There’s only one good thing about hitting the ball off the toe (outer end) of the club: it means you’re a long way from shanking it off the hosel. Otherwise, toe contact is no good, decreasing both distance and accuracy.
Many golfers who suffer from toe hits have an outside-to-inside clubhead path. While there are numerous potential reasons for this, setting up with the shoulders open to the target line (aimed left for a right-hander) is a common cause of toe contact.
Check your shoulder alignment by addressing the ball and looking at the position of your arms. If your right arm is above the left, or closer to the target line, your shoulders are open. Turn the left shoulder inward until the arms are even. This is easy to check before every swing, and to correct if necessary.
A second cause of toe hits is the body raising up before impact; in other words, failing to maintain your spine angle. When the upper body moves upward, the club is pulled away from the ball, delivering the toe rather than the sweet spot at impact.
On the range, have a friend stand directly in front of or behind you and place a hand or the butt end of a club on top of your head as you swing. If your head comes up before impact, it will be obvious.
Here’s an everyday drill to instill a consistent spine angle:
- Stand upright and place a club across your shoulders, behind your neck, and hold it in place with the wrists or hands.
- Turn your shoulders to the right as you would when making a backswing; rotate back to the left in the same manner, all while remaining in an upright position. Repeat several times.
- The club should stay parallel to the ground as you turn in each direction.
- Now, move into your golf stance, bending at the hips (not the waist), with the club across the shoulders in the manner described above.
- Rotate the shoulders slowly right, then left, as though hitting a golf ball. Keep your shoulder level consistent and level from setup to follow-through.
Watch yourself perform this drill with a mirror to your right. This will show you if you’re maintaining the spine angle on the backswing. Reverse directions to put the mirror on your left to check your posture coming through the ball.
This is a great drill to repeat on a regular basis to ingrain and repeat a consistent spine angle.
Golf Shots off the Toe Can Cause Real Problems in Your Game
It probably isn’t news to you that it is important to hit the sweet spot on your golf club when you make contact with the ball. The center of your club face is going to be the best possible place to strike the ball because it provides the greatest transfer of energy from the club into the ball – meaning maximum distance on your shots. If you were able to make contact with the ball on the sweet spot for every shot that you hit, you would be amazed at the improvement in performance that you would experience.
Obviously, doing so isn’t quite as easy as you would like. With the club moving at a speed of up to 100 miles per hour or more, getting the club centered on the back of the ball is a task that takes precision and excellent mechanics. Leaving it up to hand-eye coordination at impact to get the club centered on the ball is not a strategy that is going to pay off because there simply isn’t enough time to manipulate the club effectively as it rips through the hitting zone. If you want to find the sweet spot time after time, proper technique and consistent practice are going to be your best friends.
The content below is going to deal with off the toe golf shots. There are two general places you can miss with your impact – off the toe, and in off the heel. Since toe golf shots are more common than are heeled shots, it is useful to take a closer look at what causes toe hits in golf, and what can be done to correct the problem. Most of the time, you won’t need a radical swing change in order to get yourself straightened out. Even just by making a couple simple tweaks and doing a couple basic drills, you can get your impact position ironed out in no time.
As you work on how to stop hitting golf shots off the toe, you need to keep an open mind and realize that there may be issues in your swing that you aren’t currently aware of. When you are struggling hitting golf ball on toe of the club, that is a sure sign there is a mechanic issue somewhere hiding within your swing. However, by reading through the content below, you should gain a good understanding of what causes toe hits in golf and what steps you need to take to eliminate this problem from your game.
Please note that all of the instruction you will find below is based on a right handed golfer. For those of you who play the game left handed, simply reverse the directions so that they apply correctly to your swing. If you are ready to learn how to stop hitting golf shots off the toe, let’s get started.
Two Potential Causes at Impact
Before you can seek out the mechanical issue in your swing to get it fixed, you first need to figure out what your body is doing at impact to generate the toe golf shots in the first place. It is important to note that what you are doing at impact might not be the root cause of the problem – it may be an effect of something that is happening earlier in the motion. However, you need to start by looking at impact and then work your way back from there until the cause is uncovered.
When you take a look at your impact position, and the final moments leading up to it, you are likely to see one of two problems leading to your golf swing toe hits. To make it easier to evaluate your swing at impact, it is recommended that you ask a friend to take a video recording of your swing from the ‘down the line’ position (that means that the person with the camera is standing a few feet behind you along the target line). If you have a relatively new smartphone, you likely already have a camera that is more than capable of taking the video. Even just capturing a couple of your swings on the driving range on video should be plenty to review and determine the problem.
The first possible issue that you can find at impact which can lead to toe hits is an early release of the club by your hands and forearms.
Ideally, your hands will be the last thing to release through the ball after your body is done rotating out of the way toward the target. Some golfers, however, have a tendency to release the club early which can lead to hitting the ball off the toe. You should be able to see this on video by watching the position of the club face in the final few frames as it approaches the ball. If it looks like the club face is turning down too much as it gets near impact, you can be sure that your hands are releasing too early. This error is often accompanied by shots that are pulled to the left of the target line. So, if you are hitting shots that frequently come up short and left of the target, an early release is a very likely culprit.
If that isn’t the problem that you are dealing with, look to the position of your body as a whole at impact. Are you lifting up from the level you started your swing at? Specifically, check the position of your head compare to when you started the swing. If it is higher at impact than it was at address, there is a good chance that this is what is leading to the shots off the toe. As your body lifts up, it moves the club slightly away from the ball, causing impact to occur off the toe instead of right on the sweet spot. It doesn’t take much movement from your body to throw off an otherwise good swing, so carefully review your video for even minor movements up and away from the ball.
While there is a great chance that one of those two impact position problems exists in your swing, that doesn’t solve the matter just yet. Those swing issues are going to be the result of something that you have done wrong earlier in the swing, so we need to get to the root cause before you are going to be able to fix it. It might take a little work to solve the problem of hitting golf ball on toe of the club, but your efforts will be rewarded.
Solving the Early Release of the Club Head
For golfers who have determined that the early release is the cause of their toe impact, the following tips should help lead to a successful resolution.
- Check your sequencing at the top. The top of your backswing is the most crucial part of the swing as a whole, because so many things can go right or wrong at this point. One thing you want to pay careful attention to is the sequencing of your swing as you transition from back to forward. What you should see is that your legs are going first, followed by your torso, and then finally your arms. If that sequence is not correct, you are going to have trouble release the club at the right moment during the downswing. Many amateur golfers struggle with getting their legs to initiate the downswing like they should. Watch your swing video and notice which part of your body is transitioning from backswing to downswing first – if it is anything other than your legs, you know what you need to work on.
- Weaken your grip. As you look down at your grip from the address position, you should see between two and three of the knuckles on the back of your left hand. If you see more than that – such as all four of them – your grip might be too ‘strong’. Using this kind of grip puts a lot of power into your hands, and may be leading to an early release. Try turning both hands slightly to the left on the grip (as you are looking down at address), then hit a few shots. This weaker grip position will probably feel uncomfortable at first, but it might do the trick in terms of timing out your release properly.
- Tighten up your backswing. Sometimes you can create problems in your swing simply by taking too long of a backswing. If you are letting the club drift past the parallel position at the top of your backswing, this could be the cause of your early release. Try stabilizing your lower body early in the swing by not allowing so much movement in your right knee. That should, in turn, shorten your backswing and give you a better chance to find the sweet spot of the club face at impact.
It is best to work on each of these tips one at a time so you can be sure which one was causing the problem in the first place. If you try to change all three elements right at the same time, you won’t necessarily know which one it was that helped get you back on track. That information is important because if you happen to deal with the problem again later on, you need to know how you solved it so you can make the correction faster next time around.
At first, you should just be focused on getting your impact position back near the center of the club face. It is okay (for now) if you aren’t hitting great shots. Simply set a goal to make better contact and hit a higher percentage of your shots on the sweet spot. After you put in more practice time on the driving range, you will get more comfortable making good contact and you can turn your attention to making sure those shots are flying in the right direction.
Solving the Body Position Issue
If an early release wasn’t at the heart of your toe hit issues, you are probably fighting a body position problem at impact. Fortunately, this too can be fixed relatively quickly as long as you take the right steps and put in a little time on the practice range. Use the tips below to make the changes necessary to work through this swing fault.
- Crouch at the top. Standing up too tall at impact can actually be caused by crouching down into your stance at the top of the swing. If you allow your knees to flex too much when you reach the top of the backswing, you won’t have a choice but to stand up a little bit on the downswing just to make room for the club. This can lead to ‘coming out of the shot’ as you rotate through impact. Ideally, you will be able to maintain the same level throughout the swing and simply rotate to your right on the backswing and back left on the follow through. There should be as little up and down motion in your body as possible throughout the swing.
- Reaching for more power. In this case, your problem could be more physical than mental. Some golfers, feeling like they need to swing as hard as possible through the shot, start to get up on their toes in an effort to generate more swing speed. Not only will this have very little effect on the power of your swing, it will make it difficult to find the sweet spot at impact. Resist this temptation and keep your front foot as flat on the ground as possible during the swing.
- No knee flex at address. A common amateur golfer problem is to stand too straight up and down at address, without any flex in the knees. You might be able to get away with this during your backswing, but you will really start to pay for it as the club comes down into the ball. Your upper body will likely straighten up a little bit due to the power of your rotation toward the target, and your legs won’t be able to support the swing because they aren’t engaged. This kind of swing often leads to a slice, but it can create some shots hit off the toe as well. Try to feel as athletic as possible at address to avoid this mistake.
Fixing your body position at impact often comes down to simply doing the fundamentals correctly in your swing. If you are able to get into a good address position, make a controlled turn, and maintain good posture throughout the swing, you should be fine. Many golfers like to look for complicated solutions to their swing problems, but more often than not the issue is something basic that can be corrected with minimal time and effort.
Before you go making radical swing changes to try fixing the problem of hitting the ball off the toe of the club, work on your basic fundamentals. It is rare that a complete swing overhaul would be needed to correct such a basic problem. Remember, the more things you change in your swing, the longer it will take to make those changes work for you. Keep it as simple as possible, and focus on the goal of solid impact between the ball and the center of the club face.
Some Basic Swing Drills
Working on a few swing drills during your practice sessions is a great way to reinforce the mechanics that you should be using to hit the ball of the sweet spot of your club. These drills don’t necessarily relate to any one swing fault in particular – they are simply designed to help you dial in your ability to hit solid shots that avoid both the toe and the heel of the club.
The first drill for you to work on is a simple pitching drill – you can do this one either on the driving range, or even in the short game practice area if there is enough space. You will need just a few golf balls, and a pitching wedge or other short iron. Instead of using your regular pitching motion to hit these shots, you want to take your hands and wrists completely out of the equation and just use your shoulders and torso to move the club back and through. The end result will be a ‘swing’ that looks pretty awkward, with your arms locked straight out in front of you. Making this modified swing, try your best to hit the ball in the center of the club face as many times in a row as you can. You want to get used to the feeling of the ball coming off the sweet spot of the club.
While this isn’t a swing that you are going to actually use on the course, this drill does have significant value. If you have been fighting your swing for a long period of time, you might not have hit very many shots off the sweet spot in recent rounds. At some point, you will forget what it feels like to make solid contact right in the middle of the club face. This drill is meant to remind you of that feeling. You should notice a solid feeling all the way up the club and into your hands and arms. When the ball is struck properly, there is a clear ‘click’ sound made at impact, and the feeling is unmistakable.
Using this drill to hit a few short shots right off the center of the face will start you back down the path toward hitting solid shots.
The other drill for you to work on is one of the best overall drills to improve the ball striking of any golfer. Basically, you are going to take a mid-iron (6-8) and hit some punch shots on the driving range. Try to hit the ball lower than usual by placing it back in your stance and hitting down through the shot into an abbreviated finish position. Punch shots are useful on the course for avoiding trees or even wind, but they are just as good on the driving range for sorting out swing problems. Why do they work so well? Because they go after both the swing issues highlighted earlier – early release, and standing up out of the shot. You can’t make either one of those mistakes and hit a good punch shot, so it is the perfect drill to solve your golf swing toe hits problem.
Try hitting five punch shots in a row, followed by three full swings. Go back and forth between punch shots and full swings until you have the right feelings transferring into your full swing and the toe impact problem goes away. Not only can this drill quickly solve the problem of poor contact, it will also help you get more comfortable hitting punch shots – which can definitely come in handy in a variety of situations on the course.
If you are currently frustrated by your inability to hit the ball off the sweet spot of the club, don’t worry. While you might feel like your swing is way off at the moment, you are probably closer than you think to getting the problem fixed. Take the time to record your swing on video and watch it back to determine exactly why you are struggling with hitting the ball toward the toe of the club. With the problem diagnosed, it shouldn’t take long at all to work through your swing mechanics and find the root cause of the issue. If necessary, take a little bit of time away from the course to just hit balls on the driving range until you solve the problem and start hitting the ball off the sweet spot once again. A huge part of the puzzle when it comes to playing good golf is simply making solid contact, so work on getting this right and your game could take a big step forward.