Big, deep divots are indicative of a very steep angle of attack into the ball and will not get you in the good books of your green keeper!
A steep angle of attack is when the club head approaches the ball on to vertical a path. Rather than a smooth rounded arc which bottoms out just after the ball creating a nice crisp divot, the club comes in steep, makes contact with the ball and then digs into the ground heaving up mounds of earth. Big divots in themselves won't create a problem with the actual shot but the steep swing path can result in low ball flights and often thin or fat shots.
To stop taking divots, players need to create a better angle of approach into the ball which means creating a more shallow swing arc.
When a swing gets too steep, there are a number of different causes. A player's weight could have shifted too far on to their front foot during the down swing creating an aggressive angle of attack or a player's hands could have gone too far ahead of the club face during the down swing, or a player's ball position may simply be too far back in their stance for the club they use. Without professional advice, it would be hard for an average club golfer to accurately diagnose the problem. However, players can try the following drill to help create a shallow swing arc and decrease the size of their divots.
Swing Arc Drill
- On a grass driving range or range mat, place two small towels on the ground in parallel lines at right angles to the target, with a gap of 10 inches between the towels.
- Place a ball a couple of inches inside the back towel and eight inches from the front towel.
- Using a lofted iron, swing down and avoid hitting the back towel, strike the ball then turf, before taking a crisp divot as the club bottoms out.
- Players must then allow the swing arc to rise and the club head with it to avoid the front towel.
This drill will teach the player using it to swing down with a descending arc so the ball is struck then the turf but not so steep so the club has time to rise upwards to avoid the second towel.
If towels are scarce, another drill to use would involve hitting a number of shots off a very low tee peg. Players need to feel they are clipping the ball from the top of the tee peg and avoid taking any divots. This will teach them to come in on a shallower angle of attack and clip the ball away.
How to Fix the Problem of Your Divots Being Too Deep – Golf Tip
Taking a divot after you hit an iron shot is a good thing. A divot is physical proof that you have hit down through the ball – which is exactly what you should be trying to do while hitting an iron shot. Hitting down on the ball allows you to impart backspin on the shot, which will help the ball climb high into the air. Many amateur golfers never master the skill of hitting down on their iron shots, and they struggle to gain consistency for that reason. If you wish to hit a high percentage of greens in regulation, you will take the time to learn how to hit down on the ball.
Of course, there is the possibility of having too much of a good thing. If you hit down too steeply on the ball, you won't achieve the results you desire. The best way to determine if you are hitting down to steep is to check the shape and depth of your divots. An ideal divot is a shallow strip of turf, but you may find that you are taking large chunks out of the fairway when your swing gets steep. If you are pulling up a big chunk of dirt along with the grass that makes up your divot, there is a good chance that you need to work on shallowing out your swing.
Even if you are currently struggling with a steep swing that is creating deep divots, there is good news – it is easier to learn how to shallow out your swing a little bit than it is to learn how to hit down. You are already in a good position if you are hitting down on the ball, so you simply need to make some minor adjustments to avoid those nasty deep divots. With just a few quick changes, you should be able to adjust your angle of attack to the point where you are taking nice thin strips of turf out of the ground after every iron shot.
Taking deep divots can have a negative impact on your ball flight, and it can also be dangerous for your hands and wrists. Sticking the club steeply into the ground on every iron shot can do damage to the small muscles and joints in your hands and wrists, which could lead to injury over time. Since the golf club can be speeding down toward the ball at 100 miles per hour or more, the dangers of a harsh collision with the turf should be obvious. If you are able to take a shallow divot on your way through impact, however, you won't feel nearly as much force coming up through the shaft of the club. For the benefit of both your ball flight and your hands/wrists, it is a good idea to learn how to take a shallow divot on a consistent basis.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please adjust the directions as necessary.
The Likely Causes
So why are you taking a deep divot in the first place? While there could be any of number of issues causing this mistake, most likely your problem is going to be found in one of three places. The three swing issues below are common among many amateur golfers, and each of them can lead to a swing plane which is too steep as it approaches impact. If you can identify your own problem from the list below, you will be a big step closer to making the necessary corrections.
- Staying too far left. This is the main cause of deep divots, and it can also help contribute to a slice. During your backswing, your weight should remain balanced between your feet. If you allow your weight to move to the left, however, you will be in danger of making a steep downswing. With the majority of your weight already set into your left side, the club will have no other choice but to come down steeply into the ball. The fix for this problem is simple – focus on your balance throughout the golf swing. Balance is one of the key components to any good swing, and it is especially important when trying to correct your steep angle of attack. If you can make it to the top of your backswing while keeping your weight in the middle of your stance, you will be in great position to swing down aggressively without taking a deep divot.
- Insufficient shoulder turn. Making a big shoulder turn is another important ingredient in getting the swing plane just right. Without a good shoulder turn, your backswing will consist mostly of your arms lifting the club up into the air. When that happens, a steep downswing is inevitable. By turning your shoulders properly, the club can wrap around the back of your neck instead of swinging up over your head. With your hands and arms lower, the downswing will follow a shallower path, and you will take a better divot.
- No lower body rotation. Even if you make a great backswing, you can still carve a deep divot out of the turf if you forget to rotate your lower body through the shot. As the downswing begins, it is the job of the lower body to turn toward the target and carry your weight slightly onto your left foot. This motion is what will drop the club down into position, and it will also pull your body out of the way in order to give your hands and arms to swing the club through the ball. If the lower body simply stays put during the downswing, your arms will be forced up and away from your body in order to find a path to the ball. That movement up and away will put you on a steep plane, and a deep divot will be the sure result.
Most golfers who are struggling with deep divots will find their problem within one or more of the points above. Fortunately, none of those points are particularly difficult to fix, so you should be able to get your swing going in the right direction after just one or two quick trips to the driving range.
Evaluating Your Current Mechanics
If you are taking consistently deep divots out of the turf, there is a good chance you are swinging down too steeply into the ball. But how can you be sure? The only way to really know what it going on in your golf swing is to watch it for yourself. By recoding your swing on video, you can break down the important sections to determine if you need to work on changing your swing plane. The worst thing you can do for your game is to try fixing problems that don't exist in the first place, so confirm with video the issues with your swing plane before you start making changes.
To record your swing on video, you will need to take a trip to the driving range along with a recording device and a friend. If your friend is also a golfer, you can take turns recording each other's swings so you can both benefit from the exercise. Most likely, you will be able to use the video camera on your cell phone to record your swing, but a handheld video camera can work just fine as well. When you are ready to take the video, keep the following points in mind –
- You need to see the whole swing. Your friend should be standing back far enough so that your entire swing is captured in the frame of the video (including the club). Also, of course, they should be standing far enough away to be safely clear of the club as you are swinging.
- Get two angles. You want to record your swing from both the 'down the line' and 'face on' angles. Down the line is the angle that is looking directly down your target line with the ball between the camera and the target. Face on, as you would guess, is when the camera is positioned out in front of you. Each of these angles offers important information about your swing, so get a recording or two from both perspectives.
- Don't try to impress the camera. One of the biggest mistakes that is made by golfers who wish to analyze their swings is they try to 'impress' the camera by swinging as hard as possible when the video is rolling. The recording will be useless if it doesn't reflect your normal swing, so just hit regular shots during your video session. You want to be able to analyze your actual swing, so pick a target and make a smooth swing just as you would on the course.
Once the video has been recorded, you can either watch it back right there at the range, or wait until you get home. When you do watch the recording, you are going to want to keep an eye out for the mistakes that were highlighted in the previous section. Following are a few tips for spotting those three swing issues.
- When looking for a balance problem, you want to use the 'face on' angle. This perspective will allow you to get a good idea of your weight distribution during the golf swing. If you notice that your weight is going onto your left foot early in the backswing, you will be able to confirm that poor balance is leading to your deep divot.
- The face on angle is also helpful when watching your shoulder turn. Ideally, your left shoulder will pass completely under your chin in the backswing. If that is happening, you should be happy with the rotation that you are getting from your shoulders. However, if the left shoulder is coming up short, you will then need to watch the down the line angle to see how your arms are behaving. If the short shoulder turn is combined with a lifting of your arms, the root cause of your steep swing will have been discovered.
- Using the down the line angle will also be helpful when you want to see how your lower body is working in the downswing. While watching the down the line video, pause the video at the impact position. Where is your lower body? Have you rotated toward the target? If your belt buckle is pointing out beyond the ball, there is a good chance that your lower body is doing its job. If not, work on getting a better rotation from the top of the swing to improve your angle of attack.
In golf, the video doesn't lie. Once you see what your swing looks like on video, you should have a pretty clear picture of what it is you need to work on. Take your time while reviewing the recordings to make sure you are coming to the right conclusions before getting down to work on fixing your mechanics.
Other Causes of Deep Divots
While your deep divots are likely being caused by a mechanical flaw somewhere in your swing, that won't always be the case. For some players, the deep divot is a result of a mistake made at address – or even a mental mistake. If you have worked through the swing problems listed above and you're still taking deep divots, take a look at the following list of other potential causes.
- Poor ball position. If you take your address position with the ball too far back in your stance, you will run the risk of creating a deep divot. When hitting an iron shot from the fairway, you want to be playing the ball from at least the middle of your stance, if not slightly forward of middle. The ideal ball position for each player will vary, so you need to experiment until you find the right position for your swing – but the ball should never move behind the center of your stance (unless you are trying to hit a specialty shot, like a punch). To fine tune your ball position, pay carefully attention to this point on the driving range. If you are detailed about getting the ball in just the right position during your range sessions, that same task will become much easier out on the course.
- Swinging too hard. Making an extra-hard swing is almost never a good idea, as it can cause your fundamentals to go wrong in a number of ways. In this case, making a hard swing can lead to a deep divot if your longer backswing pushes you too far onto your left side prior to the downswing. Never swing harder than you are capable of doing comfortably while maintaining your balance. If the swing you need to make to reach the target is going to force you off balance, you are using the wrong club. In fact, most of your swings during a round of golf should be made with about 80% effort. By keeping your effort well short of 100%, you will have a much better chance to stay on balance throughout both the backswing and downswing.
- Ill-fitted equipment. Using irons that aren't fitted to your swing can cause you to take deep divots – even if your golf swing is fine. Specifically, clubs that are too upright for your swing and your body type may lead to steep downswings and deep divots. The best course of action is to take your set of clubs to a professional club fitter before you make any changes at all to your swing. By making sure your clubs fit you correctly, you can eliminate another variable from the golf equation. Once you know that the clubs you are holding are a good fit, you can move on from there with confidence. If deep divots remain a problem even after your club fitting, you will know there is a swing issue that needs to be addressed.
The ability to correctly self-diagnose your swing problems is one of the most important skills in golf. You don't want to try fixing problems that aren't there to begin with, so it is critical to be right when you determine what is actually causing your deep divots. While you might be plagued by poor swing mechanics such as the points mentioned earlier, you also may be struggling with one of the simple points on the list above. Always start with the simple things first and move on to more complex problems only if the simple fixes don't alleviate the issue.
Deep Divots Can be a Problem in the Short Game
Divots are something you tend to think more about with your full swing, but they can affect the short game as well. You will want to take a divot on some of your longer pitch shots, and even on some short chip shots depending on the style of shot you are trying to play. If your short game divots begin to get deep, you will know there is a problem in your technique - just like deep divots in your long game indicate trouble with your full swing. Don't go too long making deep divots on your short game shots without trying to fix the problem or you could wind up with mechanics that are way off track.
The main cause of deep divots in the short game is overactive hands and wrists during the takeaway. You actually want your short swings to resemble your long swings in that your shoulders should be doing most of the work when it comes to pulling the club back away from the ball. Unfortunately, many amateur players get this wrong, instead using their hands alone to swing the club. When that happens, the club head becomes elevated too high off the ground, and a steep forward swing is inevitable. As soon as you notice your divots becoming too deep with your short shots, make an effort to use your shoulders more actively in the backswing and the problem should be quickly corrected.
Another common cause of deep divots on short shots is slowing down the swing as you approach the ball. This is seen frequently in golfers who lack confidence in their short game. Afraid of hitting the ball too far, these players will slow the club head down right before impact, taking away the speed required to move through the ball and the turf successfully. When the club hits the ground, it quickly loses what speed it had remaining, and sticks in the ground. The result is a deep divot and a poor shot. You need to have confidence when hitting any golf shot, but confidence is especially important when playing chip and pitch shots from around the green. Before starting your swing, convince yourself to take a confident approach and swing the club as if you are sure of the result.
So what does a good divot look like on a short shot? Ideally, you will only be taking a small amount of turf out of the ground on your average chip shot. In fact, it probably won't really even be a divot – more like a dent you made in the ground immediately after the ball. Since you are only hitting your short shots something like 20 or 30 yards, you swing really shouldn't be long enough to unearth a full-size divot. Check the condition of the grass after every short chip or pitch that you hit and make sure you are only making a small mark in the ground.
Big divots usually indicate big trouble in the golf swing. While some players can get away with taking long, deep divots while still hitting good shots, that won't be a winning formula for most players. Instead, work on shallowing out your swing plane using the tips above so you can take shallow, medium-sized divots on your iron swings. The angle of attack you use with your irons is an important part of the swing equation, and your divot does a great job of showing you what that angle looks like. Should you find that deep divots are common in your game, take the necessary steps to correct the problem as soon as possible.