Connect with us

Instruction

Hitting Down To Take a Divot? Read this first

Published

on

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.

CONCEPT

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.

Divot Behind Ball

Divot behind the ball: The blue line represents the ground, the red line shows the arc the club is traveling on, and the yellow area represents the divot that will be created.

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.

Divot steep angle

Steep angle of attack: resulting in topped shots, thin shots, or very deep divots.

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.”

proper divot

A proper divot: Angle of attack not too steep, bottom of the swing arc slightly in front of the golf ball.

CARD DRILL

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.

Business Card Drill Set Up

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.

Business Card Drill With Ball

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.

Your Reaction?
  • 174
  • LEGIT36
  • WOW14
  • LOL11
  • IDHT3
  • FLOP3
  • OB5
  • SHANK15

Scott is a Certified Personal Coach at GolfTEC Main Line in Villanova, PA and also the Head Men's Golf Coach @ Division III Rosemont College. Each day he utilizes 3-D Motion Measurements, Foresight Launch Monitors, and high speed video to help each of his students achieve their specific goals. Past experience include owning and and operating the Yur Golf Swing Teaching Academy in Philadelphia. He started my golfing career at Radnor Valley Country Club in Villanova, Penn., and spent time at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Fla. In his short 7 year instruction career he as taught over 5,000 golf lessons. He currently works with many of the top local Amateur golfers in the Philadelphia area, and many of the best Junior golfers. Teaching golf has always been my passion and with my civil engineering and philosophy background from Villanova University, I am able bring interesting perspective and effective techniques to my instruction.

35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. Truth

    Feb 23, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    its a good concept but ive found that the card drill can sometimes lead to more chunkingif practiced on a mat cuz u can think u r hitting the card good but when on a mat any fat shot will just bounce into the card still n make it go forward…but thats more from my hatred of practicing on a mat theres nothing like hitting out of grass

  2. Jack

    Jan 4, 2015 at 5:54 am

    I’m only starting out and have been reading up a lot. This made so much sense to me. I’d actually been trying to hit the ball at the lowest point. I never leave a divot, and my balls go VERY high, I have no trouble clearing trees to get back onto the fairway haha! This makes sense to me, and I can’t wait to get on the range to try it tomorrow!

  3. Donald MacCallum

    Aug 14, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Sensible,plain speaking.What a relief!Is there an optimum distance to place the ball behind the card?

  4. Adam

    May 27, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    Is the goal to hit the front “leading” edge of the card? I.E the end closest to the target?

    • Scott Yurgalevicz

      Jul 22, 2014 at 6:42 pm

      The goal as seen in the last image is to place the ball down behind the card, and without having to think about hitting the ball, attempt to hit the business card on the edge closest to you. This is merely a visual. Whether you hit the cards leading edge or not isn’t a big deal, locking down a different concept or feel is much more important.

  5. David Judd

    Apr 22, 2014 at 12:45 am

    Thank you Scott,

    I have been trying to find an answer for hitting off concrete supported rubber mats. This should do it. I especially appreciate your use of the positive model which helps pretty much everyone, instead of cure advice, which is very limited in contrast to seeing a positive image.

    David

  6. Joe Mello

    Apr 19, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Love the business card tip. But what is causing the low point being lower than the ball? Is it the lead arm straightening out from the setup? Is it the body compressing on the downswing? Is there something else?
    Thanks.

    • Scott Yurgalevicz

      Jul 22, 2014 at 6:39 pm

      Joe Mello,

      There are a variety of things that help the low point be more in front of the golf ball. Could be weight needs to be more forward, might need more palmer flexing thru impact, straight arms, etc. Lots of variables go into this. The body does compress in the initail portion of the downswing but extends fully at and after impact. If you are having issues make sure to see your local golf professional!

      • ken

        Aug 6, 2014 at 6:03 pm

        So the idea is to set up normally and take a normal path through( not to) the ball and learn to have the club bottom out past the back of the ball?

  7. nikkyd

    Apr 17, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    I just tell people to take off their left shoe (for righties) that usually does the trick

  8. Rahul J Razdan

    Mar 10, 2014 at 7:04 am

    Scott,

    Thank you so much. I am consistently told i hit behind the ball, and though i get loft (ping g20s) i still get off target shots or fat or thin. I tried your drill and holy perfect divets Yurman!

  9. michael dwyer

    Jan 1, 2014 at 10:49 am

    hi, im a clubmaker in somerset south west England. I have seen every golf swing possible and most mid/high handicappers top the ball with the weight on the back foot, I tell them to aim at a point 4 inches in front of the ball with a flat left wrist. once this concept is understood then they hit crisp shots with a nice shallow divot. the business card idea is superb as it gives the golfer immediate feedback as to where the club bottoms out.your golf tips are brilliant and they work. I pinch them for my customers!!..mike (master clubmaker)

  10. Joe Golfer

    May 9, 2013 at 1:08 am

    Good article. Another point to consider is the type of turf one is playing on. I’ve walked fairways of tournament courses as a spectator, and I am amazed at how soft and cushiony it feels. Even a mildly descending blow will bring up a pretty big divot.
    Now consider that many of us in the Midwest play public courses where the fairways may be bluegrass, and the ground is hard. It makes a world of difference as to whether one will take a significant divot or not.

    • Scott Yurgalevicz

      May 9, 2013 at 9:54 am

      Great comment joe, there are so many conditions to account for on a real course and firmness of the ground is very important. Up here (Philadelphia) we get some very dry conditions during the summer and the fairways roll hard and fast which is a huge change from their current conditions (wet and soft today) so its something to keep in mind from round to round.

  11. David Tao

    May 8, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    Hi Scott, yesterday I did some “business card drill” as you mentioned in the article. I found it was impossible to keep the business card on the carpet after impact. the card was just jump out of carpet every time I hit range balls. any idea? thanks

    • Scott Yurgalevicz

      May 9, 2013 at 9:51 am

      Hi David, as long as you were striking the leading edge of the business card you were doing the drill correct. The card wont stay put if you hit it properly (it should go flying!). If the card didn’t move off the mat and simply slid or shifted a few inches you most likely didn’t clip the leading edge of the card.

  12. brett

    May 6, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I find that keeping my eyes on a spot an inch in front of the ball helps me tremendously with my iron play. It facilitates ball then turf contact with the swing shallowing out where my eyes are looking.
    If you find that you need to focus on the ball then as one of the posts above suggest, looking at the ‘front’ of the ball is a great idea.
    Trust your hand and eye coordination.

  13. JL

    May 4, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Love this tip. I used to have to remember to hit the ground after the ball, but actually imagining the swing bottoming out in an arc after the ball is even more natural if that makes sense.

  14. OtherTomJones

    May 4, 2013 at 9:55 am

    I am a 16.2 handicap and have made this transition from “scooping” the ball, or being a “picker” to taking proper, but admittedly rather shallow divots.

    What helped me was adjusting the ball position progressively in my stance. For wedges and higher irons, the ball is more toward my back heel. For mid irons like my 7 iron, the ball is perfectly centered in my stance. For 5 irons and my 3/4hybrids, as well as fairways, the ball is more toward my front heel. My driver is lined up on my front heel to front big toe depending on the type of shot I want to hit.

    Regardless, simply changing where my eye position is on the ball has helped transition to trapping the ball with a slight divot, rather than picking the ball with no divot. Instead of looking behind the ball, I look in front of the ball. Im right handed, so rather than looking at the right side of the ball I look at the left. This has improved performance of my clubs, among other things like staying on plane, releasing with the forearms and hands, dropping the club into the slot, and swinging/hitting with my core.

  15. Pingback: Golf Theory Review

  16. Matt M

    May 2, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    Scott – in my experience topped or thin shots happen when the low point is behind the ball in fact I’ve never seen a topped shot when the low point is in front of the ball. When a player is taking deep divots and their low point is in front of the ball the problem is very easy to fix but most poor players have a low point behind the ball and requires a completely different fix

    • Scott Yurgalevicz

      May 4, 2013 at 2:04 pm

      Hi Matt,

      I completely understand what your saying, but the topped shot with a low point in front of the ball is actually pretty common. [take your regular stance, put the ball way back in your stance near your back foot and lean the shaft too far forward; basically the set up people tend to go to when they hear “hit down on the ball”] I do realize a topped shot can occur for a variety of different reasons and also with the low point behind the ball as well. Thanks for the input. Cheers

      • Jeff M

        May 12, 2013 at 4:54 pm

        Topping the ball comes from two causes #1 a steep out-to-in, slicing-and-pulling swing pattern. That, in fact, is why the fault is so common with high and mid handicap golfers, and rare with good golfers. #2 happens because in the back swing at the point where we cock our wrist and the radius of the swing arc obviously decreases, and then in hitting the ball, the wrists do not uncock to re-establish the radius of the swing at impact (re-establishing the left arm and club in a straight-line unit) the ball is likely to be topped, or at least thin. Basically what causes tops and thins is too little use of the arms, hands, and club head in the down swing. If you hit the ground before the ball and then top it in theory you have actually hit it fat!

        • Jeff M

          May 12, 2013 at 4:56 pm

          And by the way I love the drill with the business card! Will be using that for sure when I’m teaching!

  17. Gabe Shyu

    May 2, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    Love it. Excellent article. There are so many other worthless pointers range pros will throw out to their poor students that do nothing but ruin otherwise decent swings. This is a great swing thought that will definitely promote ball compression.

    Thank you.

    • Scott Yurgalevicz

      May 4, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      Thanks Gabe! My goal as an instructor is to never give “tips”. I always think if you understand the concept first, then use a drill to reinforce the concept, you get much more out of the instruction.\

      Thanks for the read!

  18. Brian Terry

    May 2, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    If you take a look at some of Bobby Jones videos he made way back in the day, you would see him place his irons just in front of the ball when he setup and then place it behind the ball before starting the swing. He is actually setting his stance so the bottom of his arc is just in front of the ball. You never see this done any more, but many current golfers would benefit from this practice.

    BT

    • Jason Wescott

      May 3, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      Love this idea, and can’t wait to try it out. Thanks!

    • Shane Booth

      May 5, 2013 at 6:29 am

      I like this idea as well – I’m going to give it a try; I really suffer from the ‘all irons the same distance’ problem a lot of the time

    • Derek

      Jun 30, 2014 at 2:05 pm

      I actually do this however didn’t know Boby Jones did it! People always ask me why I do this and I really didn’t have an answer for them but in my mind it just helps me visualize my aiming point better if I can see where the club face is after “would-be” impact. I am a taker of deep divots and I think trying the business card idea could help me too. I find that I trap the ball too much and the result for me is always a very low trajectory.

      • Mat

        Aug 22, 2015 at 11:06 pm

        Same here. I did it a while, then I memorized that setup position. Now it’s more automatic. I’m more of a Moe Norman now; I put the club back one or two feet to start the swing, ensuring I don’t chicken-wing.

  19. Trevor

    May 2, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Very good article, I have fights weekly with my playing partner about this, he thinks aggressive downward blows is the way to go yet he wonders why he has ballooning shots.

Leave a Reply

Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Instruction

Your Body Is Your Most Important Piece Of Equipment; It’s Time For An Upgrade

Published

on

Clubs, balls, shoes, mental training, lessons. Golfers are always searching for the next thing that is going to transform their game. If a product has promise, golfers are like addicts; they must have it… regardless of the price. What’s usually ignored, however, is the most important piece of equipment for all golfers: their body, and how their physical conditioning pertains to golf.

Everything becomes easier by getting in better “golf shape.” You will likely hit the ball farther, have better energy and focus, fewer aches and pains, improved ability to actually implement swing changes and the durability to practice more.

When trying to improve your physical conditioning for golf, it would shortsighted not to mention the following requirements:

  1. Discipline: There will be times you don’t want to train, but should.
  2. Patience: Small, incremental progress adds up to big improvement over time.
  3. A Path: Make sure you use your time and effort efficiently by having a training plan that matches your goals.

If you can adopt these principles, I am confident you will be very happy with the return — even more so than the latest driver, putter or practice aid.

I like to compare having a well functioning body to a painter’s blank canvas. By ensuring you have adequate coordination, motor control, mobility, stability, strength and speed, you have the basic tools necessary for a high-performance golf swing. Of course, you will still need to develop a functional technique and specific skill level that matches your goals. On the flip side, if you are deficient in these areas, you are like a dirty canvas; your options are limited and you will need to make compensations to achieve anything close to the desired outcome. In simpler terms, movements that are universally desirable in the golf swing may be very difficult or impossible for you based on your current physical state.

Earlier, I mentioned the term “appropriate training,” and now I am going to discuss one of the ways to identify what this means for you as a golfer trying to use physical training to support a better golf game. The TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Movement Screen is a great start for everyone. It is a combination of 16 exercises that are used to assess your current movement capabilities, identify limitations and provide you with your “Body-Swing” connection. The “Body-Swing” connection is a term coined by TPI that illustrates the link between physical deficiencies and potential swing tendencies based on its “Big 12” model. The Big 12 swing characteristics that TPI has identified are as follows:

  1. S-Posture
  2. C-Posture
  3. Loss of Posture
  4. Flat Shoulder Plane
  5. Early Extension
  6. Over The Top
  7. Sway
  8. Slide
  9. Hanging Back
  10. Reverse Spine Angle
  11. Casting
  12. Chicken Winging

It’s important to note these as tendencies rather than flaws, as great ball strikers have demonstrated some of them. When done excessively, they make high functioning swings more difficult and may make potential injury more likely. Rather than going through all 16 screening exercises (which would be a very long read), I have selected five that I feel provide a lot of useful information. They can often broadly differentiate the playing level of golfers.

1. Static Setup Posture

There is a lot of debate in golf instruction about what is the correct way to assume posture for the golf swing. Some prefer more rounded shoulders akin to what was common in years gone by: Jack and Arnie being good examples. Others prefer a more extended thoracic spine (less curved upper back): Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott are good examples. I’m not a golf instructor and clearly both types can hit great golf shots. I am more concerned with the lumbar spine (the lower back, which doesn’t seem to get as much attention when the setup is being discussed).

Note the difference between the spinal curvatures of Jack and Rory. I’m OK with either as long as the lower back is in a biomechanically sound position (explained in video).

An overly extended or arched lower back (which I demonstrate in the video) creates too large a space between the alignment rod and my lower back. This is a common issue I see, and it can lead to a lack of pelvis rotation, a lack of power due to the inability to effectively use the glutes and abdominal muscles and lower back discomfort. Cueing a slight posterior tilt (tucking the tailbone underneath you) often makes a noticeable difference in pelvis mobility, power, and comfort.

 2. Pelvic Rotation

Pelvic rotation is essential for X-factor stretch, the ability to increase the amount of separation between the pelvis and torso during transition (moving from the backswing into the downswing). This is often referred to as starting the downswing with the lower body/hips (while the torso is still rotating away from the target or is paused at the end of the backswing). It is critical for effective sequencing and power production. Increasing the separation between your pelvis and torso on the downswing increases what is known as the “stretch-shortening cycle” of your trunk and torso muscles, which is like adding more stretch to an elastic band and then releasing it. If you cannot separate pelvic rotation and torso rotation, it will be extremely difficult to be a good golfer.

In the video below, watch how Rickie Fowler’s pelvis rotates toward the target independently of his torso. This increases the elastic energy stored in his muscles and tendons, allowing for big power production.

 3. Lower Quarter Rotation

The Lower Quarter Rotation Test shares some similarities to the Pelvic Rotation Test, but one key difference is that it doesn’t require nearly as much motor control. Many people fail the pelvic rotation test not because of a mobility limitation, but because they can’t control the different segments of the their body and perform the action they want (motor control issue). The Lower Quarter Rotation Test, on the other hand, does not require anywhere near as much control and therefore looks more directly at the internal and external rotation mobility of the lower body. People who struggle with this test are more likely to sway, slide and have reverse spine angle.

DJ Top of backswing.jpg

I’m confident Dustin Johnson would do OK on the Lower Quarter Rotation test. Look at how well he can turn into his right hip.

 4. Seated Thoracic Rotation

This one usually resonates with golfers, as “getting a full shoulder turn” is something that golf media and players like to talk to about regularly. I think most people understand the concept of a sufficient shoulder turn being important for creating power. Restricted thoracic spine rotation can stem from a few different causes. A common one is excessive thoracic flexion (rounder upper back). To test this for yourself: 1) try the test in the video hunched over and 2) with your spine as long as possible. You should notice you can rotate farther when you sit extended.

5. 90/90 External Shoulder Rotation  

Many popular golf instruction pages on social media talk about the importance of shallowing the shaft in transition and trail arm external shoulder rotation. I understand the reasoning for this in terms of swing technique, but something that needs to be taken into consideration is whether golfers actually have the ability to externally rotate their shoulders. This is often not the case. Two interesting trends I have noticed with golfers and external shoulder rotation:

  1. A larger percentage of U.S. golfers compared to Irish golfers (the two countries I have worked in) tend to have much more trail arm external rotation available. This is mainly due to throwing baseballs and footballs in their youth, which doesn’t happen in Ireland.
  2. Shoulder external rotation, shoulder flexion, and thoracic extension really seem to reduce as golfers get older compared to other movements. Please take note of this and put some exercises into your routine that promote mobility and stability in the thoracic spine and scapula, as these are the foundation for sound shoulder mechanics. Thoracic extensions on a foam roller, relaxed hanging from a pull-up bar and wall slides with external rotation are some exercises I like to use.
MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Toronto Blue Jays

I think this pitcher would have enough external shoulder rotation in his golf swing.

I hope this article gave you some more understanding of how learning about your body and then working on its limitations might be beneficial for your golf game. If you have questions about the TPI Movement Screen or are interested in an online evaluation, please feel free to e-mail me.

Your Reaction?
  • 22
  • LEGIT1
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB1
  • SHANK5

Continue Reading

Instruction

Let’s Talk Gear: Frequency and Shaft CPM

Published

on

When it comes to fine tuning a golf shaft and matching clubs within a set, frequency and CPM play a critical role in build quality and making sure what you were fit for is what gets built for you.

This video explains the purpose of a frequency machine, as well as how the information it gives us relates to both building and fitting your clubs.

Your Reaction?
  • 23
  • LEGIT3
  • WOW1
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK8

Continue Reading

Instruction

How to Deliver the Club Better With Your Trail Arm

Published

on

The vast majority of golfers want to be consistent. The reality is that they are… the consistency they have just doesn’t produce the outcome they want.

In this video, I share a simple drill that will improve the way you deliver the club with your trail arm and give you a more consistent delivery from the inside to promote more consistent outcomes.

Your Reaction?
  • 37
  • LEGIT2
  • WOW2
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP3
  • OB2
  • SHANK4

Continue Reading

19th Hole

Facebook

Trending