You wind up, make a nice full backswing and really go after it. Then “ouch” you hit 3 inches behind the ball. What’s worse, the embarrassment, the awful result or the tendonitis? There are all sorts of miss hits in golf that aggravate us, but hitting behind the ball or ‘hitting it fat’ actually hurts and that can be very discouraging.
There is good news though. In my opinion as an instructor who has taught full time for over 20 years, hitting behind the ball is actually much better than topping the ball. If you are struggling with hitting behind the ball, look at it this way – at least you are hitting something! All you need to do is change where you are hitting. In other words, we need to get you to bottom out at the right part of your swing arc. Think of your swing as a circle with the bottom of the circle touching the ground where the ball sits. Ideally you would hit down on the ball and then bottom out just after the ball taking a nice divot.
Hitting Fat Can Be Avoided With 3 Easy Steps
How do we change the bottom point of our arc? It’s easy actually. The vast majority of players that hit the ground before the ball simply don’t shift their weight soon enough in the downswing. As you move forward so does the bottom of your swing arc. To get through the ball better and bottom out later in your swing arc just follow these 3 easy steps:
1. Shift your weight from the ground up at the start of your downswing. Reversing directions with your lower body by pushing off your rear side and shifting to your front foot is actually what should start your downswing.
If this isn’t happening you are probably hanging back on your rear side way too long and triggering your downswing with your upper body be it arms or shoulders. Before your club reaches the top of the backswing use your lower body (legs and hips) to start driving your weight towards the target.
Think of a baseball pitcher winding up with his pitching arm and while it’s still moving back he’s already stepping towards the plate. It’s this dynamic move that gets us shifting our weight, but also lagging the clubhead behind our hands and on plane to create maximum power to release into the ball.
2. Make sure to let your head come forward. I can tell golf students till I’m blue in the face to shift their weight, but if I fail to mention that they have to let their head come forward too, they aren’t going to gain much ground.
“Keep your head back” and “Keep your head down” are two bits of advice that are just pounded into beginners so emphatically that their bodies are literally locked up at impact. True – you do need to keep your head back as you reverse directions and you don’t want to get it ahead of the ball (especially with a driver), but to hit down on the ball and avoid hitting it fat, you do need to feel much more over the b
all than you are probably used to. Once the ball is struck you also need to let your face rotate to see the ball fly and let your head forward and up into your finish. If you keep it down too long you literally prevent yourself from properly rotating through the ball, getting a full release and a full weight shift.
3. If you are the chunky monkey of your group don’t get down on yourself. Simply focus on early lower body action to get a proper weight shift to your front foot, make sure to let your head come through the shot and focus on a spot in front of the golf ball. Pure and less painful shots are on their way!
Give yourself a goal. Put tee or penny a couple inches in front of the ball. Focus on hitting the tee or the penny, not the ball. This gives your eyes something to focus on – a target in front of the ball. Many professional golfers have actually said they look at a spot in front of the ball instead of looking at the ball to make sure that they hit through the shot and don’t catch it fat. You’ll soon find yourself swinging through the ball and bottoming out after impact.
Maria Palozola is a Top 50 Teacher with the LPGA and has been instructing for over 20 years. She was the LPGA Midwest Section Teacher of the Year in 2013, and Golf Digest ranks her as a Top 5 Teacher in the State.