Golfers: Hit Fat No More

Several years ago, when Annika Sorenstam was on the LPGA tour, she was in Portland for the Safeway Classic golf tournament and was being interviewed by a local TV talk show. The host asked her, “Annika, do you ever hit it fat? I mean, just turn up some sod?” and she answered, “No.” Not, “No, I haven’t done that since I was 13 years old.” Just, “No,” and then looked at the interviewer for the next question.

For us, it’s not No. It’s once or twice a round, and if you really wanted to cut it fine, we probably hit a little bit behind the ball on every swing. I’m not kidding. The pros start their divot in front of the ball, but we do that once in a blue moon.

Don’t believe me? Try this. Go to the range and hit from the grass tees. Lay a tee on the ground, on its side, pointing at the back edge of the golf ball. Take a few practice swings with your 7-iron. Now hit the ball. I will bet you dollars to donuts that the divot started behind where the tee is pointing. Hitting behind the ball is your standard shot. Let’s fix that.

There are many reasons why you hit behind the ball. We’ll deal with a big one here, that your weight is staying on the right side during the downswing. (A left-hander’s version of this post is found here.) That is, your weight shifts a bit to the right when you take the club back, but stays there was you’re swinging through the ball. Result, the bottom of your swing shifts to a point behind the ball. Fat city.

Here’s the easy cure, and I do mean easy. When you take your backswing, the weight on your left foot shifts to somewhere around the big toe. The first thing you should do on the downswing, according to Harvey Penick, is shift your weight to your left foot and bring the right elbow into your body. Let’s concern ourselves with the left foot.

There’s a problem with that instruction, in that it’s incomplete. You can put your left foot down and still not have your weight shifted onto it. To be sure you get that weight left, put your left heel on the ground, and even finer, the outside of your left heel. If the outside (surface, not edge) of your left heel is pressed against the ground, your weight has to be left. You cannot keep your weight to the right and do this.

Practice to move the weight smoothly onto the left foot at the big toe or thereabouts (at the top of the backswing), then to the outside of your left heel when you start your downswing, and the fat shots could well disappear.

Other reasons why you might hit fat are that you either cast or flip. We’ll go over those another time.

My new book, The Golfing Self, is now available at It will change everything about the way you play.

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