The fat shot may not be the worst mistake in golf – that distinction belongs to the dreaded shank – but it can certainly wreak havoc on your game.
To hit the ball “fat” means simply to hit the ground behind the ball, causing the clubhead to lose speed as turf gets between the clubface and ball. You lose considerable distance, and the farther behind the ball you strike, the shorter the shot will fly. Fat shots often end up in trouble short of the target, such as greenside bunkers or water hazards.
While it’s possible to hit a fat shot with any club, even when the ball is teed up, it happens most often when using an iron. It’s generally easy to tell when you’ve hit the turf first – you’ll feel and hear a “thud” instead of the crisp sensation of contact with the clubface.
If you’re not sure whether you’ve hit a shot fat, there’s a visual clue to look for. On a properly struck shot, the divot will start directly beneath or slightly in front of where the ball was sitting. Hit it fat and your divot will start behind the ball’s original spot.
If you encounter a spell of fat shots, it’s best to find an all-grass driving range to work on the problem. When you hit behind the ball on a synthetic-turf mat -- the kind featured at many ranges -- the club tends to skid or slide into the ball, making it tough to tell exactly where the clubhead struck. Fat shots hit from mats often fly just as far as those struck well.
The tips and drills featured in this series are designed to cure the different causes of fat shots. You’re bound to find help in the text and video lessons which follow.