The idea of a shot cone was first introduced to me by PGA Tour instructors Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett. They often have their tour players practice with a 20 to 30 yard rope extended out towards their target. Using this rope not only helps you align yourself and visually connect with your target, it also helps determine what kind of shot dispersion, or cone you have. It’s been said that golfers are only as good as their misses, and players at the highest level tend to have a tighter cone of shots, with fewer outliers, than the average weekend warrior.
Using rope allows you to analyze each shot in terms of starting direction and curve. Being left handed, and a drawer of the golf ball, I like to see my golf balls start slightly left of the target, and curving back to the target while staying in the green zone of the cone pictured above. Any shot that begins in the red areas are bad, unless I’m purposefully trying to curve a ball around an object on the course (and I never hit it in the trees;-). Since we know that the clubface angle is the primary factor in where the golf ball starts, anything in the red zone lets me know that my clubface is too open or too closed for the standard shot I’m trying to hit.
What if I’m starting the ball in the green zone, but it’s curving across the target line and landing in the yellow, or worse yet, the red zone on the right. Or even worse, the dreaded slice landing in the red zone on the left! (For a left handed golfer, of course). Since we know that the clubface is fine (because the ball is starting on a good line), the path of the club into the ball must be out of whack. When player’s ball starts fairly straight and slices off in to outlier land, I often here them say “I didn’t release the toe of the club on that one.” This really isn’t the problem, as the face of their club was aimed pretty close to where they wanted it at impact. The correct analysis would be, “My clubface was pretty good, but I cut across the ball with my path putting that slice spin on the ball.”
Hopefully you can start to see the benefits of practicing with a rope, and how it helps you determine what is at fault for some of those shots that don’t fall within your shot cone. Since golf is a side-on game, determining your shot shapes and starting lines can sometimes be tricky, so bring a friend out to the range with you to confirm what you’re seeing. And as always, stop out and see us at the Raven with any questions you may have!
Aaron Olson is a Staff Teaching Professional with JRG/TSGA programs at the Raven Golf Club Phoenix. In addition, he is Assistant Director of Nike Junior Golf Camps hosted at the Pebble Beach Resorts on the Monterey Peninsula. Click Here for more information on private and group coaching with Aaron and the entire JRG/TSGA Staff.