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Why you’re hitting fat shots and how to fix them

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Hitting the ball fat is one of the most costly shots in golf. It’s embarrassing, the ball goes almost nowhere, and sometimes it even hurts. A player can hit the ball thin and get away with it most of the time, but fat is a killer.

In order to correct your fat shots, you first have to know what KIND of fat shot you’re hitting.

You can hit the ball fat from having an angle of attack (AoA) that is too steep or one that is too shallow. You can hit it fat from having too inside of a swing path or one that is too outside. Fat shots can also be caused by a release that is too early, moving your swing center too far off the ball, or even a reverse weight shift. By knowing your OWN swing habits, you can get to the correction straight on.

In this story, I’ll discuss the four most common causes of fat shots and how to fix them.

From Steep AoA

Steep, fat shots are kind of obvious; they leave big holes in the ground. They are the most costly ones because the ground behind the ball does not give very much when you hit it. So if this mishit is your problem, you’ll need to shallow out your attack angle a bit.

There are a few ways to accomplish this.

First check your posture. Be sure you’re giving yourself enough room to swing your arms down through the ball.

Many people who hit the turf before the ball are pleasantly surprised when they simply raise their swing center a bit at address. You may also try standing just a little bit further from the ball.

Also, consider flattening your swing plane a little. An image here might be a bird diving into the water opposd to one gliding into it. Your swing action might feel more around instead of up and down. A bigger, more level shoulder turn in the backswing with the arms swinging more across the chest can help you shallow out your attack angle.

You might try hitting balls on a sidehill lie above your feet to get a feeling of a flatter action. See my previous article on swing plane for more. 

From Shallow AoA

Shallow fat shots are a little more difficult to detect, but they are fat shots nonetheless. I think of these as “drop kicks,” which happen when the sole of the club just “scuffs” the ground behind the golf ball. There are no deep divots here, just less than solid contact from brushing the grass first.

In this case, you’ll need a steeper attack angle. There are a few ways to accomplish this. Again, check your posture. Be sure you have sufficient hip bend at address with your arms hanging naturally under your shoulders and your rear end extended. You may also consider moving in a little closer to the golf ball to help you swing a little more vertically.

Reach for the sky in the backswing; get your arms and club to swing more upright. Your shoulders should feel a steeper turn and your pivot should stay fairly centered. In this swing your lead arm can come off the chest a little and swing up, less around than when trying to shallow out your angle. And be sure to feel a more aggresive turn through the ball as you swing. You must get to your left side into impact; hanging back on the right side is a common cause of a shallow attack angle.

From Posture

There is also the fat shot that is caused by posture loss during the downswing, and it’s usually a pretty significant crash into the terra firma!

I see this a lot with students who RAISE up going back and then try to rectify it by diving back down on their downswing. Try to remain level and turn around a more fixed center as you swing. Hitting ball on a sidehill below your feet can help this feeling.

From Casting

Finally, there is “casting,” or too early of a release that can cause fat shots. When the lead arm and club get extended too soon (from the inside) you’ll crash.

This one is almost always associated with an inside-out path and insufficient pelvic rotation into impact. It’s the “hang-back-and-cast” move.

If you are an early releaser of the club, you need to be keenly aware of getting off your back foot early in the downswing. The reason this is an inside-out related swing issue is because if you come over the top with an early release, you usually do not crash. But casting from the inside is a death move.

The Bottom Line: If you tend to hook the ball, your miss is probably a shallow fat shot shot. If you tend to slice the ball, your miss is most likely a steep fat shot.

Thinking about the corrections above will help both issues.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Gian11

    Apr 13, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    Spot on. I have this problem before and the cause is from shallow aoa.

  2. cody

    Feb 12, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    could you explain what you mean by this statement? ” If you are an early releaser of the club, you need to be keenly aware of getting off your back foot early in the downswing.”

    I know that I lose posture and my right heel comes off the ground fast, but I do not rotate well. Seems that this statement may be related. i would like more explanation here. Thanks.

  3. Dennis Clark

    Jan 23, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    Several really; try this: Put an aim stick 2 inches behind the ball. Rest the club on the aim stick and try hitting some wedges without hitting the stick. Carefully!

  4. Ponjo

    Jan 23, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    I have been getting encouraged to get off the back foot by setting the club 6 – 9 inches behind the ball. This is probably the most beneficial movement I have been taught.

  5. Jarrette Schule

    Jan 23, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    any range drill suggestions for an early releaser such as myself?

  6. W. Scott

    Jan 22, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Great article. I need the help. Thanks! Scott

  7. derek

    Jan 21, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    “Many people who hit the turf before the ball are pleasantly surprised when they simply raise their swing center a bit at address”
    I am not sure what u mean by this? please explain.

    • Dennis Clark

      Jan 21, 2015 at 7:16 pm

      Stand up a bit; don’t bend as much at the hips. Give you more room to swing your arms.

  8. Phat

    Jan 21, 2015 at 2:37 am

    Thanks Dennis, not sure if it fits somewhere in your summary above, but there’s also Trevino’s old simple tip of checking that your first few fingers of the left hand have an adequate grip on the top end of the shaft/grip. It seems to help me, so would that be mainly to prevent casting? Fix one flaw and you sometimes create another, it would seem…!

    • Dennis Clark

      Jan 21, 2015 at 7:57 am

      yes good point…pressure on the little and ring figure of the top hand is mostly an anti-hook measure (as mentioned by Hogan and Tom Watson most recently) but also retards ulnar deviation (casting). Very true.

  9. Nolanski

    Jan 20, 2015 at 9:46 am

    Thanks Dennis. I’ve been struggling with hitting fat shots all of 2014. Unfortunately I live in MI and will only be able to hit off turf. Maybe I’ll put a broken tee or something 2-3 inches behind my ball to be able to tell if I’m hitting fat.

    • Dennis Clark

      Jan 20, 2015 at 6:23 pm

      I hope this helps. If you’re an early releaser, stay on your left side as much as possible

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Instruction

The value of video

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In the age of radar and 3-D measuring systems, video analysis has somewhat taken a backseat. I think that’s unfortunate for a few reasons. First of all, video is still a great assist to learning, and secondly, it is readily available and it can be accessed continually.

Of course, it has limitations, that is a given. It is ultimately a 2-D image of a three-dimensional motion. The camera cannot detect true path, see plane, and can be misleading if not positioned properly. That said, I still use it on every lesson, because, in my experience, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

Things like posture, ball position, and aim can all be seen clearly when the camera is positioned exactly as it should be. In swing observations such as maintenance of posture, club angles, arms in relation to body, over the top, under, early release can all be a great help to any student.

But the real value is in the “feel versus real” area! None of us, from professional to beginner, can know what we are actually doing. The very first reaction I get upon viewing, is “wow, I’m doing that?” Yes, you are. You did NOT pick up your head as you thought you were doing, you ARE lifting well out of your posture, you are NOT coming “over the top”, your aim is well left of where you think you’re aiming, your club is pointing well right of your aim point at the top of the swing, your transition is excessively steep, your lead arm is very bent at impact, the clubhead is past your hands, your wrists are cupped or bowed and on and on!

Some of these positions may be a problem; some may be irrelevant. It’s all about impact, and how you’re getting there that matters. The chicken wing that is causing you to top the ball may very well be the result of a very early release, or a steep transition, or too much waist bend etc. The weight hanging back on the rear leg may be the result of the club so far across the line at the top, and so on.

I never evaluate video without knowledge of ball flight or impact. If one were to observe a less-than-conventional swing, perhaps a Jim Furyk, with knowing how he put matching components together, it might seem like a problem area. Great players have matching components, lesser players do not! IMPACT is king!

I have a video analysis program, as I’m sure your instructor, or someone in your area, does as well. It can only help to take a good, close slow motion look at what is actually happening in your swing.  It takes very little time, and the results can be massively beneficial to your golf swing.

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Shawn Clement: Dealing with injuries in your golf swing, lead side.

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Happy Father’s Day weekend and U.S. Open weekend at none other than Pebble Beach weekend! Whoa, cannot wait to see the golf action today!

In this video, we talk about how to deal with hip, knee and ankle injuries to your lead side as this one is PIVOTAL (pardon the pun) to the success of any kinetic chain in a human. This kinetic chain is a golf swing. Now, what most of you don’t get is that you were born with action; like a dolphin was born to swim. Just watch 2-year-olds swinging a club! You wish you had that swing and guess what, it is in there. But you keep hiding it trying to hit the ball and being careful to manipulate the club into positions that are absolutely, positively sure to snuff out this action.

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