Take a quick look at the clubfaces on your irons. If you've used them for at least a couple dozen rounds, you should notice a wear pattern on the spot where you most often make contact. This pattern also signals whether your ballstriking needs work.
A pro golfer's clubs are usually worn out on the center; in other words, on the sweet spot. Amateurs not only miss the center more often than not, their misses tend to vary from shot to shot. You might hit one shot way out on the toe, the next closer to the middle, and another toward the heel. Even so, a particular area usually gets the most action.
Different flaws cause different mishits. For example, hitting the ball off the heel may be a sign that you're leaning forward at address. Toe shots often result from an outside-to-inside clubhead path.
There are many ways to improve your ballstriking regardless of what your most frequent swing fault may be. Here are three basic tips to help you hit more solid shots on a regular basis.
1. Grip down
Too many players hold the club near the very top of the handle. This has the effect of lengthening the club and making it more difficult to control. The top of your left hand (for right-handers) should be at least a half-inch below the end of the club. Experiment by gripping down even farther – a full inch or even two.
By shortening the club, you'll gain command over its movement and make a more compact swing. This leads to more solid contact, which will compensate for any distance lost by gripping down.
2. Maintain your spine angle
Raising up or dipping down during the swing can kill your ability to strike the ball flush. If your head bobs, the shoulders and spine move with it, changing the club's path.
Golfers who best maintain the spine angle from setup to follow-through are often outstanding ballstrikers. Tom Watson provides a great example. To learn Watson's secret, check out this video.
3. Practice balance and tempo
At the finish, are you poised on your left (lead) foot, rock-steady and looking at the target? Do you fall forward? Backward?
Balance may seem like the simplest, most easily achieved fundamental in golf, but millions of players struggle with it. This has much to do with weight distribution at address and during the swing; balance is also affected by the tempo or pace of your motion.
If balance has been an afterthought to you, consider this: It's impossible to play consistently well without it. There has never, ever been a great golfer with lousy balance. Integrate the feet-together drill into your practice routine and you will see results.
Top Three Ways to Improve Your Ballstriking
Golf is a game that is all about ballstirking. Sure, there are other elements to the game that matter – such as putting – but in the end, you need to be able to strike the ball cleanly from the start of your round all the way through to the finish. A player who is unable to hit the ball cleanly is always going to struggle to stay in position, and the game will remain extremely difficult no matter how much experience is gained. At some point, if you wish to lower your scores and play your best golf, you are going to have to learn how to strike the ball beautifully.
The good news is that the ballstriking is a skill that you can absolutely improve with the right amount of hard work and solid instruction. You have to have a clear plan for your ballstriking, and then you need to spend enough time on the practice range to learn how to put that plan into action. Hitting great golf shots is about more than just swinging hard and hoping for the best – the top players all have a clear idea in their head about what they want to do, and then they simply execute that idea when they start the swing.
Before getting too far into this article, it is probably a good idea to offer up a clear definition of ballstriking. Most golfers use the term ballstirking to refer to any shot that is hit with a full swing. So, if you are hitting a full seven iron or driver or any other club, that shot will fall into the category of ballstriking. On the other hand, if you are chipping or putting, you are dealing with the short game and you wouldn't necessarily describe those as 'ballstriking' shots. Of course, this distinction isn't written anywhere in the rules of the game – it is mostly just a term that golfers use when discussing their games with one another. Someone who is considered to be a good ballstriker is a golfer who excels from tee to green.
No matter what level of golf you are able to play currently, you can always stand to improve your ballstriking. In fact, even the best players in the world are constantly working to become more consistent in this area, as no one has ever mastered the game. There will always be room for improvement, which is one of the things that so many people love about the game of golf. If you are invested for the long run in playing your best, you will want to carve out time on the driving range to take your ball striking to a new level.
The content below is going to highlight three specific ways in which you can improve your ballstriking. Of course, there are far more than just these three points involved, but using the instruction provided below should help you to take a step forward with your full swing. All of the instruction that follows is based on a right handed golfer, so please take a moment to reverse these directions if you happen to play left handed.
#1 – Stay on Balance
Balance is always going to be one of the main fundamentals in the game of golf, and it certainly has a lot to do with becoming a great ballstriker. When you watch golf on TV, do you see players falling over to the left and right as they hit the ball? Of course not. Instead, the majority of the players are nicely controlled throughout the swing, using great balance to deliver the club into the back of the ball time after time. This is where great ballstirking is born. If you have dreams of hitting solid shots throughout each and every round that you play, focusing on balance should be your first step.
To get started, you should first evaluate the state of your balance in the swing that you are making right now. Do you do a good job of staying on balance, or are you consistently falling to one side or the other? It is easy to fall off balance when trying to swing too hard, so make sure you are staying within your power and speed comfort zone on every shot. It is great to hit the ball long distances, but not if you have to sacrifice balance in the process. Your goal should be simple – to swing as hard as possible while still staying on balance from start to finish.
One of the best ways to stay on balance is to start from a nicely balanced and athletic position. When you are standing over the ball, make sure there is a degree of flex in your knees and position your weight so that you are evenly balanced between your two feet. Once the club starts in motion, work hard to keep your weight in the center of your stance all the way through the backswing. Once you transition from backswing to downswing, your weight will start to move to the left as you rotate toward the target – and that is okay. From the top of the backswing to the finish you should be working on placing your weight nicely on top of your left foot. When everything is done correctly, your weight will be stacked on that left leg as you watch the ball soar down the middle of the fairway.
Another way to lose your balance, in addition to swinging too hard, is making a swing that is simply too long. You want to make a full shoulder turn in order to develop power, but that shouldn't turn shouldn't run on so far that it pushes you onto your right foot and out of balance for the downswing. The top of your swing should always be perfectly balanced, so cut your backswing down to a shorter length if necessary to hold your center of gravity steady.
If the only thing you do to your golf swing is improve your balance, you are going to instantly become a better ballstriker. There are plenty of other steps that you can take to get better from a ballstirking perspective, but this one step alone will go a long way toward raising your overall level of play. It is hard to emphasize enough the importance of learning how to stay on balance. During your next few practice sessions on the range, focus your efforts on becoming more balanced during the swing – you will love the results even after only practicing for a short period of time.
#2 – Relaxed Grip Pressure
Tension can kill a good golf swing. When you stand over the ball, you want to be as relaxed as possible – unfortunately, 'relaxed' is not a word that would be used to describe most amateur golfers as they prepare to hit a shot. Good ballstrikers remain relaxed from the start of the swing all the way through to the finish. If you would like to raise your level of ballstirking in the weeks and months to come, work on relaxing your entire body during the swing, starting with your grip.
Why does a relaxed grip help you strike the ball cleanly? When your hands aren't squeezing the grip as tightly as possible, you will be able to let the club head whip through the hitting area, which is exactly what needs to happen if you are going to create speed and power at impact. A tight grip will actually restrict the movement of the club head, meaning your swing will never generate as much distance as it could have with a softer grip. It might be difficult to relax your grip at first, but this is a point you are going to need to work through in order to hit your goals on the course.
To learn how to use a softer grip in your golf swing, start by hitting some basic chip and pitch shots using a light grip pressure. It is easier to learn on short shots because you won't be afraid of losing control of the club through the hitting area. Once you strike a few good chip shots, you can gradually amp up the speed and length of your swing until you are hitting full shots with your wedge. After you reach a point of hitting solid wedge shots with a light grip, go ahead and start to hit longer and longer clubs until you are smashing your driver with relaxed fingers. Obviously, you don't want to ever lose control of the club and have it go flying out of your hands, so the optimal grip pressure is going to be just tight enough to maintain control, but no tighter.
It is one thing to learn how to use a relaxed grip on the driving range – it is another thing altogether to learn how to use one on the course. Relaxing your grip during an actual round of golf is going to take some time and practice, but you can get there if you stick with it. Trust in the work that you have done on the range, and remember that it is rotational speed that produces power in the golf swing, not sheer force of muscle. As long as you are making a great turn back and through the ball, you won't need a tight grip in order to hit the ball a long way.
While it doesn't necessarily pertain specifically to ballstirking, a light grip pressure is also incredibly important in the short game. While chipping and putting, you want to focus on the same light grip that you have learned to use in your full swing. Using a light grip is going to give you a better touch on your short shots, and the short game is all about touch. Most amateur golfers lack the touch and feel to get the ball close to the hole regularly, but you will be a step ahead of the competition if you are able to hit each shot with a relaxed grip. This is an easier thing to learn for most golfers than the full swing, so you can use your soft short game grip to give you confidence for the longer shots.
#3 – Swing with Confidence
The best way to hit the ball cleanly is to simply expect to hit the ball cleanly right from the start of the swing. Obviously, this isn't a technical tip, but rather a mental one. However, the mental game is incredibly important in golf, and getting your mind in a good place prior to hitting a shot is just as important as having good technique. If you believe in yourself and your swing, you will see plenty of great results even if there are a couple of minor technical flaws in the way you move the club.
You need to have confidence to be a good ballstriker. At the same time, you really need to hit some good shots in order to build that confidence. So how do you get one without the other? This really is a 'chicken and the egg' kind of situation. Without confidence, you will never be at your best on the course, but you can't fake the confidence required to play great golf. Therefore, you have to spend time building confidence in a place where there is nothing on the line – at the driving range.
By hitting plenty of shots on the range, you can build up a base of confidence that you can use when you get out onto the course. By hitting good shots on the range, your mind will start to expect good results when you stand over the ball. Even though there won't be anything on the line while hitting range shots, you will still enjoy the feeling of seeing the ball sail directly toward your target time after time. The good shots that you hit on the range will gradually begin to stick in your mind, and you will suddenly believe in your abilities more than ever before. This process often has the same kind of reaction as a snowball rolling down a hill – as it continues to roll, it just gets bigger and bigger until it is unstoppable. Simply by getting started with some great shots on the range, you can put into motion a 'snowball' of confidence that will lead to you playing some of the best golf of your life.
To build confidence as quickly as possible on the range, it is important that you pick targets for each and everyone of your shots. After all, how are you supposed to evaluate your results if you aren't even aiming at a target? You won't have any way to know whether or not you hit a good shot if you didn't start by picking out a specific aim point. This is just a waste of time. Before walking up to each shot, decide on a target that makes sense for the club you have in your hand. Also, in addition to picking a target, pick a ball flight that you are going to use to get to that target. Are you going to hit a big draw, or maybe a small fade? Whatever it is, picture it in your mind and then make it happen. The more often you are able to match your plan to the actual outcome of the shot, the more your confidence will develop.
Good ballstirking requires the club to continue to accelerate all the way through impact, which is why confidence plays such a big role in the equation. If you slow the swing down leading up to contact because you aren't sure of the result, the quality of the hit that you get on the ball will suffer. It is almost impossible to play good shots with a decelerating swing, and yet most golfers do in fact slow down prior to impact because they lack the confidence to swing through aggressively. In order to turn it loose on each shot, you have to believe that the outcome is going to be a good one.
There is one last point that needs to be made relating to ballstirking and confidence. When you are confident, you will keep your head down on the ball all the way through impact, making it easier to hit the ball squarely. Unfortunately, if you lack confidence, you will be tempted to look up early to see where the ball is going. By looking up early, you take your entire upper body out of the shot, and poor contact will be the likely result. It is important to stay down, but you need to have confidence in your swing in order to keep your eyes where they belong – staring at the ball until it has been sent on its way. This is just another reason for you to work on developing your confidence. A confident swinger will generally be an excellent ballstriker, for all of the reasons included above.
Ballstriking is a crucial part of the game of golf. On that point, there is no debate. However, there is more to the game than just hitting a clean ball. In fact, you can spend some time watching other people hit shots on your local range to see that plenty of golfers can put themselves in the category of good ballstrikers. At the same time, those players might not possess the rest of the skills needed in order to produce good scores round after round. After all, it is only the score that you are able to post at the end of the day that is going to be remembered. Hitting a beautiful approach shot will be completely wasted if you walk onto the green and three putt.
The point is this – focus on your ballstirking, but focus on the rest of your game as well. It should be your goal to round out your playing ability as completely as possible, so that you don't feel as though there is one specific weakness in your game from tee to green. You will never master any one part of the game, but you should be working toward improving on your weaknesses while enhancing your strengths. If someone were to ask you what the worst part of your game is at the moment, you should have trouble answering that question because they are all so equal.
How do you get to a point where your game is consistent all around the course? Practice all of the shots that you will need! Instead of spending all of your time hitting balls, or spending all of your time putting, spread the practice time around evenly. As a good rule of thumb, you should try to spend 50% of your practice time on the long game and 50% on the short game. If you can do that during each and every trip to the practice area, you will certainly become a better player in the long run.
As it pertains to ballstriking, remember to work on each of the three tips that have been offered up in this article. Working on your balance will make you a better golfer, as will using a relaxed grip pressure and having confidence in your swing. While balance is certainly the most important of those three points, each of them will take you significantly closer to the goal of playing great golf round after round.
Being known as a good ballstriker by your friends and competitors on the course is a great compliment. While ballstriking alone isn't going to take you where you want to go on the course, it is a big first step. Once you know that you can rely on your ballstriking to show up each and every day, you can then move on to working on the rest of your skills in order to round everything out nicely. Playing golf without the fear of any one specific shot is a great feeling. Get to work on your ballstirking (and the rest of your shots) as soon as possible to get moving in the right direction.