Where is the bottom of your swing?

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:

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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:

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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.

powder 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.



Simple tip for better ball striking

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Golfers commonly believe that improving their technique will automatically lead to an improvement in their skills and while there’s truth to that thinking, I believe it’s better to go about improving your ability to hit quality golf shots differently.

On the practice tee, I’ll ask a student “what do you think happened on that shot?” and the most common answer is something about the mechanics of their body movement, or how they swung the club differently. What most golfers fail to realise is that it’s extremely difficult to change or override an ingrained motor pattern and the odds you just performed a radically different swing to the one before is very unlikely.

So what then? Well to start with, when I ask “what do you think happened on that shot?” I want to know what happened at impact. What were the club delivery and impact dynamics that caused the ball flight? Often the golfer simply hit the good shot out of the centre of the club face and the poor one nowhere near it. So “what do I need to change in my swing to hit the next one good?” they ask. “Nothing”, is my point. If you just hit a great shot two balls prior “your swing” is capable of doing that again. What I propose is you stop asking how can I improve my technique all the time and instead ask “how can I improve my skills”?

In regards to the full swing, some of these skills include impact location, ability to hit the ground consistently in the right spot, starting the ball on line, managing a functional face- to-path relationship to control the curvature of the ball and club head/ball speed. If you can improve these skills, you will certainly improve the quality and consistency of your golf shots, and they are the two things almost every golfer is searching for. Focusing on the task and achieving an outcome, versus focusing on internal technical thoughts, is a far better way to train and improve your skills.

Here a few simple drills you can use in practice to start working on one of the most important skills in golf.

Impact location:

I consider impact location or the quality of the strike as the most important skill to improve if you want to get better at golf. If you can strike the ball fairly close to the centre of the club face on a consistent basis, you will play consistent golf. The problem for most golfers is they don’t have any real idea where they are striking the ball with the club face.

Today’s super-forgiving, oversized golf clubs makes this task even more difficult. In order to improve the skill of a more consistent strike, we need feedback to help guide our improvement.

Here are two great drills to hone your focus on the strike.

  • Use a whiteboard marker or can of powder spray (a foot spray is a great option as it is cheap and wipes off easily) to check impact location on the club face. Avoid using face tape as it affects the spin of the shot, which can give you some strange ball flights.

blog 1When you are getting reliable, real-time feedback on your strike quality, you have valuable information to help identify trends and patterns in your ball striking that you were probably never aware of. I think many golfers will be surprised at how much an added focus on the strike can improve the quality of their shots and how trying to affect a different strike location can positively influence technique without conscious control.blog 2

  • The second drill involves ditching your latest, super forgiving, distance guaranteed irons for a moment and purchasing a pure blade golf club (preferably a long iron). You just need one and they can be found easily on eBay. There is nothing like being forced to focus sharply on the strike than by holding a small, thin club next to the ball.

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Small blade irons are very punishing on off-centre strikes but feel amazing out of the middle. This feedback is invaluable to your skill improvement and will make your regular irons seem impossible to miss when you put them back down.

Another reason to work on impact location is distance! You won’t find many golfers out there who wouldn’t like to hit it further. Increased distance can be achieved two ways:

a) Increasing club head speed which will increase ball speed and distance.

b) Optimising your launch conditions.

An effective way to increase your average distance is to get the most ‘bang for your buck’ by maximising your smash factor (ball speed divided by club speed). This is done by finding the centre of the club face more often. Improving your impact location will ensure a more efficient energy transfer from the club to the ball which all adds up to faster ball speed and more distance.

I would recommend making these drills a regular part of your practice routine regardless of your ability, as impact location is a skill that can always be refined!

I hope this help you on your quest to better golf.

Shane Tempest