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Clark: How to hit it low

by   (Senior Writer I)   |   December 30, 2012
9E7E

It’s almost PGA Tour time again, and as the guys head to Hawaii next week many of them will be working hard to get their games ready for competition. Despite the tropical paradise that the Hawaaian Islands are, their golf courses are always a stiff test of golf thanks to the strong and persistent winds that blow through that beautiful part of the world. If you were to go to the practice range there, I’m sure you’d see the guys working on their “knock down” shots.

In places like Hawaii, Texas and Florida, low shots are a must. With that in mind, it might be a good time to look at the dynamics of hitting the ball low. A lot of amateurs can’t hit the low shot, but it’s one they should practice. If they do, they’ll likely see an improvement in the overall quality of their ball striking.

To understand the concept of hitting it low, let’s talk about the things that cause trajectory in the first place. Here are the variables that figure into the equation:

  • Loft
  • Point of contact (on the face)
  • Spin
  • Speed

These are the actual impact factors that create flight. Things like ball position, width of stance, attack angle, etc. are how you affect the impact, but are not causes in and of themselves. Very often, I work with players who want to know what caused a certain flight, and they are always quick to jump right into what the body did. You have to remember the player is influencing the club directly and therefore the ball indirectly. So in creating low shots, what ballistics do we need? Well, it would stand to reason that we need less dynamic loft, less spin, less speed and contact slightly lower on the face of the club than we would on a regular or higher trajectory shot. Make sense? Good. So, how do we do it? Try these tips.

The setup

  • Use one more club. If the shot requires a full 6 iron, use a 5 iron. Then choke down an inch and take your regular grip.
  • Move the ball back and the hands forward (slightly).
  • Aim slightly left to offset the back ball position.
  • Narrow your stance. A wide stance can get the swing center too far behind the ball.
  • Keep the right side higher at set up (very little axis tilt with upper body)

The swing

  • Make a low takeaway with less wrist action than normal. You’ve gone back far enough when your left arm gets to parallel.
  • Keep your pivot centered over the ball.
  • No flipping on the downswing. Keep the hands ahead of the clubhead at impact.
  • Keep the finish low, no higher than perhaps belt- or rib-cage high coming through.
  • For a driver, tee it lower (to insure lower face contact).
  • Swing slower than normal. Too much speed creates too much spin.

The principals

Here’s a simple phrase that helps a lot:  LOW SHOT, LOW SWING.

The more you get the wrists involved, the more likely you are to add loft and get “flippy” into impact. The is a shot that must be driven with a low, boring trajectory.  The only way to do that is to keep the hands in front of the clubhead, which de-lofts the club at impact.

The second the clubhead gets ahead of the hands, or the upper body reverses (backs up), the more you will add loft at impact. Look at it this way — address the ball as you normally would with a 7 iron. Then move the handle forward until you have the loft of a 6-iron. You can move it even more forward to give you the loft of a 5-iron, and so on.

Caution: Moving the handle forward is not the same as closing the club. You can move the handle as far forward as you like and still keep the club square (leading edge perpedicular to target line). Remember, the golf ball has to be driven low and can’t rise too much. It’s critical that the club arrives on a lower plane and the hands lead the clubhead.

Here’s a drill to help you get a feel for the shot:

Find a bench at the range, maybe 2 feet tall. Put it two yards in front of you, grab a 7 iron and see how it feels to hit the ball UNDER that bench. You will get the idea quickly.

Several times in this article I mentioned the word slightly. Normally I would not advise that. My regular readers and students know that believe in exaggeration. In the case of correcting a slice or hook, you almost can’t overdo the prescription. But changing trajectory is a different story.

Ball position is a great example. If you get it too far back, you can get really steep with a high vertical swing plane.  I have seen people put the ball SO far back and de-loft the club so much that they can’t even get it a shot off the ground. To fix it, they start hanging back and increase upper body tilt, which completely defeats the purpose!

So a little back, a little lower swing, a little less speed, slightly more club and well, you get the picture.

Happy New Year everyone! I hope it’s a good one for each and all of you with lots of birdies, fewer bogeys, no “others.” Most importantly, let’s hope for a lot of smiles :)

Click here for more discussion and the opportunity to ask Dennis a question in the forums. 

About

Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional, a distinction held by less than 1 percent of all PGA Professionals. He is recognized as one of the top instructors in the country, and holds no less than seven PGA awards including "Teacher of the Year" and "Golf Professional of the Year."

Dennis holds two degrees in education and has worked with golfers of all levels for over 30 years. A native of Philadelphia, Dennis currently directs the Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the Marco Island Marriott in Naples, Fla.


2 Comments

  1. paul

    December 30, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    Yikes, so much to remember . I just add a club and put the hands forward then pray and hit it. Things seem to workout when i think less. Not to discredit your method, I love your articles :) New years resolution: Take 10 more strokes off my handicap ,like I did last year.

  2. Trevor

    December 30, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Excellent article, I think many people take for granted the accuracy a knock down shot gives you under certain conditions, these tips will separate you from your weekend competition. Great article Dennis

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