A common problem in golf for beginning and inexperienced players is trusting the loft of their clubs to get the ball airborne. Often times with these players you will see motions through the impact zone that are referred to as “scooping” whereby the golfer adds loft to the club in an effort to help get the ball in the air.
However, looking at the impact zones of tour professionals, you see quite a contrast. For these advanced players, their hands are ahead at impact which lessens the effective loft of the club. Basically, when you see a pro hitting an 8 iron, because his or her hands are ahead at impact, the loft performs more like a 7 iron. This is one of many reasons the tour pros hit the ball so far. They dont try to help the ball in the air by manipulating their hands and wrists, they actually COMPRESS the ball into the ground. They trust that the loft and grooves on the club will launch the spinning, dimpled ball into the air creating the lift phenomenon.
If getting the ball up in the air is one of your problems and you suspect that you're not compressing the ball then here are a few concepts, drills, and tips to help get you hitting longer, straighter and in your case especially, higher golf shots.
- Make sure that you are maintaining the angle formed by the left arm and club on the downswing instead of what is commonly referred to as casting, or releasing the club too early. A good drill for this that I picked up from Jim Hardy is to imagine yourself having to make your downswing in a pool that is filled up to your waist. You want to make sure that the butt end of the club and your hands enter the water before the club head.
- During the latter stage of the downswing, think of turning the knuckles of your left hand (for a right handed golfer) to the ground through impact. During contact, the back of your left wrist should be flat (pictured), matching your square clubface, and facing a line parallel to your target line.
- For some people, a stronger or more closed face grip helps in getting the hands ahead at impact for a solid strike. To try this out, take your normal grip and then loosen your hands and rotate the face closed about 10 to 20 degrees depending on how much of a change you want to experiment with. With the clubface closed, now put your old grip on and rotate your hands until the face is square. A lot of golfers may be getting their hands ahead at impact but in doing so, they leave the club face well open to the target line. This “stronger” grip is a quick fix to help you get the handle leading through impact with a square face.
- To hit proper chip and pitch shots requires very similar impact positions to the full swing. Try working on these shorter shots making sure the hands lead through impact. Once you feel more comfortable with this motion, you can move up to fuller swings.
- Hitting proper irons shots requires compressing the ball and making a divot. If you find this especially difficult, a good alternative for many players is to replace their irons with easier to hit hybrids and fairway woods which perform optimally with a more shallow angle of attack. Not only do these clubs tend to fly higher, but they are longer and easier to hit, too. Check out Thomas Golfs line of premium hybrids and fairway woods which have patented alignment technology to also help you hit the ball straighter. They are available in individual clubs and even full sets including lofts to replace your wedges.
Hit down on the ball How
The primary component in hitting down on the ball is the angle of the shaft at impact. Short irons will lean forward more at impact than longer clubs. Part of the reason the shaft leans more is that the ball position is further back in the stance with shorter irons promoting a steeper angle of attack and producing more spin and lift. Even the driver should have a slight lean to the left with the hands positioned ahead of the club head. Although the angle of descent is less, it is still present. Practice these drills to help you learn how to lean your shaft on both short and long shots.
- Drag the ball Downhill Just as the title says, you need to find a downhill lie first. Place the golf ball near the back of your stance. Lean the shaft left (for a righty) and drag the ball keeping the forward angle of the shaft intact by turning at the same time you are dragging. The downhill lie creates the feeling of a steep angle of attack. Do this drill slowly so that you can get a feel for the hands being ahead of the club head.
- Impact Position Drill
If you do not have an impact bag use something that will not hurt your club while practicing this drill. Put your club down behind the impact bag. Press your hands forward slightly to get the shaft leaning. As with the drill above keep your body, arms and hands moving as if in a downswing. This drill is a bit more dynamic because once you get a feel of leaning the shaft forward slowly you can then take a swing at the bag trying to ensure you feel the same shaft lean at impact.
- Punch Shots
With punch shots you should set up with the ball in the back of your stance. If you drop your left foot back you will feel your weight shift forward slightly. Press the hands forward a little. While keeping the weight left try to maintain the forward shaft lean back and through the shot. Once you are consistent with your ball contact then move the ball more forward in your stance and bring your feet back to a normal full swing position. Hit some full shots. Try to recreate the shaft lean you felt with your punch shots.
- Swing Over the Towel
For this drill you can use a towel, range ball bag or glove. Place the towel about 6 inches behind
your ball to start with. Hit the ball as normal while trying to avoid hitting the towel.
Move the towel closer to the ball and inch at a time when you become proficient at avoiding it on the downswing. Keep moving the towel forward until you are hitting the ground after you hit the golf ball.
Hit down on the ball issues
The golf swing is many times described in just two ways; the backswing and the downswing.
If everyone has a downswing, then why are golfers so concerned with hitting down on the ball? What does hitting down on the ball really mean? It means that the club head is still descending when it hits the ball. By developing a swing where the hands are in front of the ball at impact you can hit down on the ball, create back spin and lift and hit longer shots.
If you have a shallow swing and scoop your shots then you are catching the ball just ahead of the bottom of your swing. These are some of the causes of scooping or hitting up on the ball: Early release
- Ball Position too far forward.
- Arms bending at impact
- Body moving away from the ball on the downswing
- Changing the bottom of downswing during the swing.
Its very possible that one of these 5 issues is something you are currently dealing with or have in the past. Lets explore the issues and solutions of each.
- Early release
An early release will cause a shallow angle of attack. Many times it is caused by turning the torso first on the downswing and instead of swinging the arms down. The hips should begin to turn and the arms should then start swinging down, staying in front of your chest. If you are unable to do this with practice it may be that your back and/or abdominal muscles are weak.
- Ball position
If your ball is too far forward in your stance you will be forced to make adjustments in order to hit down on the ball. The adjustments cause more problems than hitting down on the ball are worth. Your body will need to move ahead in order to insure the hands can get in front of the ball at impact and it could make it difficult to hold your release. The most common adjustment to having the ball too far back in the stance is to hang back on the right side too long on the downswing and flip the hands. The result would be a high, weak shot.
- Arms bending at impact
Sometimes golfers will attempt to hit down on the ball by moving the entire body towards the ball on the downswing. When they do this the arms are unable to extend for fear of hitting the ground. The result is a bent left arm at impact. The hands are in line with the club and unable to get ahead of the club head at impact.
- Body moving away from the ball on the downswing
Whether caused by poor balance, timing issues or being too close to the ball at address, moving your body away from the ball at impact negates any chance you have at hitting down at the ball. Moving away from the ball will cause the arms to straighten early and prevent the hands from getting ahead of the ball at impact.
- Changing the bottom of the downswing during the swing
The bottom of your downswing is regulated by the placement of your upper body, from the sternum to the head. The point the arms will straighten is dependent on where the sternum is positioned. If the spine tilts too much to the right or left during the swing then its likely you will hit behind the ball (tilting too much to the right) or hit it thin (tilting too much to the left.) If the upper body moves closer to the ball the arms cant extend and if it moves further away the arms straighten too early.
Ideally you would like for the arms to straighten just after impact.
Having your hands ahead of the club head at impact is essential to hitting down on the ball.
These five issues can make it difficult to do that. Address these issues first and then practice
ways that will help you keep your hands ahead at impact.
Hit down on it club specs
Not all clubs produce the same amount of spin. The spin should correlate with the type of shot you need to hit and the club you will be using. Too much spin and your shots will lose power as they balloon. If you dont have enough spin your shots will come off flat.
When hitting wedges the spin rate may climb up to 7,000- 10,000 rpms if you have a steep angle of attack and also have a lot of bounce on the club. Wedges spin best when hit at a downward angle and the ball contacts the bottom half of the clubface. A steep angle of attack along with the loft of the club, the launch angle it produces and the high spin rate help create a high shot that holds well on the greens.
Golfers will usually open their stance slightly in order to hit a wedge shot. It regulates the length of the backswing and also places the bottom of the downswing ahead of the ball at address. An open stance is one of the simplest ways for an amateur to work on swinging down at the ball with wedges.
A longer club, such as a 7-iron, will require your hands to be forward of the club head at impact to produce the spin and launch angle needed for maximum distance. Your angle of attack is what will effect the spin most for the low to mid-irons. If you have an average swing speed (80-90 mph) the spin rates on irons should correspond closely to the number of iron you are using in the thousands.
That is, a 7 iron should be close to 7000 rpms.
Hybrids are built to have greater launch angles which will help the ball get up quickly and carry further.
It is easier to produce a more downward angle of attack with a hybrid as opposed to a fairway wood because of the shorter shaft and the depth of the face.
Professional fitters uses statistics from individual shots to analyze whether you are producing the correct spin rate and launch angle. Drivers by far are the most analyzed of clubs and because of this we know a lot more about the correlation between ball speed, launch angle and spin rate for them. The slower the ball speed the more launch angle is needed to get the ball in the air quickly.
More spin is needed for slow swingers to maintain air time and increase carry. While professionals with swing speeds around 115 mph can hit low lofted drivers, amateurs typically need much more loft to produce the longest shots possible for their slower swing speed. Most amateurs do not have enough loft on their drivers. With a swing speed of 80-90 mph its not uncommon to need a 12-13 degree driver to capitalize on distance.
The spin rate for professionals is around 2500-2800 rpms while amateurs do better when their spin rate is around 3200-3500. Remember, spin increases lift. If an amateur with a swing speed of 90 mph were to hit a 7 degree driver with a 2500 rpm spin rate, the ball will not carry very far.
Hitting down on the ball is essential to producing shots spin that will carry the ball longer.
For amateurs, more spin is better than no spin because of its lifting effect. As for professionals, they create a large amount of spin because of their consistent sharp angle of attack. Equipment adjustments can help them reduce spin on their shots.
Hit down on it equipment
A good impact position is where the hands are in front of the ball at impact. In this position you can hit down on the ball, create back spin and lift and hit longer shots. Equipment is an important factor in manufacturing shots that produce the correct amount of back spin, lift and drag for you.
There are many factors that lead to the aerodynamics of how a golf ball flies off of your clubface.
Angle of descent is one of those elements. Some of the others influences are: Ball Speed
1. Launch Angle
3. Loft of the club
4. Swing speed
5. Shaft characteristics
6. The force and mass of the club
7. The dimples on the golf ball
All of these variables and more come together to effect ball flight. It is possible a golfer could hit a ball at the beginning of the upswing and still hit the ball in the air. Providing there is average contact between the ball and the clubface, the loft on the club and the angle of ascent together will propel the ball up. However, the length of this shot would be considerably less than if the ball had been hit while the club was descending. A club has a “true” loft built into the face, but the upward swinging angle of the club would add even more loft to the shot. Loss of distance is a major reason why many feel you MUST hit down on the ball.
If you were to take a practice swing with a proper release, then the point at which the club hits the ground should be just ahead of the center of your chest. If you were to place the ball opposite of your sternum at address and then move your chest just ahead of the golf ball, your hands will be pushed forward slightly. By moving your chest you have changed the bottom of your downswing to be ahead of the ball. And because your hands are in front of the ball, you will be hitting “down” on the ball at impact.
If you have a slow swing speed you will struggle trying to hit down on the ball by making swing changes. However, you still have hope by having your equipment fit for your golf swing. Here are some considerations.
- Launch Angle and Spin and Loft of the Club
We will bunch these three factors together because there is a direct relationship between
them and how far the ball will carry. If we were to study a golfer with 130 mph ball speed
(the speed of the ball when it leaves the club face) you would see that he/she would need a greater launch angle than a professional with a 115 mph swing
If he/she were given a 7 degree driver the golfer with 130 mph ball speed would have trouble
creating enough spin to make the ball fly. Distance would be restricted greatly.
Give that same golfer a driver with 11-13 degrees of loft and the spin rate would increase,
the launch angle would increase and the ball flight would be longer because of the additional carry.
- The dimples on the golf ball
The air flow created by dimples on the golf ball create spin, reduce drag and produce lift.
Smooth golf balls create nothing but a smooth airflow that will not carry or lift the ball.
Dimple patterns have been toyed with for years. A bunch of small dimples don't create enough
turbulence for lift and have a similar effect as if you were hitting a smooth golf ball.
Shallow dimples allow for the air flow to stay close to the ball and because the air
is turbulent, will create lift. The reason drag is reduced is because the air flow stays
close to the ball all the way behind it. There is less resistance.
Ball fitting is legitimate and should be examined!
- Shaft characteristics
The basic components of a shaft consist of weight, flex and bend point. In order to hit
down on the ball to create backspin a proper shaft should be fitted for your swing.
If you have a slower swing speed and tend to release early you might benefit by
having a lighter shaft, softer flex and a bend point that is towards the club head.
Its difficult for a player with a slow swing speed to hit the ball with the hands in front
of the ball at impact. A lighter shaft can be swung faster. A softer flex and lower bend point
will have a better chance of creating enough flex that at the bottom of the swing the
club head will lag behind the hands creating a more downward angle on the golf ball.
If you have a faster swing speed (above 95 mph) then a flexible club can create too
much club head lag and produces too much spin.
Fitting your equipment to your swing may be your solution to hitting down on the
ball in order to make it go up and carry further.
Hit down on it why
Why You Need to Hit Down on the ball to Make it Go Up In order to understand why the ball goes up after you hit down on it, you need to know the basics of aerodynamics pertaining to ball flight.
When a club compresses a golf ball and sends it airborne, immediately the ball encounters resistance.
The are many elements and variables that effect how far, how high and which direction the ball flies.
The downward angle that the club descends from produces backspin on the golf ball. As the ball is propelled against the air, there is a flow created around the golf ball.
Sports cars are built to have minimal resistance of air flow so that they can go faster with less effort. Cars don't fly and therefore they don't need lift. A golf ball requires lift and it needs to be projected with loft. Dimples provide enough lift so that a ball hit with any speed and a lofted club swung on a downward angle will fly in the air.
Dimples can allow the air to stay around the ball longer creating a greater amount of drag, or a downward force we know as gravity. Back spin creates the upward lift. The air will move in the opposite direction of its spin. If the ball is spinning backwards the front end of the golf ball is lifted. If the ball spins forward than it spins the ball toward the ground instead of away.
The smooth design of a sports car body encourages the air to flow around the car efficiently with the least amount of resistance.
But how much lift does the golf ball require to gain maximum distance? The answer is that it depends. It depends on the golfers swing speed and the ball speed he or she produces. It depends on the loft of the club being used. And it depends on the angle of attack the golfer uses.
Technology used to provide exact results in regards to launch angle, spin rate and ball speed are very useful in club fitting. These devices and programs are also used to diagnose swing faults and help pinpoint distance and control issues. Lets use the driver as an example since it is the most widely evaluated club by these ball flight analyzers.
Most average golfers have swing speeds of under 100 miles per hours. Better players have upwards of 120 mph swing speed producing ball speeds approaching 190 mph. The faster the ball speed the less spin and launch angle is needed.
Therefore, average golfers should have more spin and a greater launch angle than professional golfers for maximum carry and distance.
If a ball were hit with no spin or top spin the trajectory of the ball would be flat. The ball hit with back spin will lift and enable the ball to be carried further. Spin rate has more influence on distance the launch angle. Excessive spin is better than too little spin because the ball will at least carry with more spin. And now we have to answer the question, “What creates spin?” The angle of attack on the downswing.
In order to create backspin the ball must be struck on the bottom half of the golf ball.
Striking the ball on the upper half will produce top spin. In general, if the hands are in front of the ball at impact then the club will have sufficient downward angle to strike the bottom half of the club. The primary reason that professionals use lower lofted clubs than average amateurs is because their swings produce the downward angle consistently.
Their hands are in front of the ball.
The ball speed combined with the angle of attack allows for the ball to be projected with less back spin and lower loft to create a boring shot that will carry a long way without losing as much speed as a golfer with a slow swing speed.