A golf ball that strikes the toe of the club may result in a straight shot but it certainly will not fly its full distance. If your grip pressure is sufficiently light enough or the ball hits far enough in the toe, it may also result in a twisting nature of the club head which produces a weak ball flight that flies higher and shorter than normal and also to the right of your target.
Standing too far away from the golf ball can be one of the most obvious reasons for a toe strike. If, during the setup position, you feel overly stretched towards the ball, it is likely your hands may pull back away from the ball during the downswing which will result in the toe strike.
Becoming off-balance during the swing can also be another major cause of toeing the ball. If, during your downswing motion, you feel your body weight moves too much back towards your heels, you may feel your hands pull away from the ball and again cause a toe shot. This may become more obvious in the follow-through position if you are unable to maintain your balance to a posed finish.
One final checkpoint, to ensure a good clean contact on the ball and a reduction in the number of toe shots, would be to ensure that your arms are returning to a fully extended position at impact. If your arms are fully extended in the address position, they should return to the same position for impact. Particularly take notice of the position of your front elbow at, and just after, impact.
If you notice the elbow is bending and pulling in during the downswing phase, this could result in toe hits and inconsistent ball striking in general.
How to Fix Ball Hitting on the Toe
As you already know, one of the biggest goals you should have for each swing you make is to hit the ball on the sweet spot of the club. Every club in your bag has a sweet spot located in the center of the face which is going to offer the best results when you are able to place it on the back of the ball. It is not easy to hit shots off of the sweet spot – the club is moving quite quickly through impact, after all – but those shots that do come off of the sweet spot will feel great as they launch up into the sky.
Unfortunately, the feeling of striking the ball on the sweet spot of the club is one that doesn't happen very often for the average amateur player. Instead, most amateurs hit the ball either in off the heel or off the toe, resulting in less-than-ideal outcomes. Missing the sweet spot will not only take distance off your shots, but it will also cause the ball to fly off line in most cases. While you don't need to catch the ball perfectly in the middle of the face each time – even professional golfers are able to hit the sweet spot all the time – you do need to improve on your frequency of hitting solid shots if you wish to lower your scores.
In this article, we are going to look at the problem of hitting the ball off the toe. Hitting the ball off the toe does not refer to a shank, as a shanked shot actually comes off the hosel (the heel). However, hitting the ball out toward the toe will definitely cause you to lose distance on your shots, and you might wind up producing a big draw or hook as well. There are specific mechanical mistakes that you may be making in your swing in order to create toe contact, so it is those errors that we will need to work to correct in order to get your game back on the right track. The good news is this – while you may not be hitting very many quality shots at the moment, you are probably only a minor adjustment or two away from striking the ball on the sweet spot with regularity.
It is important to note before getting started that hitting the ball in the center of the club face is a key skill no matter what kind of shot you are trying to hit. Yes, it is important to find the sweet spot with your driver or a long iron, but it is actually just as important to do so when chipping and putting. The sweet spot of your club is the only spot that will give you reliable results, so striking the ball cleanly in the middle of the face is one of your main jobs as a golfer. Hitting the sweet spot doesn't guarantee you success, of course, but it does take you a big step in the right direction.
All of the instruction contained 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 Common Causes
Before you can fix any problem within your golf swing, you first need to figure out what is causing the problem in the first place. This might seem like common sense, but it is a point that is missed by many amateur golfers. Countless players try to address their problems by fixing things in the swing that weren't actually wrong in the first place – and for this reason, many people fail to every actually make any progress. By taking time at the start to confirm that you understand what is going wrong, the process of making corrections will be far more efficient and effective.
While each golf swing is different, there are some common issues that cause the ball to be contacted out on the toe. The following list includes a three swing mistakes that are frequently to blame for toe contact.
- Poor balance. Without a doubt, this is the leading cause of poor contact at impact. Whether you tend to miss off the toe or off the heel, there is a good chance that your balance is at least partially to blame. When you lose your balance during the swing, the plane (or path) that you were using to swing the club is going to change. For instance, if your weight moves out toward your toes, you will get closer to the ball and heel contact is likely to occur. Or, more specific to the issue of hitting the ball off the toe, you might find that your weight drifts back onto your heels as you swing. When that happens, most of your body will wind up being farther away from the ball as impact arrives, and it is almost certain that you will catch the ball near the toe. Improving on your ability to stay balanced in the swing is going to improve your performance in a number of ways, and hitting the sweet spot is at the top of that list.
- Overactive hands. It is natural to want to use your hands actively in the golf swing. After all, it is your hands that are holding on to the club, so shouldn't you use them as aggressively as possible while moving the club back and through? No – not really. Instead, you want to use your hands to 'guide' the club while you use the big muscles of your body to do most of the work. It is actually up to your shoulders and hips to rotate in order to move the club. As the big muscles cause the club to rotate back and through, you use your hands to keep the club on plane and ready to strike at impact. Players who use their hands too actively in the swing are prone to poor contact because the small movements that take place in the hands are hard to control at such high speed. You can't rely on hand-eye coordination at impact to match the sweet spot to the ball, so you have to be swinging down on a great plane right from the start. Keep your hands as quiet as possible, especially in the takeaway, and you will find that the sweet spot suddenly becomes easier to hit.
- Coming out of the shot. As you make your way down toward impact, you are naturally going to be interested to see the outcome of your shot as soon as possible. However, if you move your head and shoulders up out of the swing prematurely in order to see your shot, you could wind up causing toe contact as a result. It is important to stay down throughout your swing, as you should only be looking up toward the target once the ball is safely on its way. There is nothing to see before you hit the ball anyway, so discipline yourself to stay down through impact on each and every shot. You will almost certainly hit the ball closer to the sweet spot when you stay down, and your results will be more consistent as well.
If you are regularly hitting the ball near the toe of the club, it is almost certain that you are making one (or more) of the mistakes above. So, with that in mind, the next step is obvious – you need to head out to the range to get to work on correcting your mistakes. Progress does not come easily in the game of golf, so you will need to work for each improvement that you make. Take the time to specifically work on solving this problem and you will be rewarded in the end.
Finding Your Balance
It is only logical to move next to the topic of balance, as this is the place that most golfers will need to start. As mentioned above, it is very difficult to make solid contact with the ball if you fail to stay on balance properly throughout your swing. Balance is one of those subtle fundamentals that is essential to playing this game at a high level. It probably isn't very exciting to practice your balance, but you will do so if you are serious about improving your game.
If you find that you are struggling with balance, and that struggle is leading you to hit the ball off the toe, consider the following points.
- Get balanced at address. In order to stay balanced during the swing, you need to be balanced before the swing actually gets started. When you stand up over the ball, your weight should be evenly distributed between your two feet. Also, you want to make sure that you aren't leaning out onto your toes or back onto your heels. You should feel as centered as possible when you take your stance. By starting on balance, you will give yourself the best possible chance to maintain that balance all the way through impact and into the finish. Fortunately, you can even practice your address position at home or elsewhere away from the course, so it may not take long for you to improve on this point.
- Cut down on your backswing. It is very common for amateur golfers to lose their balance by allowing the backswing to run on too long. When you turn back too far, your body will often be pulled to the right, and your weight will be stuck on your right foot as the downswing begins. You want to stay nicely centered throughout the backswing, so stop your turn before you feel yourself start to sway away from the target. Many golfers think that they will be able to hit more powerful shots when they make a big turn, but going too far with this concept only leads to trouble. It is actually balance and solid contact that are going to provide you with distance, so cut down on your turn and instead focus on remaining in control of your center of gravity at all times.
- Use your legs properly. While the shoulders are largely responsible for what takes place in the backswing, it is the lower body that is going to take the lead on the way through the ball. Plenty of amateur golfers struggle with this point, as they instead use their hands and arms to swing the club down at the ball weakly. If you would like to generate a maximum amount of power, and if you would like to strike the ball cleanly thanks to great balance, you need to use your legs in the forward swing. Right from the moment that the backswing turns into the downswing, you need to use your hips to rotate toward the target. When your hips lead the way and the club trails behind, you will be able to create impressive speed while keeping in the club nicely on plane.
It is often the golfers who are willing to work on the subtle details who will wind up coming out on top in the end. With that in mind, carve out some time during your next practice session to work specifically on your balance. By taking balance with you out onto the course, you will be better prepared to strike the ball cleanly time after time for the entire round.
Quieting Your Hands
The second point on our list of problems that are likely to cause toe contact as overactive hands. When your hands are too 'busy' during the swing, the club head will move all around and you will struggle to put it on the back of the ball accurately. If you feel that this is a problem which is present in your game, working to quiet down your hand action should go a long way toward improving your ball striking.
When talking about quieting down your hand action, it is really the takeaway that needs the most attention. This is the section of the swing that usually involves the hands being too active, and you will struggle to get back on track if you make mistakes with your hands in the first foot of the backswing. Ideally, you will keep your hands perfectly quiet in the takeaway while you use your shoulders to turn back away from the target. When this move is executed correctly, the club will stay on plane and the club face will remain square to the arc of the swing.
For most golfers, it is the right hand that tends to cause trouble in the takeaway. When the right wrist hinges back away from the target early in the swing, the club will be forced to the inside and the club face will quickly become open to the target line. With just that simple move, your swing will be off-track and you will have very little chance to recover before impact.
So, with that in mind, the goal is obvious – to take your hands out of the takeaway in order to keep everything working together properly as the backswing gets started. As you are working on your takeaway out on the driving range, keep the following tips in mind.
- Keep it slow. There is no need to rush through your takeaway – the ball isn't going anywhere. Take your time during the early part of the backswing to make sure everything stays 'connected' properly. You are going to gradually build speed throughout your swing from takeaway to impact, so you don't want to move too quickly at the start. Be patient with your takeaway – and the whole backswing, for that matter – and then lay on the speed as you swing down toward the ball.
- Flat right wrist. If you want to focus on one part of your body during the takeaway to make sure your hands stay quiet, make it the back of your right wrist. Try to keep your right wrist in the same position it was in at address for the first segment of the backswing while turning your shoulders away from the target. That wrist will need to get involved eventually in order to set the club properly, but it should only spring into action after the takeaway has been completed. As a good rule of thumb, you should not begin to hinge your wrists until your hands are roughly waist high going back (some players will hinge a bit earlier, and some a bit later).
- Relax your grip. One of the best ways to take your hands out of the takeaway is actually to relax the pressure you place on the grip at address. Instead of squeezing tightly onto the handle while standing over the ball, work on using a lighter grip pressure that will place more control into your big muscles rather than your fingers. It can be difficult to get used to playing with a lighter grip pressure, so start by working on this point in the short game before taking it into your full swing.
If you take some time to watch professional golf on TV, you will likely notice that nearly every one of the top players does a great job of keeping his or her hands quiet in the takeaway. By following that lead, you should have a much easier time striking the ball perfectly on the sweet spot.
Staying Down Through Impact
The previous two points that we have addressed with regard to hitting the sweet spot – keeping your balance and using quiet hands in the takeaway – are technical in nature. This last point is a bit different however, as staying down through your shots is more about mindset than anything else. It isn't difficult to stay down on the ball from a mechanical standpoint, but this can be one of the biggest challenges you will face from a mental perspective. There is a strong temptation to look up early when hitting any shot out on the course, so you are going to have to conquer that temptation if you want to keep your body in position to strike a great shot.
First, you need to think about this point logically for a second – what is to be gained from looking up early? Absolutely nothing. Whether you are watching the ball or not, the shot is going to be what it will be. There is nothing that you can do after the ball leaves the club face to influence the trajectory of the shot, so you might as well look down all the way through impact. While thinking this way might not totally get rid of the temptation to look up early, it should at least put you on the right path. The best thing you can do for the quality of your ball striking is to watch the ball while you hit it – tell yourself that over and over again, and the temptation to look up may gradually fade away.
To make the task of keeping your head and eyes down a bit easier, consider drawing something unique on your ball that you can use as a 'focus spot'. During your swing, you will lock your eyes onto the drawing that you have created on the ball, and you will keep your eyes there until the ball is gone. This is a great little trick to use on the course, and it can be just as effective in the short game as it is in the long game.
Hitting the ball on the sweet spot is one of the best ways to elevate the level of your game as a whole. When you strike the ball cleanly, it will become much easier to hit your ball a predictable distance, and you will be able to keep your shots on target more effectively as well. To bring the ball in from the toe and back to the sweet spot, consider using the tips that have been provided throughout this article. Good luck!