If you had to hit a shot fat or thin, which would you choose?
If you’re like 99% of golfers my guess is you’d choose a thin shot. “Thin to win” is a common golf saying that couldn’t be more true.
Let me explain; there are three terms used to describe how you hit a golf shot. Because let’s face it, golf is a game of misses and most amateur golfers don’t hit it in the sweet spot that often. While golf equipment makes it less of a penalty to mishit shots, the goal is to always find the sweet spot if possible.
Keep reading to learn more about thin shots, common causes, and the best ways to fix it for better ball striking.
Golf Thin Shots Explained
As I teased in the intro there are three ways to hit the golf ball; solidly (aka pure shots), fat shots, and thin shots. Each shot happens based on where the ball makes contact with the club face. Paired with ball flight laws it’ll determine your overall distance and trajectory for each shot.
While golf clubs are more forgiving than ever, a thin shot isn’t something you can rely on. It’s vital to make necessary adjustments in your setup and swing to fix this issue quickly. Let’s review each of the shots before getting into how to fix thin shots.
Fat Golf Shots
Hitting a shot fat is when the leading edge makes contact with the turf well behind the golf ball. This is the exact opposite of hitting it thin as you’re hitting it high on the face from an incorrect swing arc.
Fat shots are arguably the most frustrating because they go almost nowhere. Since you’re hitting the ball with the top part of the club, it’s missing the sweet spot entirely and your distance will suffer as a result.
You are likely left with a similar next shot to the one you just faced and likely don’t have a ton of confidence either. Not to mention your golf club is probably caked with mud and your wrists might hurt if you hit it really bad.
Needless to say, a fat golf shot is very frustrating and something you want to address sooner rather than later. Click here to learn more about fixing fat golf shots.
The second type of golf shot is a pure shot where you hit the ball near or on the sweet spot. Even if it’s a little left or right of the sweet spot (aka the center of the golf club) the ball will go the full distance. If you hit it dead in the center (aka in the screws) you’ll hit a high, straight shot that soars toward your target.
Unfortunately these shots don’t happen that often for everyday amateur golfers. Hitting shots purely requires a perfect sequence in the swing, a solid grip, setup, and more. But it’s the ultimate goal you should have on every single shot.
Thin Golf Shots
The third type of golf shot is the one we’ll spend most of the time on today – a thin golf shot.
Hitting it thin is when you hit the golf ball on the lower grooves of the golf club which are below the sweet spot. It’s from a strike that is too high on the golf ball and happens from a lack of compression.
Hitting thin iron shots is frustrating! If you hit this shot you’ll rarely hit a divot as your club barely grazes the grass and instead hits the top half of the ball due to an incorrect swing arc.
While it’s a frustrating shot it’s not nearly as frustrating as a fat shot since you’ll likely hit it close to normal distance. This is why so many golfers love to say “thin to win.”
The ball won’t have as high of a trajectory but it’ll still go nearly the same distance as a normal, pure golf shot. Plus, thin shots typically go pretty straight and don’t get you into a ton of trouble unless there are hazards long.
I think if you asked most golfers they’d say they’ll take a thin shot vs. a fat shot every single time. I say this from experience myself – a thin shot has been one of my misses for a long time. But if you hit it only “a little thin” it’s a shot you can play and still score well. Since most thin shots don’t hurt you as much on the golf course.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit a groove low only to watch the ball end up in the fairway or on the green. While a thin shot is playable, it’s still not as reliable as hitting in the middle of the face.
So, what causes a thin golf shot? Let’s dive in…
Cause of a Thin Golf Shot
Remember, a thin golf shot occurs from hitting the ball lower on the face, below the sweet spot. I’m sure you’ve asked, “Why am I hitting my golf shots thin?”
This can happen for a variety of reasons including:
- Bad setup
- Steep downswing
- Changing posture
- Poor ball position
- Raising up too soon
- Leaving weight on your trail leg
One or multiple issues can lead to bottoming out at the wrong part of your swing.
How to Stop Hitting Thin Golf Shots
Whenever you have a swing issue the first thing to address is your setup position before anything else. A lot of times thin shots can get fixed by a few simple changes at address position.
Check Your Stance
First, make sure your stance is wide enough to build a solid base for your golf swing. If your stance is too narrow you might lose balance, change your posture in the swing, and hit the ball thin.
Your stance should get wider with longer clubs (driver, 3-wood, etc) and narrower with shorter clubs like wedges. Also, make sure your ball position is correct with your irons.
If you’re hitting the golf ball thin, a common cause is a ball that is too far in the front of your stance.
This leads to hitting up on it as you can’t compress the ball. A lot of golfers play with the ball too far forward to help “lift the ball up” but remember, the loft of the club will do it for you. By moving it back toward the middle of your stance it’ll make it easier to hit down and through such a shot.
Shoulder Alignment and Tilt
Next, make sure your shoulders are square to the target with the proper tilt. If your shoulders are right or left of your target it’s easy to bottom out at the wrong spot.
Sometimes your feet and hips might be square to the target but your shoulders are right or left. This leads to “crossing your lines” which changes your takeaway and/or downswing position. Make sure your shoulders are square to the target as they’re arguably more important than feet alignment.
Additionally don’t forget about shoulder tilt as well. You don’t need as much shoulder tilt when hitting from the fairway or rough as you do off a tee.
Since you need to compress the ball when hitting off the deck, you only want a small amount of shoulder tilt. But with your driver you’ll need more to increase your launch angle and hit it off a tee.
Improve Your Weight Transfer
Third, check your weight distribution between each foot.
If you’re hitting it thin chances are your weight is staying on your back leg, causing you to hit up on the golf ball. This might happen from starting with too much weight on your back leg.
You want to start out for most shots with your weight 50/50 between each leg. This will ensure you can transfer your weight properly and then shift to your lead leg in the downswing.
Lastly, make sure your weight is transferring properly to the left side (assuming you’re a right-handed golfer). Otherwise you’ll hit up on the ball causing the dreaded thin shot.
If you need help with a proper weight transfer check out the Pressure Plate from Why Golf. This training aid makes it easy to feel the proper weight transfer at home, indoors, on the driving range. With enough use in practice you can feel the proper shift and improve your ball striking dramatically.
Maintain your Posture
Another reason you might hit thin golf shots is from changing your posture in the swing.
If you don’t keep your left shoulder down on the downswing your torso will change positions. This will cause you to keep your weight back, raise the club off the ground, and hit the top part of the ball.
You want to maintain your posture throughout the swing.
It should remain the same during your takeaway, transition, and downwing as it was from the start position. Keep your head in the same position throughout the swing to stop your upper body from changing angles.
Create More Lag
The final reason you might hit it thin is from a steep angle on the downswing.
When you get too steep on your downswing your body reacts by changing posture and hitting up on the shot. But if your body didn’t react you’d dig the club into the ground for a bad shot (and likely a painful one too).
If you’re getting too steep you want to focus on creating more lag so you have a more in to out downswing. When you’re coming from inside you will shallow the golf club and be in a much better position at impact.
To create more lag check out the Planemate Swing Trainer or the Lagshot training aid. Both of these devices can help retrain your swing for a shallower attack angle and much more consistent ball striking.
Thin vs. Skull Shots
Lastly, it’s important to note the difference between a thin shot vs. a skulled shot. A thin shot goes 80-100% (or more) of the total distance you anticipated.
For example, my 7-iron normally goes 170-175 yards. If I hit it a little low on the face it’ll go 165-170 and still a very playable shot.
But a skulled shot won’t go nearly as far. A skulled shot might happen with fairway woods, irons, wedges, and even around the greens. These shots go almost nowhere and are about as frustrating as a topped golf shot.
Click here to learn more about overcoming a skulled shot.
FAQs About Ball Striking
Do you have more questions about hitting shots fat or thin and want some golf tips to play better than ever? If so, keep reading to learn the most common questions and answers below.
What causes fat and thin golf shots?
There are two common causes that lead to hitting shots thin or fat.
First, a lot of golfers keep their weight too far back which changes the bottom of the swing. It leads to flipping or hitting the ground first. This is why it’s crucial to master weight transfer in your swing.
The second reason is from changing posture which can happen from a steep downswing, poor weight transfer, and other issues. Make it a goal to maintain your spine angle from start to finish to hit the ball purely.
How do I stop hitting my irons thin?
Focus on hitting the ball, then the turf. If you’re hitting golf shots thin it’s from a lack of compression. Use the tips above to start hitting your irons better than ever.
What happens if the ball is too far forward or back in my stance with irons?
Ball position is key with irons, wedges, and anytime you’re hitting off the deck. If you hit a lot of shots thin it’s likely from a ball position that is too far forward. This can also lead to a lot of left misses as well.
Conversely, if the ball is too far back in your stance it leads to a lot of fat shots. Plus, it makes it more likely to miss to the right of your target too.
Check your ball position regularly in practice so you’re set up for success on each swing.
How do you hit more solid iron shots?
To hit your irons more consistently it’s important to hit slightly down on the shot. This YouTube video from Scratch Golf Academy does a great job illustrating with a broom how to “sweep” the ball.
In the video Adam notes that some golfers get the handle of the club too far in front sometimes leading to an overly steep downswing. While you want your hands slightly ahead at impact, it’s important to not over do it. When your hands are slightly ahead it leads to compression and hitting the ball with the sweet spot.
If the ball is sitting up in the rough (aka a flier lie) you actually need even more compression since there is so much cushion. Make sure to always check your lie during your pre-shot routine so you can make any adjustments and hit it pure.
Final Thoughts on Thinning Shots
Hitting thin shots on the golf course is better than fat shots but still something you want to fix sooner rather than later. “Thin to win” isn’t the best solution for playing consistent golf.
A lot of golfers struggle with getting the club head at the right swing arc. But thin shots tend to work out better than chunked shots so they’re not always bad.
To improve your swing art and stop hitting the golf ball thin make sure to:
- Maintain spine angle
- Check your shoulder alignment
- Adjust ball position for better leading edge solid contact
To start hitting shots more in the middle of the face make sure to use the tips and drills from above. Soon you will make proper contact and say goodbye to thin and skulled shots.