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Why you’re hitting shots off the toe and heel of the club

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With golf shots, the center of the club face is where all the good stuff happens, but it is elusive to say the least. And when you consider the fact that the heel and toe are less than than 1 inch from the center of the club face, it gives you an idea of how hard our game can be.

No feeling in the game is better than a flushed shot, however. The reason? It happens so infrequently. Even the best golfers in the world only contact the true center of the club face occasionally.

So let’s take a look at some of the reasons why golfers miss the center of club face, and I’ll offer a few ideas on how you can flush your shots more often. Start with the video below, and then read the written portion of the story for more information.

https://youtu.be/w_M5UXJMj7w

Before we start, I might recommend that you purchase a can of Dr. Scholl’s Foot Spray powder. Spray it on your club face before you hit a shot, and you’ll be able to see where your impact actually is. Face tape works as well, but it can skew the spin on the golf ball as well as your launch monitor numbers if you’re practicing with one.

Distance from the golf ball

Assuming your lie angle is fitted properly and your clubs are the right length, it is essential that you address the golf ball at a distance that is compatible with the shape and width of your swing.

By shape and width, I mean this:

  • Does your club head swing OUT from hands? You have a more rounded, or horizontal swing.
  • Does you club head swing UNDER your hands? You have a more upright, or vertical swing.

A person with a more rounded swing should stand farther from the ball than a person with a more upright, or vertical upright swing.

Toe hits

Toe_Hit

Most toe hitting is the result of a the golf club coming into impact more upright or vertical than it was at address. I see this a lot in my students who start down from the top of their swing far too steeply, and have to raise the handle of the club into impact — one of the most common reactions to a steep transition. Typically, a video of their swing shows an early extension of the lower body and the raising of their swing center.

If this is your problem, try hitting some balls on a sidehill lie with the ball above your feet. I’d hit a lot of balls to get a feeling of a more rounded swing into the ball. Also, on your tee shots, try not grounding the club at address. Start with the club head off the ground, maybe as high as the ball. This will help you feel more of a baseball-type swing into the ball.

Toe hits can also be the result of having a grip that is way too strong. This typically shuts the face at the top, and forces golfers to “reverse rotate” their arms into the ball. Again, that raises the handle and stands the club up. A strong grip can also make the toe too dominant with a club face that is closing, which causes golfers to hit low toe hooks.

Many “double crosses” are also the result of toe hits. A golfer sets up for a fade, which requires an out-to-in path, but then contacts the shot on the toe, which creates hook spin. If that’s your ball flight pattern, try a little more neutral grip, which will help you to release the club correctly. This will allow the club head to swing out to the ball and expose the center of the club face more often.

Heel Hits/Shanks

Heel_Hits

Golfers who suffer from heel hits and shanks are doing pretty much the opposite of what toe-hitters are doing, with a few important differences. Hitting the heel of the club occurs most often because of one of two things:

  1. A hand path that moves outward from the body.
  2. A “wide” cast of the club.

Notice that I said wide cast, because a vertical cast will not expose the heel; it will pretty much just stick the club in the ground. In order to have a better chance at hitting the middle of the club face, the hands need to be down plane, not out and away from the body. This is why an inside-out swing path is one of the more common causes of shanking the ball. And an in-to-out path paired with a “late hit” is hosel city.

The flatter you swing the club, the more likely you are to hit the heel. What goes around comes around, they say, and the ensuing heel hits slice and kill distance. If this is your problem. you need to feel a swing that is more up and down with the hand path staying in under the shoulders, closer to the body. Try putting a tee inside the ball you’re hitting and hit IT. This may help you feel more down and in coming into the ball.

If you’d like me to analyze your swing, go to my Facebook page or contact me (dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com) 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 dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. other paul

    Jun 5, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    Hey Dennis. Great article. I did an experiment the other day with rate of closure and ball curve with my driver. I hit several shots off the toe where I slam the face closed through impact. Ball had massive hook spin. Then I hit a bunch where I held the face as square as possible through impact and hit the same toe shots. And I had no hook at all. Ball just started like it would off an iron. Doing a little experiment like this really makes me wonder if its worth it to try and keep the face more square longer or just try and roll the face through like a lot of people teach. What do you think?

    • Dennis clark

      Jun 5, 2015 at 2:43 pm

      If the face is slamming shut when you release I’d bet your grip might be too strong.

  2. Dennis Clark

    Jun 5, 2015 at 7:54 am

    agree for the most part based on what I see in elite level players

    • Meiko

      Apr 30, 2017 at 10:54 pm

      Hi, I’ve been working on this and it’s tremendously helpful. The video in your article is “not available”. Can you send to me or tell me where it is located now?
      Thank you.

  3. Steve

    Jun 4, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    Dennis,

    Would you or not agree a good swing thought is to have your right hand at impact, where your left hand was address. It takes the over the top away and delivers the club from inside.

  4. Dennis Clark

    Jun 4, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    My golf school is in Naples at the Rookery Golf Course. i also have an on line analysis program

  5. Lee H.

    Jun 4, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    Nice article! I’ve been known to cast and am working on changing my swing. I’ve also strengthened my grip. I’ve had issues with shanks on and off for the last 5yrs. It’s been happening mostly with my wedges though as I’ve been getting more aggressive with them lately (and overall, better wedge play last couple of years.). I’ve been told I might be standing too close or putting too much weight on toes. I live in Ft Myers and would love to speak to you (Dennis) more about this. Thanks

  6. Mike Gomez

    Jun 4, 2015 at 5:56 am

    THIS IS ME!

  7. Dennis Clark

    Jun 3, 2015 at 11:50 pm

    I should add that most top players hands move ahead of course, but not out away.

  8. CCausey

    Jun 3, 2015 at 10:04 pm

    So Dennis, if the hands get too far away from the body and the club stands up – what should the proper distance of the hands be from the body. I do this and am struggling with finding the proper “slot” for the hands on the downswing

    • Dennis clark

      Jun 3, 2015 at 10:57 pm

      Look at some top tour pros…most of them are similar to address. Not all- Phil a noticeable exception. It also depends on your path. Out to in closer, in to out further. Spray your club. Might just be distance from the ball.

      • CCausey

        Jun 4, 2015 at 9:27 am

        Thanks Dennis, i believe that it is a distance/setup issue. Keep up these great articles they are very helpful!

  9. Dennis Clark

    Jun 3, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    a lot of golfers believe its the distance of the hands from the body, but really golfers adjust to the hands by changing the lie of the club. Those who go well out with their hands invariably stand the club up to compensate…

  10. nosklz

    Jun 3, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    where can i find a range with a sidehill lie??

    • Dennis Clark

      Jun 3, 2015 at 2:39 pm

      i might have a better chance to help you if i knew where you lived. usually the sides of a range if they let you use it. if no hills are available get some really tall tees, they achieve the same effect

  11. Dennis Clark

    Jun 3, 2015 at 11:46 am

    I think that very well might be true but the problem is I have never taught anyone without elbows.????

  12. Joe

    Jun 3, 2015 at 11:09 am

    #1 reason in my experience: because humans have elbows; slop in the linkage. When the wings detach from the body the sequencing get’s off and we can potentially flip or any number of bad things. Stay connected, stay in posture. Golf would be an easier game to play if we didn’t have elbows.

    • MHendon

      Jun 3, 2015 at 11:34 am

      I assume you mean only on the lead arm, left arm for right handed golfers, right arm for left handed.

    • Ben

      Jun 3, 2015 at 11:51 am

      Boxing would suffer, though.

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