Players can learn a lot from studying their divots, they are not just bits of turf needing to be replaced but indicators of what happened during the swing.
If you are finding the divots are deep then this is first an indicator of too steep an angle of attack. Divots only need to be a few centimeters deep and about the size of a £10 note or $1 bill. If your divots are also deep on the heel or toe side, this could indicate possible problems with swing path but also club set up.
Divots which are too deep are almost always a sign of a steep angle of attack. All iron shots have their own swing arc which bottoms out just after impact with the ball. This is what causes the slightly descending blow on well struck iron shots and a nice crisp divot to appear. When the club gets too steep coming into the ball, the swing arc changes and bottoms out not only after the ball but inches under the ground! Some golfers have such steep angles of attack that great mounds of earth can be shifted on any given iron shot.
There are a number of factors that can cause a steep angle of attack, including too much lag angle between the left arm and club shaft during the down swing or a big weight transfer in front of the ball. This drill is focused on correcting both these faults.
- Set up to a shot with a 7 iron and the ball positioned just forward of centre in the stance on a small tee peg.
- Take the club away as normal during the back swing.
- During the down swing, concentrate on keeping the body weight 50-50 on each foot.
- Swing into the ball and clip the ball from the top of the tee without taking a divot.
- Follow through to a full finish position.
This drill will help give players a better understanding of how to control different swing arcs. It can be practiced throughout the bag.
If the toe or heel of the club also dig into the ground, there are two likely causes. Either the swing paths are excessively out-to-in or in-to-out respectively or the club is either too upright or flat for the afflicted golfer.
An excessive out-to-in swing path can cause the toe of the club to dig deeper into the ground than normal and vice versa an in-to-out swing path can cause the heel to dig in. This can be helped by practicing hitting balls from between two club shafts or alignment sticks placed 6-inches apart and running in parallel lines down towards the target. By hitting balls from between the two alignment sticks, players will be able to see if the club is traveling too out-to-in or in-to-out. By hitting shots from between the alignment sticks, the swing path is more likely to be from an inside-to-square-to-inside swing path.
The only way for players to correctly assess if their clubs are set for the right specification is to consult with a professional or custom fit expert. Because everyone is physically different, in some cases drastically different, there is no such thing as a 'standard' set of clubs.
Being correctly measured for a set of clubs is essential to achieve the most from your game and will help stop divots featuring too much heel or toe dig.
Cause and Cure of Deep Toe or Heel Golf Divots – Golf Tip
Your divot can tell you a lot about your golf swing. In fact, if you are ignoring your divots and simply walking on to the next shot, you are missing an opportunity to gain some valuable information. Since you should be replacing your divot anyway (or filling it with sand), take a quick look at the shape of your divot to learn something about your golf swing. Since the divot is a perfect impression of the path that your club took through the ball, you can use it as a reliable source of feedback on all of your iron swings.
Of course, in order to evaluate your divot, you have to be taking one in the first place. Taking a divot with your irons – especially your mid and short irons – is a great sign that you are swinging aggressively down through the ball. Lifting up on iron shots is a common problem among amateur players, so your first goal should just be to take a divot on each iron swing from the fairway. Once you have that part down, you can move on to learning how to read your divots.
If you are able to practice on a grass range, you will be able to read divots both on the practice tee and on the course itself. However, if you practice mostly at a facility with mats instead of natural grass, you will only be able to read your divots on the course. While it is nice to be able to evaluate your divots on the driving range if you can, it is really the divots that you take on the course that are going to give you the most information. These are the swings that you are making when the pressure is on and you are trying your best, so it is these swings that you should be trying to improve. When your divots get way out of line on the course, you will know that some work needs to be done in your swing.
While many golfers already look at their divot after hitting a shot, most of those players are only concerned with the path of the divot. They are looking at the direction that the divot is pointing in relation to the target – was it pointed right at the target, or did it skew to the left or right? This information is helpful, but there is more than you can learn from your divot pattern. In addition to the path, also look to see if the toe or heel of the club is digging in too steeply after impact. This can be evaluated by looking at the depth of the divot. Ideally, the depth of the divot will be even from heel to toe, meaning the club went into the ground with the sole flush against the turf. If the toe or the heel took out a bigger portion of dirt, however, there is a problem in your swing that needs to be addressed.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please reverse the directions as necessary.
The Problem with an Unequal Divot
At first, it might not be clear why it is a problem to have the toe or heel of the club diving deep into the ground. After all, doesn't the divot happen after the ball is gone? If the ball as already left the club, who cares what happens next? Well, the shape of your divot is important, because an unequal divot can indicate a problem with your club face position at impact. When the heel or toe of the club is moving in to the ground too deep, you will have trouble sending the ball toward your target time after time.
In a perfect swing, the sole of your club would match beautifully with the turf when you contact the ball. Your divot would be even all the way across, and you would take a shallow strip of grass out of the ground on each shot. As you should already know, a perfect golf swing doesn't exist. However, you can strive to make your swing as close to this standard as possible by watching the progression of your divots. If you can get to a point where you are taking an even, rectangular divot on every swing, you can be confident that the club face is in a great position at impact.
The following problems may be present in your game if you are making an uneven divots with your iron swings.
- Toe going in too deep. When the deep side of the divot is out toward the toe of the club, your club face will likely be open to the target at impact. Players who have trouble with this mistake will notice that the ball starts right and then continues to fade even farther right from there. Also, you are likely to feel an uncomfortable twisting of the club in your hands when you strike the ball with the toe heading down into the ground. As the toe of the club dives into the turf, the club face will be rotated open, and the grip may even turn in your hands. Nothing about this kind of impact will feel 'solid', and you will likely know something is wrong even before you look at the divot. When you feel something is off with your contact, check your divot to confirm your feelings. The divot is physical evidence that can support what you are feeling in the swing – giving you everything you need to go ahead with the necessary swing changes.
- Heel going in too deep. This problem can be a little more difficult to spot because the contact won't feel as bad. As the heel dives into the ground the club face will want to turn over to the left – but it was already headed that way in the first place. Therefore, the club shouldn't slip in your hands, and you may even be able to hit some decent shots. However, you will never live up to your full potential in terms of power or control when you make a swing that puts the heel of the club deep into the turf. Watch your divots carefully for this pattern because you aren't as likely to notice it through feel alone. Shots hit with the heel going too deep are more likely to draw left of the target, and some of them may even turn in to nasty hooks.
The toe of the club going too deep and the heel of the club going too deep are really two very different problems. They have different symptoms, and will require different solutions. Don't think that the advice supplied for one issue will work for the other, because it won't. You first need to figure out if you are having an issue with either the heel or toe of the club going too far into the turf, so you can seek out advice that will help you solve that specific problem.
Curing a Deep Toe Divot
If it is a deep toe divots that is causing you problems on the golf course, you will want to get started fixing this issue as quickly as you can. It is hard enough to hit good shots when the club is going into the turf square – it is almost impossible when you are digging the toe into the ground. Weak contact, inconsistent distances, and misses to the right are just three of many problems that can be caused by digging the toe of the club too deep into the turf.
Before you decide to totally rebuild your swing in order to fix this one problem, you may be able to get back on track with just a quick and simple fix. Following are three easy fixes that just might be able to remove the deep toe divot from your game.
- Stay down in your posture. It is important that you maintain your posture throughout your golf swing. You should be starting in a comfortable, athletic posture with plenty of knee flex and good balance. Once the club goes in motion, do everything you can to keep this posture in place. As you come down into the ball, you might be tempted to stand up out of your posture in order to generate more power. Don't fall for that trap. Not only will this kind of swing not create any more power, it will make it difficult for you strike the ball cleanly. As you rise up in the downswing, your overall stance will be taller, and your hands will be higher at impact. That high hand position will lead to the toe of the club going into the ground first, which means that the toe will dig deeper than it should. To correct this error, stand down in your posture throughout the swing and simply use your body rotation to move the club through the hitting area.
- Relax your right shoulder. An overactive right shoulder in the downswing is another way to stick the toe into the ground. Your right shoulder should be mostly passive in the downswing as the rotation of your lower body works to bring the club into position. However, many golfers try to force the club down toward the ball, and they end up using too much right shoulder as a result. If you feel like your right shoulder is too involved in the downswing, work on engaging your lower body earlier in your transition – this will get your forward swing off to a good start and it will limit the ability of your right shoulder to get in the way.
- Check your clubs. Believe it or not, the problem of putting the toe of the club into the ground could simply be a matter of having the wrong clubs. If the lie angle on your irons is wrong for your swing, you may come down with the toe first – even if your swing is just fine. When the toe is hitting the ground before the heel on a regular swing, your clubs are likely too flat for your swing. Go to a local club fitting professional to ask for an analysis of your current set of clubs. If they find that your irons are too flat, they may be able to adjust them for a small fee. You can't blame all of your swing woes on your clubs, but this is one time when it really may be the club at fault.
There is a good chance that the cure to your deep toe divots is found in one of the three points above. Before you go through the trouble of changing your swing to fix the problem, it might be best to first have your equipment checked. Even if a club fitting session finds that your irons are well-suited to your swing, you will at least have peace of mind in knowing that isn't the problem. From there, you can work on managing your posture and your right shoulder in order to deliver the club squarely into the turf.
Curing a Deep Heel Divot
In many ways, it is easier to cure a deep heel divot than it is a deep toe divot. For one thing, you can still hit decent shots when digging the heel into the turf, which is more than you can say for a swing that digs the toe into the ground. Some players will go for years making deep heel divots and they may not even know it. However, just because you can get by with this type of swing doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to change it. Squaring up the club at impact will help your game in a number of ways, so it is worth your time and effort to get the heel out of the ground once and for all.
Just as in the previous section, following are three points that may be able to help you correct your deep heel divots. Always look for the easiest fixes first, as you don't want to start taking apart sections of your swing that aren't broken in the first place.
- Lie angle matters. The same as above, it is important to check your lie angles to ensure that they aren't the root cause of your problems. In this case, it would be clubs that are too upright that would cause you to stick the heel in the ground at impact. Also, clubs that are too long could lead you to put the heel in the ground, because you may compensate for that length by standing farther away from the ball. Instead of guessing at the fit of your iron set, take your clubs to a professional fitter who can do a proper evaluation. Once this step is out of the way, you will know if the problem was equipment-based or if you need to do further work on your swing.
- Low hands at address. Many amateur golfers have a habit of placing their hands too low when they address the ball. Usually, this issue stems from a poor posture over the ball. When you hunch over from the waist, your hands will drop, and they will be too low as the swing begins. That all adds up to creating a swing that is far more likely to put the heel of the club into the ground prematurely. Start to correct this problem by standing up taller at address. You want to have flex in your knees, but your posture from the waist up should be very tall and upright. As a result, your hands will come up, and your club will swing back on a better path. Just a slight tweak to your posture may be enough to flatten out the sole of the club at impact.
- Sliding to the left in the downswing. As you should already know, the golf swing is a rotational motion. When you start to add too much lateral motion to the swing, bad things happen. That is certainly true with the issue of digging the heel of the club into the ground. If you get into the habit of sliding your weight left during the downswing, you will run the risk of catching the heel of the club on the turf before the rest of the club face can square to the target. Shots hit with this kind of swing will feel 'heavy', and they will often land short of the intended target. Get out of this bad habit by working on better lower body rotation in the downswing. Use your left hip to 'clear' through the shot and allow the club to lag behind that rotation. Once you get the feel of a good rotation, you will quickly notice how powerful it can be.
Don't be tempted to leave your deep heel divots alone because you are still hitting some decent shots as you go around the course. Settling for 'good enough' is never a strategy that will allow you to become a better golfer. Work on using the potential cures above to get the heel of the club out of the ground and you will soon be hitting better shots than ever before.
Adjusting to Better Divots
With a little bit of work – and perhaps an adjustment to your equipment – you can eliminate deep heel or toe divots from your game. After that is done, however, you will still need to make a few on-course adjustments in order to shoot good scores. Your ball flight is going to be significantly different now that the club is striking the ball cleanly, meaning that you will need to adapt your game planning accordingly. Only when you are picking targets and choosing clubs that reflect your new ball flights will you be able to drop your scores.
- Longer distance. You will almost certainly hit the ball farther when you correct your divot pattern. The contact you have been making has been less-than-ideal, so solving that problem will lead to a better transfer of energy between the club and the ball. Remember that you won't have made any changes to your driver swing, so don't expect the added distance to carry over to your driver or fairway metals. Pay close attention to your carry distance with the irons during your first couple of rounds back on the course. Note how much distance you have gained and adjust your club selections as needed.
- Better performance from the rough. As you have been playing with either the toe or heel going down into the turf, you have probably noticed that your ball striking from the rough has been pretty poor. You need the leading edge to be square to the target in order for it to slice through the grass nicely, and that hasn't been happening prior to making these fixes. Now that the club face is in the right position, you should notice that the club cuts through the grass better in the rough, and the ball comes out with more velocity as a result.
- More options available. Now that your impact position has been improved, don't be afraid to experiment with various different ball flights to add to your arsenal of shots. It is difficult to manipulate draws and fades when you are fighting a poor impact position, but those shots will now be far easier to achieve. Test out different shots on the driving range and take your favorite ones with you onto the course.
Golf goes from hard to nearly impossible when you make swings that result in either the toe or the heel of the club digging down into the ground. Watch your divots carefully to see if there is an issue in your swing that needs to be addressed. Should you find that the toe or the heel is diving down too deep, use the tips contained above to straighten out the problem and get your game moving in the right direction once again.