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How to fix the root cause of hitting your golf shots fat

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Of all the shots golfers fear, hitting the ball FAT has to be right up at the top of the list. At least it heads the list of commonly hit poor shots (let’s leave the shank and the whiff out for now). After fat, I’d list topping, followed by slicing and then hooking. They are all round-killers, although the order of the list is an individual thing based on ability. Professionals despise a hook, but club golfers by and large fear FAT. Why?

First of all, it’s embarrassing. Secondly, it goes nowhere — at least compared to thin — and it can be physically painful! So to avoid this dreaded miss, golfers do any number of things (consciously or subconsciously) to avoid it. The pattern develops very early in one’s golf life. It does not take very many fat shots for golfers to realize that they need to do something differently. But rather than correct the problem with the correct move(s), golfers often correct a fault with a fault.

Shortening the radius (chicken-winging), raising the swing center, early lower-body extension, holding on through impact (saving it), running the upper body ahead of the golf ball and even coming over the top are all ways of avoiding fat shots. No matter how many drills I may offer for correcting any of those mistakes, none will work if the root cause of fat is not addressed.

So what causes fat? We have to start with posture. Some players simply do not have enough room to deliver the golf club on a good plane from inside to inside. Next on the list of causes is a wide, early cast of the club head. This move is invariably followed by a break down in the lead arm, holding on for dear life into impact, or any of the others…

“Swaying” (getting the swing center too far off the golf ball) is another cause of fat, as well as falling to the rear foot or “reversing the weight.” Both of these moves can cause one to bottom out well behind the ball. Finally, an excessive inside-out swing path (usually the fault of those who hook the ball) also causes an early bottom or fat shot, particularly if the release is even remotely early. 

Here are 4 things to try if you’re hitting fat shots

  1. Better Posture: Bend forward from the hips so that arms hang from the shoulders and directly over the tips of the toes, knees slightly flexed over the shoelaces, seat out for balance and chin off the chest!
  2. Maintaining the Angles: Casting, the natural urge to throw the clubhead at the golf ball, is a very difficult habit to break if one is not trained from the start. The real correction is maintaining the angle of the trail wrist (lag) a little longer so that the downswing is considerably more narrow than the backswing. But as I said, if you have been playing for some time, this is risky business. Talk to your instructor before working on this!
  3. Maintaining the Swing Center Over the Golf Ball: In your backswing, focus on keeping your sternum more directly over the golf ball (turning in a barrel, as Ernest Jones recommended). For many, this may feel like a “reverse pivot,” but if you are actually swaying off the ball it’s not likely you will suddenly get stuck with too much weight on your lead foot.
  4. Setting Up a Little More Open: If your swing direction is too much in-to-out, you may need to align your body more open (or feel that way). You could also work with a teaching aid that helps you feel the golf club is being swung more out in front of you and more left (for right-handers) coming through — something as simple as a head cover inside the golf ball. You’ll hit the headcover if you are stuck too far inside coming down.

The point is that most players do what they have to do to avoid their disastrous result. Slicers swing way left, players who fight a hook swing inside out and anybody who has ever laid sod over the golf ball will find a way to avoid doing it again. This, in my opinion, is the evolution of most swing faults, and trying to correct a fault with a fault almost never ends up well.

Get with an instructor, get some good videos (and perhaps even some radar numbers) to see what you are actually doing. Then work on the real corrections, not ones that will cause more trouble.

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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. .

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. David Lewis

    Jun 25, 2018 at 11:38 pm

    Dennis I think you missed the biggest reason, my teacher refers to it as a sequencing problem. You load the right side on the backswing but fail to aggressively shift your weight forward prior to the strike so the bottom of your swing arc is behind the ball. It’s as simple as that, staying centered over the ball is the worst possible advice one could give an amateur. Amateurs simply aren’t as athletic as tour players in most cases nor do they have the balance. How many baseball players do you see hitting flat footed? Answer, none! Golf isn’t nearly as difficult as some instructors make it out to be with all of the confusing babble. You want to stop hitting it fat? Move more aggressively to the left, it should feel like a baseball player stepping in to hit a home run.

  2. geoh

    Jun 24, 2018 at 11:22 am

    Change intent from Hit to Sweep.

  3. DENNIS E CLARK

    Jun 22, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    Axis tilt obviously plays a major role, and the complement to that is the amoung of “lag” or point where the player reaches lead arm extension. A low right side and an early relaese is not compatible; most elite level ball strikers have suficient lag or later hit to go in low. I lovede Trevino and Garcia moves like that. thx

  4. PineStreetGolf

    Jun 22, 2018 at 7:15 am

    Any lever will always bottom out at 90* to its axis. Always.

    The axis is the line formed by your sternum, belly button and center of gravity. If that’s pointing in front of the ball you will not hit it fat. If its pointing behind the ball you always will. Its the same reason a ball on a string whirling in a circle reaches its fastest point when the string is at exactly 90* to the stick the string is whirling around.

    Or, in other words, have the middle of your body including your lower body, in front of the ball and you literally cannot fat it. This article list a lot of symptoms, but not the cause. The line formed by those three markers must point in front of the ball if you draw a line on it. That’s all that matters – having the axis in front of the ball (where the club will always bottom out).

  5. George

    Jun 22, 2018 at 6:40 am

    Instant fix and tremendous help for me getting that sweet compressed-ball impact back is to look and concentrate on a spot 2-3 inches in front of the ball all the way from address to impact. That way I fotget to hit AT the ball and hit THROUGH it instead. If I look at the center of the ball, which is raised from the ground I hit fat or thin.

  6. JC

    Jun 21, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    Combo a fat shot with a toe-ey one, enough to make anyone want to quit the game.

    • PhilDSnuts

      Jun 22, 2018 at 10:47 am

      Game improvement irons, they fix everything!!!!! Sike!!!!

  7. Acemandrake

    Jun 21, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    Well written piece, Mr. Clark.

    “Some players simply do not have enough room to deliver the golf club on a good plane from inside to inside.”

    What “work around” do you suggest for this?

    Thanks, and keep writing!

  8. Jim Horgan

    Jun 21, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    I’ve noticed in my many years of teaching the swing that fat men hit fat while thin men hit thin. It’s a pattern that cannot be denied. There is no good solution.

  9. CrashTestDummy

    Jun 21, 2018 at 5:29 pm

    Spine tilt. Many times shoulders are tilted too much away from target and/or hips are swaying laterally toward the target causing too much spine tilt at impact which can bottom the club arc behind the ball. Leveling shoulders more and/or limiting swaying hips will help with better spine tilt moving the bottom of the arc in the correct position while steepening the arc and AOA coming into the ball.

  10. juststeve

    Jun 21, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    It was’t Ernest Jones but Percy Boomer who recommended turning in a barrel. Otherwise nothing to disagree with.

    • Dennis clark

      Jun 22, 2018 at 8:37 am

      Correct my mistake. Earnest was a proponent of swinging the club head, another major text in golf instruction genre.

  11. Jonathan

    Jun 21, 2018 at 4:06 pm

    About me: right handed, playing 28 yrs, miss is a hook left

    I literally went through each of these points on my own during the past 2 weeks. I suddenly developed a bad case of fat shots out of nowhere. My focus areas were (1) lean a little more over the ball from my hips (2) feel like I am swinging around my torso (3) try to keep lag in my down swing and (4) open my stance slightly to the left. These techniques drastically and quickly solved my problems over two 1-hour range sessions. I recommend.

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Clement: Your interlocking grip could be killing your golf swing

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Playing army golf? You really want to check out this video as you may have a bad grip causing some major short circuits in your golf swing.

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The Wedge Guy: Re-think mid-range wedge shots

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For over 30 years, I have been almost myopically focused on scoring range performance, from the design of wedges to the study of techniques of golfers of all skill levels. I’ve had the good fortune of having reviewed over 50,000 golfers’ wedge-fitting profiles, and countless one-on-one conversations with every-day golfers to tour professionals and teaching pros alike. And I try to continually learn from all those encounters.

From my observations of most recreational golfers and their scoring range performance, the vast majority of players seem to routinely and almost automatically reach for their highest-lofted wedge when they have a less-than-full shot into the green. By that I mean any shot from just under full-swing yardage to greenside chips and short pitches.

I also believe that tendency or habit is costing many golfers in their scoring range success rate. Let me share some insight with you that you can use to improve some of your “red zone” shotmaking.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a column that shared why wedge “mastery” is so elusive for the recreational golfer, regardless of his or her skill level. You can read that article HERE. The key element to that elusive mastery of shot making with wedges is that the high degree of loft makes all wedge shots somewhat of a glancing blow to the ball, when you compare it to the impact with a 7-iron, let’s say, or even a driver. Those lower lofted clubs deliver a more direct blow to the ball.

In our most recent robotic and live golfer testing of wedge shots at intermediate ranges, we often saw a higher spin rate achieved with a lower lofted wedge . . . say a 54 rather than a 58 or 60. The reason for that is that impact is more direct, and more of the mass of the clubhead is above the strike point on the face. That improves “gear effect”, which is a basic principle of golf clubhead design.

Rather than get into anything super-technical, however, I will share my own experience gained as we have tested and measured the Edison Forged and other wedges in all kinds of shot-making scenarios. At 40-70 yards, as you would expect, shots hit with the 53 to 56 loft range would almost always deliver a lower trajectory than shots with 58 to 61 degree loft wedges. But you are likely surprised that the lower lofts consistently delivered as much or more spin and a tighter long-short dispersion variance.
In my own play, that research has inspired me to hit more of those mid-range shots with my 53 than with my 57, and the results are much more consistent. I still like the 57 for shots around the greens when I need that bit of extra loft, but I also reach for that 53 and even my 49 or 45 when the shot doesn’t call for a high ball flight because there is very little green to work with.

Another area where the lower lofted wedge is to your advantage is when the ball is sitting up in the rough. With the higher lofted wedge, you are much more likely to make impact high on the face, which greatly reduces the smash factor and therefore, how far the shot can travel. If you simply “loft down” one or two clubs – my bet is that you will dramatically improve your performance with these shots.

I encourage all of you to turn yourselves into “mad scientists” as well, and experiment with hitting those mid-range wedge shots with the next lower loft than you might ordinarily turn to. My bet is that you will quickly see your distance control improve, and you’ll be pleased with the launch angles and spin you still get.

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Short Game University: How to hit wedges 101

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GolfWRX.com welcomes back instructional writer Tom Stickney, whose articles here have garnered over 15 million views. Tom has written from GolfWRX for almost five years with articles that feature technology for the average player using a TrackMan focus on all parts of the game. We’re happy to announce he’s beginning his writing once again, and we look forward to what he has in store for our readers.

Tom has been the Director of Instruction at such prestigious Clubs at BIGHORN Golf Club in Palm Desert, California, The Club at Cordillera in Vail, Colorado, Promontory Golf Club in Park City, Utah, and most recently The Four Seasons Punta Mita Golf Club in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. You have seen him ranked as a Top 100 Teacher by Golf Magazine, a Top 50 International Teacher by Golf Digest, and a Top 25 Teacher by Golf Tips Magazine.


As with any level of player the ability to hit wedges solid, online, and control the distance is paramount to lower scores. It can help you when you hit the ball into trouble on par fours and you pitch out, on par 5s when you lay up, and to take advantage of a good drive when you have that perfect yardage as well.

Sadly, I believe that this and fairway bunkers are the most under-practiced aspects in all of golf, so in this article, I’d like to help you become better with your wedge shots.

In my opinion, there are three wedge keys at the BASIC level…

  1. The pivot: How you twist and turn
  2. The low point: Where the club hits the ground
  3. Your face to path: Controlling the ball

Now, before you say anything, of course, you need to control the distance you hit the ball and your trajectory as well, but if you cannot at least “hit” the shot then you cannot control the other two I just listed.

In another article (after you master this one) we’ll cover how to better control your distances and your trajectory.

The pivot

The pivot is simply defined as how your body twists and turns during the swing and how you displace weight. Your pivot controls things like rhythm, balance, a steady head, and influences your low point etc.
When hitting wedges the weight should stay mostly centered within your feet (as shown below) and on the inside of your rear foot. If the weight moves side to side too much while hitting these type of shots you will tend to hit the ball unsolid.

Some players tend to put more weight on their forward foot and leave it there during the wedge shots while others tend to keep it more like their full-swing. Personally, I like the idea of a touch more weight forward but as long as you can control where you impact the ground then you are fine.

In order to understand and feel the pivot, cross your arms and turn your shoulders to the “top” of your backswing while keeping the weight on the inside of you rear foot. Now reverse the process into your “finish” position keeping the weight on the inside of your forward foot.

As you move back and forth everything should work together- back and through- so the club, arms and hands, sternum, and zipper all reach the top, impact, and the finish together. The reason why you pivot in this way is to reduce hand action. The better the pivot the less you will rely on your arms and hands to drive the club thus making your low point and release point more reliable under pressure.

And remember the less hand action you have the easier it will be to begin the golf ball where you want. Since the pivot also controls the transition of the club, if you have a solid and correct pivot motion, the club will always be delivered in the way it was designed to move and good shots will be the result!

Low point control

One of the most important things in order to facilitate solid wedge shots is the ability for you to control where the club impacts the ground. The club’s low point must be in front of the golf ball for all shots hit off the ground, if not, you will instantly lose power and consistency.

The easiest way to visualize your low point is to draw a line on the ground perpendicular to your target, place a ball just on the forward (target) side of the line and hit a shot. Now note where the divot begins. It should always start “on the line and forward” never behind it and this will help you to understand the importance of your low point.

Face to path

TrackMan has also shown us that curvature is mostly created when the face and path diverge thus your face to path relationship is very important when hitting wedges.

Studies have also shown that the ball begins mostly in the direction of the face and curves away from the path (with a centered hit) as shown above.

The face (at impact) is shown by the red arrow (11.8 degrees right of the target) and the path is represented by the blue line (-1.2 degrees left of the target) so the face to path relationship in the example above is 13 degrees and the ball curves to the right. Obviously, the more loft you use coupled with less clubhead speed causes the ball not to curve as much, but it still is a matter of the face to path relationship. So, the shorter the wedge shot the more important the starting direction becomes because the ball won’t have the time nor the speed to be able to curve “back” to your target.

If you want to hit your wedges as straight as possible, I would suggest you put the following image in your mind…imagine the path and the face moving in the same “down the line” direction at impact. If you diminish the amount of face to path dispersion you WILL hit the ball straighter than you ever have with the wedge. Now, obviously we know that doing what you see in this image is not the easiest thing to do nor the best way for all players to hit the ball but it’s a good visual to say the least.

Hopefully, by now you have a better idea how to control your wedge swing and its three major keys. Remember, the first idea is to learn how to “hit” the shot with some type of reliability then we’ll add in different factors as time goes on!

 

 

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