Hitting the Ball Fat

BY Wayne Thomas

In my last article we visited how a player manages to think their way into hitting the ball thin. In this episode we will look at its cousin, hitting it fat. The major difference between them is that the thin shot golfer has learnt to manipulate their swing in some way to stop hitting the grass before the ball.

Three Reasons For Hitting The Ball Fat

1. Inappropriately Seeking Extra Power

For a right hander misuse of the right hand trying to hit longer by pushing the club can feel powerful but can cause the golfer to throw the clubhead away early and actually loose power. The greater the loss of power the more the golfer will use muscular effort to compensate for this power loss. The job of the right hand is to feel and monitor the lag pressure that is naturally caused with a well-sequenced swing motion.

2. Trying To Get Under The Ball

You cannot get the club head under the ball; the ground is in the way. The intention of trying to get under the ball can have the golfer throw the clubhead past the grip end early and hit the ground before the ball.

3. Using Clubs With Not Enough Loft

One of the biggest killers in golf is using clubs that do not have enough loft. Less loft does not mean longer distance. In fact when the correct loft is used the ball will fly further. I see too many golfers using clubs that do not have enough loft for them ruining their potentially powerful swing motion.

I suggest you use more loft and learn to flatten your ball flight, this will encourage stored downswing loading and reduce throw away. I strongly urge every golfer to be correctly club fitted by an experienced PGA Golf Professional to ensure they are using the correct equipment to maximise the distance they can hit a ball.

Unconscious Instincts

Unconscious Instinctsor reactions developed as a youngster playing bat and ball games is something many golfers are not aware of that are affecting their ability to create a sound golf swing and producing solid strikes.

It became obvious as a youngster that to hit a ball in the air we swing from under to up and the ball lifts. Figure 1 shows what golfers then attempt to do with their club using a tennis racket. That is okay using a racket hitting a ball that is in the air; but the golf ball is on the ground so we need to develop a new set of instincts, our golfing instincts.

Throwing the clubhead away early is actually less powerful even if it physically feels powerful. Potential power is lost once the clubhead passes the grip end and you end up with that horror throw-away look as shown in Figure 2, weak impact condition in Figure 3 and creates that horrible chicken wing scooping motion illustrated in Figure 4.

The Golf Club In Motion

With a bit of study we discover that in motion the clubhead lags or follows; the farthest point from the centre of rotation (the clubhead) will move last following the centre of rotation (the torso). This will naturally create a downswing sequence of feet, knees, hips, shoulders, arms, hands and grip end of the club followed by the shaft

I have illustrated in Figures 5, 6 and 7 a relaxed three-quarter backstroke position to supple wrists coming into the ball and a powerful impact position. If you force this order to be reversed you can cause the clubhead to precede this sequence, placing the bottom of the arc behind the ball and hit the ground before the ball has been struck. The real bottom of the arc is a little past the ball under the left arm pit as was explained in Fix your Swing Part 1 and Part 2.

A deal weak impact condition as shown in Figure 3 is a most undesirable impact condition; Figure 7 is a beautiful powerful impact condition

Mechanics

The left arm and shaft with a constant flat left wrist (for club face control) is your primary lever assembly; especially in the downswing when you allow the left arm to swing freely from the shoulder the whole club including the clubhead will naturally lag and bend the right wrist. To maintain the primary lever assembly with a well-structured triangle the right wrist must have some bend.

The job of the right hand is to feel and monitor how the club pushes back into the hand (lag pressure) not pushing against the club (throw away). This lag pressure can be felt and monitored using the right index finger.

This is not a forced procedure; the wrists must remain supple and flexible, never locked, or you will inhibit the release and reduce power. This lag pressure feel should be steadily and constantly experienced and monitored until after impact and well into follow through. You should feel like picture 4 looks like coming into the ball

One of the difficulties in achieving consistent strikes is overcoming the urge to hit at the ball usually resulting in a loss of lag pressure. The right hand throwing to generate power will have the right wrist unbend and the right elbow straighten too soon; with no-where else to go the clubhead passes the grip and the left arm and the clubhead hits the ground before the ball.

Please note that the right arm may be used as a power source but never the right hand, when the right wrist unbends the clubhead will throw away and there is a massive loss of potential power.

What To Practice

Begin with half to three quarter swings as per figure sequences 5,6, 7, 8 (getting to both arms straight) and and 9 (a comfortable follow through) using a reasonably lofted club like a nine or eight iron and have some casual lazy practice swings. See if you can sense how the club feels heavier during the downswing; it may help to close your eyes for this exercise.

Once you can feel the club getting heavier and heavier in the downswing notice how you can sense this with the right index finger. Once you can feel the club pushing back against the right index finger see how long you can feel it for. When you can feel this lag pressure until well past an imaginary ball its time to put a ball in the way of this sensitive motion.

Giving the ball a good lie each time and swinging as casually as before keep your attention on the lag pressure feel. Notice any urge to hit at the ball and keep swinging until the urge dissipates, give your attention to monitoring the lag pressure in the right index finger and feel for the clubhead throwing itself after the ball has been struck as per Figure 8 and carrying you to a comfortable finish Figure 9.

Don’t worry if you mishit for a while, be patient, take your time and keep feeling for and sensing this lag pressure until solid strikes begin occurring. Now this may feel like a weak lazy motion but once you are no longer hitting the ground first and you notice the ball’s results you’ll be surprised how much power there is.

It won’t be long before the swing gets a little longer, the club feels even heavier in the downswing and there is more lag pressure against the index finger and you’re on your way to improved ball striking.

Conclusion

The right hand is for feeling how the golf club is responding to motion, it is not for hitting the ball. Learn to develop sensitivity to how the club is responding to motion.

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    About the Author: Wayne Thomas

    Wayne Thomas has been a PGA Australia Member for over thirty years, and has taught and played in many countries around the world and worked with thousands of golfers at all levels from beginners to tour professionals. He is currently the Head Golf Coach at The Heritage G&CC in the Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia.


    Read all of Wayne's articles »




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