Hitting the ball with a scooping action – flipping the wrists at the bottom of your swing – is a major no-no. This swing flaw can cause fat or thin shots and cost you power and control.

Solid ballstriking requires compressing the ball onto the clubface by trapping it against the turf with the irons.

The clubhead must be traveling at a downward angle as it reaches the ball, and a flipping motion has the opposite effect. To do this correctly, the hands must be ahead of the clubhead and the shaft leaning forward, toward the target, at the moment of impact.

Here's a simple mental cue that will help you achieve this position:

  • At address, imagine a line running from the ball up to your left shoulder or arm pit.
  • On the downswing, you want the hands to reach this line before the clubhead does.
  • If the clubhead “wins the race,” you've flipped it with the wrists.

Try this in slow motion, without hitting a ball, to get the sensation of the hands leading the clubhead. Once this action is part of your swing, you'll hit crisper, more powerful shots.

Fat Shot Golf Drill – Finish Line Hands Win the Race

Fat Shot Golf Drill – Finish Line Hands Win the Race

There are few things in golf quite as frustrating as hitting a shot fat. As soon as you hit the ball fat, you know that you don't even need to look up to see where it is going – the result is already certain. The ball is probably going to fly pretty straight, but it is going to fall out of the sky well short of your intended target. If you are fortunate, it will drop into the fairway and you will have a chance to recover with your next shot. If you are not so fortunate, the ball will land in a bunker, or a water hazard, and you will be well on your way to a bogey or worse. Naturally, your golf game would be significantly improved if you could simply remove fat shots from your repertoire.

Of course, that is going to be easier said than done. Fat shots are a common problem in golf because it is difficult to hit the ball cleanly each time. The club head is moving at a high rate of speed through the hitting area, and there are only three options available – hit the ball fat, hit it thin, or hit it perfectly. Some of your shots are going to come off perfectly during the course of a round, but plenty of others will be hit fat or thin. By turning as many of those miss-hit shots as possible into shots that find the sweet spot, your overall level of play will rise.

Before we get too far into this topic, the term 'fat' shot should be clarified for anyone who may not know what that means in the golf world. A fat shot is one where the club head contacts the ground before contacting the ball. It's just that simple. While it is technically possible to hit any shot fat, this is a problem which will usually be experienced with the irons. For instance, if you are hitting a seven iron approach shot from the fairway, you may catch the turf slightly prior to hitting the ball, leading to a fat shot. Since the ground is going to 'steal' some of your swing speed on the way into impact, the shot will come up short in nearly every case. As you would expect, there are varying degrees of fat shots. Hitting just barely behind the ball might only cost you a few yards of distance in the end. On the other hand, hitting way behind the ball (several inches) could lead to a shot which barely even moves from its original position – if it moves at all.

You are never going to be able to completely remove fat shots from your game. Golf is an extremely difficult game, and even the pros will hit a shot fat from time to time. However, by using the instruction provided in this article, you should be able to reduce the frequency with which you hit the ball fat. Learn how to hit as many solid shots as you can during each round and your scores will automatically begin to come down.

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 Anatomy of a Fat Shot

The Anatomy of a Fat Shot

The downswing phase of your golf swing happens fast – really fast. The entire golf swing usually takes just a couple of seconds, and the downswing occupies less than half of that time. So, it should go without saying that you can't really keep track of what is happening in the downswing as it happens. Things are moving far too fast for you to see them unfold – you are only left to figure out what happened based on the results. If the shot is hit fat, for example, you know that you hit behind the ball. But why? That's where it gets tricky.

One way to track the root cause of your fat shots is to watch your swing back on video in slow-motion. That can be problematic, however, as you don't have video of every swing you make. Sure, you might video some of your shots on the range, but you almost certainly don't have video of your play on the course.

Without the help of video, you will be left to think critically about your fat shots immediately after they happen. One thing that can help dramatically is to know in advance what mistakes are likely to cause a fat shot. The list below includes three of the leading causes of fat shots in the amateur game.

  • Lower body failure. Believe it or not, it is often your lower body which is the cause of your fat golf shots. Many players overlook this possibility because it is your hands which are attached to the club, but your lower body plays a critical role in positioning the club for the strike. The usual failing is a poor rotation toward the target. On the way down, your lower body needs to turn aggressively toward the target you have picked out for the shot. If it does not do its job, your center of gravity will be too far to the right, and you will hit the ball fat. Only when you keep moving your lower body all the way through the shot can you expect to make clean contact time after time.
  • Hands losing the 'race'. This is the tip we alluded to in the title of the article, and there will be more on this later on. Basically, the 'race' we are talking about is a battle between the club head and your hands. In order to avoid fat shots, the hands need to arrive over the hitting area before the club gets down to the ball. If you allow the club head to win this race, the club is likely to stick in the ground before making contact, and your shot will come up short. Too many amateur golfers give away their lag angle during the downswing, which leads to the hands losing the race. If this is the cause of your fat shots, you are going to have to work hard on the dynamics of your downswing in order to make improvements.
  • An arms-only swing. As you should know, the golf swing is a whole body action. To hit powerful and accurate shots, you need to use your entire body properly, from your feet all the way up to your head. If anything along the way fails to do its job, the entire swing can be affected. Commonly, amateur golfers will neglect to use their bodies at all, instead just swinging the club back and forth with their arms. The result of this kind of swing is a weak action which fails to make solid contact with the ball. You might be able to get away with this kind of swing while playing some of your short irons, but it isn't going to work at all with the driver. Learn to engage your whole body in the swinging motion and your game will be better for the effort.

As soon as you hit a fat shot on the course, you should immediately start thinking about what it was that caused the mistake. Did you allow your hands to lose the race? Did your lower body stop turning part way through the downswing? Whatever it was, you need to identify the error so you can do your best to prevent history from repeating itself.

Make Sure Your Hands Win the Race

Make Sure Your Hands Win the Race

It was mentioned earlier that you can't do anything to completely eliminate fat shots from your game. Golf is hard, and you are sure to make some mistakes along the way – including a few fat shots. However, you can refine your technique to the point where your hands will win the race against the club head on every single swing. Once you make the necessary improvements, you will be able to eliminate this point from your list of possible fat shot causes. Knowing that your hands won the race on any given swing, you can focus your attention on other possible problems.

To ensure that your hands always win the race against the club head on every single swing, use the tips below.

  • Lag from the top. Your hands are never going to win the race down to the ball if they don't get a lead in the first place. As soon as your backswing transitions into the downswing, you should be focused on making sure your hands lead the way. That is done by 'lagging' the club head behind your hands. When the backswing is finished, pull your hands down toward the ball and let the club head linger at the top for a second. This is going to create a roughly 90* angle between your left arm and the shaft of the club. Once that angle is set, it is your job to hold the angle as far into the downswing as possible. If you hold the angle on the way down, your hands will win the race and it is highly unlikely that you will hit the ball fat.
  • Maintain flex in your knees. When you start your swing, you should have your knees flexed at address. Of course, you already know that – unfortunately, many golfers who start in a flexed position will give up their knee flex at some point along the way. As they stand up straight, the lower body stops doing its job and the body never rotates through the hitting area correctly. It isn't good enough to just start the swing with flex in your knees – you have to keep that flex to make sure your legs are engaged from start to finish.
  • Be confident. Your hands can lose this race as a result of nothing more than low confidence in your swing. Swinging through with your hands leading the way feels like an aggressive action. Some golfers are more comfortable pushing the club head down toward impact first, as this can feel like an easy way to guide the ball toward the target. This kind of swing usually doesn't work, of course, but you might feel safer with this method when your confidence is low. To get over low confidence, hit plenty of shots on the driving range and remember all of your successes so you can feel good about yourself on the course. Not sure you can handle the shot you are facing currently? Think back to a time on the range when you hit exactly the kind of shot you need, and use that positive feeling to carry you through the moment.
  • Have the right club in hand. Generally speaking, amateur golfers do a lousy job of picking clubs. Most players pick clubs based on the best case scenario – in other words, they pick the club that will reach the target only if the shot is struck perfectly. That isn't a great idea, as you aren't going to hit your shots perfectly all too often. More likely, you are going to miss-hit the shot at least a bit, which means you will come up short. In an effort to force the ball to the target while using too-little club, you may cast the club head on the way down and waste your angle. All of this can be avoided just by using an extra club. Your club selections should not be based on the best case scenario, but rather on the shot that is likely to result on the majority of your swings.

Once you start to understand what it feels like to have your hands with the downswing race, you are going to want to have that feeling over and over again. Pay close attention to this point during upcoming practice sessions to make sure you can nail down what it feels like to have your hands arrive at the ball before the club head. In time, you won't have to think about this point as much, and it will just become a natural part of your technique.

Setting Up in the Right Spot

Setting Up in the Right Spot

The dynamic portion of the golf swing tends to be the part that gets the most attention. It seems like the moving parts of your swing would be the most important – but that isn't necessarily the case. The static position you use at address is just as important as everything that takes place later. By putting your body, and the club, in the right position at address, you can make the job of swinging the club significantly easier.

As it pertains to this article, you want to be sure to set up with your hands slightly in front of the ball at address. This makes sense when you think about it for a moment. If you want your hands to win the race back down to the ball, why not start with them just a bit ahead of the ball in the first place? We aren't talking about a significant forward press here – just a slight lean of the shaft toward the target.

To get into the right spot, think about setting your hands up directly over the ball. With your hands lined up over the ball, and the club head behind the ball, the shaft of the club will be forced to lean toward the target. This is exactly where you want to be at address, and it is going to encourage a downward hit through impact. As long as you get back to something close to this position at the moment of impact, it will be unlikely that the shot will come out fat.

You can use this setup for most of the shots you hit around the golf course. It is great for your iron shots, it works nicely on most chip shots, and many people like to putt this way as well. However, one area where it is not a good idea is with the driver. Yes, you still want your hands to win the race when swinging a driver, but you don't want to hit down on the ball with the big stick. A proper driver swing is going to move up slightly through impact. For that reason, try to set up with your hands directly over the club head when hitting a driver to make sure you can swing the club flatly through the hitting area.

Not sure if you have your hands in the right spot at address? There are a couple of things you can do to check. For one, you could simply ask a friend to take a look and tell you about the relationship between your hand, the club head, and the ball. Or, if you are practicing alone, you can look around the driving range to see if there is a mirror you can use. Many golf facilities keep a mirror out on the range for instructional purposes. A quick look in the mirror while taking your stance will tell you the truth about your stance.

Responding to a Fat Shot on the Course

Responding to a Fat Shot on the Course

When you hit a shot fat during a round of golf, the immediate reaction is to get mad and make changes to your swing. Unfortunately, that reaction probably isn't going to be very productive. How should you respond to give yourself a chance at keeping your round on track? The following tips may help.

  • Slow down. When you get angry, you will want to move faster and hurry off to your next shot. Not only will this increase the likelihood of hitting another poor shot, but it will also mean that you didn't stop to figure out what happened with the fat shot in the first place. Make a point to slow down when you hit a fat shot so you can think about what happened. Also, this will give you a chance to get your mind in a better place before hitting the next shot. One of the cardinal sins in this game is allowing one poor shot to carry into the next – that pattern can quickly take down your entire round.
  • Watch the ball fly. As soon as you feel that the shot was fat, you may be tempted to look down or turn away in frustration. Don't do that. Instead, watch the ball all the way to the ground and only move on after it has landed. This is important because the ball is going to come down somewhere you weren't expecting, and you need to make sure you know where it is. Failing to watch the ball could lead to a lost ball and a penalty stroke – and that is not a problem you need to add on to the poor swing you just made.
  • Don't make any dramatic changes. If you had been playing reasonably well up until the point of the fat shot, resist the temptation to change your technique on the fly. Your swing was obviously working well enough to hit some quality shots earlier in the round, so there is no reason to think you can't hit more good shots on your way back to the clubhouse. If you panic and change your mechanics, you will only make things worse.

Nobody likes hitting fat shots, and catching the ball heavy certainly isn't going to do anything for your goal of shooting lower scores. All hope is not lost, however. Plenty of accomplished golfers hit the ball fat from time to time, as it is an easy mistake to make. Don't let a few fat shots throw you off track during a given round – respond in a positive way and make sure your hands win the race on the next swing. As long as you keep getting your hands past the position of the ball on every swing, you should be able to make solid contact more often than not. Good luck!