By Josh McKinley, PGA Certified Professional: Teaching and Coaching
We’ve all been there at one time or another, a solid drive in the middle of the fairway putting us in prime position to go for the flag with a crisp iron shot. You know your distance and pick the perfect club. You can visualize the ball flight as you take your grip and settle into a comfortable stance. After one more look at the green, you start the swing with visions of your ball flying high and straight at your target. And then it happens… you feel your club strike the ground first, digging in behind the ball, and your visions of birdies disappear as you see the ball land 20 yards short of the green.
Making solid contact is essential to playing your best golf. This becomes even more important as the winter precipitation sets in on the Pacific Northwest. The softer the ground, the more distance you lose when your low point is behind the ball. As my Dad told me when I was learning the game in Portland, “You have to hit the little ball first.” To get the proper launch and spin on the ball for high shots that will maximize your distance, the low point of your swing must be on the target side of the ball.
The “Miss the Towel” drill turns your golf towel (essential equipment in the Pacific Northwest) into an effective training aid to learn how to make solid contact consistently. Lay your towel flat on the ground, between 3 – 6 inches behind the ball. The towel should be closer for wedges and further back for hybrids and fairway woods. The object of this drill is to miss the towel and cleanly hit the ball, taking a small divot after impact. This will teach you how to get your weight properly shifted toward the target, and strike the ball with a slightly descending blow. Consistently making solid contact will help you maximize your distance, and hit the greens in regulation more often. I see those visions of birdies coming back to life!
The Towel is laid flat on the ground, with a 7 iron I have it 4 inches behind the ball.
Here you can see my weight has shifted into my front foot, and the club head is still above the towel coming into the ball on a slightly descending angle.
In this final picture, you can see my divot was on the target side of the ball, and my ball has started off on a nice launch angle.
Josh McKinley is a Certified Personal Coach with GOLFTEC Spokane and recipient of Golf Digest’s Best in Your State 2017-2018, and Inland Empire Chapter PGA Teacher of the Year 2016.. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org