Explaining the 'Open Face' (or 'Open Clubface') in Golf

Ppen, square and closed clubface position
Comparing the open, square and closed clubface positions.

An "open face" or "open clubface" occurs when the clubface is aligned to the right of the target; that is, rather than the face pointing directly down the target line (a "square face"), an open face means the clubface is pointing to the right (for right-handers), as in the photo.

"Open face" can refer to the position of the clubface when the golfer is in the address position ("setting up with an open face" or "open face at address") or to its position at the moment of impact ("open face at impact").

An open clubface is the opposite of a "closed face," and the square face is the ideal. 

Opening the clubface is sometimes done intentionally, to bring about the desired ball flight; but an open face at impact is often a mishit that results in the ball flying out to the right or curving to the right (for a right-handed golfer) in flight. (An open face for a lefthanded golfer points to the left of the target and can cause the ball to fly or curve to the left).

An open clubface is the primary cause of the slice, the mishit that is the bane of most recreational golfers.

How to Open the Face of a Golf Club

If you want to open the face of a club, you simply rotate it in your hands at address:

  • A righthanded golfer opens the face by rotating the club a little to the right (so that the toe of the club is behind the heel).
  • A lefthanded golfer opens the face by rotating the club a little to the left.

Just make sure you are rotating the club, not your hands. Turn the club a little, then take your normal grip with the face in its open position.

Very good golfers, who have a great sense of clubhead control during the swing, can also delay the release of their hands through impact, "holding off" the clubface. (Think of a hitter in baseball intentionally hitting to the opposite field.)

When To Open the Clubface

As noted, opening the clubface is something that a golfer might want to do in order to effect a specific type of shot or ball flight. For example, most greenside sand shots are played by opening the face of a wedge.

Golfers who want to intentionally play a fade shot or even a slice can do so by opening the face. Just how much open you turn the face impacts how much curving to the right (for a righthander) the ball will do in flight.

But one of the primary ways to cause the fade ball flight is to take your normal stance and alignment but open the clubface at address. (Again, be sure you are only turning the club in your hands, not turning your hands. Put the clubface in an open position, then take your grip).

Unintentionally Opening the Face Can Create Problems

An open face is one of the common causes of the slice (a lot of curving to the right) and the push (ball flies to the right of the target but on a straight, rather than curved, line).

If you hit lots of slices or pushes (or weak fades that you don't intend to play), first check to make sure you aren't opening the face at address. Also, stop your backswing when the club is parallel to the ground. The toe of your club should be pointing up. If it is angled back, the clubface is open.

The moral of the story: An open clubface is sometimes a good, desired thing - but it can be a bad thing and is a common cause of the slice. The standard clubface position is square, with the face of the club pointing straight ahead.

Also, note that most golf club manufacturers offer drivers whose "face angles" are intentionally closed. These can be helpful to golfers who slice a lot - that closed face can help counteract the slice. Many drivers that are aimed at low-handicappers, however, are made with just a tiny bit of an open face angle.