Where and how the club strikes the ground is a key skill in golf. Your intentions of how you’re trying to strike the ball has an overriding influence on your technique and your ball flight.
Many golfers look like this at impact:
While good players look like this at impact:
While many golfers know what good impact looks like and what they should be doing, they still struggle to achieve it. Why is it that the golfer’s best efforts often go unrewarded?
A big part of the reason is due to flawed concepts of how the club actually moves through impact.
Human instincts are often working against the golfer and this is a great example. Almost all beginners and a many handicap golfers instinctively believe that in order to hit the ball in the air they need to get the club under the ball at impact. They think the bottom of their swing is directly under the golf ball.
It is a very fair assumption, but an assumption that causes a lot of strike issues including both fat and thin shots. It also makes it difficult to hit the ball off less than perfect lies. If you’re the kind of golfer that would prefer to hit the ball of a fluffy fairway lie and never takes a divot, then this should help.
This is what most golfers instinctively believe:
The problem with this idea is, if the low point drops back slightly (which is often the case when the golfer’s intention is to get the club under the ball) and the club strikes the ground first, the shot will be hit fat. If the club misses the ground, it will be slightly ascending when it reaches the ball and a thin shot will result (ball struck toward the bottom of the club face). You can see how these two common miss-hits are the result of the same problem.
This is what should be happening through impact:
As you can see, the bottom of the swing is in front of the ball (up to four inches with better ball strikers). This allows the ball to be struck first off any kind of lie – it doesn’t matter if the ground is firm, wet or sandy. You are using the loft of the club as it was designed to launch the ball into the air.
This idea alone can produce significant changes in someone’s technique. Below are two shots of a golfer taken only minutes apart.
The first picture looks like your average mid handicap golfer, while the second picture looks more like a scratch golfer. The difference is simply the result of trying to strike the ground with the correct intentions in mind.
A simple drill you can use to improve this skill is to draw a powdered line (talcum powder works well) on the grass or range mat. Your goal is to practice striking the line with the club and continue swinging through the grass or along the mat for 3-4 inches. Once you feel comfortable doing this you will place a golf ball on the line.
Now throw out your instincts on how to hit the ball and simply focus on striking the line and swinging through as you did during the drill. When you do this for the first few times you need to forget the result and just focus on completing the task (this is important any time you try something different).
For the first time, many golfers will feel what it is like to get through the shot and have the hands lead the club with the shaft leaning forward at impact taking a divot ‘after’ the ball.
Below is an example of what your divots should look like hitting off grass (assuming you’re right handed). Notice how the short clubs will produce a deeper divot and the longer clubs a more shallow divot. This is the result of your clubs different lie angles and swing plane they produce.
I hope this helps your ball striking!
Stay tuned for more ideas regarding instincts and concepts, and how they influence a golfer’s technique.