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Find the bottom of your swing arc for better golf



One of the fun things about watching great ball strikers is observing their divot patterns.  The bottom of their swing (and their divot) is in the same place time after time. Fat and thin shots are rare for top-tier players, but for amateurs they are usually the most common mishits. Let’s take a look at why.

First, we have to consider that in golf, not only is the ball beside us, it is also on the ground. That’s different than say, tennis, where the ball is also to the side of the player, but it is up in the air. So the golf swing not only has to go up and down, but it also has to go around.

If you picture a ferris wheel tilted half way down, or a merry-go-round tilted halfway up, you get an idea of a golf swing arc. The swing goes around because the golf ball is beside us, and it goes up and down because the ball is on the ground. If golfers hit off 4 foot tees, there would be no need to swing up and down. And if we played golf with the ball between our feet, there would be no need to swing around. But we don’t.

When the golf swing has the proper amount of around and up and down, it has the best chance to bottom out where it should: slightly in front of shots off the turf. If there’s too much around in the swing, the player has difficulty getting to the bottom of the ball. And if there’s too much up and down, the player can crash into ground. Knowing what side of this conundrum you’re on and what to do about it can be a great help when you’re practicing and playing.

The terms shallow and steep are used to describe the angle of attack. One way to look at shallow is that the golf club swings parallel to the ground for too long, or has a wide bottom. Steep means the club is “in and out” of the ground too quickly, or has a very narrow bottom. Shallow is too ascending into impact, and steep is too descending. Obviously, the desired outcome is between steep and shallow. So how do you get there?

First, you need to know what your attack angle is. In other words, knowing that you hit shots fat or thin is not enough information. You can hit shallow fat shots, steep fat shots, and shallow thins and steep thins. And without knowing what you’re hitting or where the bottom of the arc actually is, you cannot get on to the right correction. And although your swing path can contribute, it is by no means the determinate of your angle of attack. Instructors see in-to-out paths with a shallow attack angles, as well as steep angle of attack from the same inside-out path.

Here are a few things that might help: Draw a line on the ground perpendicular to the target line. You can use some spray paint, or just run a tee along an aim stick several times so the line is visible. Sole your club right on the line. Now, start making some practice swing with a 7 iron. Where are your divots: behind the line, on the line or in front of it? Are your divots deep or not deep? Are you hitting the ground at all? These are all things to know in order to get on to your corrections. I’ll offer a general guideline of corrections I teach for the variety of conditions above.

Shallow Fat shots (aka “drop kicks”)

  • De-loft your club slightly at address
  • Place more weight on your front foot.
  • Swing your hands higher in the backswing
  • Focus on getting through the shot and onto your left side (for a righty).

Steep Fats

  • Tilt your spine angle slightly away from the target.
  • Place slightly more weight on your rear foot.
  • Feel that you swing more around (slightly flatter) going back.
  • Focus on a much better shoulder turn in the back swing.

Shallow thin shots (usually low skulls to the right)

  • Move the ball slightly forward in your stance.
  • Open your stance slightly.
  • Focus on swinging more DOWN TO THE LEFT through impact (a feeling of coming over the top).
  • Getting a feeling that the right side is higher than the left side (for a righty) into impact is helpful.

Steep thin shots

This sounds like a contradiction in terms but if your attack angle is very steep, the bottom of the swing arc CAN get too far in front of the golf ball, and the swing will simply “tick” the top of the ball coming through. That’s what instructors call a “late top.”

  • Widen your stance a little.
  • Tilt the spine angle to the right a little.
  • Turn the shoulders in the back swing and swing a little flatter going back.
  • RELEASE THE CLUB as early as you can from the top, staying behind the ball as much as possible.

To clarify: These are all “fixes” for the poor shots you may be hitting. The long-term correction for these attack angle problems will come with working with your instructor on your swing.  By having the knowledge I’ve shared above, you may have at least a “tourniquet” to stop the bleeding!

As always, feel free to send a swing to my Facebook page. I will do my best to give you my feedback.

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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. Dennis now teaches at Bobby Clampett's Impact Zone Golf Indoor Performance Center in Naples, FL. .



  1. Dennis Clark

    May 28, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    The bottom of your swing is where the “rubber meets the road”. The one problem I see more than any is hitting behind or on top of the golf ball. The drills I suggested in this piece are meant as both corrections and “tests” for the player to find where the bottom actually is and what to do about it. Thx for all the comments.

  2. Frank Johnson

    May 27, 2014 at 11:56 am

    Good article, looks like the information was taken from Jim Hardy’s book, “Solid Contact”. Are you a fan of Hardy’s theories and teachings Dennis?

    • Dennis Clark

      May 28, 2014 at 1:03 pm

      Sure; same influence. John jacobs. I didn’t read Solid Contact, but I would imagine its in the same vein. Its really pretty simple; there is no other way. The bottom of the arc is either too far forward or too far back.

      • Frank Johnson

        May 28, 2014 at 1:47 pm

        Thanks Dennis, again great advice. Not many instructors address this area of the golf swing, or how to fix the problems associated with it. It begins with a better understanding…..

  3. TheLegend

    May 24, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    A drop kick is caused by your head falling downward away from your target and down toward the ground. When your head goes down toward the ground so does your shoulders/arms. When this occurs you hit the ground (because you got closer to it) your club then bounces off the ground and hits the top of the ball. DROP=head falling down toward right foot. KICK = bounce off ground to top of ball> Ball KICKING OUT LOW. So how do you stop drop kicking? Well you need to make sure your head is in front of the ball at the moment of impact and that it is not dropping down.

  4. Pingback: Consistent, Powerful Irons by Finding The Bottom of Your Golf Swing Arc | Solutions for Golfers Over 50

  5. Alex K.

    May 23, 2014 at 1:41 am

    This is the greatest area of inconsistency for most if not all beginner/average golfs and despite the writer’s best intentions, it does not address these golfers’ main issue.

    My point is, before you can apply ANY of the fixes listed above, you first have to make sure that you have a swing that is centred around a consistent pivot point.

    To borrow the above analogy, a golfer first has to either anchor his ‘ferris wheel’ to one point in space or ensure it tracks (forwards ideally), the same distance; and at the same relative speed and time as the club head (to ensure release at the correct time), each time he/she swings.

    If you can do this, then you can… “move the ball slightly forward, tilt the spine… etc, etc).

  6. Dmitri

    May 22, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    Steep thin…I am not the only one!

  7. Bob Gomavitz

    May 22, 2014 at 10:52 am

    Dennis, nice article. I would have like to have seen you add Divot Direction to the fat shots.

    My guess is that a to shallow divot, aka the drop kick divot might be pointing right of target, or is this just from a to early release? My divot points right when I hit it fat more often then not. Thought?

    • Dennis Clark

      May 22, 2014 at 2:08 pm

      You have to be careful when observing divots, they are misleading. They do not indicate initial direction OR PATH! But to answer your question, drop kicks are often from an in-to-out path, but not always. A player cash be shallow out-to-in as well. “Left field from the right foot” I call it. send me a video!

  8. Jim Benjamin

    May 22, 2014 at 9:50 am

    My biggest problem is I don’t take a divot. Every time I try I mess up. I have used a swingbyte analyzer and have forward shaft lean (6.4 degrees forward) and hit down on the ball (attack angle 6.7 degrees down) but don’t take a divot. I’ll try to make a video.

  9. John H

    May 22, 2014 at 7:56 am

    Now, if we only had one style of miss, then we might get somewhere! Personally, I have all of the above shots in my bag.

    • Dennis Clark

      May 22, 2014 at 8:52 am

      probably not, most swings are either steep OR shallow. Send a video is you like. Thx

  10. Alexander Bernhardt

    May 22, 2014 at 12:57 am

    This is very detailed. Thanks!

  11. Chris Reed

    May 21, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    I believe I am guilty of the drop kicks, but thought it was more because I was loading up. Could that be it too? Would the fixes suggested above work for that too? It seems like I makes sense, but just making sure. This seems to be my miss hit on all clubs. Thanks!

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Kelley: Should a Tour player’s swing be the pattern we copy?



PGA Tour players are the most gifted golfers on the planet. Their ball striking ability is remarkable to the average, even scratch, golfer. With the time to practice all day, usually perfecting their imperfections in their own swings, why are PGA Tour players’ swings always the model we seek?

Look at the progression and expectations in other sports played recreationally. If you start playing Tennis, you don’t expect to serve as fast and accurate as Rafael Nadal. When joining a gym, do we look and replicate the times and bodies of Olympians? However, in golf, players seek the worlds best trying to emulate them. Examining this idea, could this actually be detrimental?

Let’s start with the speed differential. The average PGA Tour driver club head speed is 113 mph. The average male amateur golfer driver speed is 93.4 mph. The average handicap for the male golfer sits between 14 and 15. Below is a chart from Trackman showing the distribution of clubhead speed among male golfers.

*Trackman research shows there is a direct correlation between clubhead speed and handicap.

Speed is mostly a natural talent developed at an early age. It can be enhanced with speed training, gym work and even lifestyle changes. ?With such a differential in speed?, wouldn’t players first be better served focusing on center contact with the most efficient route to do so? This can include modeling simple looking swings.

Besides the speed differential, the world’s best golfers all have unique swings that have been perfected over time. Take for example the top ten players in the world. Different swings with different match-up moves throughout the motion. They have made it work for themselves with countless practice hours. Usually time the average golfer doesn’t have.

A main example would be Rory McIlroy, often a sought out golf swing among students. Here is a quote regarding his swing swing sequence after visiting the Titleist Performance Institute Center. “At the start of McIlroy’s downswing, his left hip spins violently counterclockwise, as it does for every elite, long-hitting player. but then, and only with the driver, Mcllroy makes a funky move you could not teach. a moment before impact, his left hip suddenly changes direction and jerks back, clockwise, and then rotates again.”

With the average golfer on a time constraint?, golfers could actually look at what the greats do the older they get in their careers. The swings become more simple, using their instincts to get their body in efficient and more teachable positions. This is usually in their set-up then backswing, with less excess movement for an efficient strike. Take for example a young versus older Ben Hogan. (Picture below)

Below is another example of a young Jack Nicklaus compared to an older Nicklaus later in his career.

This is in large part due to the concept that less can be more at times. Unfortunately in golf, all to often players are told to do more with their swing, only to jeopardize center contact even seeking vanity over function.

A concept that could be beneficial is next time you want to work on your swing, focus on efficiency and minimizing the ?motion for center contact and a better face/path relationship. Then you can build. Rather then taking a bit from a Tour player’s swing, understand how your body should move to achieve your desired ball flight. Once you have a foundation, then add speed and your own DNA to the swing.

The argument could be made the opposite should be taught for aspiring junior golfers, especially the way the game as going. This article is intended to open a discussion and perhaps change the view of how the golf swing is being taught based on your skill-set and what you are trying to get out of the game. Also, what may be teachable and not teachable. You can change swings with concepts alone.

Twitter: @Kkelley_golf 

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Clement: Why laying up = more power



You have been there before — you can’t get over the hazard on a par 5 and decide to lay up and take the club you need for the distance and the ball makes it into the hazard after you took this smooth swing that smoked the ball 15 yards farther than you expected? We uncover the mystery right here!


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Kelley: Simplify your swing with the hammer drill



Regardless of your handicap, a simple hammer can teach you how to efficiently address the ball, start the swing and then put your body in a dynamic position at the top. If you can hammer a nail, there is no reason you can’t simplify your swing. This drill can also change the parts in the middle of your swing you have been struggling to change.

To start, grab a hammer with your trail hand as if you are hammering a nail into a wall in front of your body. You will notice how this instinctively gives you a slight tuck of the trail elbow and drops your trail shoulder below the lead with angle in the trail wrist.

Once gripping the hammer, move the weight of the hammer as if hammering a nail. This will give you the feel of the takeaway.

From here, the golf swing is no more then a lifting of the arms as the right arm folds and the body goes around a bit.

From this position, holding your spine angle and placing the left hand on the right hand will pull your body into a coil or “turn”. This places your body in a position to efficiently swing the golf club back down to the ball.

A great way to combine the hammer drill with a golf club is to hold a hammer on the grip of the club or tape the hammer down the middle of the shaft. Start with just your right hand on the club and make slow swings.

Once you have practiced this a few times, the hammer can be removed and this feel can be integrated to a normal golf club. To continue this feel, simply turn the clubhead in as if you are hitting the ball with the toe of the club (below picture). When turning the club like this, the center of balance goes more to the clubhead, helping replicate the actual hammer feel.

What’s great about this drill is that the actual task is driving the technique. Rather than being thoughtful of several technical positions in the golf swing, replicating the instinctive motion of the hammer will put you in the proper positions. This drill will also help you place your focus of attention on the actual club, which is often overlooked.

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