How to improve your game with consistent practice swings
By Justin Klemballa
Many casual golfers don’t realize that they are supposed to impact the ground in order to hit a solid iron shot. This even holds true for fairway woods. As illustrated in Picture A, when the sole of the club is squarely grounded at impact, the shaft leans towards the target. This is by design. It is the golfer’s job to deliver the club to impact in this position, which in turn allows the club head to carve out a divot directly in front of the ball as it moves past impact.
However, the motion at impact is too fast to see with the naked eye. The best way to assess the club’s position at impact, besides a high-speed video camera, is to analyze the position of the resulting divot in relation to the golf ball. There are three different ball-to-divot scenarios:
- Solid Impact – Hit the ball first and then take a divot (Picture C)
- Fat Shot – Take a divot first and then hit the ball (Picture D)
- Thin or Top – Strike the ball without hitting the ground (Picture E)
Although this is great to know, the feedback always comes after the shot. Instead, with these concepts in mind, use practice swings to simulate the desired outcome before the real thing. The “practice line” is a line perpendicular to the target line (see picture B for illustration). During practice swings, step away from the ball a bit and try to make practice swings that result in a divot in front of the practice line (Picture C). This allows you to groove your swing so that it impacts the ground at the correct point. Then, simply approach the ball and try to repeat it. A fat practice swing produces a divot behind the practice line (Picture D), and a thin or top practice swing doesn’t hit the ground at all (Picture E).
This pre-shot practice routine allows golfers to get the feel of proper impact with the ground without actually striking the ball. Once they can consistently produce divots ahead of the practice line during practice swings, they can then try to reproduce the same feeling with the golf ball.
Not only will this drill lead to solid irons shots, it works for fairway woods, too. Novice golfers commonly believe that they should not strike the ground with their fairway woods. This is false, as long as one takes the divot in front of the golf ball. The divot won’t be as big or as deep as it would be with a wedge, but it is okay to take a little turf. The idea that hitting the ground is a bad thing is one of the leading reasons why most amateurs tend to struggle launching the golf ball into the air with their fairway woods. Instead, they attempt to pick the ball clean and end up hitting it with the bottom of the clubface, which causes a low, weak golf shot.
To conclude, the reason why people have inconsistent contact or lose distance is directly related to either hitting the ground at an inconsistent spot or not hitting the ground at all. Practice making swings that produce a divot directly in front of the practice line, and you’ll see a positive change in your ball striking.