The drop-kick isn't just a funny-looking football play from days gone by. It's also an unwanted shot on the golf course.
As the name suggests, the drop-kick is when the driver hits the ground and bounces into the teed-up ball. Results vary, but the shot is typically high, short and right of target.
The drop-kick has a couple of common causes. The first is a reverse weight shift, aka reverse pivot, meaning your weight shifts to the right on the downswing when it should move to your left. The second cause is the body getting too far ahead of the arms, creating a swing that's too steep coming into the ball.
Let's tackle each problem to cure those drop-kicked drives:
Arguably the most common swing fault in golf, it's the root of many slices and weakly struck shots. Instead of shifting weight to the right foot on the backswing, then transferring it to the left on the downswing and follow-through, the golfer either tilts to his left, then his right, or simply fails to shift weight off his right side coming down.
Why does this cause a drop-kick? When your shoulders tilt too far right, you effectively move the bottom of the swing to a spot behind the ball.
- Body ahead of the arms
This often afflicts golfers who align themselves too far right of the target. Their body compensates by swinging around to the left, forcing the arms to hit down sharply in order to make contact. The club hits just behind or directly underneath the ball, which catches the top of the clubhead and goes straight up.
Placing too much weight on your left side at address, which alters the body's tilt and steepens the swing, can also cause a drop-kick.
Make sure you're aligned square to the target while placing slightly more weight on your right side (55-60%) when setting up to hit the driver. And give your drop-kicks the boot.
How to Stop Drop Kicking Your Drives
When you stand on the tee with driver in hand, you are probably picturing the ball flying hundreds of yards right down the middle of the fairway. The best way to get started on any par four or par five hole is with a great drive, and the ability to split fairway after fairway is one of the things that separates professional golfers from their amateur counterparts. Golf is a hard game anyway – it is a really hard game when you are playing from the rough all day long. Developing your skills off the tee with the driver should always remain one of your top golf priorities, simply because it can go so far toward helping you lower your scores.
Of course, before you can worry about hitting the fairway, you need to first make solid contact with the ball. Thanks to the fact that the driver has the biggest club face in your bag, and the fact that you get to tee the ball up, you will likely find that it is easier to make solid contact with your driver than any other club you own. However, just because it is easier does not mean it is easy. You still need to have solid fundamentals in your golf swing, and you still need to execute those fundamentals under pressure over and over again. Only when you can perform the mechanics of your swing repeatedly time after time will you be able to reach your goals off of the tee.
One of the common problems faced by amateur golfers when playing from the tee is the drop kick. A drop kick is a shot where the club head skips off of the ground behind the ball before you actually reach impact. While it is technically possible to hit a drop kick with any of your clubs, it is far more likely to happen with a driver or fairway wood than it is with an iron. When hitting an iron shot, the club will probably stick into the turf and cause fat contact, rather than skipping off and continuing on into the ball. Thanks to the wide sole and flat swing plane that are in play with the driver, it is relatively easy to hit a drop kick if your swing mechanics get off track. Unfortunately, you will rarely be satisfied with the results of a shot that is drop kicked off the tee, so eliminating this technical flaw should be a major objective in your game.
Just as with any other swing flaw, it is important to first understand the cause behind the drop kick before you get to work trying to correct it. If you don't know why you are drop kicking the ball from the tee, you will have very little chance of actually making the right corrections to your technique. Take your time in the 'analysis' phase of the process to really understand what is going on with your swing, and only get down to work on the fix once you are convinced that you have located the root of the problem.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
What Causes a Drop Kicked Drive?
To start, let's get into the root causes of hitting a drop kicked drive. It would be simple if there way only one potential cause of this mistake – but of course, golf is rarely simple. Instead, there are a few different potential causes, so you are going to need to look closely at your swing in order to determine what exactly is going wrong between the time you start the swing and the time the club contacts the ground prior to hitting the ball. Even if you are only hitting a drop kick once or twice per round, the damage from those misses could easily be enough to ruin your score for the day. If you are serious about taking strides toward a better overall game, that process should start with eliminating the drop kick once and for all.
Following are three potential causes of drop kicked drives. Once you understand these potential causes, you should be able to identify which one is leading to your issues from the tee.
- Drifting away from the target. This is easily the most-common cause of drop kicking the driver, and it is the first place you should look when analyzing your own swing. Many amateur golfers allow their center of gravity to shift away from the target during the backswing, leaving them in a position that has most of their weight over the right foot at the top of the swing. This is a terrible position to be in, as it is almost impossible to recover your balance during the downswing. If you get stuck onto your right foot in the backswing, the most likely outcome is a drop kick as you will be unable to get back to the left fast enough to make solid contact. This kind of swing features more sliding than it does rotating, which is always bad news for the quality of your ball striking. You should be focused on making a rotational swing in which your center of gravity moves very little from side to side. Specifically, you want to carefully monitor your takeaway to make sure your first move isn't a slide to the right. By avoiding the slide right in the backswing, you can quickly take away the number one cause of drop kicking drives.
- Lack of lower body rotation. If you are able to get to the top of the backswing while maintaining your balance, the next point of potential trouble is when you start to swing down toward the ball. Ideally, your lower body should be leading the way in the downswing, pulling the rest of your body along for the ride as it turns aggressively toward the target. As you might have guessed, this isn't always the way it goes for amateur golfers – especially those who struggle with the drop kick. Instead, many players use their arms to move the club down toward impact, while the lower body remains quiet. If you make that mistake, you can expect to drop kick the ball at least periodically. Work on using your legs to start the lower body while your upper body hangs back and waits to get into the action – the result will be a powerful swing that builds speed gradually all the way up to the point of impact.
- Fear. That's right – fear can actually lead to drop kicked drives out on the course. This is a problem that you aren't likely to experience on the driving range, because you aren't worried about the outcome of your shots when on the practice tee. However, getting out onto the course can be a different story entirely. When you stand up on the tee of a challenging par four or par five and you see a fairway guarded by bunkers or water hazards, your swing could quickly tighten up. Even if you have great fundamentals on the range, you may find that your swing deserts you at the worst possible moment. Hitting good shots takes commitment and confidence, two things you are going to be lacking if there is fear lurking in the back of your mind. The best golfers are able to stand up on the tee and make a great swing regardless of what is waiting down the fairway.
The first two points on this list – drifting to the right in the backswing and lacking lower body rotation – can be spotted on video. Ask a friend to record your swing on video so you can watch it back to look for either of these two problems. If you do spot one (or both) of these issues in your driver swing mechanics, you will know exactly what you need to work on in order to eliminate the drop kick.
Of course, you aren't really going to be able to spot fear on the video recording of your swing. Instead, you are going to have to be brutally honest with yourself about your performance on the course. Think back to the last time that you hit a drop kick during a round – what were you thinking about prior to that swing? Was your mind filled with confidence, or were you concerned about hitting the ball into a hazard? Be honest in your assessment, and you should be able to decide whether or not fear is playing a role in causing your drop kicked drives.
The three points above are the main causes of drop kicked drives. If you find that you are hitting the ground prior to the ball on a regular basis with your driver, there is a good chance those issues stem from one of the three points listed in the previous section. Take your time to work through those points, and you should be well on your way to getting rid of this frustrating habit.
There is, however, another point that needs to be made in relation to hitting drop kicks, and that has to do with ball position. As you set up to your driver, you need to make sure the ball is in an appropriate position in order to make it as easy as possible to achieve a clean strike. For most golfers, the best ball position for a driver is in line with the inside of the left foot. That means the ball should be aligned with your left heel on a line that is perpendicular to the target line you have selected. While not every golfer will want to play the ball off of the left heel with the driver, this is a position that is going to work for the vast majority of players. If you start from that basic position, you can make minor adjustments as necessary until you land on a position that feels comfortable and gives you good results.
You might think that having the ball too far forward would cause drop kicked drives, but the opposite actually tends to be true. If you have the ball too far back in your stance, you will be tempted to slide away from the target to get behind the ball for the downswing. When that happens, you will get stuck on your right foot and a steep downswing could lead you to hit the ground before the ball itself. In this way, a poor address position can actually cause a swing flaw to develop, which is why it is so important that you have your address position mastered before moving on to other parts of the swing. Spend time on the range working on your stance and ball position so you can rely on those fundamentals being in place for every shot that you hit.
Once you have a good ball position identified, you should stick with it drive after drive, even as conditions change. Some golfers will adjust their ball position during the round in an effort to hit different shots, but that is a decision that usually will not pay off in the end. To keep your game as simple and consistent as possible, consider playing all of your drives from the same ball position, while using other minor stance and grip adjustments to work on various ball flights. Not only will you find that your drives are more consistent when they all come from the same ball position, but you will also see that you have an easier time avoiding the dreaded drop kick.
The Matter of Tee Height
Another one of the variables that can impact a drop kicked drive is tee height. When you set up to hit a drive, one of the first steps you have to take is teeing the ball up in the ground. This is a step that is overlooked by most players, but it is actually one that should get some careful consideration. How high are you going to tee the ball in order to make perfect contact? Should you put it up on the tee as high as it will go, or should it be just an inch off of the ground? Something like tee height might not seem that important at first blush, but getting this point correct will actually make it much easier to hit good drives.
Just like with ball position, there is a tee height that will work for the large majority of players. When pushing your tee into the ground, try to position it so that half of the ball will rise above the level of the top of your driver at address. In other words, the middle of the golf ball should be aligned with the crown of your club after you have set it down on the ground prior to starting the swing. This is the tee height that most professionals use when hitting their drives, as it allows for an aggressive, upward angle of attack through the shot. You want to hit slightly up on your drives in order to launch the ball into the air, so teeing the ball up high enough to allow for that upward hit is critical. If you were to tee the ball up too low to the ground, you wouldn't have enough space between the ground and the ball to swing up effectively. Considering the large size of today's driver heads, it takes a long tee to position the ball just right for the strike.
It might be an obvious point, but the first thing you need to do when it comes to tee height is make sure you have long enough tees in your bag to get the ball to the right elevation. If you only have short tees in your bag, there won't be anything you can do about it – you will have to play the ball from a lower-than-ideal height, meaning you may hit a couple of extra drop kicks along the way. Golf equipment is an important piece of the overall puzzle when trying to shoot a low score, and even small details like tees that are the right height have to be considered. During your practice sessions, determine how much tee height you need and then invest in a bag of tees that will give you plenty of room to spare.
Speaking of practice sessions, it is extremely important that you practice hitting drives from the same tee height that you are going to use on the course. Even changing your tee height by less than an inch from range to course can have major effects on your ball flight, so precision is crucial. Many driving ranges have rubber tees for you to use when hitting the driver, but these tees aren't usually adjustable, meaning it is highly unlikely that you will be able to find one which perfectly suits your driver. If possible, practice in a location that will allow you to use your own tees so you can address the ball at just the right height to optimize your launch and reduce the chances of a drop kick.
There is No Need to Rush
If you rush through your golf swing with the driver, you will increase the chances that you hit a drop kick at the bottom of the swing. Tempo is a crucial element in the golf swing, yet many amateurs rush through their swing in order to 'get it over with' as fast as possible. This usually happens when the player is nervous about the outcome of the shot. If you cut your backswing short in order to hurry up and hit the ball, you will find that your downswing doesn't have enough time to develop properly – and you may hit that dreaded drop kick as a result.
The big problem with hurrying through your golf swing is that your lower body won't be able to get out of the way by the time the club gets down near impact. As mentioned earlier, it is essential that you are able to clear your legs through the hitting area to pull the rest of your body into position. Without a good lower body rotation, the club is very likely going to bottom out prior to reaching the ball, meaning fat shots with your irons and drop kicks with the driver. Having great mechanics in your swing is a big help when it comes to ball striking, but those mechanics can be ruined by poor tempo. Instead of rushing through the early stages of your swing, take your time and allow everything to build naturally until you reach impact and send the ball rocketing off into the distance.
Of all the clubs in your bag, it is easiest to rush when swinging the driver. Since the driver is the longest club that you own, it also requires the greatest amount of time to swing back and through. Unfortunately, this is a point that is lost on many amateurs, who instead choose to make the fastest swing possible, thinking that type of move will result is added distance. You don't need to swing quickly to hit long drives. In fact, the swing only needs to be fast at the moment of impact – the rest of the motion can be slow and methodical. Dedicate yourself to taking plenty of time during the backswing and transition of your driver swing to avoid having a poor tempo lead you into drop kicking the shot.
Not only will a drop kick likely leave your drive in a bad position, it is also an embarrassing mistake to make in front of your friends and playing partners. Fortunately, this is one of the easier mistakes in golf to correct, as long as you are willing to spend some time thinking about your swing technique and how it can be improved. Use the content above to get pointed in the right direction and hopefully the drop kicks will soon be a distant memory.