Whether you should use a sweeping swing or take a divot as a senior golfer really depends upon the club you are using.
If you are playing the shot with an iron then this club suits a swing that would see you taking a divot. However, if you are playing the shot with a driver or fairway wood, then this shot would require a more sweeping swing for you to play it effectively.
If we look at the club head on an iron, you will notice the angle of the club face, or the loft. It is the loft that propels the golf ball into the air and the amount of loft the club has dictates how high the shot will be hit. In order for the club head to work correctly, the loft of the club face needs to be presented correctly to the golf ball. In order to do this, the club head must move back to the ball and strike the lower right hand side of the golf ball. This action then forces the golf ball up the club face and into the air, so to achieve this, an iron requires a downward strike towards the ball to connect with the lower right hand side of the ball and this would see you taking a divot following connection with the ball.
Woods, however, have much less loft on them and require a more sweeping action to encourage the connection between the club face and golf ball to be slightly on the upswing to help propel the ball into the air.
The club head sweeps towards the golf ball just skimming the ground and no divot is taken with this swing.
To encourage the two different swings, slightly adjust your set up depending upon the club that you are using. Initially, if you are playing an iron, the ball will be further back in your stance than if you were playing a wood, as the position that the ball is in within your stance influences whether you will hit down at the ball or sweep in and catch the ball slightly on the upswing. The correct ball position is centre of the feet for your wedges and 9 iron, and then moving half a ball to the left for each subsequent club until you get to your driver which is played from the inside of your left big toe. The bottom of your swing arc will tend to be just left of centre of your feet so this is where the club head will be at its lowest point and striking down. Once this point is reached, the club head will begin to rise so placing the ball correctly within your stance will encourage the correct swing action.
Weight position also influences whether you make a sweeping action or take a divot as you swing. When you play your irons, you want to set up with slightly more weight on your left side (for right handed golfers) and when playing your woods, set up more evenly with your weight or be slightly on your right side. Placing more weight on your left side will encourage you to make a steeper swing with the golf club and this will see you hitting down more steeply towards the ball. More weight on your right side encourages you to make a flatter swing and to keep the club head lower to the ground, which in turn allows you to return the club head back to the ball at a much gentler angle and sweep through the strike.
Finally, you want to use your wrists more when playing an iron shot as using your wrists generates a more upward movement in the club head. This will create more height in the club head as you swing away from the ball and allow you to attack back down with the club head on a steeper angle, encouraging a downward strike and you taking a divot.
Use your wrist less when playing a shot with your woods and the club head will move around you on a much lower, gentler swing arc and encourage you to sweep the club head over the turf as you strike the ball.
Sweeping Swing vs. Take a Divot
When playing an iron shot, you can go one of two ways at the bottom of the swing – you can take a divot, or you can sweep the ball off the top of the grass. Each of these options has its advantages and disadvantages, so it isn't a matter of simply picking the 'best' one and going from there. You can make an argument in favor of either technique, so you will have to decide for yourself which option is best for your game. Some players find better results by digging down into the turf, while others play better by picking the ball clean.
If you have never before thought about which of these two options you should use in your game, now is the time to contemplate your preferred approach. Once you decide which way you would like to play, you can then fine-tune your mechanics to match up with that chosen approach. By lining up your swing mechanics with your decision on this point you will have a much better chance of success out on the course. Many players never bother to think about this part of the game, and they end up using a complicated mess of swing mechanics as a result. To make sure all of the various parts of your swing are working toward the same goal, spend some time thinking about whether you would like to take a divot or make a sweeping swing.
In this article, we are going to cover this topic from top to bottom. In addition to highlighting the advantages of each of these two methods, we will also provide you with some direction on how you can fine tune your swing mechanics properly. While improvements in your play on the course might not come immediately, it shouldn't be too long before you start to see better results thanks to the newfound clarity in your iron game.
Before we get too far into the details of this topic, it should be mentioned that your decision on this point is going to be based – at least in part – on the prevailing conditions where you play most of your golf. For instance, a player who spends most of the year playing on soft, damp conditions will be better served by taking divots. It is hard to pick the ball cleanly off of soft turf. On the other hand, if you golf in a desert environment most of the time, sweeping the ball off the grass maybe the right way to go. Think about what kind of conditions you deal with when playing your typical round of golf and then tailor your game to match up with the demands of those conditions.
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.
The Benefits of Taking a Divot
To get started, let's review some of the benefits that can be found when you take a divot with your iron shots. While both of the options presented in this article can be successful on the course, hitting down into the turf is the more popular of the two. Many people learn to play golf by hitting down through the ball at impact, so that style carries with them throughout the rest of their playing days. Of course, that isn't necessarily a bad thing, as there are plenty of positives associated with this style of play.
- Excellent backspin rate. This is perhaps the most important point of all when it comes to taking a divot. By hitting down through the ball, you are going to produce a spin rate which simply cannot be replicated by sweeping the ball off the ground. If you would like to spin your shots at a high rate, you are going to want to take a healthy divot – especially with your short irons. Backspin is helpful in terms of getting the ball to stop on the green, and it can also help you hold your shots on line as they fly. Of course, high spinning iron shots are also more susceptible to the effects of the wind, so there is a downside to be considered here as well.
- Clean contact. By hitting down steeply into the back of the ball, you should find it easy to make solid contact with most of your shots. Players who sweep the ball off the turf will always be prone to catching a bit of the grass on the way toward impact, reducing the overall quality of the strike. Of course, hitting down and taking a divot does not guarantee clean contact, but it will be a step in that direction. Once you learn how to hit down properly, you may become addicted to the feeling of squeezing the ball into the turf at the perfect angle to create a powerful, accurate shot.
- Deal with poor lies. Speaking of solid contact, another advantage of hitting down into the ball is the ability to deal with poor lies. When you draw a bad lie – whether in the fairway or on another part of the course – hitting down will allow you to miss whatever terrain is sitting directly behind the ball. You would still rather have a good lie than a poor one, of course, but taking a divot with your irons will make it easier to handle this situation. Since you never know what you will find when you set out on the course for a new round, having the ability to handle bad lies in your back pocket is a nice advantage.
Adjustable trajectory. When played from your normal ball position with your normal swing, an iron shot with a divot will usually fly high up into the air (thanks to the backspin rate). However, hitting down on your shots does allow for some adjustability depending on the circumstances in front of you. For instance, if you need to hit a low iron shot on a windy day, you can simply move the ball back in your stance and make some minor adjustments to your swing technique. This kind of flexibility is not necessarily available when you sweep the ball off the turf. A big part of success in golf is finding a way to create various ball flights to match what the course is demanding, and you may find it easier to be creative in this way when you hit down on your iron shots.
There is a lot to like about hitting down through the golf ball. The list of benefits above certainly is not exhaustive, as there are many other advantages to be enjoyed as well. If you already play with a swing that leads to divots more often than not, there may not be much motivation to change to a sweeping motion. You can spend some time perfecting your technique, of course, but making a complete switch from taking divots to picking the ball clean is a process that may be more trouble than it's worth.
The Benefits of a Sweeping Swing
While we have already had a lot of positive things to say about taking a divot, there are still some benefits to sweeping the ball off the grass which should be considered. This is certainly the less-popular way to play the game, but that doesn't mean you can hit great shots and post lost scores with this option. If you are thinking about trying to pick the ball off the grass with your irons, consider the following list of benefits as motivation.
- Controlled spin rate. We listed one of the advantages of taking a divot as the high spin rate that you can put on the ball. And, yes, that is true. However, a high spin rate is not always ideal, and some players who take divots would actually prefer that their shots had less spin. For instance, if hitting a short wedge shot into a soft green, too much spin can cause the ball to back up off the front of the green after it lands. When you pick the ball with all of your swings, your spin rate should be relatively consistent from shot to shot, and it should be lower overall. Most players will still impart enough spin to stop the ball relatively quickly, but you shouldn't have to worry about the kinds of high spin rates that cause trouble.
- Less impact. Hitting down into the turf with your irons can be hard on your body. The vibration created by that impact with the ground can affect your hands, wrists, shoulders, and more. While this might not be a big deal for most golfers, some will find it hard to practice and play regularly due to the wear and tear experienced when taking a divot. For instance, senior golfers who struggle with arthritis might be able to stay on the course longer if they pick the ball cleanly. If you love to play and you want to play for as long as possible into the future, consider a sweeping swing to avoid the physical damage that can come along with divots.
- Consistency through the set. Even those who love to take divots aren't going to be able to keep that pattern up throughout the set. It is nearly impossible to strike great long iron shots while taking a divot, for instance, so those shots will need to be picked off the turf by all golfers. That means those who take divots with mid and short-irons need to adjust their swings as the clubs get longer. This is not the case if you use a sweeping swing, as you can use that sweeping action throughout your set. Every golfer would love to be more consistent, and using this method just might take you closer to that goal.
The benefits of a sweeping swing are not going to appeal to as wide of an audience as the benefits found when taking a divot. With that said, the sweeping option is something that can help a certain percentage of the golfing population, so it is important to think about which of these two is better for you. In the end, your decision should be based on your game alone, regardless of what style of play anyone else uses. Even if it is more popular to take a divot, feel free to stick with the sweeping swing if this method allows you to play your best golf.
Once you decide how to proceed with regard to this choice, you will then need to work on fine tuning your swing in that direction. If you decide to take divots, you should add mechanics to your technique which will promote a downward strike. Or, if you are going to sweep the ball, work on techniques which will make it easier to do just that. Playing golf while fighting against your own swing is never a good idea, so you need to match up your mechanics to intended playing style perfectly.
The tips listed below should help to direct your upcoming practice sessions. As you will see, there are tips included for both those wanting to take divots, and those planning to pick the ball cleanly.
- Taking divots – hands in front of the ball at impact. If you are going to consistently take divots when hitting your iron shots, it is essential that you place your hands in front of the ball at impact. By getting your hands to the left of the ball at the moment of impact, you will be guaranteeing a forward shaft lean at the bottom of your swing. That forward lean means the club should be moving down through the ball, and you should be left with a beautiful divot in the end. Many amateur golfers 'flip' their wrists in the downswing, leading to a backward shaft lean at the bottom. You can't make this mistake if you hope to hit down on the ball properly. Keep your left wrist flat in the downswing and move your hands past the position of the ball before you make contact.
- Sweeping swing – stay perfectly balanced. You need to execute your swing perfectly if you are going to clip the ball cleanly off the top of the grass. You don't have much margin for error on this kind of swing, as hitting the shot just a bit thin or fat will lead to ugly results. With that in mind, you want to focus your attention on the balance in your golf swing. If you stay well-balanced, it will be far easier to strike the ball cleanly than if you are sliding from side to side. Make sure you are setting up with your weight in between your two feet at address and then keep your weight there until you swing down toward the target.
- Taking divots – shoulders down through the shot. It should be fairly obvious that you are going to need to stay down through the ball if you hope to take divots. Any swing which lifts up around the moment of impact is going to have trouble placing the club head into the turf properly. To make sure you are staying down, keep your shoulders over the shot and feel like your chest is pointed down at the ball. Many amateur golfers pull up out of their swings early, and the results speak for themselves. You need to fire your hips through aggressively in the downswing while your shoulders hang back over the ball. Execute this move correctly and you can produce powerful shots which soar through the air time after time.
- Sweeping swing – use a full release. This is absolutely essential if you are going to pick the ball off the grass nicely. In a swing which is designed to take divots, you can actually get away with using a limited release. By driving the club into the turf with a firm left side/left wrist, you can send the ball on its way effectively. This isn't going to work with a sweeping swing. In this case, you need to make sure to release the club with your right hand as you arrive at the hitting area. Releasing the club fully will flatten out the bottom of your swing, which is exactly what you need to do in order to avoid a divot.
- Taking divots – accelerate through the shot. Some players who take divots with their irons quit on the swing as soon as the club enters the turf. Even if you are taking a big divot, you still need to make sure to swing on through to a full finish. The full finish is important as it will help you to keep the speed of your swing up all the way through the hitting area. If you are going to stop your swing right when you hit the ground, it is likely your club will begin to slow down even before that point.
- Sweeping swing – play the ball forward of center. Ball position is always an important piece of the puzzle on the golf course, but it is even more important for players trying to pick the ball. If you play the ball too far back in your stance, you will be forced to lean away from the target at impact to help the ball up into the air. This is an unnecessary problem, as it can be avoided simply by setting up with the ball farther forward in your stance. Always play the ball at least slightly in front of the middle of your stance, even when hitting short irons. For longer clubs, you will want to place the ball up near the inside of your left foot.
Depending on which path you are going to take with your game, use select tips above during your next practice session. You don't have to radically change your swing to accommodate either taking a divot or picking the ball clean, but you do need to make sure your mechanics aren't getting in the way of your desired outcomes.
Is It Okay to Go Back and Forth?
As you have been reading this article, the following question may have come to mind – is it okay to just switch back and forth between these two types of swings? On the surface, this idea does make some sense. Since taking a divot and sweeping the ball off the turf each has its own advantages and disadvantages, combining the two in your game seems like the best of both worlds. While this is an attractive idea, it is one that is best left on the shelf.
Why should you avoid trying to use both methods? Simple – golf is already hard enough. Building one golf swing that you can trust out on the course is an intimidating challenge, and building two is just about impossible. It would take a tremendous amount of skill to switch back and forth between these two types of swings on the fly, and even then you likely wouldn't have the confidence to pull it off on the course on a consistent basis.
For the sake of the long term progress of your game, stick to just one of these two options for the majority of your shots. Of course, that doesn't mean you have to take a divot on every single shot you hit, or that you can never take a divot if you decide to make a sweeping swing. You have to be willing to adapt to the course as you find it, so from time to time you may have to step outside of your comfort zone. However, for the most part, you will be best served to stick with your chosen type of swing.
When it comes to the debate between a sweeping swing and taking a divot, the choice is going to be yours. Good scores can be achieved with either option, so go with the one which makes you the most comfortable on the range and on the course. Good luck!