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How to “bottom out” your scores

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You can learn a lot about your swing by starting at the bottom.  Every swing has a low point and knowing yours can help you understand a lot about how you got there.

There are three possibilities for the low point:

  1. Too far behind
  2. Just right
  3. Too far in front of the golf ball.

The correct low point is a few inches in front of the golf ball for most shots. A swing bottom that is too far behind the ball causes golfers to hit fat shots. A swing bottom that is too far in in front of the ball causes golfers to hit topped or thin shots.

But to fully understand the importance of where the swing bottoms out, you have to consider the concept of angle of attack. You can hit behind the ball in two ways: with too shallow of an angle OR too steep of an angle. For this reason, there can be no discussion of fat shots without discussing swing width.

A good example to help you understand the swing bottom is that if you took a hula-hoop and stood it upright, there would one small point at the bottom that touched the ground. I call that a very narrow swing bottom. But if you took that hula-hoop and tilted the top portion closer to the ground, there would be several points at the bottom that touched the ground. I call that a wide bottom.

The differences in swing width have a lot to do with the different planes on which golfers swing. Flat swing planes tend to have wide bottoms and upright swing planes have very narrow bottoms. Flat swings keep the golf club along the ground longer, while upright swings are “in and out” of the ground for a shorter period of time. But both swings can bottom out too soon.

When the swing bottom is too far behind golf ball because of too wide an arc, you need to make a steeper swing. If the swing bottom is too far behind the golf ball because of too of narrow an arc, you need to make a more shallow swing. (Remember: steep is narrow and shallow is wide).

How can you tell the difference between too steep and too shallow? Just look at your divots. Are they burial grounds or thin slices of bacon?  They can both hit behind the ball, but one just brushes the grass behind the ball and one digs trenches.

Let’s tackle fixing a swing with too shallow of a bottom first. You need to swing more steeply into the ball, so try the following:

  • A narrower stance at address, with a bit more weight on your left side.
  • A more centered pivot in the backswing
  • A more upright backswing
  • A more narrow pull down of the golf club, which feels like more “lag”
  • An emphasis on turning through the golf ball

If you are too steep:

  • A wider stance at address with a little more weight on the right side
  • A bigger, wider shoulder turn in the backswing
  • A flatter swing plane going back
  • An earlier, wider release coming down
  • An emphasis on swinging the arms past the body and staying behind it.

Remember narrow, steep swings can be late into impact, and flatter wider swings can be earlier into the ball. Let me offer a few examples: If you were watch Sergio Garcia, who has a very wide arc in his downswing after his vertical drop, you would notice that he relies on a lot of lag to narrow the width of his swing. This helps him reach the low point just in front of the ball. Tom Watson has a much earlier releaser of the club to widen his arc due to a very upright, and therefore narrow motion. Both are great players, but they have very different release points because of the different widths of their swings.

Your release is a function of your width, plane and angle into the golf ball. Your goal should be finding a compatible move that will bottom out consistently in the same place. The tips above might help you do just that!

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

Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, Pa., and Marriott Marco Island Resort in Naples, Fla. He has been a professional for over 25 years. You can learn more about Dennis on his website, http://www.dennisclarkgolf.com

You can read a GolfWRX feature story and video about Dennis by clicking here.

Click here for more discussion in the forums. 

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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. .

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Andreas

    Oct 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Sorry for a daft question but english is not my native language.

    Did i understood it correctly if a deep trench divot indicate a steep angle of attack?

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 26, 2012 at 7:08 pm

      sorty for the late reply but..,yes a deep divot often means too steep an angle of attack. Thx, DC

  2. dennis

    Sep 16, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    WVUfore: Hit a LOT of balls: Draw a line in the dirt, put your club on it at address, and try to bottom out if front of it every time. FELL the sensation of what you’re doing.

  3. WVUfore

    Sep 16, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Once you find your swing bottom, do you recommend any drills to help consistently find that point. Do you have the same swing bottom with an iron as you may with a wedge?

  4. Anne

    Sep 16, 2012 at 11:34 am

    ALWAYS ENJOY YOUR TIPS!!
    THANKS FOR STAYING IN TOUCH!!
    Bob and Anne Longwell

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Instruction

Clement: Load up the full power package in the backswing!

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This video is FUNDAMENTAL FOR POWER GAINS in the golf swing; the arm anatomy BEGS TO BE USED in this manner from casting a fishing pole, to serving a tennis ball to batting a baseball to driving a golf ball. YOU WILL LOVE how much SNAP you will get through the ball and the sound the ball will make coming off the club from the compression off the face. BLISS ON A STICK!

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Clement: This wrist position can add 30 yards to your drive

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Drop the mic on how the wrists should load and be positioned for compressive power, accuracy, and longevity! There is a better way, and this is it!

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Instruction

Short Game University: How to hit wedges 301

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In golf, there is nothing harder than judging a flop shot over a bunker to a tight pin out of long grass. Why? Because there are so many variables to account for — in addition to what you can and cannot do with a wedge. In fact, up until very recently in the world of wedge design, we were limited to only increasing the landing angle to stop the ball, because relying on spin from this lie and this close to the green was next to impossible.

Now with the advent of things like raw faces, different CG locations, new groove design, and micro-ribs between the grooves, we can now spin the ball out of lies that we never could have done so before. This is not to say that you can now zip the ball back from these types of lies, but we are seeing spin rates that have skyrocketed, and this allows us to not open the face as much as we needed to do before in order to stop the ball.

Before we get into the shot around the green itself, let’s talk a bit about wedge design. For that, I called a great friend of mine, Greg Cesario, TaylorMade’s Staff Manager to help us understand a bit more about wedges. Greg was a former PGA Tour Player and had a big hand in designing the new Milled Grind 3 Wedges.

Cesario said: “Wedge technology centers on two key areas- the first is optimizing its overall launch/spin (just like drivers) on all shots and the second is optimum ground interaction through the geometry of the sole (bounce, sole width, and sole shape).”

“Two key things impact spin: Groove design and face texture. Spin is the secondary effect of friction. This friction essentially helps the ball stick to the face a little longer and reduces slippage. We define slippage as how much the ball slides up the face at impact. That happens more when it’s wet outside during those early morning tee times, out of thicker lies, or after a bit of weather hits. Our Raised Micro-Ribs increase friction and reduce slippage on short partial shots around the round – that’s particularly true in wet conditions.”

“We’ve been experimenting with ways to find optimal CG (center of gravity) placement and how new geometries can influence that. We know that CG locations can influence launch, trajectory and spin. Everyone is chasing the ability to produce lower launching and higher spinning wedge shots to help players increase precision distance control. In that space, moving CG just a few millimeters can have big results. Beyond that, we’re continuing to advance our spin and friction capabilities – aiming to reduce the decay of spin from dry to fluffy, or wet conditions.”

Basically, what Greg is saying is that without improvements in design, we would never be able to spin the ball like we would normally when it’s dry and the lie is perfect. So, with this new design in a wedge like the Milled Grind 3 (and others!), how can we make sure we have the optimal opportunity to hit these faster-stopping pitch shots?

  1. Make sure the face is clean and dry
  2. Open the blade slightly, but not too much
  3. Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the AoA
  4. Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

Make sure the face is clean and dry

If your thought is to use spin to stop the ball quicker under any situation, then you must give the club a chance to do its job. When the grooves are full of dirt and grass and the remaining exposed face is wet, then you are basically eliminating any opportunity to create spin. In fact, if you decide to hit the shot under these conditions, you might as well hit a flop shot as this would be the only opportunity to create a successful outcome. Don’t put yourself behind the eight-ball automatically, keep your club in a clean and dry condition so you have the best chance to do what you are capable of doing.

Open the blade slightly, but not too much

Without going into too much extra detail, spinloft is the difference between your angle of attack and your dynamic loft. And this difference is one of the main areas where you can maximize your spin output.

Too little or too much spinloft and you will not be able to get the maximum spin out of the shot at hand. With wedges, people equate an open clubface to spinning the ball, and this can be a problem due to excessive spinloft. Whenever you have too much dynamic loft, the ball will slide up the face (reduced friction equals reduced spin) and the ball will float out higher than expected and roll out upon landing.

My thought around the green is to open the face slightly, but not all the way, in efforts to reduce the probability of having too much spinloft during impact. Don’t forget under this scenario we are relying on additional spin to stop the ball. If you are using increased landing angle to stop the ball, then you would obviously not worry about increasing spinloft! Make sure you have these clear in your mind before you decide how much to open the blade.

Opened slightly

Opened too much

One final note: Please make sure you understand what bounce option you need for the type of conditions you normally play. Your professional can help you but I would say that more bounce is better than less bounce for the average player. You can find the bounce listed on the wedge itself. It will range between 4-14, with the mid-range bounce being around 10 degrees.

Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the angle of attack

As we know, when debris gets in between the clubface and the ball (such as dirt/grass), you will have two problems. One, you will not be able to control the ball as much. Secondly, you will not be able to spin the ball as much due to the loss of friction.

So, what is the key to counteract this problem? Increasing the angle of attack by setting the wrists quicker on the backswing. Making your downswing look more like a V rather than a U allows less junk to get between the club and the ball. We are not using the bounce on this type of shot, we are using the leading edge to slice through the rough en route to the ball. Coming in too shallow is a huge problem with this shot, because you will tend to hit it high on the face reducing control.

Use your increased AoA on all of your crappy lies, and you will have a much better chance to get up and down more often!

Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

The final piece of the puzzle through the ball is speed through the pivot. You cannot hit shots around the green out of tall grass without keeping the club moving and having speed. A reduction of speed is obvious as the club enters into the tall grass, but you don’t want to exacerbate this problem by cutting off your pivot and letting the arms do all the work.

Sure, there are times when you want to cut off the body rotation through the ball, but not on the shot I am discussing here. When we are using spin, you must have speed to generate the spin itself. So, what is the key to maintaining your speed? Keeping the rear shoulder rotating long into the forward swing. If you do this, you will find that your arms, hands, and club will be pulled through the impact zone. If your pivot stalls, then your speed will decrease and your shots will suffer.

Hopefully, by now you understand how to create better shots around the green using the new wedge technology to create more spin with lies that we had no chance to do so before. Remembering these simple tips — coupled with your clean and dry wedge — will give you the best opportunity to be Tiger-like around the greens!

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