When you start hitting down on the golf ball your iron play will improve faster than you thought possible. You will have more golf shots in your arsenal and have more confidence with every approach shot.
But how do you add this important fundamental to your golf game? Is it an equipment issue? Setup issue?
These are good questions and we’ll simplify the process today so you can get the club head in the right position at impact.
Hitting Down on the Golf Ball
- Hitting down on the golf ball is crucial in golf with your irons and wedges.
- To do this you’ll need forward shaft lean at impact to cover the ball and make a solid strike.
- Your divot pattern can tell you a lot about your golf swing and if it’s too shallow or too steep.
- While it’s important to hit down on your irons and wedges, you want to hit up on your driver.
Keep reading to learn how to hit down on the golf ball with irons and the proper form with driver.
Understanding Downward Angle of Attack
So, what does hitting down on the ball in golf mean?
It basically means you hit the ball, then the grass… not the other way around. Too many amateur golfers try to hit up on the golf ball in order to “lift” it up in the air. When in reality the loft of the golf club does that for you.
When golfers try to “assist” the ball in the air, it leads to scoping and oftentimes leaving weight on the trail leg. Which can lead to chunked shots where you hit well behind the ball. Or, a thin shot that is hit lower on the face and will hardly take a divot.
To hit down on the ball it’s important to bottom out at the right point… which is in front of the ball, not behind it. If you watch the best golfers in the world you’ll notice their divot patterns are well ahead of the ball. While the average golfer has a divot pattern that is near it or even behind the ball.
The best golfers understand that forward shaft lean at impact is needed.
This is where the hands are slightly ahead of the shaft at impact. The club is actually slightly delofted and compresses the ball for a much better strike. Not to mention the golf ball will fly significantly further too.
So, how do you get forward shaft lean and hit down on it properly? Follow these tips and check out a few useful training aids.
One of the biggest reasons golfers don’t strike the ball correctly is the wrong setup position. If you’re not in the right position to start the swing, it’s nearly impossible to cover the ball correctly.
Focus on these setup fundamentals with your irons and wedges so you can make better contact fast.
First things first, you need the right ball position to hit down and take a proper divot. Play your wedges and short irons in the middle of your stance while mid to long irons should be just ahead of center.
If you’re hitting too many shots thin, ball position is one of the biggest reasons.
Too many golfers have the ball too far forward in their stance (to try and “help” it up) but that leads to bottoming out incorrectly. Which leads to hitting it very low on the face and causing a thin shot (trust me I know from experience unfortunately).
If you’re hitting too many shots fat, your ball position might be too far back in your stance. This can lead to a steep downing and huge divot.
Focus on a good ball position more than anything else to start hitting down on the ball.
You also need good posture or else making contact in the right spot with a slight divot is nearly impossible. As Golf Digest mentioned, posture is one of the leading reasons golfers aren’t hitting the ball properly.
“Whenever amateur golfers are facing issues with contact or consistency in their swing, they almost always attribute the problem to a very small part of their golf swing rather than looking at the most obvious, and simple, solution.
A big problem for many golfers is getting their spine into proper positioning at setup and maintaining that position throughout the swing.”
To make better contact with the ball, you need better posture which isn’t easy as most of us sit all day at work. This static position is hard on our spine angle which makes it tough to set up to the golf ball properly.
Here is what Golf Digest recommends doing to fix your posture and hopefully avoid golf injuries.
- Get a standing desk at work and move more often.
- Try out diaphragmatic breathing to reduce tension.
- Do band work during part of your workouts to improve your spine position.
Check out our full guide to better posture here.
Lastly, make sure to have a small amount of forward press at setup. This was one of Johnny Miller’s “10 Rules” featured in a Golf Digest article.
In the article he also mentions that all great ball strikers move their head slightly slower at impact. This makes them “really go down after the ball” by sagging their knees down and toward the target at the same time.
Don’t worry this won’t lead you to hitting it fat… as long as you have the hands ahead for a slight forward press. As Johnny said in the article, “They sag their knees down and toward the target at the same time, moving on a downward diagonal line.
Now, you’d think this would make you hit the ball fat. But if you lean the club forward, toward the target, so that the shaft is angled ahead of the left arm, you’ll absolutely pure it.”
Take some practice swings with this motion and try to feel the motion Johnny is referring to.
Transfer Your Weight
Once you have the correct fundamentals at setup, the rest of your golf swing will happen much more naturally. To hit down on the ball you’ll need to master the weight transfer which is one of the most important moves in golf.
Starting with your weight 50/50 (or 60/40 with irons/wedges) for optimal weight shift. By the time the club is parallel to the ground on the takeaway your weight should already be loaded on your back leg. Too many golfers wait until later in the backswing which can cause them to slide – aka sway – which kills your power.
When you’re loaded up properly it’s easy to push down for ground force to begin your downswing. This will help get your weight to your lead leg, open your hips, and time the sequence perfectly. This is one of the most important moves to hit down on it correctly.
Train with the Pressure Plate
As you can tell when your weight is back you’re never going to hit down on the ball. This is why it’s crucial to learn when to transfer your weight in the backswing.
The Pressure Plate from WhyGolf is a great training aid that can teach a proper weight shift quickly. You’ll start standing on the board so it’s level with 50/50 weight distribution.
On the backswing you’ll press down with your back foot to get your weight to the trail leg. To start the downswing you’ll feel the lead foot press down so your weight shifts. Use this training aid with chipping/pitching first then work your way up to a full swing.
Do not try to swing overly hard as you might slip and possibly injure yourself. Use this device – with or without a golf ball – to train the basic motion.
Read our full review of the Pressure Plate here.
Try Out the Divot Board
Winter golf and a long off season might cause you to get some rust in your swing. If this is the case and want to work on your game at home so you’re ready for the season the Divot Board can help.
The Divot Board is a great tool that you can use at home or take with you to the golf course to improve your divots and ball striking. Because if you’re hitting off mats at home or on the range you can’t see a divot. But this device makes it easy to identify your divot pattern so you can improve your fundamentals.
If you’re hitting shots fat or thin, this device will give you instant feedback – without hitting a real golf ball. This allows you to train your swing year round even if you don’t have a backyard DIY golf simulator.
Check out our full review here.
Hitting Up on Driver
Hitting down on your irons and wedges is key but this is the worst thing you can do with your driver. If you’re constantly breaking tees with your driver from a downward angle of attack, this can kill your tee box game.
A driver is teed up high unlike an iron or wedge.
The center of gravity on the club head is much further off the ground. If you hit down on it you’ll hit above the sweet spot and likely leave a skymark on the crown… which is one of the most frustrating shots in golf.
Instead, you want to hit up on a driver to max out distance with an upward angle of attack.
FAQs About How to Improve Ball Striking
Do you have more questions about improving your ball striking? If so, keep reading through the most frequently asked questions and answers now.
How do I stop hitting down on my golf ball with a driver?
Most golfers know the dreaded pop-up shot all too well. This happens when you’re too steep at impact position and make a descending blow.
This poor contact can be avoided by:
- Moving the ball up in your stance so it’s off your front foot (use an alignment stick during practice for aim and proper position).
- Have your weight 50-50; too much weight on the front foot can make it hard to get your weight transferred properly.
- Tilt your shoulders so your back shoulder is lower than your lead shoulder promoting an upward angle of attack.
- Try to swing up for solid contact.
Is it bad if I don’t take a divot?
The size of the divot you take depends a lot on the club you’re hitting. If you’re hitting a fairway wood, hybrid, long, or even mid-iron you shouldn’t have a divot. Think about it like this… the shorter the club, the bigger the divot.
If you’re more of a “skimmer” and brush the grass that’s okay. It might actually work out well in certain playing conditions too.
But if you’re hitting a lot of thin shots you might need to check out the drills and training aids above.
Should you hit down on hybrids and fairway woods?
Yes, but very slightly. You don’t want a huge divot with these clubs or you’re likely going to hit it fat and not go anywhere near the full distance. With the right ball position and setup points mentioned above this will get you in the right position at impact.
Aim to make a very small divot with hybrids and try to brush the grass more with fairway woods. The longer the club, the smaller the divot pattern.
How do I stop taking too much divot?
Not really but it depends on a multitude of factors, mainly the club you’re hitting. If you’re hitting a hybrid or long iron, it’s typically to not make much of a divot.
But if you’re hitting a wedge or short iron, you do want a shallow divot. Otherwise, you might catch the shot thin and sail it over the green.
The turf conditions also play a big role in your divots. If you’re playing in wet winter golf conditions you’re much more likely to make a divot as the ground is wet. But if you’re playing a golf course in summer that is dried out, you might not get much of a divot at all.
Your swing also has a lot to do with the type of divots you take. If you’re a steep swinger this might lead to some big divots – especially in wet playing conditions.
I’ve never been a big divot taker and tend to err on the side of hitting shots thin rather than fat. If you have to choose a miss, good players will take thin over fat all day. While a thin shot is frustrating, it’s much more playable than a fat shot.
The main reasons I’ve hit it thin over the years was from poor alignment (my shoulder/hip lines would get crossed causing an over the top move). And the ball was too far off my front foot which made it hard to hit down on the shot properly.
This is why alignment sticks and recording your golf swing is so important. You can easily see if the ball is too far up front or off your back foot, notice if your trail leg is loading properly, and more.
The more swing videos you have, the easier it is to properly analyze your swing (and fix it).
Use these golf tips to improve your swing’s low point (swing arc) and improve your contact. If you’re hitting a lot of thin or fat shots now, it’ll likely take a few more golf balls on the range to figure it out. But once you hit golf balls using the tips above, you’ll hit each golf shot better than you thought possible.
If you find yourself getting mad and not hitting the golf ball like you want, remember to follow these tips.
- Take breaks between shots.
- Use an alignment stick to ensure proper aim.
- Record your golf swing so you can get visual feedback.
If you’re still struggling with iron play or wedges, it might be time to hire a golf instructor.