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5 reasons you don’t take divots



Should you take a divot? It’s a fair question I’m asked a lot, and my short answer is “yes.”

For most shots hit from the turf, most great strikers of the ball take a divot a few inches in front of the golf ball. Not all, mind you, as it is an individual thing, but most do. The club descent at the bottom of the swing, known as the attack angle, is about 4 degrees down for a 6 iron for tour pros. If that’s the case, what creates it, what do you have to do to facilitate this? Many golfers struggle in this area. They either take a divot behind the ball or take no divot at all. Why?

Here are a few reasons you can’t take a divot, or “find the bottom” as we say:

A Flat Swing

If a player tends to swing the club around his body, he will struggle with taking turf. Flat swings can produce shallow attack angles, and create wide swing bottoms than don’t come into impact steeply enough. I say CAN, because remember, I’m referring to the downswing.

Some flat backswings come over the top from there and create enough steepness to find turf, even too much turf, such as the the “in-and-over” move so common in many players. But when the downswing is really wide and around, it’s very difficult to get a divot. If this is your problem, try simply standing a bit closer and swinging more UP.  “Reach for the sky,” I often tell my players. Hitting balls from a side-hill, below-your-feet lie is good for this problem. It may force you to reach up a bit and hit down more

“Hang Back”


When a player’s center of mass tends to stay on the back foot, with considerable rear side bend (I call it hang back), the bottom of the swing arc can be too far behind the ball and the club is ascending when it reaches impact. This shallow attack angle will not take much, if any, turf. Again, I say CAN because some players who have a lot of rear side bend counter it with a very late release — “lag” if you will. They come in sufficiently steep.

But most golfers do not.

If you’re guilty of hanging back, try putting more weight on your front foot, and keeping it there, much like the “stack-and-tilt” method promotes. In any case, you’ll have to feel like you are hitting from a downhill lie to keep your rear side from diving too far under the ball. Hang back NEVER occurs in a vacuum; it is always the result of another move —  sometimes a “reverse pivot,” sometimes an over-the-top move, sometimes trying to add loft… but rarely does one do it in and of itself.

Shortening the Swing Radius

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The goal of impact is to create a position very similar to the one at address. Not identical, of course, because of swing dynamics, but similar. This includes a similar arm length into impact.

At address, the lead arm is extended and the rear arm is slightly bent. This position is the one which we need to achieve coming into the golf ball, but if the rear arm (right for righties) gets extended, you can be sure that the left arm will be contracted.

The all too common “chicken wing” is usually the result of casting the club very early and shortening the radius of the left arm as a necessary deterrent to hitting behind the ball.  Again, like everything else in the golf swing, nothing happens in and of itself. A poor swing position is the result of another poor move that preceded it. Try simulating your address position with the lead arm EXTENDED and the trail arm slightly flexed in by your rig cage.

Raising the Swing Center

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I call this “bailing out,” meaning as the player comes into impact, he raises up, or stands taller, coming out of his original address bend. Here we go again: it’s usually the result of a swing plane that is far too steep in transition (starting the downswing). If the club is headed for a crash, as a very steep shaft will be, the only recourse is to bail out to avoid the dreaded fat shot.

The correction here is learning to transition a bit flatter, with the shaft of the club more similar to its original incline, in order to “stay in the shot.” You cannot simply “stop standing up.” It is usually the result of too steep a downswing starting down. Sound familiar? See above!

Try hitting some balls from a tee with the golf club not grounded, that is, off the ground about as high as the golf ball. Feel more “baseball-like” with your approach into the ball and this will help you “stay in the shot.”

The Release


Lastly, there is always release point to consider. Any player’s hands should be a little ahead of the club head (called forward shaft lean) to hit down sufficiently to take a divot. That does NOT mean those who tend to release early cannot take a divot. If your center of mass is sufficiently forward, and the ball is positioned correctly for YOUR release, you can hit it early enough in your arc to take a divot.

If you’d like me to analyze your swing, go to my Facebook page or contact me ( about my online swing analysis program.

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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



  1. Joe D

    Jul 13, 2016 at 2:15 am

    Since I went to a more upright swing my distance and accuracy improved significantly. It may be worthy to note that while most will take a divot with short irons, generally long irons will tend to be picked clean or swept. Even the pros that rip a long divot with short irons will take a very shallow divot, if any, with the long irons.

  2. Shankadoodle

    Sep 17, 2015 at 2:51 am

    Dennis , maybe you could help with my struggles (difficult with no video I know) i have always been a picker but recently it’s beyond a joke like I’ll hit the bottom grooves more than I’d like to then hit a top then miss completely and when I try to divot the ground during a practice swing I actually can’t get down to the floor I miss the ground completely, do i need more forward bend? When I try that I seem to bail out and miss anyway . I never thought I casted much I get decent distances off my irons 155 7 iron not sure you would get that far with a flip? Even though I fatted my driver yesterday!

  3. BigBoy

    Apr 14, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    Divots are not necessary.

  4. Dennis Clark

    Apr 11, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    Dave, the AA is only part of it. All divots are produced with a negative attack angle, but it has to with where the ball is struck on the arc, and how much forward shaft lean one has. IOW, Ive seen shallow AA with hands in front, and I’ve also seen steep AA with same amount of forward shaft lean…also dont discount 4 degrees, its more than it seems. Thx for reading

  5. dave boyd

    Apr 11, 2015 at 9:14 am

    the attack angle is about 4 degrees down for a 6 iron would it then be even less than that for longer irons. Would not think that 4 degrees would produce much of a divot.
    Thanks for the good article

  6. Rock

    Apr 10, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Thanks for the great thread

    Any tips or drills for a strong player that stands up on his toes at impact kinda like Matt Every? I have tried everything but still tend to do it all to often


  7. Dennis Clark

    Apr 10, 2015 at 8:51 am

    Adam, a baseball swing is a flat swing, that’s why I’m confused. You could send a video. I have an on line service, Id be happy to look

  8. Mat

    Apr 10, 2015 at 12:42 am

    Reason #6 :

    You play in the desert Southwest, and know that a “divot” in some cases would result in a broken wrist.

    • Dennis Clark

      Apr 10, 2015 at 8:54 am

      LOL! Agreed, that’s why Harvey Penick taught such a flat move…”picking” is way to play for sure

  9. Dennis Clark

    Apr 9, 2015 at 9:07 pm

    Author’s note: Remember the title is “5 reasons you cant take a divot”
    …should have added “IF YOU WANT to take one”…nobody is saying you HAVE to. But when you hear about “pickers and sweepers” go watch them up close; you’ll see some turf fly, maybe not much but some on the mid to short irons

  10. marcel

    Apr 9, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    divots are overrated – i dont play divots and it had little difference on the distance or direction. reading golf instructions is like becoming a surgeon on online Uni… please give yourself a xmas pressie and get a golf coach… everyone is different and proper coach will fix you in no time.

  11. RG

    Apr 9, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    Hey Dennis,
    When I was a kid I watched Nancy Lopez at the Citrus Open and I remember thinking that you could re-sod your yard with the divots she took in a round. Then years later I saw Watson and that guy leaves no visible trace that he was even on the course. Sweeper supreme.
    So my question: Isn’t divot size /length/depth somewhat of a personal thing and can’t you have success with very little turf interaction ( especially hitting hybrids/FWs) ?

    • Dennis Clark

      Apr 9, 2015 at 9:04 pm

      Domingo Lopez, her dad, taught her to “deeg, Nancy deeg”…Watson took a divot albeit a slighter one. Trevino dug ditches. Its all individual.

    • TMTC

      Apr 10, 2015 at 7:06 pm

      Jack Nicklaus never took divots either.
      When and if he did they weren’t worth mentioning they were so shallow.

      • Dennis clark

        Apr 10, 2015 at 10:53 pm

        Another reverse C era player…the most shallow divots ever during that era. A lot of bad backs but not many divots.

  12. Dennis Clark

    Apr 9, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    why do you want to flatten your swing?

    • Adam

      Apr 9, 2015 at 9:16 pm

      I have a baseball swing that causes me to have a very upright swing, I normally do not take a divot, I usually hit it straight and low or get enough of good contact with hit it straight with a mid flight. my upright swing causes me to come though impact like the pic in #4, any suggestions to flatten the swing to I can stay in posture and compress the ball/make a divot?

    • Shankadoodle

      Sep 17, 2015 at 2:41 am

      I think he’s got the idea of flat swing/upright swing topsy turvy, not realising the baseball swing is the flattest golf swing to have, albeit upright thought of in a conventional manner. Maybe this thought may help him understand ‘The more the butt of the club points to the sky during the swing the steeper the swing is’.

  13. Adam

    Apr 9, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    Dennis, I am a #4… What do you suggest I do to flatten my swing?
    Thank you

  14. Dennis Clark

    Apr 9, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    Phil you are correct about set up, no question. But it is not a panacea. Ive seen quite good set ups make poor swings, but make no mistake: a poor set up, especially grip or posture, will very often misdirect a swing. Thx

    • Philip

      Apr 9, 2015 at 5:33 pm

      Okay, thanks. Maybe all those swing drills just helped me get my swing good enough and consistent enough to where it finally clicked with my setup. Like everything in life – little bit of this, little bit of that.

  15. Philip

    Apr 9, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    I mean Dennis … sorry ’bout that

  16. Philip

    Apr 9, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    Denis, I have a question regards the issues above and ways to correct them. If you could (i.e. the golfer is willing and patient enough) would you tend to focus more on a person’s set-up and finding their optimal swing triggers versus trying to adjust the swing through drills? I have been able to trace all my swing flaws back to my setup and triggers and can now tell by feel whether I am about to make a solid swing. If not, I can back off and know the adjustment I need to make to get my optimal feel before swinging. I’ve had no permanent success with swing drills in the past compared to working on my setup. Do most people just do better with drills and I happened to be one that didn’t?

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Phil the thrill wins again at Pebble! Exploring his 6 mph clubhead speed gain



It’s just awesome what is happening with Phil Mickelson! In this video, we will look at first how and why he is able to achieve another 6 mph compared to last season, as well as the thrilling shots he was able to pull off last weekend at Pebble Beach, which will soon be re-named Mickelson Beach.

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Lesson of the Day: Improve the transition to improve impact



In our “Lesson of the Day” video series with V1 Sports, we match a different GolfWRX member with a different V1 Sports instructor. It’s extremely important to both V1 Sports and GolfWRX to help golfers improve their games and shoot lower scores, and there’s no better way to do that than getting lessons. While we not only want to provide free lessons to select GolfWRX members, we want to encourage and inspire golfers to seek professional instruction. For instructions on how to submit your own video for a chance at getting a free lesson from a V1 Sports instructor as part of our Lesson of the Day series, CLICK HERE.

In today’s lesson of the day, PGA pro Jake Thurm helps GolfWRXer Steffen Jensen improve his transition.

About the pro

Jake Thurm is a PGA Instructor and Director of Instruction at Ruffled Feathers Golf Club in Lemont, Illinois. Jake has been recognized as one of “America’s Best Young Teachers” and one of the “Best Teachers by State” by Golf Digest from 2017-2019. He was also named “Instructor of the Year” by Chicago Golf Report in 2017 and 2018. Jake is also the Midwest Director for the U.S. Junior National Golf Team.

Lesson synopsis

In today’s Lesson of the Day, PGA Instructor Jake Thurm helps a GolfWRX member improve the transitions within his golf swing. In order to get the club more laid off at the top to help with closing the face at impact, Jake recommends standing further from the ball, starting the club more outside than inside, and shallowing out the downswing at the top.

Student’s action plan

  1. Stand further from the ball at set up
  2. Start the club outside the hands during the takeaway
  3. Shallow out and lay off the club in transition from backswing to downswing
  4. Flatten left wrist to close the face during your backswing to downswing transition


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In a slump? Try the Substitution Solution



insanity noun in·san·i·ty | \ in-?sa-n?-t? – Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result

When it comes to slumps, the yips, and other mental blocks, one of the most effective solutions is often the most obvious – what I like to call the Substitution Solution.

Now, the familiarity of habits, routines, and sticking with the tried and true can definitely have its place in playing good golf, but when things go south, making a change isn’t necessarily just a band-aid fix, but can often be the path to a long-term solution. And, as much as there are specific scientific reasons for why it works, most players instinctively gravitate to this method without even considering whether or not there is any actual evidence to back it up.

The Substitution Solution is the simple act of replacing whatever you do with something new. This may mean a new routine, a new technique, a new way of thinking, or even a new implement for the one that is currently so ill-designed for the purpose. And the aforementioned definition of insanity is a big part of why it’s the first thing we try when we’re in a slump of some sort. But, before I get to all the scientific mumbo-jumbo for why substitution might be the path to a solution (even if only temporary), let’s take a look at some of the ways in which it’s done in case you need some new ideas.

New Routines

If you’re in a slump the first thing you should try changing is what you are doing in the moments immediately leading up to the problem. Do you currently have an actual pre-shot or pre-putt routine? One of the biggest reasons players in all sports get so involved and ritualized in their routines is to take their conscious mind off of what they are doing.

Twenty-five years ago, long before it was in vogue to have a mental game coach, I knew PGA Tour player who loved to say “focus on the process, not the consequence.” It was his way of trying to get so wrapped up in the process of repeating his routine, down to the most minute detail, that it crowded out all the negative type of thinking that he wanted to avoid. So, if you don’t have a routine, adopt one. And if you do, is it so habituated that you can perform it without thinking?

If you can’t tell someone right now exactly what you do every single time you walk into a shot, you need to start paying attention, and then ritualize that process. If you can, but it’s not working, then it might be time to change it up. The act of changing your routine, or consciously adopting a new one, does one very important thing. It forces you to get in the present, and there is a reason they call it the present, it’s a gift. An often particularly important gift to those of you whose games or at least an element of your game has gotten mired in a rut.

New implements

Trying a new driver or putter is likely the most obvious starting point for those whose games, or an element of their games are suddenly in a bad place. And this approach, while it should be used in moderation unless you’ve got more money than sense, does have a bit of merit. A new Driver, especially if the one you have is out-dated or ill-fit, might not just add a few yards, but can do wonders for your confidence if it suddenly starts finding more fairways.

With the advent of launch-monitors and the myriad of options for adjustability, that today’s equipment has there is really no reason not to be fit correctly, but many still aren’t, so if your driver can remember hitting balls covered with balata then it’s long since time you traded ol’ Bessie in.

With putters, the investment can be even less. Most of us have an old putter (or twelve) sitting around in the garage, and a quick visit there may reveal one that you’d forgotten about that holds at least a few memories of better days. Don’t like any of your relics? Head to the golf shop then, and ask the pro to try out the latest and greatest. A putter that is more face-balanced, counter-balanced, has an insert, or a higher MOI can really offer quite a different feel and get you started down a different road.

You can even change the grip to a much larger one, helping to quiet those small motor muscles in your hands and giving you a steadier stroke. As the legendary Bagger Vance once said, “a man’s grip on his club just like a man’s grip on his world.”

New techniques

The third thing we instinctively do when problems arise is change our technique. Now this can be a very slippery slope, reinforcing the bad habit of never being quite committed to what you do, but sometimes, it’s just time for a new technique.

Outside of putting, you may want to take that oh’ so painful trip to the lesson tee and see your local professional about what may be going on mechanically that has led to your current state. Sometimes mental blocks are just mental blocks, but very often they’re rooted in mechanical flaws, and the revelation that you’ve got some issues with your technique that can be corrected can be, in and of itself, quite a relief. Having something physical, instead of mental, to explain/blame all those wayward tee shots, chili-dips, or terribly pulled putts can actually take a lot of the pressure off, especially once you’ve taken steps to correct it.

New thinking

This final one is a bit more esoteric in nature, but poor ways of thinking are often the biggest culprit when it comes to the yips and other mental blocks. You can’t be walking into the ball with thoughts of how embarrassed you will be after missing yet another short putt, or hitting a third tee shot in a row right in the lumberyard.

Positive thinking may have you feeling a bit like a Pollyanna and you’ve never been one to be delusional, but really, when you think about it, you’ve made way more short putts than you’ve ever missed, and hit far more balls in play than not. Unless you’ve gotten to the point where you need an 18-pack of the inexpensive top-rocks just to get around or your taking more putts on the course than actual golf shots, then your perception of how bad things are is likely far worse than it really is.

Get back to reality and take a little cue from the Zen Buddhists and learn a bit about the idea of impermanence. The game of golf, our golf games, and life itself are an ebb and flow. You never stay down as long as you think you will, nor do you stay on top forever. Things not only aren’t ever as bad as you build them up in your mind to be, but neither likely is the pain of any related consequence as unbearable as you have come to convince yourself of. Understand that, accept less, and you’ll likely get more.

So now that you’ve got a handful of things to experiment with, let me explain in layman’s terms why these are the first things you should try when some element of your game is in a rut, and why (scientifically) they actually work.

First of all, changing anything, whether it be our routine, our technique, our thinking, or the offending implements, forces our minds into the present. Once something becomes familiar, or habitual it is much easier for our brains to drift into faulty ways of thinking since we don’t really need to actually think about what we’re doing while we’re doing it. In performing a habitual act, like a putting routine and stroke in the same way we always do, our minds are freed up to wander to past mistakes, future unwanted consequences, or the type of negative self-flagellation we should all realize by now is less than productive.

Secondly, when we do something different, or start using different tools for a task, it puts our brains temporarily back into learning mode. Mental blocks like the yips often arise once we’ve become reasonably proficient at doing something, and by putting our brains back into learning mode it circumvents the area of the brain where the faulty pattern resides. And, while we can’t actually remove the old pattern completely (it’s in there), we can build new neural pathways related to the new skill or way of being required. These new pathways, especially if they’re anchored by some new-found success, can start to re-build the confidence we’ve lost, which is the biggest culprit when we find our games in an undesirable place.

So the next time you’re in a slump, try the Substitution Solution. It can and does work, in golf and in life, and because just doing the same thing over and over again is…well, you know the rest.

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19th Hole