The dreaded fat shot is when you have a simple shot on to the green and you end up duffing the shot because you have hit too far behind the golf ball, causing it to travel very little distance and more than likely it finishes short of the green.
Such a destructive fault can lead to a lack of confidence and a fear about what can be a simple golf shot.
Fault - The main fault for hitting the ground behind the golf ball is normally found in the set up position as the weight tends to be too central and the golfer would then lean away from the target as the club comes into the golf ball to make contact. This brings the centre of gravity behind the golf ball, and therefore the club will hit about two to three inches behind the golf ball.
Fix - Lean your weight forward at set up, aim to have 55% to 60% of your body weight applied on to the front foot at set up. Aim to maintain that same weight distribution throughout the golf shot so that the centre of gravity stays planted towards the target.
Feel like you are aiming to hit the golf ball much lower that you are expecting. This way you will not be tempted to lean back and scoop the golf ball up in the air which is one of the main reasons behind a fat chip shot. When you hit the ball, aim to keep the golf ball lower by leaning on to the front foot and reduce the wrist flick. This will help create a much cleaner and accurate strike on the golf ball, therefore leading to a much better golf shot.
Slightly leaning the shaft forward at impact is also a fantastic way of preventing the golf club flicking, therefore helping to create a much crisper strike when hitting the golf ball.
Practice drill - Set up to the golf ball as normal with any iron you struggle to strike well. Move the golf ball about three to four inches further forward toward the target. Keep the golf club where the ball would be normally. The task is to strike the golf ball cleanly by transferring the weight towards the target on the way down. This may take some practice, because if you are not currently transferring your weight correctly, this drill will feel strange and a challenge to complete at first. Once you have mastered striking the ball cleanly in the drilled position, place the golf ball back to where it normally would be positioned. From this point, picture the intended impact point to be the same three to four inches beyond the golf ball, the same as the drill had you practicing.
This will help to improve the striking of the golf ball first then the turf after the golf ball and fixing the dreaded fat wedge shot.
Stop Hitting Golf Wedge Shots Behind the Ball
The ability to control the distance of your wedge shots is one of the most valuable skills you can possess as a golfer. Since it is easy to hit your wedge shots on line, you should be mostly worried about striking the ball cleanly in order to have your shot cover the correct distance. As long as you get the distance right, you should find your ball within just a few yards of the target when it comes to a rest. By dialing in the distance of your wedge shots, you can create birdie chances throughout the round, and you will also give yourself a better chance to save par when scrambling to recover from a bad drive. Putting might be the most important single element in the game, but wedge play is not far behind.
One of the major struggles that many amateur golfers deal with on the course is hitting behind their wedge shots. Hitting the turf before the ball – also known as hitting the shot 'fat' – will lead to a shot that comes up short of the target almost every time. Fat shots can happen with any club in the bag, but they are more common when hitting a wedge simply because of the steeper angle of attack that is used with the short irons. Hitting down on the ball is important with your wedges in order to generate spin, but a slight miss-hit behind the ball will lead to disappointing results. In order to become a consistently good wedge player, you need to be able to strike the ball solidly time after time.
There are a variety of potential causes that could be in play when you find that you are hitting your wedge shots consistently fat. The content below will address some of those potential causes, along with the cures, so you can hopefully get your wedge game back on track as quickly as possible. If you are hitting the ball fat currently with your short clubs, do your best to maintain a positive attitude about your game as you work through this problem. While it certainly is frustrating to watch your wedge shots come up short time after time, you are probably only a minor tweak or two away from hitting solid wedge shots.
It should be noted that hitting the ball solidly with your wedges is only one piece of the overall distance control puzzle. Once you are making solid contact, you will still need to practice the length and speed of your swing in order to hit the ball various distances on command. However, without the basic ability to hit your wedges solidly, none of those other skills are going to come into play. Work first on avoiding fat contact with the ball, and then move on to more advanced techniques in order to dial in your wedge game.
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.
Using the Right Equipment
Believe it or not, the specific wedges that you put in your bag will have a lot to do with your ability to hit the ball solidly. If you have the wrong wedges for your body type and swing shape, you may be increasing your chances of hitting the ball fat before you even begin the swing. There are a few technical elements within wedge design that you need to be aware of, as using the wrong club for your swing is a recipe for poor performance. Golf is a hard enough game even with perfect equipment – you don't want to make it any harder by having the wrong club in your hands.
When you are shopping for a new set of wedges for your bag, the main thing you want to look for is bounce angle. This is the single most-important factor when picking out a wedge. The bounce angle is the angle that is formed between the leading edge of the club and the bottom of the sole. A low bounce angle means that the wedge has very little 'roll' on the bottom, while a high bounce angle indicates a wedge that has a significant bulge. Wedges with 4* or 6* or bounce are on the lower end of the scale, while 8* and up are in the higher range. Bounce is important because it affects the way the club moves through the ground when you make impact with the ball. A low bounce wedge is more likely to 'dig' into the ground, where a high bounce wedge is prone to skim along the top of the grass (or even 'bounce' off the turf).
If you are struggling with hitting the ball fat on your wedge shots, more bounce might be a good idea. Think of high bounce wedges in the same way you would think about cavity back irons – they are simply more forgiving and will give you a chance to get good results out of less-than-perfect swings. Even if you hit slightly behind the ball, the design of the wedge may enable you to make decent contact and still cover most of the distance to your target. Obviously you are always going to want to strive for perfect contact, but a high bounce wedge can help you out when your swing doesn't quite perform as you would like.
So should everyone play wedges with higher bounce angles? No – certainly not. Better players who don't have trouble with hitting their wedges fat won't need to use a high bounce angle because there is nothing to be gained. In fact, having a lot of bounce on your wedge can make some shots more difficult to play, such as a flop shot from a tight lie. Therefore, you should only pick a wedge with a lot of bounce if you truly need the help to avoid fat shots. Once your swing technique improves to the point where you are no longer worried about fat wedge shots, you should look into getting a lower bounce wedge.
One other important point on wedge bounce that should be considered – the amount of bounce you want to use can depend on the condition of the golf courses where you usually play. High bounce clubs are well-suited for soft turf, as the bounce angle will help you avoid digging too far into the ground. On the other hand, low bounce wedges tend to do well on firm conditions because the leading edge is lower to the grass. If you use a high bounce wedge on firm turf, the possibility of hitting the ball thin will come into play. In order to optimize your set of wedges, you need to think about both the turf conditions and your own skill level before making a purchase.
Mastering the Basics
With the right wedges in your bag, the next step in the process of eliminating your fat shots is to make sure you understand the basic elements to proper wedge play. None of the points in this section are particularly complicated or hard to achieve, but they are crucially important to your success. If you don't nail down these points, your chances of hitting good wedge shots on a regular basis will be severely limited.
Following are three critical elements to successful wedge play.
- Ball in the middle of your stance. For most players, putting the ball perfectly in the middle of the stance at address is going to be the best option for hitting wedge shots. If you move the ball too far forward, you will have trouble reaching it at impact, and you may have to slide your hips toward the target as a result. On the other hand, if you put the ball too far back in the stance, you will make your downswing steeper – which only increases the chances that you will hit the shot fat. This is where many golfers go wrong, as moving the ball back in your stance can start an ongoing cycle which only leads to poor results. If you move the ball back and still hit the shot fat, you might think that it wasn't far enough back since you hit behind the ball, so you then move it a little further back. After a few shots, you will have the ball lined up off of your back foot, and you will have almost no chance to hit your wedges solidly. Keep the ball in the middle of your stance and adjust other parts of your technique as necessary in order to hit good wedges.
- Don't drift right. This is good advice for every swing that you make on the course, but it is particularly valuable when playing wedge shots. As you start your backswing, don't fall into the trap of drifting to your right during the early stages of the swing. If you get your weight out over your right foot, you probably won't be able to recover your balance in time to hit a solid shot. Most likely, your weight will remain stuck on your right side, and you will hit the shot fat as a result. While you are taking the club back away from the ball at the start of the swing, focus on keeping your weight perfectly balanced between your feet and you will still a much better chance of hitting the shot solidly in the end.
- Always keep moving. Often, when hitting a wedge shot, you will be hitting the ball with something less than a full swing. For example, if you have 80 yards left to the target and you can hit your sand wedge 100 yards with a full swing, you will need to take something off of the shot in order to get the ball close to the hole. Unfortunately, many amateur golfers make the mistake of slowing the swing down through impact when they face this kind of shot. Obviously, that is the wrong way to go about adjusting your distance. To take yards off the shot, you can shorten your backswing or choke down on the grip of the club, but you never want to be slowing down in the hitting area. To avoid hitting the ball fat, commit yourself to each and every wedge shot that you hit. Accelerate through the ball and don't look up to the target until after contact has been made.
It shouldn't take long for you to implement the three tips above into your golf game. In fact, you probably already do at least one or two of those things right in your current wedge game. Practice each one of those basic fundamentals one at a time on the driving range until you are confident that all three can be checked off of your 'to-do' list.
Evaluating the Lie
In addition to making mechanical mistakes, some golfers hit their wedge shots fat simply because they do a poor job of reading the lie of the ball. One of the major differences between hitting shots on the driving range and playing on the course is the various lies that you have to deal with on the course. You should always have a good lie on the range – but that certainly won't be the case over an 18-hole round. You are going to deal with a variety of lies within any given round, so it is up to you to read each one and then pick the right shot.
The first thing to think about with respect to the lie is the length of the grass around the ball. This one should be obvious – if the ball is in the fairway, you will have no long grass to worry about, but a shot played from the rough is going to present a challenge. Depending on the length of the grass in the rough, you may need to adjust the mechanics in your swing, or at least take more club to carry the distance in front of you. It is possible to hit a wedge shot fat simply because you are trying to force the ball to come out of the long grass with a swing that is ill-suited for that job. Match your swing (and the type of shot that you pick) to the lie of the ball in the long grass and you should be able to avoid fat contact a majority of the time.
Reading the lie of the ball isn't all about the length of the grass. Additionally, you will need to think about the firmness of the turf under your ball. Is the ground rock hard, or is it soft and squishy from a recent rain? Soft turf is a contributing factor to hitting the ball fat, so you will need to be on 'alert' when you notice the ground is soft. To counteract soft turf, try standing slightly farther away from the ball at address – which will shallow out your swing slightly and help you to pick the ball cleanly off the ground. On hard ground, you won't have to worry much about hitting the ball fat since it will be tough to dig the club into the turf. However, bouncing the club off the ground behind the ball could lead to a thin shot, so it is still important to focus on your fundamentals in order to make solid contact.
Beyond the turf conditions and grass length, another consideration to make is the slope of the ground where your ball has come to rest. Is the ground flat, or is it pitched in one direction or another? From flat ground, you won't have to worry about making any adjustments to your standard swing technique in order to hit a solid wedge. However, from sloped ground, you will need to tweak your mechanics in order to find the ball cleanly at the bottom of the swing. Following is a quick tutorial on how to adjust for uneven lies –
- Upslope. If the ground is pitched up toward the target, you will want to set your weight into your left side at address in order to avoid falling off balance. When playing a wedge from this type of lie, always take more club as the ball is going to fly higher into the air than usual – meaning it will likely come up short of the target. Along with taking extra club, tighten up your backswing as another step to help you maintain your balance throughout the swing.
- Downswing. When the ground is sloped toward the target, you again need to set your weight into your left leg at address. However, you will want to select less club than usual (instead of more) because the ball will likely come out flat and carry further than normal. It is still a good idea to make a shorter backswing, and you should pay particular attention to keeping your left shoulder down through the shot.
- Ball above your feet. To deal with a lie where the ball is resting above the level of your feet, choke down on the grip of the club before starting your swing. If you use the entire length of the wedge, the club will likely dig into the ground before you make contact with the ball. Even choking down just an inch will make a big difference to the outcome of your shot. Also, most wedge shots played from this kind of lie will be pulled to the left, to adjust your target line accordingly.
- Ball below your feet. Increased knee flex is the best way to deal with the ball resting below your feet on a wedge shot. Add knee flex at address until you can reach the club down to the ball comfortably. Once you start your swing, maintain that knee flex so that the club will reach the ball at impact and you will strike the shot cleanly.
There is no substitute for experience when it comes to reading your lies on the golf course, but the information above should give you a good idea of what to look for when playing wedge shots. As you play more and more golf, you will become increasingly comfortable with reading the lie of your ball and choosing the right shot in response to that lie.
Confidence is Crucial
It would be helpful for most amateur golfers to think of confidence as the 15th club in their bag. While the rules of golf only allow for 14 actual clubs to be carried during a given round, having confidence in your bag to call upon as well is a huge help in the pursuit of lower scores. Specifically, a high level of confidence can help you strike your wedge cleanly because that confidence will allow you to be totally committed to your swing. Hitting the ball fat can be just as much about a lack of confidence as it can be a technical problem, so make sure you are feeling great about your swing before you head out onto the course.
How can you get your mind in a good place as it relates to your golf swing? By spending time on the practice range. Hitting quality wedge shots on the range, where there is no pressure and you won't deal with bad lies, is great for boosting your confidence ahead of a round. Even just a few solidly struck shots will give you the feeling of success that your brain is craving. Once on the course, the success that you had on the range could go a long way toward helping your mind convince your body that it can hit great shots.
It is highly frustrating to hit fat wedge shots, but you can break the cycle and get back on track if you remain calm and simply look for a solution. Use the content above to work toward better mechanics and a better mindset when you are hitting wedge shots. Once you have conquered this issue successfully, you can look forward to many pinpoint wedge shots in your future.