Does this sound familiar? After 2 good shots on a par 5 you’re close to the green and looking good to make birdie. You then proceed to chunk your next shot and make bogey. So frustrating!
It’s easy to have your golf game undone by poor shots around the green and in my opinion there is nothing worse than hitting a shot fat. In an effort to eliminate this let’s look at a few reasons you hit behind the ball and how to correct them.
Ball is too far back in your stance
This is a common issue with middle handicap golfers and it usually arises from a misconception. Watching golf on TV we often hear commentators say that a player is playing a chip shot off their back foot. We then watch the player and it looks like the ball is off their back foot.
It seems straightforward but is misleading for 2 reasons:
The first is that the camera angle is not always good on TV. If the camera is not positioned directly facing the golfer, you’ll get a skewed perspective of where the ball is positioned.
The second and most important reason is this. Imagine a player setup to a chip shot with a square stance and the ball positioned in the middle of his feet. Now imagine that player slightly opening his stance by turning his feet to the left (95% of good players do this). Without moving his body or ball (just the alignment of his feet) the golf ball now appears to be positioned even with his back foot.
What happens now is middle handicap golfers take this “back foot” info and play their ball way back in their stance. This results in a very steep swing, the player chopping down on the ball, very low shots, and often times the leading edge hitting the ground before the ball. Even if you do make solid contact you will feel the club dig into the ground.
A better way to think about ball position is in relation to your body. Use a reference point such as the zipper or belt buckle. This provides a center point of the body that will not move when you change your foot position.
When you setup for a chip shot position the ball even with the zipper or belt buckle. By positioning the golf ball in the center of the body you will make contact slightly on the downswing and the club will be less inclined to dig. This leads to more consistent contact and better control.
Trying to hit down too much
As golfers we’ve heard it over and over again: you have to hit down on the ball. This phrase on its own is not a bad thing as good chippers and pitchers do hit down on the golf ball. The place where this causes trouble for most golfers is they don’t know exactly what it means or they overdo it.
When good golfers hit a chip or pitch shot they feel the bottom of their golf club scrape or thump the ground. You will rarely see a good player take a divot or dig their club into the ground on short shots.
However, many middle handicap golfers, in an effort to “hit down” on the ball, dig their club into the ground. When this happens the margin for error is very low. Contact has to be almost perfect. If the leading edge of the club hits just behind the ball it will dig and the shot will be chunked.
A better way is to feel the bottom of the club thumping the ground. The goal is avoid taking a divot. If you do this and start feeling the ground your margin for error will be much higher. If fact, if you keep the club from digging you can hit slightly behind the ball and still hit a good shot.
To recap, if you want to put an end to chunked short shots you have to put an end to digging. Make sure your ball position is centered and stop trying to hit down so much. You’ll see better results around the greens.