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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 JW Marriott Marco Island 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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Instruction

How to fix the root cause of hitting your golf shots fat

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Of all the shots golfers fear, hitting the ball FAT has to be right up at the top of the list. At least it heads the list of commonly hit poor shots (let’s leave the shank and the whiff out for now). After fat, I’d list topping, followed by slicing and then hooking. They are all round-killers, although the order of the list is an individual thing based on ability. Professionals despise a hook, but club golfers by and large fear FAT. Why?

First of all, it’s embarrassing. Secondly, it goes nowhere — at least compared to thin — and it can be physically painful! So to avoid this dreaded miss, golfers do any number of things (consciously or subconsciously) to avoid it. The pattern develops very early in one’s golf life. It does not take very many fat shots for golfers to realize that they need to do something differently. But rather than correct the problem with the correct move(s), golfers often correct a fault with a fault.

Shortening the radius (chicken-winging), raising the swing center, early lower-body extension, holding on through impact (saving it), running the upper body ahead of the golf ball and even coming over the top are all ways of avoiding fat shots. No matter how many drills I may offer for correcting any of those mistakes, none will work if the root cause of fat is not addressed.

So what causes fat? We have to start with posture. Some players simply do not have enough room to deliver the golf club on a good plane from inside to inside. Next on the list of causes is a wide, early cast of the club head. This move is invariably followed by a break down in the lead arm, holding on for dear life into impact, or any of the others…

“Swaying” (getting the swing center too far off the golf ball) is another cause of fat, as well as falling to the rear foot or “reversing the weight.” Both of these moves can cause one to bottom out well behind the ball. Finally, an excessive inside-out swing path (usually the fault of those who hook the ball) also causes an early bottom or fat shot, particularly if the release is even remotely early. 

Here are 4 things to try if you’re hitting fat shots

  1. Better Posture: Bend forward from the hips so that arms hang from the shoulders and directly over the tips of the toes, knees slightly flexed over the shoelaces, seat out for balance and chin off the chest!
  2. Maintaining the Angles: Casting, the natural urge to throw the clubhead at the golf ball, is a very difficult habit to break if one is not trained from the start. The real correction is maintaining the angle of the trail wrist (lag) a little longer so that the downswing is considerably more narrow than the backswing. But as I said, if you have been playing for some time, this is risky business. Talk to your instructor before working on this!
  3. Maintaining the Swing Center Over the Golf Ball: In your backswing, focus on keeping your sternum more directly over the golf ball (turning in a barrel, as Ernest Jones recommended). For many, this may feel like a “reverse pivot,” but if you are actually swaying off the ball it’s not likely you will suddenly get stuck with too much weight on your lead foot.
  4. Setting Up a Little More Open: If your swing direction is too much in-to-out, you may need to align your body more open (or feel that way). You could also work with a teaching aid that helps you feel the golf club is being swung more out in front of you and more left (for right-handers) coming through — something as simple as a head cover inside the golf ball. You’ll hit the headcover if you are stuck too far inside coming down.

The point is that most players do what they have to do to avoid their disastrous result. Slicers swing way left, players who fight a hook swing inside out and anybody who has ever laid sod over the golf ball will find a way to avoid doing it again. This, in my opinion, is the evolution of most swing faults, and trying to correct a fault with a fault almost never ends up well.

Get with an instructor, get some good videos (and perhaps even some radar numbers) to see what you are actually doing. Then work on the real corrections, not ones that will cause more trouble.

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Instruction

Right Knee Bend: The Difference Between PGA Tour Players and Amateurs

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The knees play an especially important role in the golf swing, helping to transfer the forces golfers generate through our connection with the ground. When we look closer at the right knee bend in the golf swing, we’re able to get a better sense of how PGA Tour players generate power compared to most amateur golfers.

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Instruction

How to eliminate the double cross: Vertical plane, gear effect and impact location

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One of the biggest issues teachers see on the lesson tee is an out-to-in golf swing from a player who is trying to fade the ball, only to look up and see the deadly double cross! This gear effect assisted toe hook is one of the most frustrating things about trying to move the ball from left to right for the right-handed golfer. In this article, I want to show you what this looks like with Trackman and give you a few ways in which you can eliminate this from your game.

Below is the address position of a golfer I teach here in Punta Mita; his handicap ranges between scratch and 2, depending on how much he’s playing, but his miss is a double cross when he’s struggling.

Now let’s examine his impact position:

Observations

  • You see a pull-hooking ball flight
  • The hands are significantly higher at impact than they were at address
  • If you look at the clubhead closely you can see it is wide open post impact due to a toe hit (which we’ll see more of in a second)
  • The face to path is 0.5 which means with a perfectly centered hit, this ball would have moved very slightly from the left to the right
  • However, we see a shot that has a very high negative spin axis -13.7 showing a shot that is moving right to left

Now let’s look at impact location via Trackman:

As we can see here, the impact of the shot above was obviously on the toe and this is the reason why the double-cross occurred. Now the question remains is “why did he hit the ball off of the toe?”

This is what I see from people who swing a touch too much from out-to-in and try to hit fades: a standing up of the body and a lifting of the hands raising the Vertical Swing Plane and Dynamic Lie of the club at impact. From address, let’s assume his lie angle was 45 degrees (for simplicity) and now at impact you can see his Dynamic Lie is 51 degrees. Simply put, he’s standing up the shaft during impact…when this happens you will tend to pull the heel off the ground at impact and this exposes the toe of the club, hence the toe hits and the gear effect toe hook.

Now that we know the problem, what’s the solution? In my opinion it’s a three stage process:

  1. Don’t swing as much from out-to-in so you won’t stand up as much during impact
  2. A better swing plane will help you to remain in your posture and lower the hands a touch more through impact
  3. Move the weights in your driver to promote a slight fade bias

Obviously the key here is to make better swings, but remember to use technology to your advantage and understand why these type of things happen!

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