As I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, the golf swing is an arc. The goal with every club you hit off the deck is to produce a consistent bottom of the arc position.
Too far behind the ball, you hit it thin or fat depending on how you tweak your swing and body. Ultimately you want to hit the ball then the turf to make consistent contact.
Golf legends like Johnny Miller, Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus all believe this is the most important lesson in developing a consistent swing. This is known as finding the bottom of your swing or bottoming out the golf club.
To hit pure irons shots, the ball needs to be positioned behind the bottom out spot. This will ensure that you are striking the ball with a descending blow, compressing it against the ground and creating the ideal trajectory and velocity.
Unfortunately, so many amateur golfers miss this concept completely. A lot of them try to help the ball and lift it off the ground.
But remember, that’s what loft is there to do. You don’t need to help the ball up, you need to hit down so the ball can go up.
This will result in pure irons, more consistently, more greens in regulations, and probably lower scores if you’re putting well. Here’s what you need to know about finding the bottom of your swing.
Inconsistent iron shots are frustrating and usually result in fat shots that end up way short and thin misses that sail the green. Fat shots means you’re hit the divot behind the golf ball and the thin shot means you’re too high on the ball.
Every golfer should be striving for a consistent bottom of the arc on every iron swing. It’s the primary element in a repeatable swing that will dramatically help you improve contact. While it’s mostly about irons, this also applies to almost every shot from the deck. The only shots it doesn’t include are driver and putter as both are hit slightly on the upswing.
If you’re struggling to hit consistent irons, my guess is that you’re not consistently finding the bottom of the arc. Here’s how you can get started:
As I’ve mentioned before, if you want to hit consistent irons you have to learn to how to cover the golf ball. There is no swaying, no lifting or dipping of the upper body but a simple rotation around the angle of the spine. This means that from setup through impact, you are remaining in the same position with your sternum over the golf ball through impact.
This drill should help you understand where you’re currently at:
As PGA professional John Grund said in this Youtube video below, “The number one thing you can do to improve your iron play is to make sure the low part of your arc is in front of the ball.”
Use this simple drill to identify where you currently are so you can start making corrections and improving your game quickly.
- Find a fairway bunker where you can practice to identify where the bottom of the arc in your golf swing is at impact.
- Draw a line in the sand at where you address the golf ball. Take a few practice swings and note where the divot starts compared to the line you just drew.
- Ideally, you want the low point (where the divot starts) ahead of the line not behind it.
If you can get the low point in front of the ball, your shots will go straighter and farther. Use these methods so you can start squeezing the ball and hitting crisp iron shots like the pros.
If you’ve done the fairway bunker drill and found that you’re hitting behind the line, there are three major reasons why this is happening.
If your spine angle is changing throughout the backswing, you’ll have to make some corrections to try and get back to hit impact. But this usually results in hitting behind it and leaving your weight on the right side. To help this, try and increase as much flexibility as you can.
As I just mentioned, one of the main reasons players leave their weight on the back foot is too much spine movement. When you don’t transfer your weight to your lead foot, the majority of your weight is behind the ball.
And where your weight is at impact is where you’re most likely going to hit it. That’s why you see the pros get all the way on their left side thus creating a downward to blow to hit super pure iron shots. Remember, the goal is to hit the ball then the turf, not the other way around.
If your clubhead passes in front of your hands before the golf ball you’re uncocking your wrists too soon. This casting of the club will make you hit up on the ball, resulting in a ton of thinned iron shots.
The goal is to have your hands ahead of the clubface at impact. This will help you compress the ball, hit it flush, and find consistency like never before.
If you’ve made the appropriate hip turn on the way back, it’s much easier to get your weight back to your left side. The first move on your downswing is to unwind your hips then the arm, shoulders, and club will naturally drop into the perfect spot.
The left shoulder, left arm, and left hand all start after the hips on the way down. To get in the right position on the way back, make sure you are starting with your shoulder, not your hip. Too many amateur players start the takeaway with too much lower body.
This is tricky to feel so I recommend recording your swing so you can see what part of your body is moving first. While sometimes it may feel like it’s your lower body, for a lot of amateurs it’s the exact opposite. Ensure your hips start, then shoulders, arms, and hands follow.
The reason pros hit it so far is that they compress the ball at impact. They turn a 7-iron into a 5-iron loft because their hands are ahead of the ball and weight is on their left side.
Remember, you need to keep moving your weight to the left side during the downswing. This will ensure your wrists and hands are ahead of the golf ball which will also make sure you hit the ball then create a divot.
If you’ve shifted your weight correctly on the downswing, your right knee should be pointing toward the ball at impact. If you haven’t transferred the weight and you hit off your right foot, the bottom of your arc will be behind the ball. You’ll probably hit it to the right or thin it depending on how you manipulate the club.
When you’re standing behind the ball as part of your routine, are you going through the motions or actually trying to feel yourself getting to the left side?
Most players, especially as the round goes on, get lazy with practice swings. And a lazy routine usually leads to a lazy swing. You want to practice getting your weight to the left side and not staying behind the ball on your practice swing.
If you take a few cuts and notice your divot is way behind the intended impact area do a few more until you feel your weight getting to the left side.
This simple drill should help you find the bottom of your swing in the right position:
I really like this drill from Peter Finch Golf to help you learn how to bottom out the golf club:
- Grab and 8-iron and a small towel for this drill on the range. Choke up slightly on the club.
- Place the towel (preferably a thinner one) on the ground. On the top right-hand corner of the towel, place the range ball.
- The goal is to try to hit the ball then the turf to make sure you are bottoming out at the right part of the swing.
- If you’re too early you’ll hit the towel behind the ball or if you cast the ball, which so many amateurs do, you’ll also hit the towel.
Use the fairway bunker drill to get started. This drill makes it easy to see where the bottom of your swing is so you can use the tips to start improving.
One of the biggest takeaways from this post is that you should pay extra careful attention with your practice swing. Always repeat practice swings with the right type of swing that you want to make on the upcoming shot.
Your mind wants to know the goal before you address the shot. Make sure you train it to visualize the shot and practice or “feel” the type of shot you want to achieve.
Most people make practice swings they don’t repeat with their real swings. And a lot of amateurs make a poor weight transfer and fail to get the club to the ball before they take a divot.
One thing to keep in mind that is not in the scope of this post, if you are playing from uneven lies such as a downhill or uphill slope you need to make a few adjustments to move your swing bottom.
But remember, for good irons shots the bottom of the arc is ahead of the ball instead of behind it. For more on the basics of a golf swing, click here.