Many golfers believe the iron swing should bottom out at the precise spot on which the ball is located. Not true. In fact, the bottom of the swing should be just past the ball to ensure a downward blow at impact.
A fat shot occurs when your swing hits the ground (e.g. bottoms out) before reaching the ball. The most common cause is failing to shift your weight toward the target on the downswing. This often creates a flipping or scooping action with the hands as the wrists fold abruptly in an attempt to lift the ball into the air.
This drill will teach you to swing down and through the ball:
You should see a divot between the original positions of the ball and object. If so, you're making a nice, down-and-through swing. If you still hit behind the ball or catch it on the upswing, work on driving your weight from right to left on the downswing, finishing with most of your weight on the left foot.
his drill will also encourage you to stay down through the shot rather than lifting the upper body.
Fat Shot Golf Drill – Object Ahead of Ball
There are few mistakes in golf as frustrating as hitting the ball fat. When you hit a shot fat, it feels wrong right from the moment of impact, and the ball is sure to come up short of the target. While this is usually a problem that is experienced only with iron shots, it is technically possible to hit the ball fat with any club in the bag. In order to take your game a step forward and improve your scores, you will need to learn how to avoid fat contact.
Before we get too far into the content on how to avoid hitting fat shots, it is important to stop and clearly define what is meant by 'fat' in the golf world. There are countless terms to learn when you are getting started in golf, and they can be a bit overwhelming if you don't have a reference to use such as a friend who you can ask for explanations. In golf, a shot is considered to be 'fat' when the ground is contacted prior to the ball. So, for a right handed player, that means that the club head entered the turf to the right of the ball, leading to poor contact and a loss of club head speed. To correct the problem, the point at which your swing contacts the turf is going to need to move to the left.
Unfortunately, hitting the ball fat is a problem that affects many amateur golfers. Due to faulty mechanics, many average golfers have a tendency to 'bottom out' their swings prior to getting the club to the ball – which means a fat shot and a disappointing result. As you would imagine, professional golfers are able to avoid this problem more often than not, although they are still prone to catching one fat from time to time. The best way to correct this problem is to directly address your mechanics, as there is almost always going to be an underlying technical error that is causing you to hit the ball fat.
In addition to the frustration that comes along with hitting the ball fat, you may also suffer from a lack of confidence in your game when you get into the habit of chunking your shots. For instance, if you face a shot where there is a hazard short of the target, your mind is likely to turn to thoughts of hitting the ball fat and coming up short. It is absolutely essential to have confidence in your game while you are out on the course, but that confidence is going to be in short supply if you are regularly catching the turf before you hit the ball. Spending time on your mechanics will not only help your game because you will hit better shots, it will also help you improve because of the way you will feel about your capabilities.
All of the content 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.
Causes of Fat Shots
Below, we are going to get into the specifics of a drill that you can use in order to reduce your tendency to hit the ball fat. However, before we get into that discussion, we are going to cover some of the causes of fat shots in your game. By understanding the actual causes of fat shots, you will have a better chance to eliminate them. Following is a list of some of the most-common causes of fat shots on the golf course.
- Drifting right in the backswing. One of the many problems that can lead to a fat shot is drifting to the right during the backswing, which is a mistake that is made by countless amateur players. Rather than remaining balanced throughout the backswing, some players tend to drift their weight onto their right leg as they swing back, which makes it nearly impossible to strike the ball cleanly when impact comes around. If you get to the top of your backswing with your weight on your right side, you will then need to slide back to the left in order to have your swing bottom out at the proper position. This kind of move is extremely difficult to execute properly, so you will most likely miss-hit the shot in the end. Even if you do catch the ball cleanly, however, you will still have lost power from sliding in your downswing rather than rotating properly.
- Decelerating prior to impact. Another common mistake is decelerating the club head just prior to the moment of impact. Even if you have done everything else right in your swing – including the address position, takeaway, backswing, and transition – you can still have it go wrong at the very last moment if you decelerate the club. Typically, deceleration comes from a lack of confidence, as players who are unsure of their swing will slow the club down at the last moment in an attempt to 'guide' the ball down the fairway. It should go without saying that this is not a good idea. Deceleration will prevent the club from getting as far left as it needs to get in order to catch the ball cleanly, so a fat shot is the inevitable result. No matter what your mechanics have looked like up until this point in the swing, the only thing to do at impact is to swing through with confidence all the way to a full finish. Nothing is going to be gained through deceleration, so commit to your swing and believe that it is going to produce a good result.
- Lack of lower body motion in the downswing. A good downswing is driven by lower body rotation, which pulls your entire body to the left and positions the club for a great strike. When that lower body rotation doesn't happen, however, the club is prone to enter the turf too early. Right from the start of your downswing, your legs and hips should be turning aggressively to the left, and they should not stop until you have reached your finish position. Players who struggle with hitting the ball fat usually make one of two mistakes on this point – either they don't get the lower body turn started from the top, or they give up on the lower body rotation halfway through the downswing. Either way, the end result is going to be a fat shot that comes up short of the target.
Of course, there are any number of other potential causes for fat shots that could be affecting your golf swing. However, the three listed above are the most-common issues, and they are where you should look first. If you don't believe that any of these three problems are leading to your fat shots, the best thing to do from that point would be to record your swing on video to take a closer look at what might be going wrong.
The Bottom of the Swing
The golf swing is an arc, and as a golfer, it is your job to match up the positioning of that arc properly with the location of the golf ball. Unfortunately, many golfers don't quite understand this concept, and they get into trouble with the swing as a result. Most players think that they need to match up the bottom of their swing arc with the position of the ball, but that isn't the case when hitting iron shots. You actually want the bottom of your arc to be to the left of the ball, which will provide for the downward angle of attack that you need for great iron play.
This is where your approach to the golf swing is going to be a bit different for the driver as compared to your irons. It is necessary to hit down on iron shots, so the bottom of your swing arc needs to be to the left of the ball (as seen from your position as you are swinging the club). However, with the driver, you want to hit the ball slightly on the upswing instead, so the bottom of your swing arc should be to the right of the ball. Going forward with the content below, we will be focusing only on your swing mechanics for iron shots. It is important to control your swing arc with the driver as well, of course, but those mechanics are a separate discussion altogether.
So how far to the left of the ball should you be 'aiming' with the bottom of your swing? Not far at all. At the most, you want to have your swing bottom out just a few inches closer to the target than the position of the ball. When executed correctly, this kind of a swing path will allow you to catch the ball cleanly on the way down, prior to pulling a divot from the ground. In the end, the ball will climb nicely up off of the turf when you hit down through it aggressively, and the shot will be well on its way toward the target. For golfers who have spent many years hitting up on their iron shots, this kind of downward path is going to be a big adjustment. It is worth the effort, however, as hitting down correctly as the ability to change your game forever.
The severity with which you hit down on the ball is going to be determined by the club that you are holding in your hands. A wedge shot should be hit with plenty of downward angle in order to create spin, while a long iron shot will be hit much flatter. As you are setting up for your swing, keep this important point in mind. For short irons, you will position the ball further back in your stance, effectively placing it at a point that falls earlier in your downswing arc. On the other hand, moving your long iron ball position up toward your left foot – like you would with a driver – will cause impact to take place closer to the bottom of the swing arc, which leads to a flatter impact and less divot. Since each club in your bag requires its own ball position, you are going to need to work hard on the driving range to figure out where to stand in order to have your swing arc bottom out at the perfect point with all of your various clubs.
The Drill New Techniques
At this point, we are finally going to get down to the business of the drill that was referred to in the title. Golf drills are a great way to learn new techniques, as they usually help you visualize or feel a specific part of the swing. The best drills tend to be the ones that are simple and allow you to focus on making a 'normal' swing while trying to complete some objective – and that is exactly the case with this drill. After spending some time working through this simple drill, you should have a great feel for how the bottom of your swing arc affects your ability to make clean contact with the ball.
To start this drill, head to the driving range with a bucket of balls and at least one club. While you could technically do the drill with any one of your irons, the seven iron is going to be the best bet to get started. After you get the hang of the drill and start to make some progress, you could consider switching it up to other irons in order to make further improvements. As with every shot that you hit on the range, you should always have a target for these swings, and you should avoid the temptation to swing too hard.
The following steps will take you through the drill from start to finish -
- With your seven iron in hand and some range balls standing by, place the first ball down in front of you and pick a target. It is important to pick a target because you want to go through your normal pre-shot routine prior to these swings, and you need a target to do so.
- Once a target has been picked, you will need to set up for the drill by placing a small object on the ground a few inches in front of the ball (between the ball and the target). This object needs to be something small and lightweight, because the club is going to be tearing through it at the bottom of the swing. You could use a small tee for this job, or even something natural like a piece of a leaf or a pine needle. Anything that fits the bill of being small, light, and disposable should do the job nicely.
- After you find something you can use for your object, place it on the ground a few inches in front of the ball, precisely on your target line. This object now becomes the 'target' of your swing. Instead of trying to hit the ball itself, make your swing with the goal of hitting the object that you have set on the ground. The idea here should be obvious – if you are able to place the bottom of your swing right on top of that object, the club will have no choice but to be moving downward through impact with the ball.
- It is important that you don't change anything else about your swing when starting this drill. Make your normal swing with the exception of moving your focus a few inches forward. Hopefully, as your club comes down into impact, it will catch the ball cleanly and then go on to move through the object that you used for your goal. When done properly, your divot will begin just barely in front of the golf ball, and it will end right around where your object was placed.
- Hit as many shots as you would like with this drill, replacing your target object after every swing. It shouldn't take long for you to catch on with the idea of this drill – but it might take a good bit longer until you start to see satisfactory results. Stick with it, and don't let a few poor shots early in the process force you to give up. This is a drill that has the potential to truly change your game, but that will only happen if you give it a chance to work.
As you can see, this is a simple drill. It doesn't require much in the way of setup or equipment, and you can use it during any practice session. Understanding how to hit down on the ball is an essential part of being able to avoid fat shots, and this drill is one of the best methods for engraining the downward hit skill into your swing. Make this drill a regular part of your practice sessions and you should be able to wave goodbye to most of your fat shots moving forward.
Applies to the Short Game
Hitting down on the ball is a skill that is important with your full swing iron shots, but it is also important when chipping and pitching from around the green. Clean contact is crucial on your short shots, and hitting down is the best way to make that contact. When you strike a chip shot with a downward path through impact, you will be able to generate backspin and control your distance nicely – both traits that are necessary for a good short game.
If you would like, you can replicate the drill above for use in the short game. However, since you aren't going to be swinging as hard, you don't want to place your target object as far in front of the ball as you did for your full swings. Instead, put the object just a couple of inches in front of the ball, and then hit your chip or pitch. As long as you commit to bottoming out your arc right at the spot that is occupied by that object, you should find that you are hitting down nicely. When used in the short game, this drill is just as simple and easy as it is in the long game, so don't hesitate to use it as often as you like during your chipping and pitching practice sessions.
When you start to hit down on your chip shots, you are going to notice of a couple of changes (assuming you are used to hitting your chips with a flat motion). First, your shots will come out lower, meaning they will take a bigger first bounce under most circumstances. Also, the ball will have more backspin than it had with your previous technique. Therefore, the new shots that you are hitting are going to have a flat trajectory and more stopping power on the greens. This is a great way to play your short shots, but it can take some getting used to when changing from high and soft pitches. It is worth getting used to this new ball flight on your short shots, however, because you will find that you rarely (if ever) hit these shots fat now that you are hitting down through impact properly.
It is helpful to have a collection of golf drills in your 'arsenal' that you can use to improve your performance on the course. The drill included in the content above is one of the best, simply because it illustrates how you should be hitting down through the ball with your iron swings. Failing to hit down on iron shots is one of the biggest problems faced by the amateur player, yet most golfers don't understand how to go about correcting this mistake. Through the use of this drill, however, that challenge should suddenly become less intimidating. Use the instruction contained above to work on your own ability to hit down on the ball, and fat shots will suddenly become a distant memory.