How Not To Strike Turf Before The Golf Ball, Golf Tip

Striking the ground before the ball is a problem faced by many players and is normally caused by an early extension of the wrists during the down swing.

This occurs when the wrists unhinge early in the down swing, reducing the angle between the wrists and club shaft. This means the club shaft and arms extend and straighten too early, bottoming the club out of its natural arc and impacting the ground before the ball.

To improve ball striking and to make a pure contact with the ball before the ground, the angle between the wrists and club shaft needs to be maintained during the down swing to just before impact when the wrists unhinge, the arms straighten and then extend through the ball.

There are a few drills players can use to help maintain the angle of the wrists and club shaft during the down swing.

Pump Drill

  • Take your address position over the ball and swing to the top of your back swing. You should see a 90 degree angle created between the left arm (for a right handed golfer) and the club shaft at the top the back swing.
  • Pause for a moment at the top of the swing, focusing on maintaining the angle between the left arm and club shaft.
  • Bring the club down, slowly rehearsing the first move in the down swing where the hips rotate and the arms drop. Pause halfway down, where the left arm should be pointing down at the ground, with the club shaft parallel to the ground. The angle created by the left arm and club is still 90 degrees.
  • Hold this position for a moment before returning to the top of the back swing position.
  • Now swing through at full speed and try to repeat the same position just practiced during the down swing.
  • This should help you to understand the feeling of maintaining the angle between the shaft, wrists and arms.

Swoosh Drill

  • The swoosh drill is an advancement of the pump drill with a couple of extra twists.
  • Rather than using a club, use an alignment stick or garden cane to swing. As long as it is sufficiently long, thin and heavy enough to make a 'swoosh' sound as it travels through the air.
  • Taking a set up position, repeat the pump drill with the stick. When swinging through, you will hear the swoosh.
  • Try to get the swoosh sound emanating from after where the ball would be positioned.
  • This will show you have maintained the wrist angle all the way through the down swing and only straightened the stick and arms after impact.

How Not To Strike Turf Before the Golf Ball

How Not To Strike Turf Before the Golf Ball

One of the most valuable skills you can possess as a golfer is the ability to strike the ball cleanly. This is important with all of your clubs, but it really comes into play when talking about iron shots from the fairway. Many amateur golfers struggle in this spot, as they hit the ball either fat or thin a majority of the time. If you are going to elevate your game as time moves along, you need to find a way to hit most of your shots cleanly from the fairway.

In this article, we will be talking specifically about avoiding one type of miss – the fat shot. When you strike the turf before you make contact with the golf ball, it is said that you have hit a fat shot. As you might expect, fat shots almost always come up short of the target. This is because there is not a clean transfer of energy between the club and the ball at impact. Some of the force of your swing is lost due to the contact you made with the turf, and the shot will fail to reach the target. This is always frustrating, but it is particularly damaging to your score when trying to play over a hazard such as a pond.

It is critical to be able to predict your distances accurately in golf. In fact, many professional golfers will state that the ability to control distance is the single most valuable skill in the game. Sure, it is important to get your shots on line as well, but even a shot which is off target to a degree can still be playable as long as the distance was okay. It is when you miss badly on your intended distance that you are going to wind up in serious trouble.

There are both mental and physical aspects at play when trying to avoid fat shots. We are going to cover both halves of the equation in this article, starting with some physical keys before moving on to mental game notes. The mental game is easy to ignore, especially for amateurs, but that doesn't make it any less important. To play well, you have to coordinate your mind and body properly to work together in the same direction.

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.

Mechanical Notes

Mechanical Notes

It is true that there is a big mental side to this issue, and we are going to get to that later in the article. To start with, however, we need to make sure your mechanics are in place. Without solid mechanics, it simply isn't going to matter how well you approach the game from a mental standpoint – you'll still hit fat shots. Put your physical swing into order first and then bring your thinking around until you have a great overall approach to each shot.

The following list includes the key elements needed in your swing to avoid hitting the turf before the ball.

  • Great balance. This is where everything begins. If you are balanced during your swing, you will have a good chance to make solid contact. Unfortunately, many amateur golfers struggle with balance, as they never take the time to work on it during practice. The mistake which is going to lead to fat shots more often than not is leaning toward the target during the downswing. In other words, if you get too far onto your left side as you swing down, it will be likely that the club will hit the turf before hitting the ball. This is due to the steep angle of attack that you are going to have to use. A proper golf swing allows the player to stay balanced in the center of the stance as they swing down. Rather than sliding left toward the target, you should be rotating to the left as the club comes down from the top of the swing. As soon as you improve your balance, your ball striking will take a big step forward.
  • Passive right hand. Along with balance, proper use of the right hand during the swing is another important key. You need to make sure that your right hand stays out of the action for as long as possible if you are going to avoid hitting the turf first. During the downswing, your right hand should play a passive role in the golf swing, with the rotation of your body doing most of the work that is needed to move the club. Basically, your hands are going to be along for the ride. Only at the very bottom of the swing should you allow the right hand to get involved and fire the club head through the hitting area. The timing of this action is something that will improve with time, as you get more and more comfortable with using your right hand in this manner. Countless amateur golfers fire the right hand too early, and they are left with fat shots as a result.
  • Excellent lower body movement. Another essential piece of the ball striking puzzle is quality movement in your lower body. As the downswing develops, you should be turning your hips (and your legs) to the left and toward the target. This rotation should continue on all the way through the swing and into the finish. By turning your lower body properly, you will put yourself – and the club – in a great position for a solid strike. This is yet another area where many amateur golfers fall short of the mark. The average player does not use his or her lower body properly on the way down, and fat shots are the inevitable result. Even if the player does manage to hit the ball cleanly from time to time, those shots are still lacking power because the lower body was not used effectively. Learning how to engage your lower body in the downswing is a skill which can pay off in a big way from a ball striking perspective.
  • Stable head position. The last point on our list is a big one – head position. Excessive head movement during the swing is a common cause of poor contact quality. In this case, you are likely to hit fat shots if you allow your head to move down toward the ball in the downswing. Some players make this move instead of rotating toward the target. The knees are flexed too much coming down, the head drops, and the club drops too low as well. In the end, there is no way to avoid hitting the turf prior to hitting the ball. By keeping your head steady, you will be able to maintain much the same position that you held at address. That means your body won't be moving up and down, and it should be easy enough to place the club on the back of the ball at impact.

If you are able to keep all four of the keys listed above in place in your golf swing, you will be well on your way to excellent performance. With good balance, a stable head position, quality lower body rotation, and a passive right hand, it will be hard to make too many mistakes. Obviously, those elements of your swing are not just going to come together automatically. Any improvement in golf takes work, and this is no different. Plan on putting in some practice time on the range before you expect these concepts to pay off in the form of solid ball striking.

The Mental Side of the Equation

The Mental Side of the Equation

With some basic mechanical fundamentals out of the way, we need to move on to the mental side. This is often the harder side of the game to teach, as it can't be watched on video like your physical swing. You need to be honest with yourself with regard to your current thought processes in order to improve. If you just pretend that everything is great with your mental game at the moment – even if it is not – you simply aren't going to make the progress you have in mind.

As was the case in the previous section, we have listed a number of tips below for you to consider.

  • Forget about the need to scoop. Without a doubt, the biggest mental game mistake made by golfers who are struggling with fat shots is the urge to help the ball up into the air. This is called scooping, and it is only going to lead to trouble. When you swing down into the ball with an iron, you don't need to help the ball up into the air – the club has built-in loft for exactly this reason. As long as you hit down through the shot solidly, the ball will rise up into the sky. There is an urge among many players – often beginners – to help the ball up by making a scooping action with the right hand. That simply isn't necessary. To get rid of this habit, think about keeping the back of your left wrist as firm and flat as possible at impact. Doing so will ensure that you aren't scooping the ball, and the quality of your ball striking will improve right away.
  • Don't get in a rush. Despite the fact that there is no shot clock in golf, many golfers feel the need to rush through their swing for one reason or another. Rushing, unfortunately, leads to many problems, including fat shots. It is often the transition from backswing to downswing which is rushed, and hurrying through that part of the swing leads many golfers into trouble. When you rush through the swing and don't stick with your normal tempo, your lower body doesn't have time to turn through the shot and the club will likely hit the turf before the ball. Timing is essential in golf, so you can't let yourself feel rushed for any reason. Take a deep breath before each swing, take your time settling into your stance, and stay in rhythm from the first shot on through to the last.
  • Trust your preparation. It is common for golfers to hit the ball well on the practice range – only to head out onto the course and start to hit the ball fat. This is extremely frustrating, as players feel like the work they are doing on the range simply isn't paying off. That isn't necessarily the case. More likely, those golfers aren't trusting the work they have done on the range. When you get out to the course, it is easy to overanalyze each swing you make. When too much analysis goes into the process, you are likely to make changes from what you were doing on the range, and problems will arise. The better method is simply to trust what you practiced on the range and see how it works on the course. Instead of trying as hard as possible, just believe in yourself and expect to play well. You aren't always going to hit good shots, of course, but your best bet is to stick with what was working on the range. In the long run, this approach to the game is going to pay off.

It is all too easy to fall into bad mental habits on the golf course. On the other hand, it is pretty easy to keep your mind in a good place while you practice. Since there is nothing to worry about on the range – you can just line up another ball if you hit a bad shot – there is no pressure and you are free to perform at your highest possible level. While it is easy to say and hard to do, taking your attitude from the range onto the course can go a long way toward improving your performance. Golf is not a game that rewards sheer effort, so resist the temptation to try harder when on the course. Just play your game, trust in your preparation, and see what happens.