Learn to Hit the Ball Before the Ground, Once and For All!

John Stahlschmidt
PGA Director of Instruction
JW Marriott Camelback Golf Club
Scottsdale, AZ

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How often do you hit the ground before the ball? The answer most likely is quite often. Hitting “fat shots,” meaning the club bottoms out before the ball, is by far the most common error I see in both the full swing and short game. If you want to play this game well, the skill of hitting the ball before the ground must be acquired. There are many reasons why we hit fat shots. I am going to focus on the “big 3”. If you can accomplish the following, hitting the ball fat will be a thing of the past.

Measure your arms out and under reach the club head.  

I first heard of this concept when I was teaching for ESPN Golf Schools in 2003. Many of the instructors I taught with had spent many hours with Hall of Famer, Jim Flick. This was something they all preached in the short game in order to hit the ball before the ground and it works.  Next time you are setting up to hit a short game or full swing shot, make sure your arms are fully extended at address and then grip down on the club ½ inch. Finally, hover the club head ½ inch off the ground and make your normal swing. I guarantee you that this simple tip will eliminate a lot of those unwanted fat shots.

The shaft has to be leaning forward at impact.

If there was ever a fundamental, meaning something that all good players do the same, it would be forward shaft lean at impact. The bottom of the swing or “low point” occurs when the shaft and the lead arm form a straight line. This is the point in the swing in which the clubhead is the farthest away from the torso.  A common swing error for amateurs is “casting” from the top of the backswing too quickly.  When we cast, we are not maintaining the “lag” and the result will be a “low point” that occurs before where the ball is positioned. This is also referred to as “scooping”. I feel so strongly about mastering this “impact zone” that I have an entire segment dedicated to it during one of my 2 or 3 day golf schools. The simple truth…you have to learn to achieve forward shaft lean in order to hit the ball before the ground.

The 80/20 rule.

This rule is straight forward.  At impact, you must have approximately 80% of your weight on your lead foot. A helpful analogy is to imagine you are stepping on a sponge full of water. At impact you should feel the weight under your left foot move down enough to squeeze the water out of the sponge. While you are doing this, it is absolutely imperative that you maintain side bend with your spine to the right so your head stays behind the ball. This movement can be difficult to master but is another fundamental when it comes to ball before ground contact. See Picture. (weight 80% on left foot/spine tilted right)

To conclude, golf is a very difficult game, which becomes more difficult if we are hitting the ground before the ball. If you can implement what I have laid out for you, I promise the ball striking will improve.

John Stahlschmidt, PGA is the Director of Instruction at Camelback Golf Club is Scottsdale Arizona. To comment or to view John’s all new website, visit  jjsgolf.org or email him at john-j1@msn.com.