No golfer, not even the world's greatest, is immune to poor shots. Better players are able to quickly analyze a bad swing, then adjust to avoid making the same error.

In order to correct your mistakes, you must first know what causes them.

For beginners, two of the most common misses are the topped shot (aka “top”) and fat shot (aka “chunk”). Let's take a look at some typical causes of each, and how to fix them:

Topped shot: Aside from missing the ball completely, there's nothing worse than topping it. Ground balls are acceptable in baseball, but in golf… only when using the putter.

Topped shots often occur when you're tense, usually because others are watching or you're tangled up in too many swing thoughts. If you feel nervous, make a series of slow, deep breaths and take things a little more slowly than usual. Once you've set up to the ball, don't worry about mechanics. Just pick a spot on the back of the ball and hit it. You'll be surprised how well the old “see ball, hit ball” approach works when you're feeling pressure.

Fat shot: Hitting behind the ball is no fun. It feels awful and kills your distance.

The easiest problem to fix is faulty ball position. If it's too far forward in your stance (toward the left foot for a right-hander), your swing will bottom out behind the ball. Try moving it toward the middle and keeping your hands ahead of the clubhead at address.

Fat shots are also caused by an improper weight shift. Weight should move onto your right foot swinging back, then to your left coming into and through the ball. If you fail to transfer weight onto the left side, you'll hit behind the ball.

Beginner Golf Tip What Causes Topped and Fat Shots

Beginner Golf Tip What Causes Topped and Fat Shots

The biggest challenge you will face when getting started in the game of golf is simply learning how to hit the ball solidly. Where there is a lot more to learn than this one skill, learning how to hit solid shots is where it all starts. Once you are able to get the ball up into the air with each swing, you can develop the rest of your game from that point. Getting the ball off the ground means you will get some distance on your shots, and you should at least be moving in the general direction of the green. Of course, for most beginners, getting the ball off the ground is easier said than done.

In this article, we are going to address two of the major ball striking issues that tend to plague beginning players – topped shots and fat shots. If you aren't familiar with these terms, we will review them quickly to make sure you understand the rest of the discussion. A topped shot is just like it sounds – you hit the top of the ball and the shot rolls along the turf in front of you. A topped shot rarely gets up off the ground at all, and if it does, it will fly for a very short period of time. The leading edge of the golf club is contacting the upper half of the ball in this case, meaning you will have to manage to lower your overall swing path in order to hit better shots.

A fat shot is just the opposite of a topped shot. In this case, the club is coming into the hitting area too low, and it will strike the turf prior to reaching the ball. Fat shots are usually accompanied by a big divot, and the ball almost always comes up short of the target. There are varying degrees of fat shots, meaning you can hit the ball just a bit fat and come up a few yards short of the green, or you can hit the ball significantly fat, meaning your shot will only travel a short distance. Either way, fat shots are something you want to take out of your game as quickly as you can.

As you might expect, eliminating your fat and topped shots is going to come down to improving your mechanics. Solid technique is the biggest key on this point, as putting your body and the club in the right position is going to allow you to achieve a solid strike time after time. This kind of work needs to be done on the driving range rather than on the course. Spending time at your local driving range is the best way to improve your game quickly, since you can hit many more shots during a range session than you will be able to hit during an average round. With the help of the advice contained in this article, and plenty of hard work on your part, improved ball striking can appear in your game in the near future.

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 Underlying Causes of These Two Problems

The Underlying Causes of These Two Problems

Before getting into some mechanical fundamentals which can help improve your ball striking, the first thing we need to do is explain why you may be hitting the ball thin or fat in the first place. As you would probably guess, the causes for these two frustrating mistakes are pretty much polar opposites – which makes sense, since one shot requires the club to be too high coming into impact, while the other requires the club to be too low.

In this section, we are going to address each of these two swing problems individually. First, we will look at what you may be doing wrong when topping the golf ball. Next, we will highlight some common problems seen among golfers who hit the ball fat.

If you are consistently topping your shots as a beginning golfer, there is a good chance you are making at least one of the mistakes listed below.

  • Pulling your head up out of the swing. This is one of the most common mistakes seen on the golf course, and it is one which is made by beginners and experienced players alike. As the club swings down toward the ball, you might feel an urge to lift your head up before the shot has actually been struck. Most of the time, this urge has to do with wanting to watch the ball fly (hopefully) toward the target. Unfortunately, lifting your head to look up early can cause your shoulders and the rest of your upper body to lift as well – and you might wind up with a topped shot in the end. Do your best to watch the ball all the way through impact and keep your head still while striking your shots. This one tip might be all it takes to get rid of the topped shots in your game.
  • Rushing your downswing. Another way to top the golf ball is by rushing through the downswing. This is a mistake frequently made by new golfers. You probably think that you need to hit the ball as hard as you can, so you wind up rushing through the downswing while trying to add speed to the swing with your hands and arms. This is the right basic idea, but you need to be making your speed with your body rotation rather than your hands and arms. A powerful golf swing actually takes time to develop, as the only part of the swing which needs to be fast is the moment when the club is driving through the ball. Any sense of rushing should be taken out of your swing as soon as possible. Golf is not a game which is played properly when you feel rushed – patience and a smooth tempo are needed to make progress on the links.
  • Straightening your lower body. At address, you should have your knees flexed slightly to put your body in a good position over the ball. Then, as the swing develops, it is important for you to maintain that knee flex until after the ball has been sent on its way. It is common for beginning golfers to straighten up in the lower body while the downswing is in progress – this is a bad idea. Straightening your legs is going to raise the level of your entire body, and you will have trouble getting down low enough at impact to avoid a topped shot. The downswing happens quickly in golf; too quickly to think consciously about what you are doing. As a result, you are going to have to put in plenty of practice time in order to break this bad habit.

Moving on, the three points below address common mistakes which can lead to fat golf shots.

  • Failure to move the lower body. The lower half of your body plays an important role in the golf swing. It is common for beginning golfers to underestimate how much they need to use their legs during the swing – after all, it is your hands and arms which are directly moving the club. However, your legs can be thought of as the engine of the swing, as they need to lead the way in terms of rotation toward the target. Players who are routinely hitting fat shots should look to their lower half first and foremost for a solution. By turning your legs better in the downswing, you can move your body into position and avoid hitting the ground before you reach the ball.
  • Poor shoulder turn. In addition to using your lower body correctly, you also need to make a great shoulder turn to put yourself in position for a powerful strike. On the way back, you should be trying to turn your left shoulder under your chin. On the way through, you should be doing just the opposite – turning your right shoulder under your chin aggressively. Without this turn, you will struggle to create any power in your swing, and you might have trouble making clean contact as well. Many players who fail to make a good shoulder turn simply aren't giving themselves enough time in the backswing to move into position. Take your time going back, make sure you complete your turn properly, and then swing forward with confidence.
  • Trying to help the ball into the air. This is an extremely common mistake. Knowing that you need to hit the ball high up into the air in order to reach your target, you may feel tempted to lean back just as your approach impact. You will be trying to 'lift' the ball into the air, but that simply isn't going to work. The club you are holding has loft for a reason – it is designed to get the ball off the ground. All you need to do is swing through impact while letting the club do the rest of the job. If you can trust your clubs to get the ball airborne for you, it will suddenly be much easier to make a solid, reliable golf swing.

As you can see, there are a lot of things that can go wrong in the golf swing. Many beginners are intimidated by the complexity of this game, but you don't need to put yourself in that category. By focusing on one problem at a time, and one solution at a time, you can work through your issues and gradually become a better player.

Fundamentals of Great Ball Striking

Fundamentals of Great Ball Striking

In the previous section, we divided the problems of topping the ball and hitting the ball fat into two separate categories. Here, we are going to bring them back together, as the fundamentals you need to be using to hit the ball cleanly are the same across the board. No matter whether you have been hitting the ball fat or thin so far in your golf experience, the fundamentals listed below can help you improve.

  • Always focus on balance. If you decide to take any golf lessons as a beginning player, you will likely get tired of hearing that you need to work on your balance. It is essential to remain as balanced as possible during the golf swing, as good balance is going to make the task of hitting solid shots far easier. You should be well-balanced before the club is put in motion, and you should maintain that balance until after the swing has been completed. It might not be too exciting, but practicing your balance is one of the very best things you can do for yourself as a golfer.
  • Establish a consistent grip. The way you place your hands on the grip of the club is another important piece of your technique. It is okay to find your own personal style when it comes to the grip – but it is important that you repeat that same grip over and over again. The nice thing about practicing your grip is that you don't necessarily have to be at the driving range in order to make progress. Keep a golf club handy around the house so you can rehearse your grip anytime you have a spare minute or two. You aren't going to be making any swings, of course, but you can at least place your hands on the club, remove them, and repeat.
  • Accelerate through the ball. Sometimes, poor ball striking can simply come down to a lack of commitment in your swing. Rather than trying to 'guide' the ball down the fairway by slowing down your swing through impact, you should be accelerating with confidence. When the club accelerates at the bottom of the swing, you greatly increase the chances of achieving a clean strike. Of course, this method has the added benefit of helping you gain distance, which is never a bad thing. Learn how to accelerate through the hitting area and you will immediately become a better player.

Golf is a game which is all about fundamentals. If you can master the fundamentals in this game, you can quickly take your performance to a higher level. Of course, the fundamentals are not always as easy as they might seem, so consistent practice is going to be a necessity. Remember, golf has a reputation as being one of the most difficult games in the world, and it didn't get that reputation by accident. It is possible to learn this game, of course, but there are going to be some struggles along the way. Embrace those struggles as part of the challenge, and celebrate the improvements you make as your swing fundamentals gradually round into form.

Getting Back on Track

Getting Back on Track

As a beginning golfer, you will probably spend most of your time on the driving range as you get started. However, it won't be long before you decide that you would really like to get out on the course to try this game for yourself. That is understandable – there is some fun to be had on the range, but the real enjoyment comes from hitting the links with your friends.

Of course, taking a trip out onto the golf course is likely to lead to mixed results. You will probably hit a few good shots, which will be exciting, but there will be plenty of poor shots in there as well. When you do hit the ball fat on the course, or you top one down the fairway, it is important that you know how to respond. You may be a bit embarrassed in the moment – especially if there are other people watching – but it is your job to set that embarrassment aside to just focus on how you can improve.

The first thing you need to do in this situation is understand that this is going to happen from time to time. You are a beginner, and this is a very hard game. Hitting a bad shot, no matter what form it comes in, is nothing to be ashamed of. Next, you need to stop and think for a moment about what when wrong. Did you make one of the mistakes which was listed earlier in the article? Taking a rational, level-headed approach to your mistakes will help you become a better player. Getting mad isn't going to do anything to solve the problem, so set that anger aside and simply look for a solution.

In golf, there is nothing you can do about a bad shot once it has been hit. You aren't going to be able to erase that poor swing from your scorecard, so the only thing to do is forget about it and move on. As long as there is still another shot to play, your job is simple – do your best to hit the next shot as successfully as possible. Stick with the fundamentals you have learned during practice, remain calm, and expect to see good results. In time, you will notice that your good shots come more and more often, and the topped or fat shots become a rare mistake.

Topped and Fat Shots in the Short Game

Topped and Fat Shots in the Short Game

Most new golfers focus the majority of their attention on the long game. The biggest challenge in golf would seem to be hitting the ball with your full swing, so it is easy to overlook the short game at the start. Unfortunately, this can lead to some bad habits which will carry on long after you have left the category of 'beginning' golfer. The short game is incredibly important to your success on the links, and you should pay attention to it right from the start of your golfing life.

To build a solid short game, you are going to need to chip and pitch the ball effectively. A chip shot is a shot which is played from right next to the green, while pitch shots are played from a little farther away. No matter which one you are talking about, it is important to play you chip and pitch shots with a clean strike. When you hit the ball cleanly, you can accurate predict its distance – and controlling your distance is the most important part of the short game.

If you are hitting the ball fat when chipping and pitching, or if you are topping some of these shots, it is likely that there is too much motion in your body during the swing. You don't need to move your body much at all while hitting short shots, since little power is required to send the ball to the target. Focus on keeping your body still while your hands and arms do the work of moving the club. Earlier we talked about how important it is to rotate your body properly – but that is limited to the full swing. On short game shots, minimizing your body movement is the way to go.

For the beginning golfer, there is nothing like repetition in practice for learning how to chip and pitch the ball cleanly. Make it a point to include a least a few minutes of chipping practice each time you head to the course to work on your game. Before long, you will feel far more comfortable hitting the ball cleanly, and you still start to see vastly improved results. You might not get to watch the ball disappear into the distance when chipping like you do when hitting a driver, but this part of the game is even more important in terms of your score. Learn how to chip and pitch the ball close to the hole and your scores are going to fall immediately.

Beginning golfers frequently struggle with fat shots and topped shots, but these problems can be overcome through a combination of knowledge and practice. With the advice offered in this article, head to your local driving range to get down to work on your ball striking. Good luck!