If you are experiencing a low ball flight when you hit your golf shots, one of the main reasons for this will be that you are catching the golf ball on the upswing.
The golf club is designed in a way that you need to make a descending movement towards the ball with the club head. If you make more of an upward movement towards the ball, this can instinctively feel like you are going to help the ball up into the air, but in reality it will not work for two main reasons.
Firstly, the club is designed in a way so that the face angle of the club, or the loft, will make the ball spin upwards and into the air. It is therefore important to present the loft of the club correctly to the ball. If we exaggerate an upward movement of the club towards the ball, you will see that rather than presenting the club face to the lower part of the ball, you actually present the leading edge and underneath, or sole of the club, to the upper part of the ball and you can clearly see that this will not allow the ball to fly into the air. This will just produce shots that hardly rise off the ground.
The second reason that an upward movement will not work to give the ball a high flight is that the ball is on the ground. You cannot get the club head lower than the ball is, without hitting into the ground first. As you hit the ground, the club will either dig into the surface taking a divot or it will bounce up off the surface and catch the top of the ball again - and hitting the top of the ball results in shots that fly low.
In order to achieve higher shots, learn to hit with a down movement towards the ball, as this will allow the club head to be presented to the lower part of the ball correctly and the angle of the club face will force the ball upwards into a high flight.
To encourage you to create a swing with a downward movement towards the ball, try this drill. Take up your golf stance, with your feet shoulder width apart and the correct ball position. Place your driver head cover opposite your right foot (for right handed golfers) and then make a swing so that you miss the head cover but strike the ground just to the left of it, where the ball would be. Hover the club head initially so that you do not hit the head cover as you swing back and then practice hitting the ground to the left of the head cover. Once you have got the feeling of this, introduce the ball but keep the head cover opposite your right foot and work on hitting shots without catching the head cover. If you find you keep hitting the head cover before the ball, take the ball out and get used to striking the ground left of the head cover until you can do this more easily, then re-introduce the ball. Once you start striking the ball without hitting the head cover first, you will see a massive improvement in height as you are now hitting down on the ball and letting the club do all the work for you.
Low Ball Flight Fix – Hit Down to Fly Ball High
The ball flight you use on the golf course determines the kinds of shots you can play, the targets you can select, and ultimately, the scores you can shoot. If you are limited in your options on the course by the weak ball flight that you are producing, upgrading your trajectory should be at the top of your to-do list. In most cases, that means learning how to hit the ball higher. While there are times when a low ball flight can come in handy, it is typically the players who can hit the ball high up into the sky that will come out on top.
One of the reasons that many amateur golfers struggle to create a high ball flight is because of the counterintuitive nature of golf. Where it might seem like you would want to hit up on the ball to send it way up into the air, the opposite is actually true. If you are going to develop a high ball flight with your irons, you will need to hit down aggressively through impact. It is actually a good backspin rate that takes the ball higher, and that backspin will only be imparted on the ball if you are able to hit down while making clean contact. The ability to generate high backspin rates while still controlling the path of the ball is one of the major skills that separates an accomplished golfer from a beginner.
Making the switch from trying to hit up on the ball to hitting down confidently is difficult, and will take some time. If you have been 'scooping' at the bottom of the swing for the majority of your golf career, you will need to overhaul a number of your basic mechanics in order to put yourself in the right position to hit down consistently. You can't just decide that you are now going to hit down instead of up – you have to rework your technique in order to position your body properly. The golf swing is a complex set of moving parts, and success will only be seen when all of those various parts are brought together in a cohesive package. It is a great idea to dedicate yourself to learning how to hit down, but understand that you will likely have to put in plenty of hours on the range before the changes start to take shape.
It is important to remember that the ultimate goal in golf when it comes to ball flight is variety. Ideally, you will have the capability to produce a variety of ball flights based on the situation at hand. Sometimes, a low shot will be called for, such as when you are playing in windy conditions. Other times, however, you will want to launch a shot high into the air in order to stop it quickly when it lands. The good golfers are those who can pick and choose their spots, hitting just the right shot at just the right time. While you may never develop complete control over all of your shots, you should be consistently working toward that goal. Having even two or three shots at your disposal – as opposed to just one – will make you a far better player.
All of the content 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 Advantages of Height
Before you start down the path toward a higher ball flight, it is a good idea to understand why that higher flight is appealing in the first place. Any time you invest your time and effort into something in your golf game, you should have a clear picture of what you stand to gain. That picture will help to keep you motivated, and it will help you focus on the task even when you go through some struggles along the way. In this case, that means understanding why a high ball flight is generally superior to a low one.
Following is a list of three advantages that can be enjoyed when you employ a high ball flight.
- Stop the ball quickly. This is really the main reason why you should aspire to hit the ball higher. It is a great advantage to be able to stop the ball quickly, as you can access pins that would otherwise be impossible to get to with a lower trajectory. For instance, if you are facing an approach shot to a firm green where the hole is cut near the front edge, you would have almost no chance at setting up a birdie with a low flight. However, with a high flight, you can land the ball near the cup and keep it there. Also, hitting the ball higher with your mid and long irons will help you to hold the green from long distances.
- More diversity. With the ability to hit the ball high at your disposal, you can then pick and choose how high you want to hit the ball on each shot. When the conditions are calm and you have a great look at the green, you can throw it way up in the air and bring it down soft. Or, if you are facing a shot into the wind, you can flight it down and hit a controlled shot to the center of the putting surface. Remember, when you have the ability to hit it high, you can always bring it down when you need to – but the reverse isn't possible. Those who only are capable of a low ball flight will not be able to raise it up on command to suit the shot at hand.
- Consistent strike. It is easier to achieve a consistent strike on the back of the ball if you are hitting down and generating a high flight. Players who hit the ball low tend to 'pick' the ball off of the top of the turf, which is usually a less-consistent way to go about your swing. Once you learn how to hit down nicely, you should be able to repeat that action again and again. In fact, if you are used to picking the ball off the grass, you will be amazed and how great your ball striking can feel when you hit down properly.
There is a reason that nearly every pro golfer around the world has the ability to hit the ball high on demand. This is an important skill, and it is one that will unlock scoring potential if you are able to add it to your repertoire. You don't have to swing incredibly fast or hard to get the ball up into the air – you just have to use proper technique to achieve a descending blow through impact. Although it might seem like quite a challenge that this point to adjust your swing in order to produce a downward hit, all of the work required will be rewarded when you start to hit beautifully high approach shots that stop quickly and set up short birdie putts.
Without a few basic fundamentals in place, you will have very little chance of hitting down properly. There is room for individual style in the golf swing, but there are also some fundamental rules that should not be violated. If you can follow the three basic fundamental guidelines highlighted below, you will find it much easier to hit down on your shots.
- Balance over the ball. It is your center of gravity that is going to largely determine where your club head enters the ground in the downswing (on an iron shot). Therefore, your balance throughout the swing is incredibly important to the eventual success or failure of your efforts to swing down through the ball. If you are nicely balanced right over top of the ball, you should be able to hit down cleanly without much of a problem. However, if you are leaning dramatically to the right or left, your club will hit the ground either too early or too late, and the strike will not be a clean one. You should be making a concerted effort to start your swing with nice balance, and you should carry that balance throughout the rest of your swing until the ball is on its way to the target.
- Eyes down on the ball. This is a very basic golf instruction point, but it is particularly important when talking about hitting down through the ball. You need to keep your eyes down on the ball all the way through the swing if you are going hit down properly on each of your iron shots. It is tempting to look up early to see where the ball is going, but that is only going to lead to poor contact and disappointing results. Instead, you need to have enough discipline in your swing to keep your eyes down and trust that the ball is going to head toward your target after you strike down through it cleanly. Working on this fundamental will help the quality of your ball striking and it will also help in your short game, as eye control is a key component of chipping and putting properly.
- Hands beyond the ball. It is essentially impossible to hit down on the ball if you are unable to get your hands past the position of the ball at impact. In other words, when the club face contacts the ball, your hands need to be closer to the target than the ball itself. Most amateur golfers come up short on this point – they 'throw' the club head at the ball during the downswing, which leaves the hands trailing behind at the bottom of the swing. During your downswing, pull down with the back of your left hand so that the handle of the club can 'win the race' to the ball. When that happens, your hands will get into the correct position at impact and you will have a great chance to hit down.
In reality, the action of hitting down through the ball doesn't need to be very complicated. It is a relatively simple proposition, as long as you are able to hit on the three fundamental points above. Of course, executing this technique over and over again will take practice (just like anything else), so take plenty of time on the driving range to focus on the mechanics that lead to a downward strike. Once you understand what it feels like to hit your irons with a descending blow, you will never want to go back to any other kind of swing.
Playing with a High Ball Flight
At this point, we are going to assume that you have successfully moved your ball flight from low to high. Now that you are hitting beautifully high iron shots, do you know how you are going to use them on the course in order to actually lower your scores? That question might seem a little silly, but it is very important. Without a clear game plan for how you are going to use your new flight, you will likely waste it on bad decisions that lead to plenty of bogeys throughout the day.
One of the first things you need to understand about a higher ball flight is that you are going to need to pay more attention to the wind. It should go without saying, but many golfers forget to adjust for the fact that the ball is going to be more affected by the wind now that it is flying higher in the air. Players with a low ball flight can often ignore the wind, but that isn't going to be the case when you are launching high shots on a regular basis. On a windy day, you are going to have to decide whether you want to bring your flight back down to stay out of the breeze, or if you are going to simply adjust by changing your target line and club selection.
Different players will approach the wind in different ways, so it is important to identify your own playing style and then stick with it when the breeze starts to blow. Most players will choose to move the ball back down closer to the ground in the wind, but it is possible to play well with a high flight in the wind if you are committed to your swings and you strike the ball cleanly. There is nothing more important than a clean hit when playing on a windy day, so remember to keep your eyes down and do your best to find the center of the club face.
Another issue that you will need to address when playing the ball higher in the air is the added stopping power that you will experience on the greens. Generally speaking, this is a great thing – but you have to play for it in order to have your ball finish near to the hole. For example, if you are used to hitting low approach shots, you probably are accustomed to getting one or two big bounces before the ball comes to rest. That isn't going to be the case when you play in on a high trajectory. Now, the ball may take just a single small hop before potentially spinning back toward the front of the green.
Obviously, the exact reaction of the ball on the green is going to depend largely on two factors other than your trajectory – the condition of the green, and the ball that you are using. Soft greens will be more receptive to spin, so you will need to watch out for spinning the ball too much if you are playing a soft course. Also, soft golf balls that are meant to produce high spin rates are prone to flying high and spinning excessively. Only when you can manage these different variables in judging your approach shots will you be able to consistently bring your ball to a rest within short range of the cup.
One final adjustment that you will have to make is understanding how your ball is going to leave the club face when you are playing from under or behind an obstacle such as a tree. With your old ball flight, you probably had a pretty good idea of how high or low you could hit the ball to avoid a tree that was in front of you. Now that your launch angle and trajectory has changed, you will need to 'relearn' this information. However, it is important to note that you shouldn't assume you can now hit the ball over taller trees because you have a higher trajectory. In fact, your ball may actually be leaving the club face on a lower launch angle before the spin takes over and moves the ball high into the sky. This is something you are going to need to learn on the fly, so pay close attention while on the course until you have a good idea of what to expect when the ball leaves your club face.
Bringing It Back Down
As has been mentioned in this article, there are plenty of times when a low ball flight is the preferred option. It is great to be able to hit the ball high, but you also want to retain your ability to hit low shots when necessary. So does that mean you need to go back to hitting the ball with a flat angle of attack? Of course not. You still want to hit down on the ball – you just want to do it in a way that will result in a lower trajectory.
In order to successfully lower your ball flight on command, without losing track of your solid swing fundamentals, use the tips below –
- Move the ball back in your stance. You probably already understand this tip, and you may currently use it from time to time. By simply moving the ball back in your stance at address, you will create a lower launch angle and a lower overall ball flight. Even if you change nothing else in your swing, moving the ball back will instantly mean a lower flight and less backspin on the ball. However, this adjustment may cause you to miss right, so be sure to adjust your aim as necessary to keep the ball on track.
- Soften your swing. The speed of your swing is one of the determining factors in how high the ball will fly, with more aggressive swings sending the ball higher into the sky. To bring it back down, soften up your swing and only use around 80% of your maximum power. Of course, you will have to adjust your club selection to be able to reach the target while using this softer swing. When you combine these first two points – moving the ball back and swinging softer – you get a recipe for nicely controlled approach shots.
- Hit a draw. Hitting a draw will almost always lead to a lower flight than when you hit a fade, so favor the right to left pattern if you need to keep the ball close to the ground. This is particularly effective when you want to hit a shot that will bounce and roll once it gets back on the ground. Hit a low running draw from the tee and you may be able to maximize your distance even when playing into the wind.
Regardless of which ball flight - high or low – you plan to use for most of your shots, it is a good idea to learn how to hit the ball high on demand. In addition to the advantages that can be gained from a high flight, you will also find that you strike the ball better when hitting down through the shot. Learn the basic mechanics of a descending blow and your ball flight should quickly find its way higher and higher into the sky.