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How to “bottom out” your scores

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You can learn a lot about your swing by starting at the bottom.  Every swing has a low point and knowing yours can help you understand a lot about how you got there.

There are three possibilities for the low point:

  1. Too far behind
  2. Just right
  3. Too far in front of the golf ball.

The correct low point is a few inches in front of the golf ball for most shots. A swing bottom that is too far behind the ball causes golfers to hit fat shots. A swing bottom that is too far in in front of the ball causes golfers to hit topped or thin shots.

But to fully understand the importance of where the swing bottoms out, you have to consider the concept of angle of attack. You can hit behind the ball in two ways: with too shallow of an angle OR too steep of an angle. For this reason, there can be no discussion of fat shots without discussing swing width.

A good example to help you understand the swing bottom is that if you took a hula-hoop and stood it upright, there would one small point at the bottom that touched the ground. I call that a very narrow swing bottom. But if you took that hula-hoop and tilted the top portion closer to the ground, there would be several points at the bottom that touched the ground. I call that a wide bottom.

The differences in swing width have a lot to do with the different planes on which golfers swing. Flat swing planes tend to have wide bottoms and upright swing planes have very narrow bottoms. Flat swings keep the golf club along the ground longer, while upright swings are “in and out” of the ground for a shorter period of time. But both swings can bottom out too soon.

When the swing bottom is too far behind golf ball because of too wide an arc, you need to make a steeper swing. If the swing bottom is too far behind the golf ball because of too of narrow an arc, you need to make a more shallow swing. (Remember: steep is narrow and shallow is wide).

How can you tell the difference between too steep and too shallow? Just look at your divots. Are they burial grounds or thin slices of bacon?  They can both hit behind the ball, but one just brushes the grass behind the ball and one digs trenches.

Let’s tackle fixing a swing with too shallow of a bottom first. You need to swing more steeply into the ball, so try the following:

  • A narrower stance at address, with a bit more weight on your left side.
  • A more centered pivot in the backswing
  • A more upright backswing
  • A more narrow pull down of the golf club, which feels like more “lag”
  • An emphasis on turning through the golf ball

If you are too steep:

  • A wider stance at address with a little more weight on the right side
  • A bigger, wider shoulder turn in the backswing
  • A flatter swing plane going back
  • An earlier, wider release coming down
  • An emphasis on swinging the arms past the body and staying behind it.

Remember narrow, steep swings can be late into impact, and flatter wider swings can be earlier into the ball. Let me offer a few examples: If you were watch Sergio Garcia, who has a very wide arc in his downswing after his vertical drop, you would notice that he relies on a lot of lag to narrow the width of his swing. This helps him reach the low point just in front of the ball. Tom Watson has a much earlier releaser of the club to widen his arc due to a very upright, and therefore narrow motion. Both are great players, but they have very different release points because of the different widths of their swings.

Your release is a function of your width, plane and angle into the golf ball. Your goal should be finding a compatible move that will bottom out consistently in the same place. The tips above might help you do just that!

As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, Pa., and Marriott Marco Island Resort in Naples, Fla. He has been a professional for over 25 years. You can learn more about Dennis on his website, http://www.dennisclarkgolf.com

You can read a GolfWRX feature story and video about Dennis by clicking here.

Click here for more discussion in the forums. 

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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 Marco Island Marriott in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Andreas

    Oct 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Sorry for a daft question but english is not my native language.

    Did i understood it correctly if a deep trench divot indicate a steep angle of attack?

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 26, 2012 at 7:08 pm

      sorty for the late reply but..,yes a deep divot often means too steep an angle of attack. Thx, DC

  2. dennis

    Sep 16, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    WVUfore: Hit a LOT of balls: Draw a line in the dirt, put your club on it at address, and try to bottom out if front of it every time. FELL the sensation of what you’re doing.

  3. WVUfore

    Sep 16, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Once you find your swing bottom, do you recommend any drills to help consistently find that point. Do you have the same swing bottom with an iron as you may with a wedge?

  4. Anne

    Sep 16, 2012 at 11:34 am

    ALWAYS ENJOY YOUR TIPS!!
    THANKS FOR STAYING IN TOUCH!!
    Bob and Anne Longwell

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