# Shot Cones

## 51 posts in this topic

This idea is something I've always sort of had, but some instructors clarified it for me and really gave me some terminology - "shot cones" - to clarify and solidify my thoughts. To be clear, what I'm about to talk about is NOT a Stack and Tilt principle, but simply a "good golf" principle...

The idea is "shot cones." Virtually every golf ball we hit curves one way or the other, and on the PGA Tour 95% of the full-swing shots a player hits are his "stock shot" with that particular club.

A shot cone is simply a way of thinking about the boundaries of the start path and finish point of the golf ball. That is to say if you drew a line along the direction your shot starts and then draw another line from where the ball sat to where it finished up, you'd have a triangle, wedge, or a "cone."

One of the keys to playing consistent golf is to keep your shots within your cone. This means that if you play a push-draw, the ball starts inside the right edge of the cone and does not draw past the left edge of the cone.

Here are some examples of shots that stay within the cone and shots that do not:

In the top row we have a draw that starts on the right edge of the shot cone and draws to the left edge. Then a draw that starts on the same line and doesn't draw quite as much, a draw that doesn't start as far right and draws back to the left line, and finally a bit more of a push that simply doesn't draw much at all.

These are all acceptable shots and all the kinds of shots you can play for. If there's water right of the flag, you simply put the right edge of the shot cone on the flag and, if your ball stays in the cone, you'll be safe. (The flags are simply there for illustrative purposes - the left edge isn't always on the flag for a draw, per my last example of water right.)

In the bottom row we have a ball that starts on the right side of the cone and then over-draws. Then we have a shot that would turn out fine but which would indicate something's goofy in your swing - a shot that starts right of the edge of your cone and draws back. Then we have a pull-fade in our push-draw shot cone, and finally a push that is outside of the shot cone.

These shots - the ones that leave our shot cone - indicate that we've done something goofy in the swing that's going to cause problems. Shots that leave the cone are the shots that lead to big scores, trouble, short-siding yourself, etc.

It simply comes down to predictability. If you have a cone and your ball is always within that cone, you can play good golf and SCORE well. If your shots are leaving the cone at any point, you're far, FAR less likely to score well and you likely have something funky going on with your motion.

Some good players (and some PGA Tour players) I know keep track of these kinds of shots... they'll consider a good round one where zero or one or two shots leave their cone and a bad round one where three or more shots leave their cone... I think it would help players here to do the same.

For higher handicappers, you'll have a larger cone. If you play a pull-slice, keep every shot in that cone - you know it's the push-slices and the pull-hooks that get you into trouble. For lower handicappers, work on reducing the size of your cone and still keeping all of your shots within it.

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This will be guesswork perhaps, but how much of the shots outside the cone are a result of clubface angle?

In the first four cones, it looks to me like you would need different swing paths. That is if the black line is simply the target line or your alignment. If you have a swing that with a square alignment draws like in the first picture, the same swing path in the third picture would draw more like the one on the fifth picture (row 2).

What I'm trying to ask is how much the swingpath can change if someone were to hit 100 shots with the same club (not considering fatigue etc.). A swing will usually look the same if you record it 10 times, but will the swingpath also be pretty much the same, as long as the person is not working on something which can change things on those 10 swings? If the swing path stays on a somewhat similar plane, the deviation we see on shots is mostly a result of clubface angle.

This is where high handicappers struggle, having the two way miss. Flipping, timing the "release", rolling and turning the arms. Tiger's had some trouble with this, because his swing has relied on timing for a very long time. I know pretty much where my swing path is on most shots, but I can't predict for sure with some accuracy where my clubface will point at impact. Which is why I can hit one ball left of the green and one right. A few degrees off the optimal angle is enough to miss. Having a cone where you know you won't leave the clubface open is an advantage. This is why most recommend you always hit a curved shot, taking one side out of the equation. The problem with higher handicaps (including me) is that we don't have enough control over the swing to know for sure that the clubface will most likely never get past some point, or stay withing a small enough cone.

You can play good golf with a swing moving out-in or in-out, but if you don't have consistency in the clubface angle, you'll still end up spraying the ball all over the place. Once you get the clubhead past the hands on the downswing, anything can happen. A strong or weak grip can cause some issues, but ultimately it comes down to not manipulating the wrists through the downswing to square up, hold off or close the clubface, conciously or not and obviously the flying wedge, flat left wrist, forward leaning shaft etc. Of course, this shows how poor a lot of the golf instructions are when people are told to roll the clubface over to hit a draw.

Good post btw. I've been thinking about the same stuff from time to time and how I have a pretty large cone. Missing a green with some yards is fine, but missing it 10 yards right out of bounds or into a hazard is not.
The smaller cone, the better golf. This is ballstriking, which can be directly related to a person's handicap. It would've been interesting to have someone do an experiment with a number of people, handicaps ranging from + to 36. Measuring a number of shots both on distance and sidways disparity to see how the cone changes from high to low handicap.

Everyone hit a poor shot once in a while, the thing is to narrow down those shots to a minimum. The lower handicap, the less percentage of a player's shots will be poor.
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Yesterday, when I was practicing, the majority of my shots stayed within the cone of which you speak. Only a few didn't, but they were very close (pulls left of the green) to being good. They were only about 15-20 yards left of my target. My cone has narrowed dramatically since I've started really working on Stack and Tilt.
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This will be guesswork perhaps, but how much of the shots outside the cone are a result of clubface angle? In the first four cones, it looks to me like you would need different swing paths.

Clubface angle is one of the easier ways to get a shot outside of the cone. If you play a draw and the clubface is too open, you're immediately outside of your cone. If it's too square, odds are it'll over-draw outside of your cone.

But look at the second row, and notice that the first bad shot on the left has a good clubface. And remember that even though clubface angle is 80%, swing path is still 20, so you can have the clubface aimed in the same spot and still swing too much in to out and get what you might call an "over-push over-draw."
What I'm trying to ask is how much the swingpath can change if someone were to hit 100 shots with the same club (not considering fatigue etc.). A swing will usually look the same if you record it 10 times, but will the swingpath also be pretty much the same, as long as the person is not working on something which can change things on those 10 swings? If the swing path stays on a somewhat similar plane, the deviation we see on shots is mostly a result of clubface angle.

While true, we don't play golf by hitting the same club ten times in a row from a flat lie, or 100 times in a row. The wind, where the flag is, how we feel, the club in hour hands, the lie, where the trouble is... all can affect the actual swing we put on the ball.

The point is simply that minding your shot cone is important, and it's the shots which leave the cone - by errors in either clubface, swing path, or both - that cause problems, high scores, etc.
The problem with higher handicaps (including me) is that we don't have enough control over the swing to know for sure that the clubface will most likely never get past some point, or stay withing a small enough cone.

Right, but that's why you strive to get there... because shots that leave the cone are a big part of why you're a higher handicap (fwiw I don't consider 13 "high").

Zeph, if I asked you right now how many shots leave the cone in a normal round of golf, and then I asked you to make 75% swings out on the golf course (which you probably know will only result in about a club's loss of distance), do you think the number of shots that leave the cone will go down a fair amount? I think that's a key thing to think about, perhaps.
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This kind of goes along with something Tom Watson was talking about on a Golf Channel Show. He was stating only when you are playing your absolute best do you get anywhere close to playing to pin point targets. Most of the time it's more of a zone you want to hit through, he used football goalposts for a visual. When you are playing horrible you want to wide the goal posts (wider cone) as you improve you start to narrow those goal posts (narrow cone).
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I have recently had a couple ah ha moments. The first was passive arms and body rotation. You really have to wait for the swing to develop. If you rush it "bad things" happen. The second was sliding the hips. I went from scooping to taking a divot in front of the ball.

Recently I had a poor ball striking day, it was not quite right but my misses for the most part were acceptable. I shot the best score to date on a difficult course and was really not feeling it that day.

I agree that good mechanics keeps you inside the cone, being inside the cone sure makes it easier.
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The cone idea is great and should be mentioned to everyone who plays. Reason being, you aren't going to hit the perfect shot every time but there's no reason why you can't make the decent shot a very high amount of the time. I think we get stuck in trying to make that perfect shot every time and it hinders our ability to relax and make a consistent swing. It has taken me awhile to figure this out but now I try to focus on putting the ball in an area which will give me the best success. Me, being a hacker, sometimes it happens sometimes it doesn't. But, I can honestly say if the result is extreme (like in the 2nd row that Erik posted) then I already know it was a matter of swing discombobulation and I WILL rectify it on the next attempt. If it happens to be a little off, like the 1st row (which really isn't off, obviously) then I just live with the result as I executed the shot as I intended.
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I use the shot cone at the driving range--keeps you focused, helps with target awareness, keeps you in tune with your swing and its impact on ball flight.
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Pro's mostly use blades. muscle backs or players cavity backs, which are all known to be more on track (within the cone) by design only, GI and SGI are known to have a greater cone even on good hits, can you say anything about the difference in cone width based on club design ?
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While true, we don't play golf by hitting the same club ten times in a row from a flat lie, or 100 times in a row. The wind, where the flag is, how we feel, the club in hour hands, the lie, where the trouble is... all can affect the actual swing we put on the ball.

Yeah, that's right. On my course, you can hardly find a flat fairway to save your life. Always with the upphill, downhill or sidehill lies, some pretty extreme, real target golf. I'm talking about tee shots from a perfect lie and normal conditions. Aiming for a 20 yard wide fairway and still missing it left one shot and right one shot. If you can hit those shots within a small cone, it'll be easier to keep the cone small from different lies and under different conditions.

Right, but that's why you strive to get there... because shots that leave the cone are a big part of why you're a higher handicap (fwiw I don't consider 13 "high").

I agree, I just put myself in the group of those who flip and cast, which normally are higher handicaps. "Big part" is an understatement, it's a lot of the reason for it.

Zeph, if I asked you right now how many shots leave the cone in a normal round of golf, and then I asked you to make 75% swings out on the golf course (which you probably know will only result in about a club's loss of distance), do you think the number of shots that leave the cone will go down a fair amount?

Definitely, but I would lose some distance as long as I'm flipping. Hitting 75% shots while trying to speed up the arms more is a challenge. Or do you mean 75% backswing length? But this thread is not about me, a small sidetrack here.

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Pro's mostly use blades. muscle backs or players cavity backs, which are all known to be more on track (within the cone) by design only, GI and SGI are known to have a greater cone even on good hits, can you say anything about the difference in cone width based on club design ?

.. What? I was of the understanding that players use what they can work the best, not what has a better cone. That brings me to my next point: I also thought that GI/SGI clubs were used to keep the ball more in the cone for bad players. Also, if you hit SGI/GI clubs perfectly, you're saying that the cone is going to be wider? How does that make any sense?

@Zeph: I'm pretty sure that iacas meant that he wanted you to take a 3/4 swing (which would reduce power (the clublength difference he mentioned)). With the 3/4 swing you have more control over your club and yourself which would also add more control (and therefore more fairways and GIRs, etc..)
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Got a question - looking at the # 2 and # 3 images under "Shots Leaving the Cone" (going from left to right), wouldn't these specific shots end up better than shot image # 4 (and possibly even # 2) above the ""Shots Not Leaving the Cone" section?

I follow the logic in your verbiage - guessing that there will be outlier shors that end up better (a low % of the time) than others, but that the teaching lesson here is to identify your cone zone, and then work to reduce it over time. In other words, not chance it that <5% of your shots will somehow end up ok.
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If you hit a blade outside the sweetspot, you loose distance, but the direction is still on target. There has been some research on dispersion on "pure" hit GI irons, compared to "pure" hit blades (by using a robot, which can strike, pure after pure after pure, etc. ) .... and the general outcome was that pure hit shots with the blades are more accurate on target than the GI .....

I know most people think it would be the other way around, but it is just simply not the case......
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If you hit a blade outside the sweetspot, you loose distance, but the direction is still on target.

I'm pretty sure that's not true. With any type of club, blade or not. But this isn't a blades thread so...

Is the point of "shot cones" just to say that you should keep your ball within a certain distance on the correct side of the hole throughout the ball flight? That's what it seems to mean to me.
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Is the point of "shot cones" just to say that you should keep your ball within a certain distance on the correct side of the hole throughout the ball flight? That's what it seems to mean to me.

That's how I understood it and at today's practice I started to try and picture where the cone would be for each shot. Don't know if it is because I focused on this but my curves seemed to get a lot smaller than the usual hook I've been hitting.

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How would one know how big the cone should be?
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How would one know how big the cone should be?

Presumably the cone should be as narrow as your skill permits. Although the original post is clear and nicely illustrated, I am surprised that this concept seems new or novel to most golfers at an intermediate or better level. My "cone" is the right two-thirds of the fairway, so I aim the ball slightly to the right of the midline. I try to hit a power fade. If I do fade it properly, I am on the right side of the fairway. If I get a slight draw, I am on the left side. Relatively straight is somewhere in between. I really don't think this is rocket science.

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from what I can gather in thinking about these "cones"..lol(had to snicker)..the right side of the cone if you're a draw player would be the furthest point right that you feel is a "good miss" and the straight line is always to the target you want to end up at. Flip it for a fader.

I think it would be silly to go out and then all the sudden start worrying about how big your cone is and where it should be and keeping the ball inside it. I dunno, maybe I'm just a K.I.S.S. person and I just don't feel like this would be a beneficial thing on the course. As Calboomer said, we pretty much should always already be doing this..no need to overcomplicate it.
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