One of golfs most deflating mishits is the “fat” golf shot, when the club strikes the ground before the ball. Fat shots typically occur with an iron in hand and may be rooted in any number of swing faults.
A poor weight shift is a common culprit. Failure to pivot from the right side to the left on the downswing moves the bottom of your swing arc to a spot behind the ball.
Improve your golf swing weight shift and strike ball before ground using this classic drill:
1. With any club shorter than a 5-iron, take your usual address with the ball positioned at or near the middle of your stance.
2. Lift your right heel off the ground, balancing on the toes.
3. Make your normal golf swing.
4. From this position, the club will travel downward through impact. Your divots should start just in front of where the ball was sitting.
Once you get the hang of it, go a step further and swing with your right foot entirely off the ground.
Practice this drill until you groove an action that strikes down on the ball. Just be careful not to place too much weight on your left side, which can cause pushed shots and slices.
Hitting Fat Shots on the Golf Course Can Ruin Your Game
There aren't very many shots that you can hit on the golf course which will be more frustrating than a fat shot. A golf shot is considered fat when you hit the ground prior to hitting the ball. This mistake means that the club loses almost all of its speed before hitting the shot, and the ball usually wont travel very far. If you are trying to hit over some kind of trouble on that particular shot, such as a pond or a bunker, your ball is likely going to come up short and land in the hazard. Hitting your shots the right distance is a key skill on the golf course, and you can only do that consistently if you can avoid hitting fat shots.
One of the frustrating aspects of hitting fat shots is that you will probably feel like you are close to making a good swing – and you probably are right. While the result of a fat shot can look terrible when your ball only flies a few yards, it doesn't necessary mean that your swing is actually that far off track. Since hitting the turf only an inch or so behind the ball can turn an otherwise good swing into a bad one, there is very little margin for error. By correcting even small mistakes in your swing technique you can start to remove the fat shots from your game and hit the ball more reliable distances hole after hole.
Unfortunately, it is possible to hit fat shots with each and every club in the bag. Most golfers think about irons when they remember shots that they have hit fat in the past, but it is also a problem with the driver – and yes, even the putter. Even having just one or two fat shots pop up during a round can do major damage to your scorecard, so it is important that you iron out your technique and do your best to avoid making this mistake on the course.
Before getting into the physical causes of fat shots, it is important to discuss how the mental game plays into this issue. As you already know, confidence is a big part of playing good golf. Not only does confidence help you hold up under pressure, but it also helps your swing perform better when you have to face a challenging shot – such as an iron shot over water to the green. Many golfers who struggle with fat shots don't even have a big technical flaw in their swing. Instead, they just lack the confidence to execute that swing when it counts. Before you go off to the driving range to make major mechanical changes in order to get rid of the fat shots, make sure your mind is in a good place and you are playing the game with the confidence required to execute a quality swing.
All of the instructions below are written based on a right handed golfer. Left handed players will need to reverse the directions in order to apply them correctly.
Hitting Your Iron and Hybrid Shots Fat
As mentioned earlier, it is possible to hit fat shots with any of the clubs in your bag. However, is it most likely the irons or hybrids that will give you the biggest amount of trouble when it comes to this mistake. Plenty of amateur golfers struggle to avoid fat shots with their irons, especially when playing from tight lies in the fairway. To reduce your frustration on the course, and reduce your scores at the same time, striking the ball cleanly should be something that is high on your priority list.
Following is a list of three swing mistakes that could be leading to your problem with fat shots.
- Weight moving the wrong direction. Among amateur players, this is probably the leading cause of fat shots. When the club swings down toward the ball, you need to have your weight moving left as your body turns toward the target. If this doesn't happen, a fat shot is likely going to result. The bottom of your swing arc will almost always match up with the position of your center of gravity during the swing – so if your center of gravity doesn't move left far enough to reach the ball, the club will bottom out too soon and strike the turf before the ball. To figure out if this is the cause of your fat shots, check your finish position after you complete a swing. How is your weight distributed? If you have a significant amount of your weight on your right foot after the swing is over, there is a problem. Work on getting more of your weight onto your left side in the finish position and the fat shot issue might just take care of itself.
- Trying to lift the ball. Your irons have loft for a reason – so the club can do the work of getting the ball up into the air for you. As long as you hit down through the shot and make solid contact with the back of the ball, you should have no trouble getting the ball to float up nicely into the sky. However, if you try to help the ball get off the ground by scooping it instead of hitting down through it, you may run into trouble with fat shots. Many golfers make the mistake of thinking that they have to lift the ball into the air, so they try to hit up through the shot at impact. Don't fall into that trap. Hit down through your iron shots and trust that the loft of the club will do the rest.
- Swinging too steep. While it is a problem when you try to lift the ball into the air, the opposite mistake can be just as damaging to your game. A swing that is coming down into impact on an angle that is too steep is very likely to create a fat shot as well. This problem is usually caused by a lack of lower body rotation in the downswing. When you start the club down toward the ball, your body should be turning out of the way to make room for your hands and arms to swing through the shot. However, if you fail to turn enough, your arms will be forced to take a steeper path down into the ball. Not only will you likely hit the shot fat when this happens, but there usually will be slice spin added to the ball as well. Correct your steep plane by working on your balance and practicing the rotation of your body in the downswing.
The three mistakes above will cover just about every golfer who struggles with hitting fat iron shots. As long as you can avoid making any of those mistakes, you should be able to avoid hitting behind the ball when playing your irons from the fairway or off the tee.
The Dreaded Fat Shot with a Driver
If a fat shot with one of your irons can be damaging to your score, a fat shot with the driver can be even worse. Most golf courses are designed in such a way that the fairway doesn't even start for 50 or even 100 yards off the tee – that means that you need to carry the ball at least that far in the air to reach the short grass. When you hit your driver fat, there is a good chance that you will come up short of that distance and have to play your next shot from a rather difficult position. Simply avoiding fat shots with the driver and striking the ball cleanly as often as possible can go a long way toward improving your scores.
In the case of driver fat shots, the mistake is usually the same across almost every golfer, and it is a mistake that can also be found on the list of iron swing mistakes above. Weight transfer problems are what normally will cause you to hit a driver shot fat. Since the driver swing is the longest one you make, any issues that you have with your weight transfer or balance are going to be highlighted. When you fail to get the majority of your weight onto your left side at impact, the club is likely to bottom out early and a fat shot may be the result. Considering how damaging this kind of shot can be to your score, it is obviously important to get this issue sorted out as quickly as possible.
To look for the solution, try starting by making a shorter backswing. Many golfers, in an effort to hit the ball as far as possible, make an extremely long backswing with their driver. That long backswing will often pull them too far onto their right side at the top of the swing, making it nearly impossible to get back to the left side in time for impact. When you shorten up the length of your backswing with the driver, it will be easier to maintain your balance and to get your weight started moving to the left as soon as the club makes the transition into the downswing. Don't worry – as long as you execute the swing properly, a shorter backswing wont mean that you lose distance. In fact, you will probably gain distance because you will be making better contact with the ball on a regular basis.
While not as common, teeing the ball up too low can also be a cause of hitting fat shots with the driver. If you have purchased your driver within the last 10 years or so, there is a good chance that the head is 460ccs in size. That large club head requires space underneath the ball in order to hit the sweet spot consistently. If you are teeing the ball up too low, you will need to scrape the bottom of your driver very close to the ground at impact to hit a solid drive. Try teeing the ball up so that half of the ball is above the top of the driver at address – this tee height will give you plenty of space to hit up through the shot and avoid making contact with the turf on the way through.
Fairway Woods Can Cause Problems, Too
Hitting your fairway woods requires a swing that is similar to the one you use with your driver, however you will often be hitting the ball right off of the turf instead of a tee. That means that you need to strike the ball cleanly in order to hit a good shot. If your swing were to bottom out even an inch or two behind the ball during the downswing, a fat shot could result.
Many golfers struggle with getting stuck between their iron swing and their driver swing when playing fairway wood shots. Should you hit down like you do with an iron, or is it better to sweep the ball off the turf like you are hitting a driver? For most golfers, the answer is simple – try to hit your fairway woods as much like your driver as possible. The more those two swings can mirror each other, the better.
That means that you will be trying to sweep the ball off the ground when playing a fairway wood shot right off the turf. Allow the loft of the club to get the ball up into the air for you, while you just focus on hitting the ball with the sweet spot of the club face. This is another point at which many amateur players will try to help the ball into the air by lifting up through impact – and potentially bottoming out the swing arc too soon. When playing a fairway wood shot, the bottom of your swing should always be the point at which you hit the ball.
ball position is something that needs to be watched carefully when playing your fairway woods because it has the potential to cause fat shots when it gets out of line. You want the ball position for a standard fairway wood shot to be just inside of your left heel. Any farther forward than that and you may hit the shot fat because you cant get your weight far enough left at impact. Any farther back and you could also hit a fat shot, this time because you are swinging down too steeply into the ball. Poor ball position is definitely a mistake that can lead to fat shots, so pay careful attention to getting it just right prior to every swing. Practicing taking a consistent ball position on the driving range so it becomes easy when you get onto the course.
Since there are so many similarities between your driver swing and the swing you use with your fairway woods, the problems that you have in those two swings tend to be closely tied together. For example, if you discovered when working through the driver section above that your swing was too long, there is a good chance that your fairway wood swing is too long as well. Any action that you take to correct the technique used with your driver should be carefully copied into how your swing your fairway woods. That means that if you are able to get rid of the mistakes which are causing fat shots with your driver, you should be able to also eliminate them from your fairway wood swing.
Fat Shots with the Putter? Yes – It Happens
You might think that you are safe from needing to worry about fat shots once you get onto the putting green, but that is not the case. Even the putter is susceptible to hitting the turf behind the ball as the club moves down toward impact. fat shots while putting are not as common as they are on the rest of the course, but they can be just as harmful to your score – and to your ego. The good news is that some basic fundamentals can cure you of this problem rather quickly so you can relax and focus on rolling the ball right into the middle of the cup.
If you are going to hit a fat shot on the putting green, it is almost always going to be on a long putt. Short putts don't require very much speed from the putter head to reach the hole, therefore it is rare that you will make the mistake of striking the turf prior to the ball. However, when you face a long putt that requires a big swing of the putter, it is possible to hit the shot fat and leave the putt well short of the target.
So how do you avoid making this costly and embarrassing mistake? Make sure to follow the three tips below and fat putts should be a thing of the past.
- Control your eyes. If you allow your eyes to drift off of the ball during your putting stroke, it will become more difficult to strike the ball cleanly – and more likely that you will hit the shot fat. Make it a top priority to keep your eyes on the ball throughout the stroke and do your best to hit the ball with the sweet spot right in the center of your putter face. It is tempting to look up early to see where the ball is going to go, but that mistake can get you in trouble. Control your eyes by watching the ball throughout your putting stroke and don't look up until after the ball has rolled away.
- Use a wide stance. For long putts, consider making your stance slightly wider than usual to help with balance. As the putting stroke gets longer, it becomes easier to get off balance, which could lead to hitting your putts fat. Make sure that you use a comfortable wide base ,and maintain some flex in your knees throughout the stroke. Even though your legs don't move through the shot during a putting stroke like they do with a full swing, they can still play an important role in helping you to hit your putts solidly.
- Rock your shoulders. When your hands get too involved in the putting stroke, bad things can start to happen – including hitting some of your putts fat. You always want to use your shoulders as much as possible to control the motion of the club throughout the backstroke and the forward stroke. On the practice putting green, work on keeping your hands quiet while your shoulders make a simple rocking motion to give the putter the speed it needs to roll the ball the right distance.
Many golfers neglect to practice long putts, and it shows in the results that they get on the course. Prior to each round, try hitting some putts across the practice green in the longest direction that you can find. Pick out a specific target and focus on getting the speed right. Even just five or ten putts across the practice green will give you a good feel for the speed of the greens that day. Also, taking the time to do this warm up will build confidence in your stroke if you focus on the fundamentals and avoid hitting any of the practice putts fat.
It is no fun to hit fat shots on the golf course. They rarely end up close to the hole, and they are often embarrassing because they come up so far short of the target. While you don't necessarily need to overhaul your entire swing in order to correct the problem, you do need to understand what is causing you to hit the ball fat in the first place. Once you isolate the problem, take the time to work on a solution until you no longer fear hitting behind the ball. Distance control is a key element of playing good golf, and yours will be significantly improved if fat shots become a rare occurrence in your game.