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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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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

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. David Lewis

    Jun 25, 2018 at 11:38 pm

    Dennis I think you missed the biggest reason, my teacher refers to it as a sequencing problem. You load the right side on the backswing but fail to aggressively shift your weight forward prior to the strike so the bottom of your swing arc is behind the ball. It’s as simple as that, staying centered over the ball is the worst possible advice one could give an amateur. Amateurs simply aren’t as athletic as tour players in most cases nor do they have the balance. How many baseball players do you see hitting flat footed? Answer, none! Golf isn’t nearly as difficult as some instructors make it out to be with all of the confusing babble. You want to stop hitting it fat? Move more aggressively to the left, it should feel like a baseball player stepping in to hit a home run.

  2. geoh

    Jun 24, 2018 at 11:22 am

    Change intent from Hit to Sweep.

  3. DENNIS E CLARK

    Jun 22, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    Axis tilt obviously plays a major role, and the complement to that is the amoung of “lag” or point where the player reaches lead arm extension. A low right side and an early relaese is not compatible; most elite level ball strikers have suficient lag or later hit to go in low. I lovede Trevino and Garcia moves like that. thx

  4. PineStreetGolf

    Jun 22, 2018 at 7:15 am

    Any lever will always bottom out at 90* to its axis. Always.

    The axis is the line formed by your sternum, belly button and center of gravity. If that’s pointing in front of the ball you will not hit it fat. If its pointing behind the ball you always will. Its the same reason a ball on a string whirling in a circle reaches its fastest point when the string is at exactly 90* to the stick the string is whirling around.

    Or, in other words, have the middle of your body including your lower body, in front of the ball and you literally cannot fat it. This article list a lot of symptoms, but not the cause. The line formed by those three markers must point in front of the ball if you draw a line on it. That’s all that matters – having the axis in front of the ball (where the club will always bottom out).

  5. George

    Jun 22, 2018 at 6:40 am

    Instant fix and tremendous help for me getting that sweet compressed-ball impact back is to look and concentrate on a spot 2-3 inches in front of the ball all the way from address to impact. That way I fotget to hit AT the ball and hit THROUGH it instead. If I look at the center of the ball, which is raised from the ground I hit fat or thin.

  6. JC

    Jun 21, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    Combo a fat shot with a toe-ey one, enough to make anyone want to quit the game.

    • PhilDSnuts

      Jun 22, 2018 at 10:47 am

      Game improvement irons, they fix everything!!!!! Sike!!!!

  7. Acemandrake

    Jun 21, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    Well written piece, Mr. Clark.

    “Some players simply do not have enough room to deliver the golf club on a good plane from inside to inside.”

    What “work around” do you suggest for this?

    Thanks, and keep writing!

  8. Jim Horgan

    Jun 21, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    I’ve noticed in my many years of teaching the swing that fat men hit fat while thin men hit thin. It’s a pattern that cannot be denied. There is no good solution.

  9. CrashTestDummy

    Jun 21, 2018 at 5:29 pm

    Spine tilt. Many times shoulders are tilted too much away from target and/or hips are swaying laterally toward the target causing too much spine tilt at impact which can bottom the club arc behind the ball. Leveling shoulders more and/or limiting swaying hips will help with better spine tilt moving the bottom of the arc in the correct position while steepening the arc and AOA coming into the ball.

  10. juststeve

    Jun 21, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    It was’t Ernest Jones but Percy Boomer who recommended turning in a barrel. Otherwise nothing to disagree with.

    • Dennis clark

      Jun 22, 2018 at 8:37 am

      Correct my mistake. Earnest was a proponent of swinging the club head, another major text in golf instruction genre.

  11. Jonathan

    Jun 21, 2018 at 4:06 pm

    About me: right handed, playing 28 yrs, miss is a hook left

    I literally went through each of these points on my own during the past 2 weeks. I suddenly developed a bad case of fat shots out of nowhere. My focus areas were (1) lean a little more over the ball from my hips (2) feel like I am swinging around my torso (3) try to keep lag in my down swing and (4) open my stance slightly to the left. These techniques drastically and quickly solved my problems over two 1-hour range sessions. I recommend.

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