Odds are if you’ve played golf for any amount of time you’ve heard the hackneyed phrase “hit down on the ball to take a divot.”
Just hearing that phrase makes me cringe. At least once a week a new client comes to me and says, “I had some lessons a while back and the pro said I need to hit down to make a divot. But never understood what that meant.”
Usually what I see is that the ball tends to be too far back in their stance in their setup, with their hands pushed too far forward.
Their results tend to be very low-flying, thin shots and extremely deep divots. And after their rounds or practice sessions, they often complain about aching hands and wrists from their too steep angle of attack. To remedy this, and make you feel better after you play, let’s look at what it really means to take a divot and a drill to make this concept easier to understand.
Every golfer swings on an arc and at some point there is a low point on that arc. For many high- to mid-handicap golfers, the low point of their arc occurs at or slightly behind the ball. In this scenario you might find yourself hitting fat shots, very high-lofted shots, and you may also have trouble understanding why most of your irons go the same distance.
To make matters worse, when the same golfers are told to hit down on the ball to fix the issue, they tend to change their set up and angle of attack dramatically creating a steeper swing which will help them create a divot, but in the worst way possible.
When describing divots, I choose my words very carefully and I also make sure to NOT use the words “hit down on the ball.” Rather, I say:
“To properly create a divot, your swing must bottom out slightly in front of the golf ball.”
To help students understand the concept of creating a divot I created a drill using business cards. While practicing, take a few business cards and place them on the mat or turf. Set up with the club parallel to the leading edge of each business card, and make your goal to strike the card’s leading edge, propelling it forward.
The business card now represents your divot, not outrageously long in size, but also not too thick either. Not only will it get you to concentrate on the point of contact it also gives you a visual for what your divot should look like.
After hitting a few cards into the range, place a golf ball next to the edge of a card and again strike the business card. If done correctly, the card should propel forward as usual but your ball will also soar into the range.
Although there are a variety of other circumstances that cause divots to happen behind the ball (weight backwards at impact, casting, etc.), a proper understanding of what a divot should look like is a great place to start learning “how to hit down” on the golf ball.