So, the question is, should one practice impact location (sweet spot) precision directly or not?
There are opinions that one should not directly focus on trying to hit the ball with the centre of the club face. That is no doubt a valuable instruction when somebody is chasing a good result on a golf course. At that time one should be completely target oriented, means focused on a place where the ball is supposed to land. However, playing golf and working on your golf swing are two different things. So, what about when you practice, work on your swing? Should you focus on directly trying to hit the ball with the sweet spot in order to improve your club face impact location?
Surprisingly, there can't be much found by googling about this particular topic. Nevertheless, not so long ago I was confronted with a view of a golf pro that was against such direct impact location precision practice. His view was that it all becomes too complicated if you directly target the ball. One should practice body, arms, legs, club positions, and then, a good solid impact will automatically develop. But will it?
We all know what the game of golf is all about, namely to bring the ball into the hole with as less strokes as possible. However another variation of golf sport developed from the original idea, Long drive (LD), where success is derived by hitting a golf ball the farthest by driving.
Let's say hypothetically that yet another branch of golf sport develops, Impact location drive (ILD), where success is measured by how precise and consistent one hits the ball with the sweet spot. The competitors get impact labels (with targets on them) attached to their driver's club face, and, after 10 shots, the more precise and consistent competitor wins the round.
Now, how would these ILD golfers practice? Would they just concentrate on various body positions without actually focus on the target (sweet spot touching the ball) as proposed by the golf pro above and some others? This is just impossible to imagine. It is just like if a dart player would not focus on the target when throwing darts. Or if a basketball player would not concentrate on the basket when throwing the ball. It is common sense and an established fact without any doubt that in order to improve your dart throwing or basketball skills, you have to focus on the target (or basket) with full attention.
Let us go back to our new sport, Impact location drive golf. Why would it here be any different as in darts or basketball? The only answer is that there is no difference. In order to improve impact location precision, one has to fully focus on the ball and try to hit it with the sweet spot! Over and over again. Week after week, month after month...
There are people that develop sweet spot precision automatically without special attention to it, however these are rare (much less than 1% as per my experience) and can be considered special talents. Normal mortals will just hit the wall at some point and there will be no further improvement in their overall golf game, as the sweet spot precision is the key to any further advancement.
If the ILD golfer can improve his performance by direct impact location practice, why wouldn't classic golfer also benefit from it in order to improve his sweet spot precision consistency?
Here is an example of one of the legends, Johnny Miller, how he benefited from being prevented to see the ball flight and therefore forced to focus solely on the impact:
In the winters when I was a kid, my dad had me practice in the basement of our house. I'd hit balls for hours into a canvas tarp tacked to the ceiling. Because I couldn't see the ball flight, I relied on two kinds of feedback: how the shots felt and how they sounded. Thin shots, balls struck on the toe, and shots hit a shade fat have distinctive sounds. You're always looking for that crisp thwack at impact. Even from the TV booth, I can usually tell immediately if an iron shot is mis-hit and if it will come up short or not have enough spin to hold. Sound can definitely give you clues as to how well you hit the shot.
The skill of golf should be developed in phases. First one should work on the shape of the swing and proper relaxation, and, after the swing sequence starts becoming one's second nature and repeatable, one can shift to the next step, sweet spot precision practice. At these initial phases, one should not measure his progress with the scores on the golf course.
Finally, after the golfer achieves a satisfactory level of consistency at sweet spot precision, he can now shift to the final phase, namely full focus to the real target, means a hole or a place where he wants the ball to land.
To clarify the steps, sweet spot precision practice means that your eyes and the mind are both fully focused on the ball. The final step, focus to the target means that you look at the golf ball with your eyes, however, in your mind, you are fully focused on the target where you want the ball to land. To practice the final step before first mastering the sweet spot precision will in most cases bring you nowhere. It is just like trying to hit the target with a ramshackled rifle.
The conclusion is that an aspiring golfer should definitely commit a significant amount of time to the direct sweet spot precision practice. Of course, he should be aware that such practice is an extremely necessary intermediate step, but not the final one. After his impact precision becomes more and more automatic, he must shift his focus to the final target.