Shot Corrections: Is it You, the Club, or the Course?

Right fairway here is better than left because the green slopes severely to the right. And there is a ‘false back’ to the right on the green.

Do you know what’s causing your impact and ball flights? It could be what you are trying to do, it could be your equipment, or it could be the golf course. It’s not enough to try so hard to make it go straight on the range – the clubs or the course can do it to you too!

Thin Shots

Set-up / Swing    Often a matter of posture and arm or hand tension, the correction is often to bend a little more at the hip flexors to lower your hands and grip, creating an angle from the arms hanging down to the shaft reaching out to the ball.

Club Fit     Thin Shots are often the result of a club that is too short, or too upright or flat, too stiff, or too light. Get with your teacher/clubfitter to test these different specifications.

On Course     Here performance is often due to lies that are too tight to the ground. If there is no cushion of grass below the ball, the club is forced to strike the ball low on the face resulting in lower and shorter flights that often curve slightly to the fade side.

Fat Shots    

Set-up / Swing     Many players are taught to hit down on the ball, and often the player will hit down much more severely than normal. It is generally acknowledged that the best ball strikers take a very small, shallow divot that occurs after impact. This suggests a much more shallow angle of attack on the ball. Often players will try to move the ball back to where the club is perceived to be striking the ground, but this means the club is still too severely on the downswing. A better fix is to move the ball forward in the stance to try to target the actual low point of the swing.

  Club Fit   Potentially the club could be too long, too heavy, too flexible, or the wrong lie angle. Here it is important to “neutralize” the face position so that the sole will match the surface of a level lie.

On-Course     Here the player often does not adapt to the lie, and often the instructions given cause the problem. For example, instructions to move your weight to the balls of your feet and choke up on the club for a ball above your feet will present the clubhead to the ball too flat, often causing the toe of the club to stick toe-deep into the sideslope. Instead, don’t choke up and place your balance slightly on your heels to produce a more rounded swing (flat swing plane) that will present the club to the ball with the sole more closely matching the surface of the sideslope.

For flat lies, simply start moving the ball forward until you don’t hit it fat. This is the “low point” of your arc for that club.

Slices    

Set-up / Swing     Your top hand – left hand for right-handers and right hand for left handers – is your first major key. If you set up with your top hand thumb straight down the top of the shaft you will more likely slice the ball. This is such a weak position that your top hand is prevented from rotating the club through impact, leaving the ball to slice.

Think of your top hand grip as a clock with the thumb pointing at 12:00 when it is on top. Now think of half hour increments and turn your hand away from the target more on top of the grip. Right-handers can turn their hand to 12:30, 1:00, 1:30, or 2:00, and for every half hour you turn your hand on the grip the ball flights will start moving away from the slice side, and generally straighter, until at some point it will start pulling or hooking.

Next, your ball position can be a problem. Too far back in your stance and the clubface will be open at impact, and the club will be striking the ball on the downswing. Move it forward until you see the ball going higher and straighter – then you’ll know you are at or near the bottom of your arc.

Club Fit     Slices are often due to an ill-fitted driver. For every degree of clubhead loft you go down, you will increase any loss of direction, and going lower will get progressively worse!

Be sure to check your impacts on the face of your club with an impact decal or even spray some foot powder on the clubface. Make your decisions on club purchases on centered contact. Often I see players striking the ball very high on the face and make purchases not knowing where the ball is striking the face.

On Course     The “lower” the ball is, the more likely you will slice it. Try this: place your ball on a very tight lie in the fairway and put your 3-wood so the face is touching the ball. Your impact here is below the sweet spot, with the clubhead deflecting from an off-center impact, usually resulting in a low fade or slice. And/or, when the ball is below your feet or on a downslope it will more likely fade or slice. Understand that tight lies usually fade or slice, and play for that to happen.

Hooks  

Set-up / Swing     Often this is simply having the face closed in relation to the hands. Take your grip, extend your arms down and bend your wrists. What did the clubface do? Often if square at waist high, it will close as you bend your wrists farther up. Just keep your hand positions but spin the grip slightly more open (away from the target) inside of your grip.

  Clubfit     Lofts that are too low can often cause the player to compensate for the ball slicing. Or, the shaft may be too soft, or the lie angles too upright.

On Course     Lies that are “higher” such as in fluffy grass well above the ground, thick rough, on higher tees, above your feet, or on an upslope can all cause hooks. Play for the ball to hook in most of these cases. The only one that I would not want to go left is the thick rough. The grass will grab the club and close it, usually making the flight low, left, and very short. In this case open the face and try to keep the face from closing through impact.

Bottom Line? That swing you are trying to groove requires clubs that support it and on-course knowledge. Get some clubs that are properly fit to your swing, move the ball forward until you take more shallow divots, and go on course with your pro to learn the influences of conditions you face on the golf course.

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