Why the ‘gear effect’ could be hurting your accuracy off the tee

Person teeing off in blurred motion

Having problems with accuracy? The gear effect could explain why.

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You may have heard of it before, or maybe you haven’t, but in golf there’s something called the gear effect. It happens every time you hit the golf ball, whether you realize it or not, and it has a significant impact on the direction you’re hitting the golf ball.

Before we go any further we want to let you know that if you’re interested in learning more about this stuff generally — and the gear effect specifically — the rabbit hole you can dive down on this is endlessly deep and equal-parts fascinating. There are a bunch of really smart people in golf who study this. We’ll be keeping it pretty basic here, and for help with that, we’ve got a handy video from our friends at GOLFTEC, which you can watch for yourself below. (If you want to learn about how the gear effect is impacting your own golf game, you can book an evaluation at your local GOLFTEC right here)

Alright, let’s get cracking.

As GOLFTEC’s Vice President of Instruction Nick Clearwater points out below, the first step to understanding how the gear effect works is knowing where the center of gravity is on your golf club. The center of gravity (or CG) is the heaviest part of the clubhead, and every club has one. In drivers it’s designed to be down and toward the back of the clubhead, to help golfers launch the ball higher.

That equates to a sweet spot that is slighter higher on the face and — fun fact! — not always exactly in the center of the clubface.

And where you hit the ball on the clubface in relation to that sweetspot effects the outcome of the shot itself.

Though your clubface angle at impact is the biggest predictor of where the ball will eventually go, the actual location of where you hit the ball on the face is also a big factor. The clubface will twist slightly based on where you hit it on the face. You can see two examples below: The clubface twists closed after a heel hit, open after a toe hit, deflects down after thin shot and up after a high-on-the-face strike.

That twisting of the clubhead based on the location of the strike is effectively the gears effect, and that twisting sends the ball in a different direction — even if the clubface is square. Clearwater explains by creating four quadrants around the CG and show how a strike in either of them would effect the eventual ball flight.

club face gear effect

All of which is to say that if your drives are leaking to the right even though your face-and-path numbers look fine, and you’re not sure why, the problem could be your contact with the ball itself. You could be delivering the clubface square, but if you’re making contact on the heel, the gears effect will send the ball to the right anyway.

Thanks again to GOLFTEC for the info, and check out their offer below to book a swing evaluation or clubfitting.

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Luke Kerr-Dineen

Golf.com Contributor

Luke Kerr-Dineen is the Game Improvement Editor at GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com. In his role he oversees the brand’s game improvement content spanning instruction, equipment, health and fitness, across all of GOLF’s multimedia platforms.

An alumni of the International Junior Golf Academy and the University of South Carolina–Beaufort golf team, where he helped them to No. 1 in the national NAIA rankings, Luke moved to New York in 2012 to pursue his Masters degree in Journalism from Columbia University. His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf Digest, Newsweek and The Daily Beast.