why? Because your swing path puts left to right spin on the ball and the square face does nothing to counteract this spin. But, if you have a driver whose face points to the left of the target - this is called a closed or hooked face - and make the outside-in swing, your ball may fly reasonably straight! The face angle that is matched to your swing characteristics actually allows you to hit the ball in play with your less than perfect swing.

What if your tendency is to hit the ball to the left of the target? In these cases a face angle that points to the right (commonly known as an open face) will help you to correct your shot pattern that produces shots landing in the left rough - or worse. So how can you tell if the face angle of your driver is correct for you? The first clue is ball flight. If your drives most often land in the fairway, the face angle of the driver you are using is no doubt well-suited to your game. In instances where this does not happen, you should try a driver that has a different angle than your current model. Head to your golf professional or clubmaker and ask for a measurement of your driver's face angle. Assuming that you are not going to take lessons to improve your swing and you have a slicing problem, look for a club more closed than the one you have; if you hit too many shots left, seek out a club with a more open face than you presently use.

Can you measure the face angle of your driver yourself? In all honesty, you probably cannot - at least not very accurately. The best way to attempt to determine your driver's face angle without a specialized gauge is to find a tile floor. Align your feet on the tiles, picking an imaginary target. Now, place the driver on the floor and see where it points in relation to the intersecting lines of the tiles. It is very important not to manipulate the driver when you rest it on the tiles; allow it to sole itself on the tiles with no assist from you. If the face aligns itself at the target you have chosen and it is parallel with your feet, it is probably close to being square-faced. If it aligns to the right, it is somewhat open. If it appears to point to the left, it is closed a degree or two. While this may give you some idea of your driver's face angle, a loft & lie machine is the accurate way to measure it.

Believe it or not, your eyes "play tricks" on you related to face angle. Because you look at the driver from a slightly different angle with each eye at address due to the driver being positioned toward the front of your stance, what often appears to you to be square is actually open. Your eyes and the club face form what is a called a compound angle as a result of your head position, tricking your brain into believing an open face looks square, a square face looks closed and closed face may seem to point very much to the left. Some manufacturers produce clubs that are open so that they appear square when a player holds them in address position. Imagine if you slice the ball - as do 90% of all golfers - and your driver looks square to you, but is actually open - it is no wonder that most of your shots travel to the right. In essence, you can make a "good" swing and have the ball go nowhere near its intended target - it's easy to see how important face angle is to a drive's direction!

A trend in face angle specifications among today's larger drivers is toward closed face angles. Why? A larger head is more difficult to return to a square impact position for potentially two reasons. One, the larger head has a center of gravity farther from the shaft. This causes the head to want to lag open due the load the head places on the shaft. A second consideration, especially with very large heads, is drag. The larger head occupies more space, thus making it more difficult to return to square as a result of air drag on the head. Closed face angles are a necessary design feature of larger heads that allows them to be returned to a square position at impact.

If you have a favorite driver from a cosmetic perspective, but you are not hitting it as accurately as you desire, perhaps its face angle can be altered to fit your needs. If your driver is made from stainless steel, it is likely a candidate for bending. If it is a forged titanium model with a longer hosel, bending may be possible as well. A loft and lie machine, found in many pro shops and club repair facilities will bend the club to better match your playing needs. If you are a slicer, the hosel will be bent forward to close the face angle. Bending the hosel rearward opens the face to help those who battle a hook.

Face angle is an often taken-for-granted specification of a wood. Most players simply assume that all clubs are "created equal." This is just not the case. Face angles can vary by as much as six degrees from most open to most closed. Knowing this, it is easy to understand how the relationship between face angle and ball direction is the most important parameter when it comes to accurate wood play. Analyze your shot patterns, look at the face angle of your driver, make any necessary equipment adjustments and you'll be well on your way toward being the envy of your playing partners when your drives consistently split the fairways!