Several variables control the initial direction a golf ball will launch. Spin loft, moisture, club path, and centeredness of contact will all have an effect on which way your shot will go.
But when we discuss direction, most golfers are usually just concerned with the horizontal: Did my ball go straight or crooked?
Face angle is the single most important factor in the direction a ball launches, and where it ends up, relative to your target.
The super smart people at Trackman have revealed that around 75% of a shot’s initial direction is influenced by face, and only 25% path, given a center strike on a 7 iron.
The number goes up the less loft you are using. On a driver, they determined face angle was over 80% of the influence.
Dave Pelz’s research showed that in rolling a putt straight, 86% of the direction was determined by the angle of the putter face at impact. The other 14% was path, again given a dead center strike.
So being able to precisely control the face of the club is arguably the single most important factor in being a good golfer.
I can think of two ways to control the face of the club better, but neither one will seem like a shortcut.
Being aware of the face angle is something I developed once I conquered learning how to pop the ball into the air every time without whiffing, i.e. as an intermediate golfer. I had extensive background spinning and curving a ball in other sports previously, such as baseball, handball, basketball, and tennis, so the concept of manipulating the strike the of ball to intentionally curve a golf ball was fairly natural to me.
You can increase your awareness of the face angle by practicing intentionally curving the ball on the driving range. Can you curve it either way on command? After that it is just a matter of controlling the degree of the curve. This takes thousands of repetitions. I simply saw this as fun.
Controlling the rate of closure of the club face is something more technique oriented, as opposed to awareness being more a ‘feel’.
Swings that are more mechanically suspect will usually have a higher rate of closure through the impact area. In otherwords, the face will go from very open to very closed rapidly. In this scenario, your off line misses will be larger. Tempo and timing will need to be flawless to control this type of swing.
Theoretically, the less the clubface rotates relative to the target line, the more mild our bad shots will be when our timing is just a little off. One way of phrasing this is: The clubface should stay square to the arc on which it travels.
Obviously, doing this is much harder than it seems, otherwise there would be no golfers off in the trees, and we could build driving ranges next to kindergartens.
Keeping the club face square to the arc is a sum of many correctly moving parts, often called ‘fundamentals’. Grip and posture are good places to start – but everything required to reduce your rate of closure is in the lessons on this site.