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Find the bottom of your swing arc by learning to read your divots



Golfers can learn so much about their swings and how to improve from looking at their divots.

If we look at the depth of a divot, it tells us a story about the angle of attack at impact and how steeply we are swinging down into the ball. A shallow divot shows us a shallower angle of attack, while a deeper divot shows the opposite.

Longer irons, hybrids and fairway woods should have more of a sweeping motion. This leads to either a shallow divot with slightly disturbed grass or no divot at all. As we move to our shorter irons, we will see the divot get deeper because the shafts in these clubs are shorter, which naturally leads to a steep swing causing a deeper divot.

The most important feedback that a divot provides is how far in front or behind the ball we are striking the ground, which we call the bottom of a swing arc. The fastest way to lower your score is to find where the bottom of your swing arc is in relationship to the ball. The average tour pro or +3 handicap player has a swing that bottoms out 4-to-5 inches in front of the ball. That is the lowest point in the divot. The farther in front of the ball you can measure your low point, the lower your handicap will generally be. Here is an example of handicap levels and where those levels take a divot.


The photo above illustrates how a standard divot should look with a 7 iron. Notice that the bottom of the divot is past the ball by about 4-5 inches.

(Handicap) = (bottom of divot)

  • +3 = 4-to-5 inches
  •   0 = 3-to-4 inches
  •   4 = 2-to-3 inches
  •   8 = 1-to-2 inches
  • 12 = at the ball or up to 1 inch in front
  • 16 = 1 inch behind the ball
  • 20 = 2 inches behind the ball
  • 24 = 3 inches behind the ball
  • 28 = 4 inches behind the ball

Depending on your handicap level, you will fall into one of the categories above. The fastest way to lower your handicap is to get your swing bottom to move ahead and in front of the ball. Below is a photo of how you can begin compressing the ball and lowering your handicap.


Drill: Get foot-spray powder and spray two lines in the grass.

One line will represent where the ball will be. The second, which is 4 inches ahead, will represent where we want to see the bottom of our divot. Set up on the back line without a ball. Now swing and try to take a divot on the front line. You divots will look like the photo above: some in front, some behind. Continue until you can hit more than five in a row in front of the line. Now place a ball on the back line but only look at the front line.

Do not look at the ball! I repeat, do not look at the ball!

Now, looking only at the front line, swing and strike the ball: then see where your divot falls. At first you will see the divot back near the ball line. This is because you are still focusing on the ball. Just continue with the drill and soon the ball will only be a reference point and the grass in front will become the focal point.

Your divots will begin to move forward and your scores will drop!

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Bernard Sheridan is the owner and founder of Par Breakers Golf Academy and Indoor driving range located in Golf USA Limerick, Pennsylvania. Bernard is a certified in the following golf instruction methods: Golf Channel Swing Fix Instructor and Impact Zone , Putting Zone, Body Balance Fitness, U.S. Kids Golf, Eye Line Golf 4 Elements putting and certified Mizuno Club fitter. Bernard is now in process of acquiring his biomechanics golf certification. Bernard is also the founder of Par Breakers Junior Golf Camps and that was voted Best Golf Camp in the Philadelphia area by Main Line Life magazine in 2008 along with Best Golf teachers Honorable mention by U.S. Kids Golf 2009-10. Find out more at



  1. Lee

    Aug 11, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    Great article. I have been working on this for some time. It has dramatically improved my irons. It does bring me to a different question though. Since I’ve been working on this, my scores have been dropping, yet driver has gotten progressively worse. How can I find a way to swing like this without damaging my results off of the tee?

    • Bernard Sheridan

      Aug 13, 2014 at 11:52 am

      Still feel like you are swinging through with your driver making sure that you get to a complete finish. Weight shift is even more important with your loner clubs. Get to that front foot at impact and stay there until the swing is completed.

  2. Paul

    Jul 25, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    Great tip; I’m battling the fat/thin shots on a regular basis. I’m constantly trying to get a divot let alone to have it start in front of the ball.

    Any tips for bad weight transfer which I believe is what I’m doing.

    • Bernard Sheridan

      Jul 25, 2014 at 10:33 pm

      You need to rotate around your front post. i.e. Leg. Think about when you throw a ball. You shift your weight to your front foot then throw the ball. This is much like that. transfer your weight and rotate around that front leg. This will make it easier to brush the turf.

  3. Wes

    Jul 24, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Hard time tracking AoA, Path, VSP with this method.

  4. Jersoner

    Jul 23, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    Do these divot measurements apply to gi cavity backs as well as blades?

  5. HitEmTrue

    Jul 23, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    “Depending on your handicap level, you will fall into one of the categories above.” Quite a stretch to assert that all mid and higher caps hit the ground at or behind the ball…and then use that assertion to claim that moving the divot in front will lower the handicap.

  6. Ron

    Jul 23, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Should the focal point be in front of the ball when playing on the course too?

    • Bernard Sheridan

      Jul 23, 2014 at 5:01 pm

      Yes. This will stop you from hitting down and let the club do the work.

      • Greg

        Jul 23, 2014 at 9:02 pm

        Great tip. I bought the Impact Zone DVD set and I am starting to hit at least at the ball or 1″ in front not 2″ behind the ball. I guess I never really noticed that I was hitting it that far behind the ball. I am hitting the ball a lot more solid and straighter. So the focus point should ALWAYS be 4″ in front of the ball not at the ball even on the course during regular play. Thanks for the lesson.

  7. LY

    Jul 23, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    What about the shots that are hit perfectly with the divot out in front of the ball but the divot is going to the right. I’m 60 years old and a low single digit player, and I hit a draw with almost 100% of my full shots and my divots are always going to the right. Is that an indication of a swing coming too much from the inside?

    • Bernard Sheridan

      Jul 23, 2014 at 2:50 pm

      A little to much from the inside but I would have to see it to be sure. You can send me a photo of your divot in relationship to the target line and I will be happy to let you know. my email is [email protected]

  8. Ron

    Jul 23, 2014 at 11:35 am

    This is ripped from Bobby Clampetts book and DVD’s

    • adam

      Jul 23, 2014 at 1:02 pm

      Or just the possibility that people have the same ideas. I’ve never heard of that guy and I knew of this exact drill by finding it on the net, not from Bobby Clampett.

      • Ron

        Jul 29, 2014 at 10:37 am

        Like I said Adam this is from Bobby Clampett and thank you Bernard for letting us know that you’re an Impact Zone Instructor. Impact Zone = Bobby Clampett. Now go get your shine box Adam!

    • Bernard Sheridan

      Jul 23, 2014 at 2:47 pm

      I am a certified Impact Zone Instructor. Thanks for your comment

  9. snowman

    Jul 23, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Hey Golfwrx, what happened to the “INSTRUCTION” tab/link at the top of your website???

  10. Consistentgolf

    Jul 23, 2014 at 12:09 am

    the higher the handicap the more over the top the player is on the way down. Following your advice will make the player move more forward to hit more down and in front of the ball, subsequently causing them to be even more over the top than they were before. Better players divots are create through the motion they create not in them trying to get a divot in front of the ball.

    • Bernard Sheridan

      Jul 23, 2014 at 2:54 pm

      Give it a try with your students the see what the results are. You might be surprised. It works for every one on my students.

  11. Mats B

    Jul 22, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    Get it, focus point and so on, using lines. But where is your focus point using a driver off a tee?

    • Bernard Sheridan

      Jul 23, 2014 at 2:52 pm

      Same spot. This will help you hit through the ball not at it.

      • Red

        Jul 27, 2014 at 9:36 pm

        That doesn’t make sense to have a player use the same idea with a driver, clearly this idea means having a negative angle of attack seeing as the club would bottom out in front of the ball, why should a player have that idea with their driver when it will only increase their spin rates and lower their launch angles, which results in lower shorter flying drives with higher dispersions?

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Clement: Easy-on-your-back 300-yard driver swing



Crazy how we used to teach to lock up the lower body to coil the upper body around it for perceived speed? All we got were sore backs and an enriched medical community! See here why this was pure nonsense!

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The Wedge Guy: My top 5 practice tips



While there are many golfers who barely know where the practice (I don’t like calling it a “driving”) range is located, there are many who find it a place of adventure, discovery and fun. I’m in the latter group, which could be accented by the fact that I make my living in this industry. But then, I’ve always been a “ball beater,” since I was a kid, but now I approach my practice sessions with more purpose and excitement. There’s no question that practice is the key to improvement in anything, so today’s topic is on making practice as much fun as playing.

As long as I can remember, I’ve loved the range, and always embrace the challenge of learning new ways to make a golf ball do what I would like it to do. So, today I’m sharing my “top 5” tips for making practice fun and productive.

  1. Have a mission/goal/objective. Whether it is a practice range session or practice time on the course, make sure you have a clearly defined objective…how else will you know how you’re doing? It might be to work on iron trajectory, or finding out why you’ve developed a push with your driver. Could be to learn how to hit a little softer lob shot or a knockdown pitch. But practice with a purpose …always.
  2. Don’t just “do”…observe.  There are two elements of learning something new.  The first is to figure out what it is you need to change. Then you work toward that solution. If your practice session is to address that push with the driver, hit a few shots to start out, and rather than try to fix it, make those first few your “lab rats”. Focus on what your swing is doing. Do you feel anything different? Check your alignment carefully, and your ball position. After each shot, step away and process what you think you felt during the swing.
  3. Make it real. To just rake ball after ball in front of you and pound away is marginally valuable at best. To make practice productive, step away from your hitting station after each shot, rake another ball to the hitting area, then approach the shot as if it was a real one on the course. Pick a target line from behind the ball, meticulously step into your set-up position, take your grip, process your one swing thought and hit it. Then evaluate how you did, based on the shot result and how it felt.
  4. Challenge yourself. One of my favorite on-course practice games is to spend a few minutes around each green after I’ve played the hole, tossing three balls into various positions in an area off the green. I don’t let myself go to the next tee until I put all three within three feet of the hole. If I don’t, I toss them to another area and do it again. You can do the same thing on the range. Define a challenge and a limited number of shots to achieve it.
  5. Don’t get in a groove. I was privileged enough to watch Harvey Penick give Tom Kite a golf lesson one day, and was struck by the fact that he would not let Tom hit more than five to six shots in a row with the same club. Tom would hit a few 5-irons, and Mr. Penick would say, “hit the 8”, then “hit the driver.” He changed it up so that Tom would not just find a groove. That paved the way for real learning, Mr. Penick told me.

My “bonus” tip addresses the difference between practicing on the course and keeping a real score. Don’t do both. A practice session is just that. On-course practice is hugely beneficial, and it’s best done by yourself, and at a casual pace. Playing three or four holes in an hour or so, taking time to hit real shots into and around the greens, will do more for your scoring skills than the same amount of range time.

So there you have my five practice tips. I’m sure I could come up with more, but then we always have more time, right?

More from the Wedge Guy



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The Wedge Guy: Anyone can be a better wedge player by doing these simple things



As someone who has observed rank-and-file recreational golfers for most of my life – over 50 years of it, anyway – I have always been baffled by why so many mid- to high-handicap golfers throw away so many strokes in prime scoring range.

For this purpose, let’s define “prime scoring range” as the distance when you have something less than a full-swing wedge shot ahead of you. Depending on your strength profile, that could be as far as 70 to 80 yards or as close as 30 to 40 yards. But regardless of whether you are trying to break par or 100, your ability to get the ball on the green and close enough to the hole for a one-putt at least some of the time will likely be one of the biggest factors in determining your score for the day.

All too often, I observe golfers hit two or even three wedge shots from prime scoring range before they are on the green — and all too often I see short-range pitch shots leave the golfer with little to no chance of making the putt.

This makes no sense, as attaining a level of reasonable proficiency from short range is not a matter of strength profile at all. But it does take a commitment to learning how to make a repeating and reliable half-swing and doing that repeatedly and consistently absolutely requires you to learn the basic fundamentals of how the body has to move the club back and through the impact zone.

So, let’s get down to the basics to see if I can shed some light on these ultra-important scoring shots.

  • Your grip has to be correct. For the club to move back and through correctly, your grip on the club simply must be fundamentally sound. The club is held primarily in the last three fingers of the upper hand, and the middle two fingers of the lower hand. Period. The lower hand has to be “passive” to the upper hand, or the mini-swing will become a quick jab at the ball. For any shot, but particularly these short ones, that sound grip is essential for the club to move through impact properly and repeatedly.
  • Your posture has to be correct. This means your body is open to the target, feet closer together than even a three-quarter swing, and the ball positioned slightly back of center.
  • Your weight should be distributed about 70 percent on your lead foot and stay there through the mini-swing.
  • Your hands should be “low” in that your lead arm is hanging naturally from your shoulder, not extended out toward the ball and not too close to the body to allow a smooth turn away and through. Gripping down on the club is helpful, as it gets you “closer to your work.
  • This shot is hit with a good rotation of the body, not a “flip” or “jab” with the hands. Controlling these shots with your body core rotation and leading the swing with your body core and lead side will almost ensure proper contact. To hit crisp pitch shots, the hands have to lead the clubhead through impact.
  • A great drill for this is to grip your wedge with an alignment rod next to the grip and extending up past your torso. With this in place, you simply have to rotate your body core through the shot, as the rod will hit your lead side and prevent you from flipping the clubhead at the ball. It doesn’t take but a few practice swings with this drill to give you an “ah ha” moment about how wedge shots are played.
  • And finally, understand that YOU CANNOT HIT UP ON A GOLF BALL. The ball is sitting on the ground so the clubhead has to be moving down and through impact. I think one of the best ways to think of this is to remember this club is “a wedge.” So, your simple objective is to wedge the club between the ball and the ground. The loft of the wedge WILL make the ball go up, and the bounce of the sole of the wedge will prevent the club from digging.

So, why is mastering the simple pitch shot so important? Because my bet is that if you count up the strokes in your last round of golf, you’ll likely see that you left several shots out there by…

  • Either hitting another wedge shot or chip after having one of these mid-range pitch shots, or
  • You did not get the mid-range shot close enough to even have a chance at a makeable putt.

If you will spend even an hour on the range or course with that alignment rod and follow these tips, your scoring average will improve a ton, and getting better with these pitch shots will improve your overall ball striking as well.

More from the Wedge Guy

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