You have a chronic slicer on your lesson tee that has the face pointing right and the path going left, what do you fix first?
It’s an age old question in golf instruction and its answer says a lot about the philosophy of the teacher. Thanks to Trackman and Flightscope and the “new” ball flight laws we know that the clubface alignment at impact (assuming centered contact) has an overwhelmingly more significant influence on the starting direction of the shot than the swing path. To many teachers who opt to change ball flight by fixing the face first this validates their methodology. Why not change the most influential aspect of ball flight to change ball flight? It makes perfect sense.
On the other hand as you dive more deeply into ball flight and the influence of path and face you might find a problem with that theory. Let’s take this example of a player hitting a typical slice. The face is pointing 2* right (open to the target) at impact and the path is 3* left of the target (out-to-in). The result is a ball that starts right of the target due to the influence of the face but curves further right because the path is left of the face (the ball curves away from the path). To get this player hitting the draw they desire the clubface can stay exactly where it is (2* right of the target) and the path needs to be put on its’ head to 3* right of the target (in-to-out). The ball would start right of the target as it was doing with the slice but curve back to the target because the path is right of the face. Seems simple, just fix the path correct?
I would argue no, fix the face first. The first problem with fixing the path first has to do with the psychology of the golfer. When the ball is slicing right into the junk the player’s instincts are forcing them to swing further left in an attempt to fix the problem. Their motivation to swing “right” is extremely low. Conversely, if the face becomes more left at impact and the ball starts left they will be more inclined to swing more right to get the ball back to the target. Their motivation becomes high to fix the path. The other issue is that it is impossible to fix path in a vacuum. In other words, any time you change path significantly you will also change face. If you get a path to go from 3* left to 3* right I guarantee the face will become more open. Not only does this make it more difficult to fix path first it also improves the ball that starts left when the student has improved the face position before dealing with the path.
The conclusion is that while it seems fixing the path would be much simpler the psychology of the golfer and the reality of changing the swing says the clubface is the better choice.